G. Shabbir Cheema

Senior Fellow and Director, Asia Pacific Governance and Democracy Initiative (AGDI), Research Program
CheemaS [at] EastWestCenter.org
Ph.D., Political Science, University of Hawaii
Area of Expertise: 

Democratic governance, urban management, civil society engagement, and electoral and parliamentary processes, civil service reform, and anti-corruption strategies

Dr. G. Shabbir Cheema is Director, Asia-Pacific Governance and Democracy Initiative and Senior Fellow, East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii. He is a reknown scholar of governance and urban management, a former senior Director of the United Nations, and an alumnus of East - West Center.

He was Program Director, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations (2001- 2007), the Director of Governance Division of United Nations Development Programme (1995-2001) and Principal Adviser, Urban Management (1990-95). As a senior UN official, Dr. Cheema prepared the seminal UNDP policy papers on governance, human rights, corruption and urban management 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 supervised staff from over 30 countries at the UN Headquarters and the field offices and managed the $100 million global program.

From 1980 to 1988, Dr. Cheema was Development Administration Planner, United Nations Center for Regional Development, Nagoya, Japan. He coordinated the Center’s regional training programs. He has taught at the University of Science, Malaysia, University of Hawaii and New York University. He has been a Visiting Fellow at the Harvard University's Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation. He earned his MA and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Hawaii.

Dr. Cheema 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 (Kumarian Press, 2005), and Urban Shelter and Services: Public Policies and Management Approaches (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 in cooperation with Harvard University, 2007), Reinventing Government for the Twenty First Century (Kumarian Press, 2003), and Decentralization and Development (Sage, 1984).

He is a Member of the Advisory Committees of the Swedish International Center for Local Democracy, UNESCAP Committee of Experts on HABITAT III, and the Pacific Basin Research Center, and the Advisory Board of Environment and Urbanization. He has been a featured speaker on democratic governance and urban management at a number of global, regional and national forums.

Personal Data:  U.S. citizen; married; two children
Mailing Address: G. Shabbir Cheema, East-West Center, 1601 East-West Road, Honolulu, Hawaii 96848, USA
Tel: 808 – 944 – 7427 (office)
Email: cheemas@eastwestcenter.org

Professional Experience

2008 – Present
Senior Fellow, Research Program and
Director, Asia-Pacific Governance and Democracy Initiative (AGDI)
East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii

  • Leading collaborative research dealing with governance innovations and reform projects focused on building trust in government, urban governance, civil society engagement, decentralization, local democracy,  transparency and anti-corruption strategies, and cross-border governance in Asia-Pacific;
  • Organizing regional dialogues on different dimensions of governance and sustainable development
  • Guiding and providing thematic support to the Center’s Seminars Program, including US-Pakistan Journalists Exchange, India-Pakistan Journalists Exchange, New Generation Leaders Program and South Asia Journalists Dialogue
  • Briefing delegations and delivering lectures organized by External Relations Division
  • Supporting EWC’s Education Program, including Asia-Pacific Leadership Program, Southeast Asia Diplomats workshops and degree fellowships,
  • Publishing Policy Briefs, issue papers and other collaborative knowledge products,  and
  • Undertaking outreach activities in support of the Center’s mission


2001 -   2007
Program Director, Department of Economic and Social Affairs
United Nations, New York

  • Led a UN system – wide team  responsible for analyzing the global trends and emerging issues in democratic governance and human development
  • Supervised a team of 15 staff members
  • Organized the Global Forum on Reinventing Government mandated by the General Assembly of the United Nations, with parallel dialogues among ministers and government officials, parliamentarians, mayors, and civil society leaders.
  • Coordinated the work of the Institutional Partners Group consisting of 25 institutions within and outside the UN to prepare research studies and background documents and organize capacity development workshops for ministers, senior government officials and representatives of the civil society organizations
  • provided advisory services to the Member States to improve the quality of country level governance and human development programs


1996 -2001
Director, Management Development and Governance Division
United Nations Development Program (UNDP), New York

