Elizabeth Cousens became the UN Foundation’s third President and Chief Executive Officer in 2020, leading the Foundation’s next generation of work to support the United Nations. Elizabeth has been at the forefront of global policymaking and innovation for over 20 years. She is a diplomat and thought leader who has worked on the frontlines of peace processes, played an influential role in UN policy innovations from peacebuilding to the Sustainable Development Goals, and helped build public-private partnerships to solve global challenges at scale.
Before joining the Foundation, Elizabeth served for several years at the U.S. Mission to the UN in New York. She was Principal Policy Advisor and Counselor to the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations and later served as the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Economic and Social Council and Alternate Representative to the UN General Assembly where she led U.S. negotiations on the SDGs; served on the boards of UN agencies, funds, and programmes; and was U.S. representative to the UN Peacebuilding Commission.
Elizabeth has lived around the world, serving with UN missions in Nepal and the Middle East, and working as an analyst in conflict zones, including Bosnia and Haiti. She was previously Director of Strategy for the HD Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue which promotes and conducts mediation of armed conflict; Vice President of the International Peace Institute, where she led initiatives on global crisis management and UN reform; and Director of the Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum, a research group that provides country and regional expertise to the UN on conflict and crisis situations.
Prior to becoming President and CEO, Elizabeth served as Deputy CEO where she oversaw the Foundation’s policy, advocacy, and communications work.
Elizabeth has a D.Phil. in International Relations from the University of Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar, as well as a B.A. in history and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Puget Sound. She has written widely on conflict management, peace processes, state-building, and the United Nations.
She and her husband have one child.