Penny Abeywardena

Commissioner of International Affairs for New York City

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Penny Abeywardena's Story

Penny Abeywardena is New York City's Commissioner for International Affairs. As head of the Mayor's Office for International Affairs, she is leading the City's effort to build a global platform from which the City is promoting its goals for a more just and accessible society, showcasing the diversity of New Yorkers, and sharing policies and best practice with the world. Since her appointment in September 2014, the International Affairs team has launched a series of initiatives focused on connecting New Yorkers and City agencies to the diplomatic community as well as more effectively serving NYC's diplomatic corps, which is the largest in the world. Prior to joining Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration, Penny was the Director of Girls and Women Integration at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), a non-partisan organization that convenes global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to the world's most pressing problems.

Penny joined CGI in 2009 to develop strategy highlighting and integrating the gender lens throughout the organization's various platforms. She led the program's evolution into one of CGI's most successful efforts. While at CGI, Penny was responsible for the portfolio of CGI commitments focused on empowering girls & women worldwide, developing year-round programming, and integrating the gender lens throughout the CGI platform. During her tenure, she advised multinational corporations, philanthropists, NGOs, and multilateral institutions to increase investments in gender-focused development initiatives; and expanded the community of CGI members who incorporate the gender lens in their work. Before joining the Clinton Global Initiative, Penny worked in both development and programmatic areas for Human Rights Watch, the Funding Exchange and the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy.

In 2016 Penny was named by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader. She is a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the Board of Directors of the United Nations Development Corporation, New Course, Global Partners, Inc and the Eastside Greenway and Park. On her personal time, Penny serves on the Hillary for America Policy Working Group on Global Women's Issues, the Innovation Advisory Committee for 92Y and the Founding Member Committee of Lincoln Center’s Global Exchange. She has previously served on the World Bank's Advisory Council on Gender and Development, the Board of Directors of Sakhi for South Asian Women and Resource Generation. Penny's a contributing author to "Women in the Global Economy: Leading Social Change," and in 2012 was recognized by the United Nation’s Decide Now Act (DNA) Summit, as one of 101 Global Innovators for her work to put women's rights on the global political agenda. She's a graduate of the University of Southern California and completed her Master of International Affairs at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.