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
Personal details
Born (1954-06-12) June 12, 1954 (age 67)
Orange, New Jersey, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Whitney Shiner (divorced)
EducationUniversity of Colorado Boulder (BA)

Josette Sheeran (born 12 June 1954) is an American non-profit executive and diplomat who served in the United States Department of State. Sheeran serves as the seventh President and CEO of Asia Society since June 10, 2013. Sheeran was also the United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti.[1]

Sheeran is former Vice Chair of the World Economic Forum.[2] While there, she helped found and advance global initiatives encompassing global, regional, and industry agendas such as Grow Africa, which has attracted $10 billion in private sector investment to end aid dependency and tackle hunger and malnutrition in Africa.

She was the eleventh Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in November 2006.[3] Sheeran served as a diplomat and negotiator for the United States, and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate twice.

She served as United States Under Secretary for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs, and as deputy U.S. Trade Representative. She was appointed coordinator of the Pakistan earthquake response by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and developed economic recovery plans for front line areas in Pakistan, Afghanistan and beyond. She has served on the boards of OPIC, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation; as well as the lead U.S. representative to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the OECD.

Early life and education[edit]

Sheeran was born in Orange, New Jersey, one of six siblings. Sheeran was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and joined the Unification Church in 1975.[4] She earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1976.[5]


World Food Programme[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.[6]

Under Sheeran's leadership, WFP enacted financial and structural reforms designed to increase transparency and agility. She pioneered new initiatives such as the African Risk Capacity (ARC), the first disaster insurance model for Africa, and “Purchase for Progress” in more than a dozen nations and conflict zones. Under her leadership, WFP diversified its donor base to more than 100 nations and became the first UN program to include the so-called BRIC countries and the Gulf States among its top 10 donors, she also increased private sector partnerships 10 fold to around $100 million a year. She instituted key reforms to reduce dependency on food aid among millions of aid recipients.

Sheeran has expressed commitment to meeting the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger and poverty by 2015.[7] 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.[8] In 2008, it had a budget of US$3 billion and employed 10,000 people in 78 countries.[9]

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"[10] and lobbied the United States and other governments to give more aid to the world's poor.[11] 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.[12][13]

Sheeran's influential TED Talk on ending world hunger has been viewed more than one million times and has been used in schools to teach children about ending hunger through innovation and partnerships.

Ms. Sheeran chaired the UN High Level Committee on Management for two terms, leading more than 40 UN entities in a series of historic reforms, from the adoption of International Public Accounting Standards (IPSAS), to enacting world-class agreements on transparency, ethics, whistle-blowing, financial disclosure and technology.

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.

UN Envoy to Haiti[edit]

Sheeran also served as the UN Special Envoy to Haiti, appointed on June 20, 2017, representing UN Secretary General António Guterres in advancing Haiti's transition from an aid-dependent economy, at the end of more than 17 years of UN peace-keeping operations. She has crafted the first UN “pay for success” development bond to help secure an end to the transmission of cholera in Haiti.

The New UN's Approach to Cholera in Haiti was launched under former Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon when he publicly apologized for the UN's role in Haiti's cholera epidemic in December 2016.[14] 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.[15]

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."[16] David Nabarro was originally placed in charge of fundraising for the UN's new approach.

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.


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, and advancing the agenda of Empowerment Economics to transform America's poorest cities and regions under the leadership of Jack Kemp and Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick.

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.[5] 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.[17]

Boards and honors[edit]

Ms. Sheeran serves as a director on numerous boards, including the Capital Group, one of America's oldest and largest investment management organizations. She also serves on the Board of Directors, and as co-chair of the Finance & Human Resources Committee, of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), founded through a partnership between the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2006 in response to a call from former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said the time had come for African farmers to wage a “uniquely African Green Revolution.”

Sheeran is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

In 2011, Forbes named her the world's 30th most powerful woman;[18] Foreign Policy listed her among its top 100 global 'Twitterati'. She was a Fisher Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center in 2013. She graduated from the University of Colorado and has been awarded numerous honorary doctorate degrees, including from Michigan State University and the University of Colorado.

She was awarded Japan's Nigata International Food Award, Commandeur de l'Ordre du Mérite Agricole by the government of France, and Brazil's highest civilian award, the Grand Official Order of the ‘Rio Branco,’ and the “Game Changer” award by HuffPost.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Secretary-General Appoints Josette Sheeran of United States as Special Envoy for Haiti". United Nations.
  2. ^ "WFP Executive Director Assumes Role At World Economic Forum". World Food Programme.
  3. ^ American diplomat Josette Sheeran selected to head U.N. World Food Program, U.N. announces , International Herald Tribune, November 7, 2006 (Associated Press item)
  4. ^ 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)
  5. ^ a b ROSENTHAL, ELISABETH (2007-08-11). "A Desire to Feed the World and Inspire Self-Sufficiency". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-25.
  6. ^ WHAT IS HUNGER? Archived 2007-05-14 at the Wayback Machine World Food Programme
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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."
  10. ^ "Time". Archived from the original on 2008-10-05. Retrieved 2008-04-24.
  11. ^ UPI
  12. ^ UN to resume aid distribution in Gaza, AFP, January 10, 2009
  13. ^ UN to boost food distribution in Gaza, Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2009.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ "U.N. Admits Role In Haiti Cholera Outbreak That Has Killed Thousands". Retrieved 2017-06-21.
  16. ^ "Haitian groups sign cholera letter, head of U.N. campaign ends tenure". miamiherald. Retrieved 2017-06-21.
  17. ^ A Desire to Feed the World and Inspire Self-Sufficiency, New York Times, August 11, 2007
  18. ^ Josette Sheeran, Forbes, August 2011

External links[edit]

World Food Programme

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

Media coverage
Political offices
Preceded by
Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Executive Director of the World Food Programme
Succeeded by