Fatema Sumar Headshot.

Fatema Z. Sumar

Executive Director,
Harvard Center for International Development


Fatema Z. Sumar is the Executive Director of the Harvard Center for International Development. Housed at Harvard Kennedy School, CID works across Harvard University and a global network of researchers and practitioners to build, convene, and deploy talent to build a thriving world for all.

Fatema has a distinguished career as a practitioner in the US government and civil society. She most recently served as a presidential appointee in the Biden-Harris administration as the Vice President of Compact Operations at the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) where she worked to reduce poverty through economic growth. She managed MCC’s technical and regional divisions working on infrastructure, environment, private sector, gender and social inclusion, human and community development, agriculture, procurement, financial management, strategic partnerships, and contracts and grant management. She was previously MCC’s Deputy Vice President for Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Latin America.

Fatema also served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia at the US Department of State where she led efforts to expand regional economic and energy connectivity and as a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF). In the US Congress, she worked for three senators including as a Senior Professional Staff Member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee focused on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the broader region.

In civil society, Fatema was the Vice President of Global Programs at Oxfam America where she oversaw regional development and humanitarian response to fight the injustice of poverty. Early in her career, she also worked at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Fatema is the author of the book The Development Diplomat: Working Across Borders, Boardrooms, and Bureaucracies to End Poverty. She sits on Advisory Boards for Princeton and Cornell universities, Muslim Americans in Public Service (MAPS), and Women in Defense, Diplomacy, and Development (W3D); the Board of Directors of Blumont; and on Harvard Kennedy School’s Sustainability Leadership Council. She has been published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, The New Republic, The Hill, Devex, and other outlets. She is a frequent guest speaker and has testified before the US House of Representatives and Senate.

Fatema graduated with a MPA from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, where she received the prestigious Stokes Award, and a BA in government from Cornell University where she founded the Translator-Interpreter Program (TIP). She has an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. She studied abroad at the American University in Cairo.


Featured Work

Cover of “The Development Diplomat” by Fatema Z. SumarThe Development Diplomat: Working Across Borders, Boardrooms, and Bureaucracies to End Poverty

October 2021






Opinion: E-learning can prevent another lost generation in Afghanistan

Devex, January 10, 2023

Why Inequality is Growing in the US and Around the World

The Conversation, November 1, 2022