Government Leader, International Affairs Expert & Human Rights Advocate
Penny Abeywardena is the former New York City Commissioner for International Affairs. During her eight years of service (2014-2022) she led the agency serving the largest diplomatic corps in the world. During her tenure New York City successfully implemented a series of award-winning programs with the international community focused on issues ranging from youth empowerment to the leadership of cities and local governments on global issues like climate change and rebuilding post the Covid-19 pandemic. Read More >
Cities Lead the Way
Columbia SIPA Alumni Keynote Address
Global Vision for NYC
"Penny Abeywardena has moderated and spoke at a number of World Economic Forum Summits including those listed below. She was a wonderful energetic moderator of discussions involving Heads of State and CEOs and has been able to guide and craft the discussion for an in person audience, which included the foremost leaders of government, business, civil society and academia and a global remote audience. She is also a magnetic speaker and can combine professionalism and humour, while providing a highly engaging presentation. She received excellent feedback from all participants and consequently has been a much sought after speaker at all summits she attended."
"Penny Abeywardena gave a remarkable presentation at the Helsinki Symposium in 2019 in Helsinki, Finland. Hosted by the Mayor of Helsinki the Helsinki Symposium is an annual high-level event that seeks to explore the most current developments in the urban world and discusses their implications to leadership and strategy. Penny Abeywardena’s presentation brought global insight and depth into the conversation, highlighted some of the most crucial developments in local and regional governance, and leadership and sustainability development. Her presentation received excellent feedback from the audience and the other speakers. We also appreciated her more private remarks to the mayors of the 21 largest cities in Finland. Her energy and inspirational presentation of the meaning of SDG’s in city leadership and strategy lead to multiple cities committing to SDG reporting on the spot."
"Penny was the ideal presenter at the recent event we hosted for The Women Initiative Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on providing women with opportunities to develop community, forge new relationships, and support their professional development. Penny spoke at our first in-person event on the heels of the pandemic and other unprecedented global challenges. Penny discussed her journey to becoming a community leader, including navigating challenges along the way. Through a candid approach, Penny shared anecdotes about her personal story of persevering through obstacles that influenced her dedication to women’s rights and supporting their growth. Penny’s warm presence and down-to-earth and compassionate style allowed the audience to easily connect with her. Sharing insights on the importance of mentorship, and authenticity, she hit on all the right notes while giving her audience immediately useful take-aways. True learning took place. Mingling with guests, Penny was accessible for discussion with the participants throughout the entirety of the event. The Foundation could not have asked for a more generous and thoughtful speaker to represent its mission and elevate the discussion at our event."
"Penny Abeywardena, a distinguished graduate of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), gave an inspiring keynote address to our incoming class of admitted graduate students in the spring of 2021. Speaking virtually at a pivotal time during the COVID-19 pandemic, Penny reflected on the immense opportunities for impact these future leaders would have as graduates of SIPA and how SIPA had prepared her with skills, knowledge, and a network to succeed in her own career in public policy and international affairs. Penny is a role model to our students and did a fantastic job delivering a warm and hopeful message of welcome to the class of 2023."
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