  • Prepared research proposals and managed seven global research and advisory services programs on different aspects of governance,  human rights and poverty alleviation
  • Managed the $100 million global program to provide grants to institutions and entities at the country, regional and global levels
  • Prepared UNDP’s first policy papers on democratic governance, human rights, corruption and urban development and poverty to identify new areas of development assistance and redirect UNDP’s country level grants in 135 countries amounting to $1.5 billion annually
  • Led the UNDP team to design and monitor over 50 governance reform and human development programs in Asia, Africa and the Arab region
  • Mobilized resources from bilateral donors, foundations and other development partners
  • Chaired Steering Committee meetings consisting of donors, UN entities and institutions outside the UN to monitor program implementation and evaluate impact of UNDP programs dealing with governance reform
  • Directly supervised the work of the core team of 40 staff at the Headquarters and provided substantive guidance to over 500 staff in country offices.
  • Forged outcome-oriented partnerships with institutions and entities to in the United States and Europe, including National Democratic Institute, Transparency International, American Bar Association, Ford Foundation, Inter-Parliamentary Union,  and networks of civil society such as Open Society and CIVICUS
  • Provided thematic support to the UN Secretary General and Administrator of UNDP about issues related to mainstreaming governance and democracy in the developing countries
  • Represented the United Nations at high-level forums organized by Heads of States and Government, Ministers and Civil Society Organizations


1989 - 1995
Manager, Urban Development Unit
United Nations Development Program

  • Led various UN teams to analyze the process of urbanization in developing countries and to advise governments to effectively respond to the urban management challenges including access to shelter and services, urban administration and coordination, public-private sector partnerships, municipal finance, and community participation
  • Managed the $30 million global program in partnership with the World Bank and UN-HABITAT on urban development to provide grants to institutions and entities at the global, regional and country levels
  • Prepared UNDP’s first policy paper on urban poverty and management to redirect UNDP country level funding to urban poverty alleviation programs
  • Represented the United Nations at the High Level Forums


1988 - 1989
Associate Professor, University of Hawaii and Research Associate
East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii

  • Taught two courses at the university– “Housing in Developing Countries”, and “Issues in Urban Management” in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Directed the research programs on “Urban Management in Developing Countries”  and “The Impact of Population Distribution Policies” at the East West Center


1980 – 1988
Development Administration Planner
United Nations Center for Regional Development, Nagoya, Japan

  • Prepared directed three collaborative research and capacity development programs: “Institutional Dimensions of Sub-national and Local Development”, “Implementing Decentralization Policies”, and “Shelter and Services for the Urban Poor”
  •  Coordinated the International Training Program on regional and local development planning and management
  • Provided advisory services to developing countries of Asia to improve the quality of urban management


1975 - 1980
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science
School of Comparative Social Sciences, University of Science, Malaysia

  • Taught courses on Public Policy Analysis, Urban Politics, and Local Government and Administration
  • Undertook consultancy assignments with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the World Bank, Asian and Pacific Development Center, and United Nations Center for Regional Development


Research Associate
Asia-Pacific Development Center, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

  • Prepared a comparative study on approaches to rural development in China, India and Pakistan
  • Assisted in the preparation of the study on the role of training institutions in Asia.




The Evolution of Development Thinking:  Governance, Economics, Assistance, and Security (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), contributor.

Democratic Local Governance:  Reforms & Innovations in Asia (Tokyo and New York, United Nations University Press, 2013), contributor and editor.

Building Trust in Government: Innovations in Governance Reform in Asia (Tokyo and New York, United Nations University Press  2010), contributor and co-editor.

Engaging Civil Society: Emerging Trends in Democratic Governance (Tokyo and New York: United Nations University Press, 2010), contributor and co-editor.

Cross-border Governance in Asia: Regional Issues and Mechanisms (Tokyo and New York: United Nations University Press, 2010), contributor and co-editor.

Decentralizing Governance: Emerging Concepts and Practices, co- editor and contributor (Washington D.C. Brookings Institution Press in cooperation with the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard University, 2007).

Series editor and contributor for the five-volume Government Reinvention Series (New York: Published by the United Nations, 2007):

(1) The Challenges of Restoring Governance in Crisis and Post Conflict Countries
(2) Participatory and Transparent Governance
(3) Excellence and Leadership in the Public Sector: The Role of Education and Trainin
(4) Governance for Millennium Development Goals: Core Issues and Good Practices
(5) Public Administration and Democratic Governance: Governments Serving Citizens

Building Democratic Institutions: Governance Reform in Developing Countries (Westport: Kumarian Press, 2005), author.

Reinventing Government for the Twenty–First Century: State Capacity in a Globalizing Society (Westport: Kumarian Press, 2003), co-editor and contributor.

