Former U.S. Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens to Lead United Nations Foundation as President and Chief Executive Officer

Cousens, a distinguished leader and champion of multilateral cooperation, will assume the role of President and CEO on January 1, 2020

Washington, DC

September 16, 2019


Megan Rabbitt

The United Nations Foundation Board of Directors announced today that former Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens will become its next President and Chief Executive Officer, effective January 1, 2020. Cousens, a distinguished leader and highly-respected champion of sustainable development and multilateral cooperation, has served the Foundation as its Deputy CEO since 2015.

Cousens will succeed current President and CEO Kathy Calvin, who informed the UN Foundation Board of Directors of her intention to retire earlier this year. Under the leadership of Vice Chairs Gro Harlem Brundtland and Senator Timothy E. Wirth, the Board conducted an intensive global search to identify Calvin’s successor.

“Elizabeth was our unanimous and enthusiastic choice, and our confidence in her determination to stand up for the UN and the values of global cooperation is without bounds,” said Ted Turner, Founder and Chairman of the UN Foundation Board of Directors. “We are grateful to Kathy for her many years of leadership at the Foundation, helping shape the organization into a force for partnership and impact. We now look forward to the next generation with Elizabeth at the helm at this moment of heightened peril for our planet and its people. We are thrilled to lock arms with a leader who has been at the forefront of global policymaking and innovation throughout her career.”

“For over 20 years, the UN Foundation has been driven by the imperative to strengthen the UN as an essential platform for collective action and global progress,” said Cousens. “That mission is even more urgent today at this time of singular challenge to the values and possibilities of international cooperation. It is an extraordinary privilege to be able to lead an organization of such clear and compelling purpose, and I am excited to continue to work with the Foundation’s incredible team and our UN partners as we tackle the next generation of global challenges.”

“Elizabeth has been an essential partner to me since she joined the Foundation and has brought to every facet of our work keen insights, practical knowledge, and profound integrity,” said Kathy Calvin. “I’m delighted to pass the baton to a strategic leader whose career has been defined by a remarkable devotion to our core priorities, our people, and our future.”

Cousens has an outstanding record of international service and extensive experience as a policy innovator, accomplished diplomat, and advocate for peace, security, and sustainable development. She previously served as the U.S. Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council and Alternate Representative to the UN General Assembly, where she shepherded U.S. policy efforts on the post-2015 development agenda and led U.S. negotiations on the Sustainable Development Goals. She served on the UN Peacebuilding Commission and the executive boards of UN Funds and Programmes, led cross-mission task forces on key UN reforms, and helped build diverse coalitions of support for issues ranging from LGBTQ rights to migration. She has run international research institutions, led non-profits, and worked with the UN in the field in Bosnia, Haiti, the Middle East, and Nepal. She is a Rhodes Scholar who studied European History as a Presidential Scholar at Princeton and graduated from the University of Puget Sound with honors before earning her masters and doctorate degrees in international relations at the University of Oxford.

Kathy Calvin will continue to serve as President and CEO until the end of the year. She joined the UN Foundation as Chief Operating Officer in 2003. She was named CEO in 2009 and was appointed President and CEO in 2012. During her tenure, Calvin mobilized and inspired an impressive global network of private sector, civil society, and media partners in support of the UN and has tirelessly advocated for U.S. leadership, equality for all people, and full rights and opportunities for the world’s girls and women.



About the United Nations Foundation

The United Nations Foundation acts as a strategic partner to help the United Nations mobilize the ideas, people, and resources it needs to drive global progress and tackle urgent challenges. We focus on issues at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals, build initiatives across sectors to solve problems at scale, and engage citizens who seek action. Founded in 1998 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner, the UN Foundation works with philanthropic, corporate, government, and individual partners. Learn more at: