Josette Sheeran

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Josette Sheeran
Josette Sheeran Shiner Dept State.jpg
Executive Director of the World Food Programme
In office
April 4, 2007 – April 5, 2012
Secretary GeneralBan Ki-moon
Preceded byJames Morris
Succeeded byErtharin Cousin
Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs
In office
August 23, 2005 – April 4, 2007
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byAlan Larson
Succeeded byReuben Jeffery III
7th President of Asia Society
Assumed office
June 10, 2013
Personal details
Born (1954-06-12) June 12, 1954 (age 64)
Orange, New Jersey, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Whitney Shiner (Divorced)
EducationUniversity of Colorado, Boulder (BA)

Josette Sheeran (born 12 June 1954) is the United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti.[1] She is also President and CEO of the Asia Society since May 2013.[2]

Previously Sheeran was Vice Chairman of the World Economic Forum.[3] She was the eleventh Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jacques Diouf in November 2006.[4] Prior to this post, she served as the United States Under Secretary for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs in the State Department.

World Food Programme (WFP)[edit]

As Executive Director of WFP, Sheeran was responsible for managing the world's largest humanitarian organization with nearly 11,000 staff worldwide. WFP provides emergency food aid to the world's hungry as well as addressing the causes of chronic hunger.[5]

"I think we can, in our lifetime, win the battle against hunger because we now have the science, technology, know-how and the logistics to be able to meet hunger where it comes," Sheeran said.[6]

U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton, who was told of the decision and jumped the gun on the official announcement, said the United States was very pleased and called Sheeran "extraordinarily well-qualified."[7]

Sheeran has expressed commitment to meeting the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger and poverty by 2015.[8]

"Those pictures of children with swollen bellies will be a thing of history."[6]

The World Food Programme, founded in 1963, last year provided food to more than 90 million poor people in more than 80 countries worldwide. Its annual budget was US$1.7 billion in 1993.[9] In 2008, it had a budget of US$3 billion and employed 10,000 people in 78 countries.[10]

In April 2008, Sheeran attracted worldwide attention with a speech in London warning about an impending worldwide food crisis, which she likened to a "silent tsunami"[11] and lobbied the United States and other governments to give more aid to the world's poor.[12] In January 2009, Sheeran called on the government of Israel to allow more UN food aid to the people in Gaza during the conflict there.[13][14]

In January 2012, Sheeran announced that she would assume the role of Vice Chairman of the World Economic Forum upon completing her term at WFP in 2012.

"It has been a deep honour to serve the world in this role and to help not only save lives but to transform the face of food aid, to empower lasting hunger solutions," said Sheeran.[3]

UN Envoy to Haiti[edit]

On Tuesday June 20, 2017, UN Secretary General António Guterres appointed Sheeran envoy to Haiti. Sheeran's responsibilities in the new role will be wide-ranging, but her most immediate task as envoy is raising $400 million to fund the UN's "New Approach" to cholera in Haiti, the ambitious plan launched by former Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon when he publicly apologized for the UN's role in Haiti's cholera epidemic in December 2016.[15] The apology came six years after soldiers from the UN's peacekeeping mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, introduced the disease by contaminating Haiti's Artibonite River, causing more than 10,000 deaths.[16] Sheeran faces an uphill battle. As of her appointment in June 2017, the UN had raised only raised $2.7 out of the promised $400 million from member states.[17] Sheeran faces opposition from key powers like the United States, and she isn't the first to assume the role. Pedro Medrano Rojas, a Chilean diplomat, originally led the UN's cholera response, and left in 2015 upset that the international community failed to "acknowledge the fact that we have in Haiti the largest epidemic in the Western Hemisphere." [18] Dr. David Nabarro was originally placed in charge of fundraising for the UN's new approach; a sensible choice given he'd recently raised $3.5 billion to combat West Africa's ebola epidemic. But, Nabarro hardly made a dent in the promised $400 million, as a result of a lack of support from the Secretary General and member states.[15] Sheeran will face the same obstacles as her predecessors; therefore it seems unlikely she will succeed in raising the $400 million.

Professional experience: government sector[edit]

Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs[edit]

As Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs, Sheeran led new State Department initiatives in supporting Central Asia's and Afghanistan's economic transformation and reconstruction. She was also responsible for a range of economic issues including: development, trade, agriculture, finance, energy, telecommunications and transportation. She helped foster and carry out aid and development initiatives in countries like China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

Sheeran also served as the Foreign Affairs Sous-Sherpa on behalf of the President of the United States at the Group of Eight (G8) Summit. She headed a host of high-level bilateral or multilateral economic dialogues with the European Union, China, India, Japan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many others.

