United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres announced the appointment of Catherine Russell, BC ’83, as the new executive director of UNICEF on Dec. 10.
Russell—who graduated magna cum laude from Boston College—currently serves as assistant to the president and director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office under President Joe Biden.
“Ms. Russell brings to the role decades of experience in developing innovative policy that empowers underserved communities around the world; delivering high-impact programmes that protect women and girls, including in humanitarian crises; building, elevating, and managing diverse workforces; and mobilizing resources and political support for a broad range of initiatives,” the UNICEF release reads.
Before working in the Biden administration, Russell was the ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues in the U.S. Department of State from 2013 to 2017 where she worked to integrate women’s issues across all facets of U.S. foreign policy, according to the UNICEF release.
She was also the vice chair of the Biden-Harris campaign, a resident fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the senior advisor on international women’s issues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, among other past experiences.
In a statement released by the White House, Biden said that Russell has been a trusted and indispensable advisor and he could not be more proud of UNICEF’s intent to appoint her as the next executive director.
“We will miss Cathy,” the statement reads. “But our loss is UNICEF’s gain, because children around the world will lead richer, safer, and healthier lives as a direct result of Cathy’s leadership in this new role.”
In a Dec. 10 tweet, Henrietta Fore, the previous executive director of UNICEF, said she warmly welcomes the announcement that Russell will be her successor.
“Working at UNICEF these last four years has been an honor,” Fore wrote. “I am proud of the dedication of UNICEF colleagues around the world. I have no doubt that the organization and the world’s children will be in capable hands under Catherine’s leadership.”
The White House statement emphasized that UNICEF is lucky to have Russell as its new executive director.
“As a first-rate public servant, policy expert, and manager who has worked tirelessly to advocate for children and empower women and girls — including as the United States Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues in the Obama-Biden Administration — Cathy is exceptionally well-prepared to lead UNICEF’s critical work on behalf of young people around the world,” the statement reads.
Russell will begin her new role early next year, according to the UNICEF release. She will be UNICEF’s eighth executive director, and the fourth woman to lead the agency in its 75-year history.
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