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Ertharin Cousin
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Ertharin Cousin began her tenure as the twelfth Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme on 5 April 2012. Ms Cousin brings more than twenty-five years of national and international non-profit, government, and corporate leadership experience focusing on hunger, food, and resilience strategies. Cousin guides the World Food Programme in meeting urgent food needs while championing longer-term solutions to food insecurity and hunger.

As the leader of the world’s largest humanitarian organization with approximately 15,000 staff serving about 100 million beneficiaries in 78 countries across the world, she is an exceptional advocate for improving the lives of hungry people worldwide, and travels extensively to raise awareness of food insecurity and chronic malnutrition.

In 2009, Ertharin Cousin was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, and head of the U.S. Mission to the U.N. Agencies in Rome. During her nearly three years as the chief U.S. diplomatic voice for famine relief and hunger solutions, Cousin helped guide U.S. and international policy around some of the most devastating and life-threatening situations in the world. She advocated for aid strategies that integrate a transition from relief to development, including following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and for country-led sustainable agriculture programmes, particularly in the aftermath of the 2010 flooding in Pakistan and in response to the 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa.

As the U.S. Representative in Rome, she played a significant role in advocating for improved collaboration between, and promoting gender parity and mainstreaming in the operations of the three Rome-based food and agriculture agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agriculture Development and the World Food Programme. During her tenure, she actively participated in reforming the Committee on World Food Security, enlarging the multi-stakeholder platform and helping to introduce a results-based framework. In 2011, she also assumed the presidency of the International Development Law Organization’s Assembly of Parties.

Cousin worked in the Administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton for four years, including serving as White House Liaison to the State Department, and received a White House appointment to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development.

Cousin served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Feeding America (then known as America’s Second Harvest), the largest domestic hunger organization in the United States. She led the organization’s response to Hurricane Katrina, an effort that resulted in the distribution of various relief supplies, including food, to those in need across the Gulf Coast region of the United States.

Cousin has significant background in the retail food sector, leading government communications and community affairs for two large U.S. grocery chains, Albertsons Foods and Jewell Foods. While working for Albertsons, she served as President and Chair of the company’s corporate foundation, managing the organization’s philanthropic activities.

Cousin is a native of Chicago and a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Georgia School of Law. She is a published author and accomplished speaker on food insecurity and chronic malnutrition. She is based in Rome, Italy.

Entries by Ertharin Cousin

Our Mandate Is Held Hostage by a Political Conflict

(1) Comments | Posted June 16, 2014 | 1:38 PM

We must raise the alarm! In Syria, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles every day, that further limit our ability to feed innocent victims of war.

Our ability to work has become ever more complicated, with too many ignoring the reality that it does not...

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Our Collective Failure To Address Malnutrition Is a Glaring Scandal of the 21st Century

(7) Comments | Posted June 7, 2013 | 7:00 PM

A century and a half ago, Charles Dickens wrote about stunting among children growing up in poverty in Victorian London. Dickens chronicled the phenomenon in his rich commentary of Victorian life. As the Industrial Revolution and social reforms swept Britain and standards of living improved, more people had access to...

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Principles and Practice for Resilience, Food Security and Nutrition

(1) Comments | Posted January 25, 2013 | 7:08 AM

We are at a tipping point in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. The world is becoming a less predictable and more threatening place for the poorest and most vulnerable. As we grow more interconnected, a range of complex risks, including climate change, environmental degradation, population growth, conflict, and food...

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Hunger at Thanksgiving

(7) Comments | Posted November 24, 2011 | 7:00 AM

By Ambassador Ertharin Cousin, U.S. Ambassador, and Tony Hall, former Ambassador, UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture, Rome, Italy

As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, we ponder all the things we are thankful for: the joy our family brings us, our good health, the people we love, our...

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Doubling Down on Somali Famine Aid

(0) Comments | Posted August 11, 2011 | 4:11 PM

Tomorrow I head to Dadaab, the immense refugee camp in Kenya that is taking in thousands of desperate men, woman and children from Somalia every day. As U.S. Ambassador to the Rome based U.N. Food and Agriculture agencies I already know most of their stories- the flight from famine, the...

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Just Any Woman Won't Do

(21) Comments | Posted September 2, 2008 | 4:59 PM

I've always believed Barack was the best candidate for women. I had a number of friends who chose to support Hillary not just because they believed it was time for a woman president, but because they felt strongly about her positions and qualifications. We had robust conversations about the differences...

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