She was named by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan along with Prime Ministers Luisa Dias Diogo, Prime Minister of Mozambique; Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister of Norway; and Shaukat Aziz, Prime Minister of Pakistan to the High Level Panel on System-Wide Coherence. The panel conducted hundreds of interviews with development and humanitarian experts, non-governmental organizations and national leaders worldwide, and compiled strategies and recommendations for greater management coherence and effectiveness in UN efforts in the areas of the environment, development and humanitarian assistance.

She represented the United States at a wide variety of high-level bilateral and multilateral meetings, serving as Alternative Governor for the World Bank; the Inter-American Development Bank; the African Development Bank; the Asian Development Bank; and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Congress also confirmed her as a Member of the Board of Directors for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

Deputy United States Trade Representative[edit]

Prior to her tenure as Under Secretary, Sheeran served as Deputy United States Trade Representative in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). There, she was responsible for trade negotiations and treaties in Asia and Africa, driving U.S. efforts to open new markets and enforce existing trade agreements in China, East Asia, South Asia and Africa and for advancing global negotiations on counterfeiting, pharmaceuticals, labor, environment and trade capacity building. One of her legacy projects was fighting global counterfeiting, creating STOP – Strategy Targeting Organized Piracy' and the protection of Intellectual Property. She helped bring to a successful conclusion the landmark U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which is expected to increase U.S. exports to Australia by $2 billion a year. She also led trade enforcement negotiations with China and furthered U.S. trade and investment interests in direct talks with Japan, Korea, India and many other nations.

Professional experience: private sector[edit]


Before joining USTR, Sheeran was managing director of Starpoint Solutions, a Wall Street technology firm that works with Fortune 500 clients. During her tenure at Starpoint she led major strategic projects with corporate leaders such as Bank of America, Citibank and the Associated Press. Sheeran also served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Empower America, where she developed its agenda of trade policy, technology policy, education reform, and tax reform.

Journalistic Experience[edit]

Sheeran got her start in journalism in 1976 with the New York News World, which was owned by News World Communications, an international media conglomerate owned by the Unification Church, which she had recently joined. She served in a number of capacities for News World, eventually becoming their White House correspondent. In 1982 she moved to News World's new sister paper, the Washington Times. Originally a features editor, she was eventually appointed managing editor.[19] During her tenure as managing editor of the Washington Times, she appeared as a commentator on programs such as Nightline, Fox news, The McLaughlin Group, The Diane Rehm Show, and CNN. Sheeran also wrote a nationally syndicated column for Scripps Howard News Service. She has had interviews with more than a dozen heads of state in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the United States, most famously her interview with North Korean head of state Kim Il Sung. She has twice served as a Pulitzer prize juror.[20]


In 1997, Washingtonian magazine named Sheeran as one of Washington's 100 Most Powerful Women.[19] In 2011 Forbes named her the world's 30th most powerful woman.[21]


Inspired by late father's service[edit]

Her late father, James J. Sheeran inspired her public service. As a young man, he parachuted into Sainte-Mère-Église with the 101st Airborne Division on D-Day.[22] After returning from World War II he organized a food drive to benefit some of the villages he had helped to liberate.[23] He later served as New Jersey's Insurance Commissioner[23] and as mayor of West Orange, New Jersey. A few months before his death, the French Ambassador decorated him with the insignia of the Légion d'honneur.[24]


She earned a BA from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1976.[19]

Religious affiliations[edit]

Sheeran was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. She joined the Unification Church in 1975,[25] and in August 1975 her father tried to "rescue" her and her two sisters (against their wishes) from the Unification Theological Seminary in Barrytown, New York by forcing his way in to see them.[26] He failed, and the scuffle there led to mutual charges of assault.[23] Sheeran left the Unification Church about 1996 and joined the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.[4]


She and her former husband, Whitney Shiner, are now divorced. They have three children Nicole, Daniel, and Gabriel. She has five siblings, James, John, Kim, Victoria, and Jaime.

See also[edit]


Portions of this article were originally taken from Sheeran's Department of State biography, as well as from her official biography on the World Food Programme website.


