Noorullah Jan Ahmadzai

“[Noorullah’s] commitment to the betterment of the world stands apart from other young leaders…”

—MIZY, Seoul Youth Center, program specialist

Noorullah was born in Kabul in 1984, but when he was three, his family joined some six million refugees fleeing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan over a ten year period. Noorullah’s family settled near Peshawar, Pakistan. 70,000 people crowded into the refugee camp there, living under deplorable conditions. Every single day was a challenge, Noorullah said. Civil war and the rise of the Taliban did not encourage a reversal of the diaspora of his countrymen, and the post 9-11 invasion saw another five million leave the country, according to the UN. And yet, despite incredible hardship, Noorullah gained something that made a huge difference in his life, exposure to opportunities from the international community through the NGOs.

He managed to get an education, earning an “Outstanding Performance” scholarship to Preston University of Pakistan where he majored in management and marketing. While there, he became a student chairman for a Ministry of Education Committee in Islamabad. Noorullah felt a powerful sense of responsibility then, understanding that through effective leadership, he could help his native, war torn Afghanistan, guiding people and motivating them to work for peace, prosperity, and the betterment of daily lives. He discovered the National Human Resource Development Center in Islamabad and participated in extra-curricular training, seminars, and workshops on improving rural areas, environmental impact, conflict and crisis management, and more.

The summer before Noorullah graduated from Preston, he became an intern for the International Rescue Committee in Pakistan, working with the Health and Water Sanitation Program. A field manager, he also reported on the programs for Afghan refugees, leading to his undergraduate thesis on “The Role of NGOs in Human Resource Development.”

After graduation, he was ready to make a difference back in Afghanistan as a business development officer for the Bank Al-falah Limited in Kabul, where the task of attracting NGOs as clients fell to him. Another opportunity soon came his way. A young man barely twenty-three, he was thrilled when the World Bank hired him in a senior position as project manager within the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in Afghanistan. There, he completed a benchmark study for the Afghanistan National Development Strategy on Human Resource Supply and Demand.

Then Noorullah was awarded a Global Ambassador Fellowship with a full scholarship from the government of South Korea to do post-graduate work at Korea Development Institute of Public Policy and Management. While there he participated in international leadership conferences on negotiation, collaboration, sustainable development, public governance, aid effectiveness, new warfare and conflicts, and more. He systematically analyzed the return of refugees to Afghanistan and completed a master’s thesis on “Aid Effectiveness in Afghanistan.”