John L. Hirsch joined the International Peace Academy (IPA) in July 1998 following the completion of a 32-year career in the United States Foreign Service. After three and a half years as Vice President he became Senior Fellow on January 1, 2002. He has been responsible for IPA's program on "The United Nations and International Terrorism" in 2002-2003, and served as Acting Director of the Africa Program in 1999 and again from September 2004-December 2005.
Before joining IPA, he served as United States Ambassador to the Republic of Sierra Leone from 1995-98. Ambassador Hirsch's extensive African experience includes assignments in Somalia in 1984-86, and subsequently as Political Advisor to the Commander of UNITAF, General Robert Johnston, and as Deputy to President Bush's Special Envoy, Ambassador Robert Oakley in 1992-93. Ambassador Hirsch also served as Consul General in Johannesburg, South Africa from 1990-93, the years of transition from apartheid to non-racial multiparty democracy. His earlier assignments in Israel at the start of the Middle East peace process in the mid-seventies and, subsequently, at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and in Pakistan have dealt with major issues of multilateral diplomacy and United Nations peacekeeping.
Ambassador Hirsch was a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in 1993-94 and Diplomat-in-Residence at Medgar Evers College, The City University of New York in 1994-95. He was Director of the International Fellows Program at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs for the 2000-01 academic year. Since 2002-2003 he is Adjunct Professor of Diplomacy and World Affairs at Occidental College, directing its United Nations program in New York City.
Ambassador Hirsch received his BA in American Studies from Columbia University in 1957 and his PhD in European History from the University of Wisconsin in 1965. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Turin, Italy in 1962-1963, where he wrote a dissertation on the Italian Resistance Movement and its impact on postwar Italian political developments.
- Sierra Leone: Diamonds and the Struggle for Democracy (Lynne Rienner Publishers, January 2001)
- Somalia and Operation Restore Hope: Reflections on Peacemaking and Peacekeeping, co-authored with Ambassador Robert B. Oakley (U.S. Institute of Peace, March 1995)
- Peace and Justice : Mozambique and Sierra Leone Compared, Chandra Lekha Sriram and Suren Pillay, eds.
- Peace versus Justice? The Dilemmas of Transitional Justice in Africa (Durban: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2009).