Catherine Bertini

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Cathy Bertini
Executive Director of the World Food Programme
In office
April 1992 – April 2002
Secretary GeneralBoutros Boutros-Ghali
Kofi Annan
Preceded byJames Ingram
Succeeded byJames Morris
Personal details
Born (1950-03-31) March 31, 1950 (age 69)
Syracuse, New York, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
EducationState University of New York, Albany (BA)

Catherine "Cathy" Bertini is a leader in international organization management, girls education, humanitarian action, agricultural development, and the role of gender in poverty reduction. She is the 2003 World Food Prize Laureate. She was the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Program from 1992 to 2002. Currently, she is Vice Chair of the Public Administration and International Affairs department at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs of Syracuse University.[1] She is distinguished fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.[2]

Public policy career[edit]

During the George H.W. Bush administration, Catherine Bertini served as Acting Assistant Secretary of the Family Support Administration in the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and as Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Food and Consumer Services at the United States Department of Agriculture. Her portfolio included then $33 billion domestic food assistance programs, strategy on nutrition and consumer affairs, and her team developed the first Food Guide Pyramid to promote healthy diets. She also led the interagency efforts to replace food coupons and welfare checks with electronic benefit cards, and through the administration's Farm Bill proposals, worked with Congress to change the law to allow states to implement electronic benefit transfer (EBT). By 2004, all states had converted to electronic benefit transfer program. Additionally, Bertini created a food package for low income breastfeeding mothers. Initiation of this package correlated directly with increases in the percentage of low income American mothers who breastfed their infants.

During the Reagan administration, Bertini served as the Director of the Office of Family Assistance at DHHS. She was responsible for regulations that strengthened education and training support for the poorest American women in support of the Family Support Act of 1988.

Executive Director of the World Food Program, United Nations[edit]

Catherine Bertini was appointed in 1992 by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization, on the recommendation of President George H.W. Bush. In 1997, she was reappointed with the endorsement of President Bill Clinton, together with that of the Group of 77 developing countries and the Executive Board of WFP.[3]

As chief executive officer of the organization, Bertini transformed WFP into the world's largest and most responsive humanitarian organization. She is credited with assisting hundreds of millions of victims of wars and natural disasters throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and parts of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. In particular, she was widely praised for her efforts to end famine in North Korea; averting starvation in Afghanistan by delivering enormous amounts of urgently needed food aid in 2001; ensuring the provision of food supplies during the crises in Bosnia and Kosovo; and in 2000, averting the mass starvation that threatened 16 million people in the Horn of Africa.[4] In 1996, The Times of London named her one of "The World's Most Powerful Women."

Catherine Bertini also led major efforts to empower poor women through the use of food aid. The institutional changes championed by Bertini during her leadership at the WFP were cited by the 36-government board of WFP as models of U.N. reform. Further, Bertini’s changes placed the food aid agency at the forefront of international agencies in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, accountability, and income. In recognition of her leadership at WFP in ending famine and decreasing hunger, she received the World Food Prize, known as the "Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture" in 2003.[3] Rather than accepting the prize money, she established the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls' Education that provides grants to local organizations that improve access to training and education for women and girls.[5]

She also chaired the U.N. System Standing Committee on Nutrition and served as the Secretary General's envoy twice: for drought in the Horn of Africa and for humanitarian needs in Gaza and the West Bank.[4]

Under-Secretary General For Management, United Nations[edit]

Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Bertini as Under-Secretary for Management in 2013.[4] She was responsible for administering the United Nations’ human, financial and physical resources. This included management of the $3 billion biennial budget, Human Resources to support over 9,000 United Nations staff members, accounting, treasury, contributions; travel and information systems; facilities management and security of staff worldwide. She also managed the investment portfolio of the UN Joint System Pension Fund ($29 billion) and the overall implementation of the Secretary-General’s management reform initiatives including: major reforms of worldwide security management system; crisis management following the fatal Baghdad headquarters bombing; arrangements with Coalition forces on the UN's reentry into Iraq; creation of a whistleblower policy; initiation of a more robust financial disclosure requirement; reform of the spousal benefit plan; and establishment of key funding mechanisms to allow the UN facility refurbishment to proceed.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation[edit]

From 2007 to 2009, she served as a Senior Fellow in Agricultural Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.[6] She contributed to the development of the foundation’s agricultural framework, seeking to improve the lives of poor farmers, especially women farmers.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs[edit]

Catherine Bertini is Distinguished Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. She co-chaired the Council's Global Agriculture Development Initiative (GADI) from 2008 to 2013. GADI has been an influential voice in US government circles advocating for new priorities for support for poor farmers within international development programs. She also chaired of the Council's Girls in Rural Economies project from 2010 to 2011 and cochaired the Council's domestic Agriculture Task Force in 2007 and 2012.[2]

Board for International Food and Agricultural Development[edit]

President George W. Bush appointed and President Barack Obama reappointed her to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD), where she advised USAID for nine years on agriculture and higher education issues pertinent to food insecurity in developing countries.[7]

Accountability Review Board[edit]

In 2012, Catherine Bertini was named to serve on the State Department's Accountability Review Board that examined the facts and circumstances of the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.[8]

State government[edit]

Earlier in her career, Bertini was appointed by Illinois Governor James R. Thompson as a member of the Illinois Human Rights Commission, and as a member of the Illinois State Scholarship Commission.[3] In 1982, Bertini was the unsuccessful Republican nominee against Congressman Sidney R. Yates (D) in the 9th District of Illinois.[9] While living in New York State, she ran several public youth employment programs and was a legislative aide in the State Senate and a confidential assistant to Governor Nelson Rockefeller.

