Former U.N. World Food Programme Leader joins Chicago Council on Global Affairs

July 13, 2017

Ambassador Ertharin Cousin, former Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, joins the Chicago Council on Global Affairs as a Distinguished Fellow on Global Food and Agriculture. Cousin, who has made it her life’s work to fight global hunger, possesses more than 30 years of national and international nonprofit, government and corporate leadership experience. In her new role, Cousin will advise the Council’s Global Food and Agriculture program on its ongoing efforts to advance global food security by supporting research, representing food security expertise on a variety of global stages and building unique partnerships to amplify key messages and accelerate progress.

“Ertharin Cousin brings to the table an abundance of experience in food and nutrition issues,” said Ambassador Ivo H. Daalder, president of the Council on Global Affairs. “While her impressive career equips her with many domains of expertise, Etharin Cousin’s most recent work at the World Food Programme will bring a powerful and authoritative perspective to the Council's food and agriculture work, especially during this critical global period when more than 20 million people stand at the brink of starvation.”

In 2009, President Obama appointed Cousin to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome. In this role, Cousin was the U.S. representative for all food, agriculture and nutrition related issues, and took part in global discussions regarding humanitarian and development activities. Cousin helped identify and catalyze U.S. government investment in food security and nutrition activities supported by the USAID Feed the Future program. In 2012, Cousin began her post as Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, the world’s largest humanitarian organization. Under her leadership, the World Food Programme helped provide food assistance to more than 80 million vulnerable people across 75 countries. 

"I'm honored to join the Council in my hometown of Chicago," said Cousin. "Over the past decade, the Council's body of work in food security and nutrition has positively and significantly impacted US government engagement on these issues.  Its location in the breadbasket of America—with all the inherent networks and connections to the food and agriculture industry that implies—makes the Council a great place for me to continue researching and identifying opportunities which will help solve the world's food and nutrition challenges."

Before her career with the United Nations, Cousin held several notable positions in the public and private sector. She served on the board of America’s Second Harvest (now known as Feeding America), the nation’s largest domestic hunger organization. In 2006, Cousin founded The Polk Street Group, a Chicago-based Public Affairs consultancy which she headed as President until her 2009 ambassadorial appointment. In 2014, she was named in TIME Magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world and on Forbes Magazine's “List of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women.”