Press Releases

Biographical Note

13 November 2002

Secretary-General Appoints Catherine Bertini of United States as New Under-Secretary-General for Management

NEW YORK, 12 November (UN Headquarters) -- The Secretary-General today announced the appointment of Catherine Bertini of the United States as the new Under-Secretary-General for Management, succeeding Joseph Connor, effective 1 January 2003.

Ms. Bertini served for 10 years as Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the world's largest international humanitarian agency. In 2001, WFP provided food aid to 77 million people in 82 countries, through over 8,000 staff members.

Ms. Bertini is credited with assisting hundreds of millions of victims of wars and natural disasters throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and parts of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. In particular, she was widely praised for her efforts to end famine in North Korea; averting starvation in Afghanistan by delivering enormous amounts of urgently needed food aid in 2001; ensuring the provision of food supplies during the crises in Bosnia and Kosovo; and in 2000, averting the mass starvation that threatened 16 million people in the Horn of Africa.

While working at WFP's headquarters in Rome, Italy, Ms. Bertini was also credited with modernizing the administration of WFP to ensure its efficiency and effectiveness. The WFP Executive Board commended her, in 2002, for her internal reforms in the "Decade of Change" of the programme. WFP is voluntarily funded, and funding in 2001 reached $1.9 billion -- its highest level ever. WFP's administrative overhead averages under 8 per cent, among the lowest in the United Nations system and one that compares favourably with the best-run private charities. As part of her mandate to assess humanitarian conditions and implement effective measures to fight hunger, Ms. Bertini travelled extensively, meeting with leaders of government as well as thousands of people in need.

Ms. Bertini was appointed in 1992 by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization, on the recommendation of President George H. W. Bush. She was reappointed in 1997 with the endorsement of President Bill Clinton, together with that of the Group of 77 developing countries and the Executive Board of WFP. The mandate of WFP's Executive Director is limited to two five-year terms.

Ms. Bertini was appointed by the Secretary-General as his Special Envoy for Drought in the Horn of Africa in 2000-2001. Large amounts of food, water supplies, medicine and other aid were raised through her efforts to help people stave off the impact of three years of drought. In August 2002, Ms. Bertini began a two-year term as Chair of the United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition. The same month, the Secretary-General appointed her as his Personal Humanitarian Envoy, and sent her to Israel and the Palestinian territories to assess the humanitarian needs of the people living in Gaza and the West Bank.

For the fall semester of 2002, Ms. Bertini is the Towsley Foundation Policy Maker in Residence at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

Prior to joining WFP, Ms. Bertini served as Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Food and Consumer Services at the United States Department of Agriculture, and as Acting Assistant Secretary of the Family Support Administration in the United States Department of Health and Human Services. She worked in the Illinois and New York state governments. For ten years, she was employed by Container Corporation of America in Chicago, Illinois, as a public affairs officer. In 1986, she was a fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. For many years, she has been active in politics in the United States.

Ms. Bertini has received honorary degrees from seven universities in four countries. In 2002, the Republic of Italy honoured her with its Order of Merit, and she received the Prize of Excellence from the Association of African Journalists. In 1996, The Times (of London) Magazine named her as one of "The World's Most Powerful Women".

Earlier in her career, a citation provided by the American Public Welfare Association (one of several United States organizations that presented her with awards for her work on behalf of the poor) said that she "epitomizes the very best in public service".

Ms. Bertini was born in the United States in 1950. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science from the State University of New York at Albany in 1971. She and her husband, Tom Haskell, a freelance photographer, reside in Cortland, New York, where she plays clarinet in the community band.

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