Josette Sheeran is the seventh president and CEO of Asia Society. In the position, which she assumed in June 2013, she is responsible for leading and advancing the organization’s work throughout the U.S. and Asia, and across its disciplines of arts and culture, policy and business, and education.
Sheeran is former Vice Chair of the World Economic Forum, which hosts the annual Davos and Davos in China gathering of world leaders. In this position, she helped advance global initiatives and global, regional and industry agendas such as Grow Africa, which has attracted $4 billion in investment commitments to end hunger and malnutrition in Africa. She recently served at the Harvard Kennedy School as a Fisher Fellow in the Future of Diplomacy.
Prior to her tenure at the World Economic Forum, Sheeran was executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2006. There she was responsible for managing the world’s largest humanitarian organization, leading a team of 13,000 people in more than 70 countries, and managing an annual budget of more than $3 billion — including $1 billion in Asia.
Under Sheeran’s leadership, the WFP increased its donor base to more than 100 nations, and became the first global institution to include the so-called BRIC countries and the Gulf States among its top 10 donors. She put in place historic reforms of food aid, helping cut the cycle of hunger and malnutrition by purchasing nutritious food directly from developing world farmers. She also instituted emergency protocols that helped the WFP improve its ability to save lives and livelihoods in disasters and emergencies, most notably in Pakistan, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Haiti and in the Horn of Africa.
Sheeran has held senior positions in the U.S. government, and in those positions she conducted high-level diplomacy with virtually every nation in Asia. As U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs, she led new State Department initiatives which supported economic transformation and reconstruction in Afghanistan and Central Asia and with APEC and ASEAN. Earlier she served for five years as deputy U.S. trade representative, conducting negotiations across Asia, including with China, Australia, Singapore, India, Korea, and Japan.
In 2011, Forbes named Sheeran the world’s 30th most powerful woman; Foreign Policy has listed her among its top 100 women on Twitter; and Sheeran’s TED Talk on ending world hunger has been viewed more than one million times.
Sheeran is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has served on its Washington Advisory Board. She has received several honors for her leadership in the fight against hunger and malnutrition: she was awarded Japan’s Niigata International Food Award; named Commandeur de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole by the government of France; and received Brazil’s highest civilian award, the Grand Official Order of the ‘Rio Branco,’ from President Lula Da Silva. Sheeran was also honored by the Huffington Post with its “Game Changer” award in 2011, along with Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson and economist Esther Duflo.