Catherine Bertini, Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, teaches graduate courses in international relations and leadership as a professor of practice. She is a leader in public sector management reform, international organizations, humanitarian relief, agricultural development, gender programming, and nutrition policy.  Her career spans public service from international to local levels including leadership roles in private, non-profit sectors and academia.

Currently she is also Distinguished Fellow, Chicago Council of Global Affairs, where she earlier served as co-chair of its Global Agricultural Development Initiative (GADI) and chair of its Girls in Rural Economies project. GADI is credited with creating the intellectual argument resulting in increasing US government support for poor farmers in the developing world. For two years, she was Senior Fellow, Agricultural Development, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Ms. Bertini was the driving force behind reform of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), where she was the Chief Executive for 10 years. She was first appointed as the Executive Director of WFP in 1992, recommended by President Bush, and re-appointed supported by President Clinton.  WFP’s institutional changes were cited by the WFP 36-government board as models of UN reform, placing the food aid agency in the forefront of international organizations in efficiency, effectiveness, accountability, and income.

Ms. Bertini was named 2003 World Food Prize Laureate for her leadership “transforming WFP into the largest and most responsive humanitarian organization in the world.”

WFP and its staff are credited with assisting hundreds of millions of victims of wars and natural disasters throughout the world. Ms. Bertini was widely praised for her efforts in mitigating famine in North Korea, preventing starvation in Afghanistan, ensuring food was delivered effectively during crises in Bosnia and Kosovo, reaching Hurricane Mitch flood victims in Central America quickly, averting mass starvation in the Horn of Africa, and focusing on women as critical to ending hunger.

Following her WFP assignment, Ms. Bertini was appointed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as Under Secretary General for Management.  She was responsible for the UN’s human, financial, physical resources and security of staff worldwide.  She improved management of the UN Pension Fund and increased its assets by 38% in two years; supervised major reform of the security management system; improved procedures for information systems, facilities and more inclusive human resources policies; and initiated stronger financial disclosure, whistle blower protection and internal management reforms.

For four years, Ms. Bertini chaired the UN System Standing Committee on Nutrition. She was also the Secretary General’s envoy twice: for drought in the Horn of Africa and for humanitarian needs in Gaza and the West Bank. She served on the Audit Advisory Committee for UN Women.

As Assistant Secretary, Food and Consumer Services, US Department of Agriculture, she initiated statewide implementation of electronic benefit transfer programs for aid delivery; by 2004, all states converted to this system.  She created a food package for poor breastfeeding mothers; initiation of this package correlates directly with increases in the percentage of poor American women who breastfed their infants. Her team created the first Food Guide Pyramid to educate Americans on healthy diets. At the US Department of Health and Human Services as Acting Assistant Secretary for Family Support, she was responsible for regulations that strengthened education and training support for the poorest American women.

Ms. Bertini returned to the private sector upon her election as a member of the Board of Directors of the Tupperware Brands Corporation in 2005.  Earlier, for 10 years, she held public affairs management positions at Container Corporation of America in Chicago.

Prior to her 2005 Maxwell School appointment, she was Policy Maker in Residence at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan, and a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

She a member of the Stuart Family Foundation board. In 2012, she was a member of the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi. For nine years, she advised USAID as a presidential appointee (Presidents Bush and Obama) to the Board of International Food and Agricultural Development. She served for seven years on the Hilton Humanitarian Prize jury.

Ms. Bertini was decorated by the Republic of Italy with its Order of Merit and recognized by the Republic of Ireland with its Certificate of Irish Heritage.  The Times of London listed her as one of the world’s most powerful women.  Twelve universities in four countries awarded her honorary degrees; she has received numerous national and international awards.

She is a member of the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, and is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the International Academy of Food Science and Technology.  Ms. Bertini earned a bachelor-of-arts degree from the University at Albany.

With her World Food Prize, she created the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls Education at WFP/USA, supporting programs to increase the numbers and longevity of girls in school. The Central NY Living History Center displays her collection of Women at Work around the World. She resides with her family in Homer, NY and is a member of the Board of Trustees of Cortland Regional Medical Center, a lector at St. Margaret’s Church, and a member of the community band.


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Catherine Ann Bertini

Ms. Bertini was named 2003 World Food Prize Laureate for her leadership “transforming WFP into the largest and most responsive humanitarian organization in the world.”