Ertharin Cousin

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Ertharin Cousin
Etharin Cousin.jpg
Cousin in 2009
12th Executive Director of the World Food Programme
Incumbent
Assumed office
April 5, 2012
Preceded byJosette Sheeran (2007–2012)
9th United States Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture
In office
August 17, 2009 – April 5, 2012
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byGaddi Vasquez
Succeeded byDavid J. Lane
Personal details
Born1957
Chicago, Illinois
Political partyDemocratic
ProfessionGovernment
Food industry executive
Charity executive
 
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Ertharin Cousin
Etharin Cousin.jpg
Cousin in 2009
12th Executive Director of the World Food Programme
Incumbent
Assumed office
April 5, 2012
Preceded byJosette Sheeran (2007–2012)
9th United States Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture
In office
August 17, 2009 – April 5, 2012
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byGaddi Vasquez
Succeeded byDavid J. Lane
Personal details
Born1957
Chicago, Illinois
Political partyDemocratic
ProfessionGovernment
Food industry executive
Charity executive

Ertharin Cousin (born 1957) is, since 2012, the twelfth Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme.

From 2009 to 2012, Ertharin Cousin served under President Barack Obama as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, serving in Rome, Italy, and chief of the United States Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome. Before that, she worked in a variety of public and private sector positions, first as a Democratic Party official, later specializing in the food industry and related charities from the late 1990s on. As of August 2012, Cousin was ranked #69 on the Forbes Magazine's List of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women.

Early life, education, and early career[edit]

Cousin grew up in the poor Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois along with her three sisters. Her mother, Anne Cousin, worked in the social services field and her father often engaged in volunteer community development work.

She earned a B.A. degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1979 and a J.D. degree from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1982. At the latter, she studied international law under former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk.

Cousin worked in Illinois as Assistant Attorney General and Western Regionals Office Director for the Illinois Attorney General’s office and as Deputy Director of the Chicago Ethics Board. In the private sector she was Director of Governmental Affairs for AT&T.

She is divorced and has one child.

Washington years[edit]

Cousin moved to Washington, D.C., and during 1993 worked as Deputy Chief of Staff for the Democratic National Committee. She joined the Clinton administration in 1994 as the White House Liaison at the U.S. State Department. There she received a Meritorious Service Award. She served as Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

In 1996 she stepped down from that post in order to run the Illinois operation of the Clinton–Gore presidential campaign. After the campaign's victory, she served as Vice-President of Government, Community and Political Affairs for the Second inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1997.

Food industry and charity[edit]

In 1997 she received a White House appointment for a four-year term to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development. There she supported many of the agricultural projects being run by the United States Agency for International Development. At the same time, she was Vice-President for Government and Community Affairs for Jewel Food stores. In 1999, Albertsons LLC bought Jewel and Cousin became Group Vice President of Public Affairs for Albertsons and then Senior Vice President of Public Affairs. While working for Albertsons, she also served as President and Chair of the company's corporate foundation, managing the organization’s philanthropic activities. She also served as the Albertsons' official spokesperson.

In 2002, Cousin joined the board of America's Second Harvest, the nation’s largest domestic hunger organization, and in 2004 she became its Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer . Among her achievements during this period was leading the organization’s response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, an effort which resulted in the distribution of more than 62 million pounds of food to those in need across the Gulf Coast region of the United States. Cousin helped raise the annual revenue of the organization from $20 million to $56 million during her time there.

Cousin left America's Second Harvest in 2006 and founded and served as President of The Polk Street Group, a national public affairs consulting firm located in Chicago. In 2009, she handed over the reins to her son, Maurice Cousin, in order to accept the ambassadorial appointment.

U.S. Ambassador[edit]

Ambassador Cousin addresses an Earth Day event in Rome in April 2010.

On Jun 19, 2009, Cousin was nominated by President Barack Obama to become United States Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, serving in Rome, Italy. She was confirmed by the United States Senate on August 7, 2009, and sworn in as Ambassador on August 17, 2009, where she served as chief of the United States Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome and is part of the "Tri-Mission Community" that also includes the United States Ambassador to Italy and the United States Ambassador to the Holy See.

During her time in Rome, she has efforted the setting up of new country-led aid programs. She worked towards providing food relief to Port-au-Prince following the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake. She has said that seeing the famous sights of Rome does not get old and that her biggest surprise in the job is, "When people talk about 'Her Excellency, Ertharin Cousin.' You know, I grew up in Lawndale. You're a long way from there when someone's referring to you as 'Your Excellency.'"

Over 120 guests attended a March 2012 farewell event for her at the Chief of Mission Residence.

Executive Director of World Food Programme[edit]

In January 2012, the U.S. State Department announced that Cousin would become Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme, succeeding Josette Sheeran when the latter's term expired in April 2012. Cousin was supported in a quote made by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in reference to her appointment stating, "... [Cousin] has been central to designing and implementing our country's food security policies. I am confident that she will continue to be a powerful voice in the global fight against hunger and lend her energy, optimism and experience to the World Food Programme." Indeed, Cousin received the nomination after the U.S. opposed another term for Sheeran, who had been appointed by the George W. Bush administration.

Ertharin Cousin began her tenure as the twelfth Executive Director on April 5, 2012. In taking the position, she stated that she fully supported the WFP's transition from food aid to food assistance, saying "I think that debate is over. That WFP is a food assistance organization, with the right tools and those tools include food aid. But also cash and vouchers and all the other things we have on the table."

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]

The Ambassador's Blog