Skip navigation
Elayne Whyte

Elayne Whyte

Professor of Practice


Elayne G. Whyte is a Professor of Practice at SAIS. She is an experienced diplomat and academic with over 25 years of experience in policy-making, diplomacy, international cooperation, negotiation, and governance. She has actively participated in designing, negotiating, and implementing international agreements, cooperation frameworks, and normative frameworks in various fields, including human rights, global health, sustainable development, international security, nuclear diplomacy, and regional integration.

In the realm of diplomacy and foreign policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation, she served as Costa Rica's Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2000 to 2002, becoming the first woman and person of African descent appointed to this position. From 2014 to 2020, she served as Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations in Geneva. Between 1998 and 2010, in roles such as Policy Advisor and Chief of Staff of the Ministers, she played a crucial role in shaping Costa Rica's foreign policy.

Elayne Whyte has played a strategic role in various global negotiation processes aimed at addressing legal or cooperation gaps in the international system, particularly in the areas of security, human rights, and global health.

In 2017, she presided over the United Nations Conference that negotiated and adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on a mandate from the General Assembly.

From 2015- 2018, she led the negotiations for a global cooperation framework at the World Health Organization (WHO) to address the neglected problem of snakebite envenoming, which was subsequently adopted by the World Health Assembly. From 2015 to 2019, she co-chaired an academic-diplomatic research and negotiation process, in collaboration with Switzerland and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to propose improvements for the functioning of the Human Rights Treaty body system. Additionally, between 2000 and 2002, she co-chaired the negotiations of the Convention on the Suppression of Illicit Maritime and Air Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances in the Caribbean Area, which was signed in 2003.

She has gained extensive practical experience in the functioning of global governance structures, having participated in the governance bodies of at least five major international organizations and served in various leadership positions at Conferences of States parties and other subsidiary bodies of security and disarmament-treaty regimes.

In the academic field, she served as a 2022 Fellow at Harvard's Advanced Leadership Initiative and at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Science, from 2022 to 2023. During this time, she reflected upon and conducted research on the challenges of global negotiations in the 21st century, acknowledging that contemporary negotiations must address global problems that transcend traditional paradigms of inter-state relations and go beyond competing national interests. They must consider the well-being of current and future generations, tackling issues such as pandemics, existential threats from climate change or weapons of mass destruction, and the protection of our global natural commons, including oceans, ozone layer, and the planet's biodiversity, among others. In the Fall of 2022 she led a Study Group at the Kennedy School of Government on the topic The Future of Diplomacy: The Challenges of Negotiating for Humanity in the XXI Century.

She has also been involved in academia as an Adjunct Professor, teaching International Law of Armed Conflict and Diplomacy and International Law at the University for Peace - a United Nations mandated institution. She has also taught Introduction to Foreign Policy and Introduction to Theories of International Relations at the School of International Relations of the National University in Costa Rica. In the 1990s, she taught Latin American Political Thought and Latin American Political Economy at the Institute of Latin American Studies of the National University of Costa Rica.

In her research endeavors, she served as a research coordinator and researcher in small state foreign policy, democratic governance, and regional integration for the State of the Nation Report on Human Development (2003-2005) and the University for Peace.

Her thorough analysis and research in the field of regional studies and regional integration in Central America, with a focus on the institutional dimension of regional integration processes, further exemplify her expertise. Additionally, she served as Executive Director of Mesoamerica Integration and Development, a regional platform that brings together 10 nations to promote economic development and connectivity regional projects. Moreover, she has led regional mechanisms such as the Central American Security Commission and the Central American Executive Committee. Currently, she serves on the Consultative Board of the research Report State of the Region in Sustainable Development. Furthermore, she has consulted for international and regional organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, the European Union-General Secretariat of the Central American Integration System (SICA-PAIRCA), Regional Council of Ministers for Women Issues, and the University for Peace.

Elayne Whyte holds a Master's Degree in International Policy Studies from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California. In 2018, she received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from her Alma Mater in recognition of her contribution to peace and global governance, as well as her successful chairing of the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons in 2017. Throughout her career, she has earned multiple awards and distinctions for her dedication to promoting international cooperation, good governance, and international security. She also holds a Bachelor's and a post-graduate degree in International Relations from Costa Rica.  She currently sits at the International Advisory Board of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and at the International Advisory of the James Martin Center for Non Proliferation Studies in Monterey, California and at the Advisory Board of the academic report –over 20 years- State of Central America in Sustainable Human Development.
  • Whyte, E. (2021). Trasladando bienes públicos globales del siglo XX al siglo XXI: el caso de la protección internacional de los derechos humanos. In C. Cascante (Ed.), Las relaciones internacionales de Costa Rica un vistazo desde el Bicentenario, tomo VIII. Heredia, Costa Rica: Editorial Universidad Nacional.

  • Whyte, E. (2018). The UN Treaty Body System Beyond 2020. In O. de Frouville (Ed.), Le Systeme de Protection des Droits de l’Homme des Nations Unies: Present et Avenir. Collogue International, Centre de Recherche sur les Droits de l’Homme et le Droit Humanitaire. Université Pantheon – Assas (Paris 2), Paris, France.

  • Whyte, E. (2008). El estado de la integración en América Latina: ¿un proceso convergente o un proceso fragmentado? El caso de América Central. In F. Rojas Aravena & J. Altmann (Eds.), América Latina y el Caribe: ¿fragmentación o convergencia? Experiencias recientes de la integración. FLACSO, Quito.

  • Whyte, E. (2006). Pensar América Central como región integrada hacia el Siglo XXI. In FLACSO (2006). Los desafíos del desarrollo y la integración de Centroamérica desde la perspectiva de las mujeres. (2006). (Ed.). San José: FLACSO - Sede Costa Rica.

  • Whyte, E. (2004). Seguridad y Defensa en la Centroamérica contemporánea. In Universidad para la Paz, Educar para la Seguridad, San Jose.

  • Whyte, E. (2002). Seguridad y Desarme en la Política Exterior. Revista Costarricense de Política Exterior, 2(2), 10-34.

  • Whyte, E. (2002). El Valor de la diversidad: Antecedentes y reflexiones con ocasión de la Conferencia Mundial contra el racismo, la discriminación racial, la xenofobia y las formas conexas de intolerancia. Revista Costarricense de Política Exterior, 2(1), 19-48.

  • Whyte, E. (1998). Descentralización de las Políticas Sociales: ¿Una Verdadera Respuesta? In Política Social y Descentralización en Costa Rica. San Jose: UNICEF.

  • Whyte, E. (1997). Soberanía Parlamentaria: Ficción o Realidad? Los Partidos Políticos en la Asamblea Legislativa de Costa Rica. Revista Contribuciones, 3, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

  • Whyte, E. (1997). El Financiamiento de los Partidos Políticos en Costa Rica. In D. M. Ferreira Rubio (Comp.), Financiamiento de Partidos Políticos. Buenos Aires: CIEDLA-Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

  • Whyte, E. (1996). El Congreso de los Estados Unidos y los Acuerdos de Libre Comercio: Análisis Político del fracaso de las iniciativas CBI/paridad NAFTA. Revista Parlamentaria, 1.

  • Whyte, E. (1994). TLC y Competitividad Internacional: Algunas Reflexiones. Revista Parlamentaria, 1.

Other publications and research documents on regional integration and foreign. Policy analysis can be found under the following name spelling:  Elaine White Gomez:



  • Latin America


  • International negotiations
  • International organizations and treaty regimes
  • International Security and nuclear weapons
  • International protection of human rights
  • Regional Integration
  • Development and democracy - Central America


  • Spanish
  • English
  • French

Additional Resources