Former Executive Director of the World Food Programme
The Martin Institute is pleased to welcome Ertharin Cousin as a speaker in the 2019 Borah Symposium. Cousin has distinguished herself as an international leader who emphasizes visionary thinking, practical problem solving, and articulates clearly an important perspective on the global political and social situation.
Cousin also serves the Chicago Council on Global Affairs as a Senior Global Advisor. Cousin possesses more than thirty years of national and international non-profit, government, and corporate leadership experience focusing on food, hunger, humanitarian operations, political organizing, community development and resilience strategies.
From 2009 until 2017 Cousin led the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) as the twelfth Executive Director (ED). As WFP ED Cousin guided the world’s largest humanitarian organization with 14,000 staff serving 80 million beneficiaries in 75 countries meeting urgent food needs; while, championing and serving as a global advocate for longer-term solutions to food insecurity and hunger. Cousin’s passionate support for a Zero Hunger World helped deliver a donor funding increase from 3.8 billion dollars in 2012 to 5.86 billion dollars in 2016. Cousin maintains relationships with Global government, business and community leaders. She has published numerous articles regarding agriculture, food security and nutrition.
In 2009, Cousin was nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate as the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome. In this role Cousin served as the U.S. Representative for all food, agriculture and nutrition related issues. Cousin regularly represented U.S. interest in global leader discussions, including for example Prime Ministers, Foreign and Agriculture Ministers, academics and business executives, regarding humanitarian and development activities. Cousin helped identify and catalyze US government investment in food security and nutrition activities supported by the USAID Feed the Future program. Cousin convened foreign media tours resulting in millions of conventional as well social media impressions, highlighting U.S. program investments delivering results for otherwise vulnerable, hungry people.
Prior to her global hunger work, Cousin helped lead the U.S. domestic fight to end hunger while serving as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of America’s Second Harvest-now Feeding America. In this role Cousin led the operations, budgeting and expenditures as well as the human resources, IT and training activities of this national confederation of 200 foodbanks across America serving over 50,000,000 meals per year. In this role, Cousin mobilized an unprecedented fundraising, volunteer mobilization and media campaign in support of the organization’s successful Hurricane Katrina operational response.
Previously, Cousin served as Senior Vice President for Albertson’s Foods. As a Corporate reporting officer, Cousin served as the Albertson lead for community relations, customer relations, legislative and regulatory affairs, industry and external relations including communications serving as the Company’s chief spokesperson. While serving at Albertson she was appointed by the U.S. President to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development where she helped oversee U.S. government agriculture research investments worldwide. Before Albertsons, Cousin also served in government as the White House Liaison to the State Department. She received the Department’s Meritorious Service award for her work expeditiously and successfully addressing foreign policy issues which arose when the U.S. hosted the Atlanta Olympics.
A Chicago native, Cousin is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago; the University of Georgia Law School and the University of Chicago Executive Management Finance for Non-Financial Executives program. Cousin has received Honorary Doctorate degrees from Universities around the globe. She has been listed numerous times on the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women List, as the Fortune Most Powerful Woman in Food and Drink, on Time’s 100 Most Influential People list, and as one of the 500 Most Powerful People on the Planet by Foreign Policy magazine.