Joanna Rubinstein

Joanna Rubinstein

Executive Cmte Member
Council Member, UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network; former President & CEO, Childhood USA; former Commissioner, UN Broadband Commission

Board Membership:

  • The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children: 2017 - present
  • The Early Childhood & Peace Consortium: 2015 - present
  • WEF (World Economic Forum) Global Coalition for Digital Safety: 2021 - present
  • International E-Sports Committee: 2021 - present
  • UNICRI (UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute) Advisory Board: 2021 – present
  • Yalla Rinkeby: December 2021 – present
  • Sweden for UNHCR (a UN Refugee Agency): March 2022 – present 
Throughout her professional career in the U.S. and Sweden, Joanna Rubinstein has been an innovator, strategist and a driver of change. She has developed expertise in global health, education, child protection and sustainable development. And Rubinstein has benefited from an extraordinary network of supporters and partners developed over two decades in the United States, first at Columbia University (CU), where she partnered with the United Nations (UN) from 2002-2015 and, later, as the head of Childhood USA from 2015-2020. Since May 2021, she has lived in Sweden where, at the request of many of her partners, she retains an array of Board seats and advisory roles.  
Rubinstein began her career at the Karolinska Institute as a research scientist and educator. She was recruited in 1997 to lead Project Unit at Sweden’s Medical Research Council and to participate in European Union initiatives. She was next tapped to return to the Karolinska as the Director for Research and Postgraduate Education. Two years later after marrying an American, she moved to the United States where she was recruited by Columbia University’s Vice President and Dean of the Medical Center to develop, as Senior Associate Dean of Institutional and Global Initiatives, and lead international collaborations with academia and the private sector – in particular pharma industry. Among institutional initiatives, Rubinstein established a university-wide Stem Cell Consortium, led the organization of the 250th CU Anniversary Scientific Symposia, developed the first plan for The Mind, Brain and Behavior Institute, and several other programs. 
In 2005, Rubinstein joined the Earth Institute (EI) of Columbia University where she played a leadership role in forging alliances with the UN to create transformational contributions to the global challenges in health and education as well as the effort to eradicate extreme poverty. To address these aspirational challenges effectively, Rubinstein created innovative partnerships with leaders in industry and ministers and heads of state of many of the world’s nations. As Chief of Staff to world renowned macroeconomist and UN Special Advisor, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Rubinstein was working on strategies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Based on Columbia University Earth Institute’s work on the MDGs, the EI continued supporting the leadership of the UN in the development of the Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the 2030 Agenda, and their adoption by all member states in 2015.
Rubinstein helped develop and lead several global initiatives such as the Ministerial Working Group on Health and a strategy for scaling up access to Early Childhood Development (ECD) programming in Latin America.  She assisted in the establishment of the Millennium Development and the Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy Groups of the UN Secretary General and played a key role in the development of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network in 2013. 
An advocate for collective action and engagement of the private sector, Rubinstein has established high-level partnerships with numerous global companies including Unilever, Nestle, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Novartis, Sanofi Aventis, Becton Dickinson, Sumitomo, Eni, Ericsson, Verizon, Digicel, Zain, Airtel, IKEA, H&M and Carlson Wagonlit Travel, and more. Her contacts and partners exist throughout the UN agencies, academia, governments, civil society and philanthropy. Additionally, throughout her career Rubinstein has mobilized millions of dollars for the implementations of programs from governments, corporations, foundations and philanthropists. 
Because of her expertise and an extraordinary international network of experts, activists and public-private institutional leaders, Rubinstein, in 2015, was recruited to lead, as President & CEO, the World Childhood Foundation USA (Childhood USA). 
Examples of the most impactful partnerships and initiatives Rubinstein led at The Earth Institute and Childhood USA include: 
  • Convening the Ministerial Working Group on Strengthening Health Systems to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in China, India, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya; 
  • Engaging governments, academia and the private sector in scaling up universal access to malaria control and Community Health Workers in Sub-Saharan Africa;
  • Establishing a partnership with Ericsson (starting in 2006) to bring connectivity to remote villages in Africa and developing applications for improved access to health care and education; 
  • Conceiving the idea of, and mobilizing resources to develop, with The Economist Intelligence Unit, the world’s first index assessing national response to child sexual abuse and exploitation; and 
  • Leading the work of the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development on new recommendations for child online safety, endorsed by all the commissioners (the world’s leading telecommunication, satellite, social media companies, regulators, ministers of ICT, and the leaders of World Bank, African Union and key UN agencies.) 

Rubinstein’s professional career started in Sweden, first as a molecular biologist and analytical electron microscopist, later as a Director at the Swedish Medical Research Council (1997-1999) and from 1999-2001 as the Director for Research and Postgraduate Education at the Karolinska Institute. She is trained as a D.D.S. and holds a Ph.D. and an Assistant Professorship (Docent) in cell and molecular biology from the Karolinska Institute.

Rubinstein was born in Poland and came to Sweden in 1970 as a refugee child. From 2001 – 2021 Rubinstein lived and worked in the U.S. In May of 2021, together with her husband, she returned to Sweden.

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