Ashraf Ghani was born in Kabul in 1949, studied political science at the American University of Beirut, international affairs and anthropology at Columbia University ( where he earned his PhD) , and attended the Harvard-INSEAD and Stanford business schools leadership training program for the World Bank. He served on the faculty of Kabul University (1973-77), Aarhus University in Denmark (1977), University of California, Berkeley (1983), and Johns Hopkins University (1983-1991). His academic research was on state-building and social transformations. He undertook a year of fieldwork in Madrasas in Pakistan in 1985-86. He joined the World Bank in 1991, working on projects in East Asia and South Asia until 1996. In 1996, he pioneered the application of institutional and organizational analysis to macro processes of change and reform, working directly on the adjustment program of the Russian coal industry and carrying out reviews of the Bank’s country assistance strategies and structural adjustment programs globally.
He had worked intensively with the media during the first Gulf War, commenting on major radio and television programs and being interviewed by newspapers. After 9/11, he took leave without pay from the World Bank and engaged in intensive interaction with the media, appearing regularly on PBS’s News Hour as well as BBC, CNN, other television programs, the BBC, Public Radio, other radios, and writing for major newspapers. In November 2002, he accepted an appointment as a Special Advisor to the United Nations and assisted Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, the Special Representative of the Secretary General, to prepare the Bonn Agreement, the process and document that provided the basis of transfer of power to the people of Afghanistan. Retuning after 24 years to Afghanistan in December 2001, he resigned from his posts at the UN and World Bank and joined the Afghan government as the chief advisor to President Karzai on February 1, 2002. He has worked on a pro bono basis and was among the first officials to disclose his assets. In this capacity, he worked on the preparation of the Loya Jirgas (grand assemblies) that elected president Karzai and approved the constitution. After the election of president Karzai directly by the people of Afghanistan in October 2004, Mr. Ghani declined to join the cabinet and asked to be appointed as chancellor of Kabul University. As chancellor of the University, he has been engaged in articulating the concept of shared governance among the faculty, students, and staff and advocating a vision of the university where men and women with skills and commitment to lead their country in the age of globalization can be trained.
Since joining the University, Mr. Ghani has resumed his research activities and is directing a program on state-effectiveness. This program has put forward a framework which proposes that the state should perform ten functions in the contemporary world in order to serve its citizens. This framework was discussed by leaders and managers of post-conflict transitions at a meeting sponsored by the UN and World Bank at the Greentree Estates in September 2005. The program also proposes that the vehicle of state-building or sovereignty strategies, underpinned by double compacts between the international community, government and the population of a country could be used as a basis for organizing aid and other interventions, and that a sovereignty index to measure state effectiveness should be compiled on an annual basis.
Mr. Ghani has been sought as a public speaker and in 2005 given the keynote speeches for a number of meetings including the American Bar Association’s International Rule of Law Symposium, the Trans-Atlantic Policy Network, the annual meeting of the Norwegian Government’s development staff, CSIS’ meeting on UN reform, the UN-OECD-World Bank’s meeting on Fragile States, and TEDGlobal. He has contributed to the Financial Times, International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.