Shabbir Cheema is a Senior Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. Previously, he was the Director of Democratic Governance Division of U.N. Development Program (UNDP) in New York and the Director of Asia-Pacific Governance and Democracy Initiative of East-West Center in Hawaii. His current interests are decentralization and local governance, urban management and access to urban services, transparency and innovations in democratic governance, civil service reforms and state capacity.
As a senior UN official, Cheema prepared the UNDP policy papers on democratic governance, human rights, and anti- corruption and provided leadership in crafting UN- assisted governance training and advisory services programs in over 25 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Arab Region. He was the Program Director of the Global Forum on Reinventing Government and the Convener of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Study Team of Eminent Scholars on Decentralization. He has taught at Universiti Sains Malaysia, University of Hawaii and New York University. As the UN team leader, he supported the International Conference on New and Restored Democracies, the Community of Democracies and UN HABITAT II. He has undertaken consultancy assignments for Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, U.S. Agency for International Development, Swedish International Development Agency, Dubai School of Government and United Nations. He holds a Ph.D in political science from the University of Hawaii.
He is the co-author of The Evolution of Development Thinking: Governance, Economics, Assistance and Security (Palgrave Macmillan 2016) and the author of Building Democratic Institutions: Governance Reform in Developing Countries (Kumarian Press, 2005), and Urban Shelter and Services (Praeger 1987). He is the contributor and co-editor of the four volume Series on Trends and Innovations in Governance (United Nations University Press, 2010); Decentralizing Governance: Emerging Concepts and Practices (Brookings Institution Press in cooperation with Harvard University, 2007), Reinventing Government for the Twenty First Century: State Capacity in a Globalizing Society (Kumarian Press, 2003), and Decentralization and Development (Sage Publications, 1984).
Cheema is a member of the advisory committees of the Swedish International Center for Local Democracy, UNHABITAT III, and the Pacific Basin Research Center. He is a member of the Editorial Board of Urbanization and Environment. A featured speaker at global and regional forums, he served as an advisor to the Dubai School of Government, Pakistan Institute for Economic Development, the Malaysian Academy for Leadership in Higher Education, and the UN Governance Center in Seoul, Korea. He has lived and worked in regional institutions and universities in Southeast Asia, East Asia and South Asia.