  1. ^ "Secretary-General Appoints Josette Sheeran of United States as Special Envoy for Haiti". United Nations.
  2. ^ "Asia Society appoints Josette Sheeran New President". Asia Society.
  3. ^ a b "WFP Executive Director Assumes Role At World Economic Forum". World Food Programme.
  4. ^ a b American diplomat Josette Sheeran selected to head U.N. World Food Program, U.N. announces , International Herald Tribune, November 7, 2006 (Associated Press item)
  5. ^ WHAT IS HUNGER? Archived 2007-05-14 at the Wayback Machine. World Food Programme
  6. ^ a b "World hunger can end in our lifetime: UN". Reuters in Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney, NSW, Australia: Fairfax Media, Ltd. 2007-04-19. Retrieved 2008-02-26.
  7. ^ Associated Press (2006-11-07). "U.S. diplomat to head U.N. food program". USA Today. Archived from the original on 2007-05-27. Retrieved 2008-02-26.
  8. ^ Sheeran, Josette (2006-10-19). "Seven Reasons Why We Can End Hunger in Our Lifetime" (PDF). The World Food Prize. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 14, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-26. #1: Focus...#2: Technical and Policy Revolution...# 3: Private Sector...# 4: Ownership - at the individual, village and country level...# 5. Women...# 6: Micro-credit and other innovative policy mechanisms...#7: You.Des Moines, Iowa
  9. ^ The World Food Programme at 30: fighting hunger, feeding hope - includes statistics - United Nations developments Archived 2007-12-07 at the Wayback Machine. UN Chronicle, Sept, 1993.
  10. ^ Not by bread alone Arnaud de Borchgrave, UPI, April 21, 2008 "Sheeran heads a U.N. organization that employs 10,000 in 78 countries with a budget of $3 billion that rations food to some 80 million. Onetime deputy U.S. trade representative, she pushed the global food crisis to the top of the agenda for world leaders meeting in Washington for the spring meetings of IMF and the World Bank. She has also succeeded in making hunger the top priority for the next G8 meeting of industrialized nations in Tokyo July 7."
  11. ^ "Time". Archived from the original on 2008-10-05. Retrieved 2008-04-24.
  12. ^ UPI
  13. ^ UN to resume aid distribution in Gaza, AFP, January 10, 2009
  14. ^ UN to boost food distribution in Gaza, Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2009.
  15. ^ a b Sengupta, Somini (2016-12-01). "U.N. Apologizes for Role in Haiti's 2010 Cholera Outbreak". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-06-21.
  16. ^ "U.N. Admits Role In Haiti Cholera Outbreak That Has Killed Thousands". Retrieved 2017-06-21.
  17. ^ "With little money to combat cholera in Haiti, U.N. names new fundraising chief". miamiherald. Retrieved 2017-06-21.
  18. ^ "Haitian groups sign cholera letter, head of U.N. campaign ends tenure". miamiherald. Retrieved 2017-06-21.
  19. ^ a b c ROSENTHAL, ELISABETH (2007-08-11). "A Desire to Feed the World and Inspire Self-Sufficiency". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-25.
  20. ^ A Desire to Feed the World and Inspire Self-Sufficiency, New York Times, August 11, 2007
  21. ^ Josette Sheeran, Forbes, August 2011
  22. ^ "James Sheeran, 84, dies; WWII hero, N.J. official". Washington Times. 2007-07-18. Archived from the original (fee) on 2008-10-05. Retrieved 2008-02-26.
  23. ^ a b c "Mad About Moon". Time. Time-Life. 1975-11-10. Retrieved 2008-02-25.
  24. ^ McCaslin, John (2007-02-02). "An American hero" (fee). Washington Times. Retrieved 2008-02-26. I want to pay tribute on behalf of France to a great American patriot," the ambassador said, "and to a son of France.
  25. ^ Moss, Bret. "Unification Sermons and Talks: The Words of the Shiner Family". Unification Theological Seminary, Barrytown, NY. Archived from the original on October 3, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-25. (From an interview 23 February, probably 1993)
  26. ^ Carlton Sherwood. (1991). Inquisition: The Persecution and Prosecution of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. Regnery Publishing.

External links[edit]

World Food Programme

Speech from the 20th Annual World Food Prize Symposium 2006 Other

Media coverage
Political offices
Preceded by
Alan Larson
Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs
Succeeded by
Reuben Jeffery III
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
James Morris
Executive Director of the World Food Programme
Succeeded by
Ertharin Cousin