Urban Management Policies and Innovations in Developing Countries (New York: Praeger in coopeeration with the East-West Center, 1993), contributor and editor.

Urban Services in Developing Countries: Public and Private Roles in Urban Development (London: Macmillan Press, 1988), co-editor and contributor.

Urban Shelter and Services: Public Policies and Management Approaches (New York: Praeger, 1987), author.

Reaching the Urban Poor: Project Implementation in Developing Countries (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1986), editor and contributor,

Decentralization and Development: Policy Implementation in Developing Countries (Beverly Hills, California: Sage Publications, 1984), co-editor and contributor.

Implementing Decentralization Programs in Asia: Local Capacity for Rural Development (Nagoya, Japan: UN Centre for Regional Development, 1983), co-author.

Institutional Dimensions of Regional Development (Singapore: Maruzen Asia Press, 1980), contributor and editor.

Reports, Book Chapters, and Journal Articles

More than 50 reports, book chapters, and journal articles democratic governance, decentralization, poverty alleviation, urban management and globalization, including the following:

"Reinventing Government in the Pacific Basin: Political Leadership and Governmental Change" in Leadership for Development: What Globalization Demands of Leaders Fighting for Change, edited by Dennis A. Rondinelli and John M. Heffron (Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, forthcoming in 2007).

"Inclusive Governance and Democracy in Asia: Transitions and Challenges" in Globalization and Change in Asia, edited by Dennis A. Rondinelli and John M. Heffron (Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2007).

"Strengthening Accountability and Transparency in Timor Leste" (Dili: The World Bank and United Nations, 2006), co-author.

"Governance for Human Development: The Role of External Partners"in Public Administration and Development, 2001, co-author.

"Decentralized Governance for Human Development" in New Millennium, New Perspectives: The United Nations, Security and Governance, edited by Ramesh Thakur and Edward Newman (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2000).

"Capacity Assessment and Development in a Systems and Strategic Management Context" (New York: United Nations Development Program, 1998), contributor and series edito.

"Corruption and Integrity Improvement Initiatives in Developing Countries" (New York and Paris: United Nations Development Program and OECD, 1998), series editor.

"Integrating Human Rights with Sustainable Human Development" (New York: United Nations Development Program in Cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 1998), editor and contributor.

"Reconceptualizing Governance" (New York: United Nations Development Program, 1997), contributor and series editor.

"Corruption and Good Governance" (New York: United Nations Development Program,1997), series editor.

"Priority Urban Management Issues in Developing Countries: The Research Agenda for the 1990s" in Mega-City Growth and the Future, edited by Roland J. Fuchs, Fu-Chen Lo, and Juha L. Uitto (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 1994).

"Strengthening Urban Institutional Capabilities: Issues and Reponses" in Urban Policy Issues (Manila: Asian Development Bank, 1987).

"Evaluating the Impact of Policies and Projects: Experience in Urban Shelter and Basic Urban Services" in Regional Development Dialogue, Vol. 8, 1987, co-authored with Richard Ludwig.

"Urban Services in Metropolitan Areas: Meeting the Needs of the Urban Poor in Asia" in Regional Development Dialogue, Vol. 6, 1985, co-authored with Dennis Rondinelli.

"Decentralization in Developing Countries: A Review of Recent Experience" (Washington D.C. The World Bank, 1984), co-author with Dennis Rondinelli and John Nellis.

"Establishing Local Development Units" in Public Administration Review, June 1981.

"Changing Patterns of Administration in the Field: The Malaysian Case" in International Review of Administrative Sciences, Vol. 45, 1978.

"Malaysia's Development Strategy: The Dilemma of Redistribution with Growth" in Studies in Comparative International Development, Vol. 13, 1978.

"Local Leadership and Bureaucratic Politics in Malaysia" in Indian Journal of Public Administration, 1978, co-author.

"Rural Organization and Rural Development in Selected Malaysian Villages" (Kuala Lumpur: Asian and Pacific Development Administration Center, 1978), co-authored with Mohd. Nawawi, Paul Kaplan, and Syed Ahmed Hussei.

"Local Government in Malaysia" in Asian Survey, 1977, co-author.

"Peoples Communes, Panchayati Raj, and Basic Democracies: Local Government in People' Republic of China, India and Pakistan" in Approaches of Rural Development in Asia, edited by Inayatullah (Kuala Lumpur: Asian Centre for Development Administration, 1975).