Academic career[edit]

Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs[edit]

In 2005, Bertini joined the faculty of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. She teaches graduate courses in United Nations Systems, Girl's Education, International Organizations, Executive Leadership, Food Security, and Post-Conflict Reconstruction.[1] Previously she served as Policy Maker in Residence at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan and as a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Private sector career[edit]

Catherine Bertini has been a member of the board of directors of the Tupperware Brands Corporation since 2005. Before joining the federal government, she served for ten years in public affairs positions at the Container Corporation of America in Chicago, where she ran its public affairs program, its foundation, and created its political action committee.[4]


Bertini was appointed to the Committee on World Food Security’s High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition, serving as the group’s sole U.S. representative. President George W. Bush appointed and President Barack Obama reappointed her to the Board of International Food and Agricultural Development.[10] She also advised USAID as a member of the Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid.[11]

Bertini is also a member of the Leadership Council of Compact2025, a partnership that develops and disseminates evidence-based advice to politicians and other decision-makers aimed at ending hunger and undernutrition in the coming 10 years, by 2025.[12]

Recent awards[edit]

Catherine Bertini is the 2003 World Food Prize Laureate and, in 2007, was awarded the Gene White Lifetime Achievement Award for Child Nutrition.[13] Concern Worldwide U.S. presented her its Brigid Award in 2010.[14] She is also the recipient of the prestigious 2011 Borlaug CAST Communication Award.[15] In 2013, she received the Women Extraordinaire Award from the International Women Associates.[16] Bertini was decorated by the Republic of Italy with its Order of Merit. The Republic of Ireland has honored her with its Certificate of Irish Heritage. Twelve universities in four countries have awarded her honorary degrees.[17] The City of Cortland named her one of its "Historic Figures" and Cortland High School and the Cortland Living History Museum elected her to their "Hall of Fame."

Background and education[edit]

Bertini was born in Syracuse, New York in 1950. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the State University of New York at Albany.[18] At Albany, Bertini was president of the College Republicans, worked in the New York State Senate, worked full-time in the last gubernatorial campaign of Nelson A. Rockefeller. For five years after college, she held positions in the Republican Party as youth director in New York State and for the Republican National Committee, and as a congressional campaign manager. In 1982, she ran for US Congress herself.[19] She resides in Homer, New York, where she sometimes plays clarinet in the community band. She is a lector at masses at St. Margaret Roman Catholic Church.

Professional affiliations[edit]

Honorary degrees[edit]

Selected past board service[edit]

  • Board of International Food and Agricultural Development, USAID Presidential Appointee, Washington D.C.
  • UN Women Audit Advisory Committee, Member
  • Hilton Foundation Humanitarian Prize, Juror
  • United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition, Chair
  • United Nations, Chief Executives’ Board Member and Chair, Management Committee, NY
  • United Nations International School Board of Trustees, Chair, NY
  • The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition, Chair, Geneva, Switzerland
  • Henri Dunant Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, Board Member, Geneva, Switzerland
  • Commodity Credit Corporation, Presidential Appointee, Washington D.C.
  • Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Board Member, Chicago, IL


  1. ^ a b "Maxwell School: Catherine Bertini, Professor of Practice, Public Administration and International Affairs". Retrieved 2016-11-28.
  2. ^ a b Affairs, Chicago Council on Global. "Catherine Bertini | Chicago Council on Global Affairs". Retrieved 2016-11-28.
  3. ^ a b c "Biography". Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Retrieved 2011-08-08.
  4. ^ a b c d "Press Release". United Nations. Retrieved 2011-08-08.
  5. ^ "Announcing Our New Grantees For The Catherine Bertini Trust Fund". World Food Program USA. Retrieved 2016-11-28.
  6. ^ "Press Release". Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Retrieved 2011-08-08.
  7. ^ "BIFAD Public Session : Minutes" (PDF). Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  8. ^ "Briefing on the Accountability Review Board Report". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2016-11-28.
  9. ^ "Old Guard Democrats On Watch, But Expect To Keep Congress Posts". Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  10. ^ "Press Release". White House. Retrieved 2011-08-08.
  11. ^ "Press Release". USAID. Archived from the original on 2011-10-08. Retrieved 2011-07-31.
  12. ^ "Leadership Council". Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  13. ^ "Press Release". The World Food Prize. Retrieved 2011-07-31.
  14. ^ "Honorees". Concern Worldwide. Archived from the original on 2011-10-02. Retrieved 2011-08-08.
  15. ^ "Press Release". Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. Retrieved 2011-08-08.
  16. ^ "Catherine Bertini receives IWA's 2013 Woman Extraordinaire Award". Retrieved 2016-11-28.
  17. ^ "Biography". Syracuse University. Retrieved 2009-07-31.
  18. ^ "Honoree". University at Albany. Retrieved 2011-07-29.
  19. ^ "Choices for Congress (October 17, 1982)". Retrieved 2016-11-28.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
James Ingram
Executive Director of the World Food Programme
Succeeded by
James Morris
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Pedro A. Sanchez
Recipient of the World Food Prize
Succeeded by
Monty Jones
Yuan Longping