Penny Abeywardena, MIAFormer New York City Commissioner for International Affairs
Penny Abeywardena has held leadership roles in philanthropy, government, and multilateral institutions for more than 20 years. Her contributions have been recognized and celebrated by the United Nations, the World Economic Forum and the French American Foundation, among others. President Macron appointed Abeywardena to the rank of Knight in France’s National Order of Merit for her global leadership on diplomacy, human rights, and sustainability.
During her eight years of service as the New York City commissioner for international affairs (2014–2022), she led the agency serving the largest diplomatic corps in the world. During her tenure New York City successfully implemented award-winning programs with the global community: the Voluntary Local Review, which is a global movement of hundreds of local governments working to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs), and the Junior Ambassadors program, which supports underserved young people in working toward the SDGs in their local communities.
Prior to her role in government, Abeywardena was the director of girls and women integration at the Clinton Global Initiative (2009–2014), where she advised multinational corporations and institutions, philanthropists, and nongovernmental organizations to increase investments in gender-focused development initiatives. Abeywardena has also held senior advisor roles with Luiss Guido Carli University in Rome and the Charities Aid Foundation based in London.
Abeywardena is currently a contributing columnist at Forbes, writing pieces on leadership strategies and soft power. She serves on the board of directors for the Center for Reproductive Rights and for the American Society of the French Order of Merit. She is also a member of APCO Worldwide’s International Advisory Council and 92Y’s Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact Advisory Committee. Abeywardena has recently served on the board of the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships (which provides oversight of the United Nations Foundation) and the International Peace Institute. She was also co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Cities of Tomorrow.
Abeywardena is a graduate of the University of Southern California, and she completed her Master of International Affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
Abeywardena joined the FHI 360 Board of Directors in August 2023.