Josette Sheeran, the executive director of the World Food Program (WFP), today pulled out of the race to run the world's leading food agency for another five years, announcing she would accept a job in April at the World Economic Forum, which organizes the annual diplomatic retreat in Davos, Switzerland.
Sheeran's campaign to keep her job at the Rome-based food agency for a second term collapsed last month, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton notified U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that the Obama administration preferred another candidate for the job, Ertharin Cousin.
The World Food Program receives most of its funding from the United States and the top job has gone to an American candidate since 1992, when Catherine Bertini was appointed at the request of George H.W. Bush. Cousin, a former public relations and food industry executive and anti-hunger crusader who currently serves as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. food agencies in Rome, is expected to be named WFP chief in the coming days or weeks.
Before taking up her diplomatic post, she served as the president of the Polk Street Group, a Chicago-based public relations firm. Turtle Bay first reported the Obama administration had recommended her for the top WFP job in November.
The Obama administration was infuriated that Sheeran, who was appointed for the top food job at the request of President George W. Bush, had launched her own campaign to serve out a second term, despite U.S. opposition. But today, in a press release posted on the World Food Program's website, Sheeran said she would take on a job as vice chairman of the World Economic Forum.
"There are no words to describe the respect, admiration and love I have for WFP, its people and mission," Sheeran said in a statement. "It has been a deep honor to serve the world in this role and to help not only save lives but to transform the face of food aid, to empower lasting hunger solutions."
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Longtime Washington Post correspondent Colum Lynch reports on all things United Nations for Turtle Bay.