Shaha Riza

Shaha Riza bigraphy, stories - World Bank staffer

Shaha Riza : biography

born 1953 or 1954 –

Shaha Riza, () (born 1953 or 1954), is a former World Bank employee. Her external assignment at the Foundation for the Future, a "semi-independent foundation to promote democracy" is both in the Middle East and in North Africa.


National Endowment for Democracy

Specializing in Middle East politics and economics she was ordained to do field research for Arab countries. She works at the National Endowment for Democracy. She set up and led the endowment’s Middle East programs.

U.S. Department of State

She is employed in the office of Elizabeth Cheney, subordinated to C. David Welch Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. Also at this point she begins to spend time at the Foundation for the Future.

World Bank

She starts as a consultant in July 1997. She becomes full-time in 1999. She has works with the Middle East and North Africa Social and Economic Development Group. First as a Senior Gender Specialist and then as a Senior Communications Officer, she is seated in the Middle East and North Africa Regional Office (MENA). By July 2002, she is acting manager for external affairs and outreach for MENA. She resigns after Wolfowitz takes leadership as World Bank president.

Freelance work

In 2004, Riza organizes a major conference of North African and Middle Eastern groups in Beirut. Her goal is to inspire democratic reforms in the aftermath of the fall of Hussein. She feels planting a democracy in Iraq will inspire other regimes to democratic goals. Riza earns $180,000 salary after taxes in 2008. She works from home.

World Bank controversy

Riza’s did not report to the World Bank president, Paul Wolfowitz while at the World Bank. Riza was romantically linked to Wolfowitz prior to his World Bank involvement, when he was Deputy Secretary of Defense under Donald Rumsfeld in the Bush Administration. In 2005 Wolfowitz offered to sign a statement to isolate himself from her which only served to draw scrutiny to what grew into a perceived conflict of interest. The World Bank ethics committee rejected Wolfowitz’s proposal.

Subsequently, Paul Wolfowitz was alleged to have involved himself in Riza’s career by personally increasing her pay. This is a potential impropriety. Instead, Riza was asked to leave the World Bank altogether. She even forgoes a promotion for which she was highly recommended. By 2007 the Board of the World Bank accepted that Paul Wolfowitz acted ethically. Still by June of that year Wolfowitz resigns.

In retrospect, staffing policy was to the contrary. Rule 4.01, paragraph 5.2, states that spouses and registered domestic partners are barred from working in situations where "one supervises the other directly or indirectly", but informal relationships fall under rule 3.01, paragraph 4.02, which states that in such cases as Wolfowitz and Riza’s relationship the supervisor "shall be responsible for seeking a resolution of the conflict of interest."

In 2007 Riza releases an internal statement which she had submitted as part of a defense to her employers to The Wall Street Journal as follows:

Public outcry

Prominent newspapers, among them The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal condemn the fates of Wolfowitz and Riza. Christopher Hitchens describes the removal of Riza and Wolfowitz as "character assassination." He surmises that this is all due to personal conflict between the U.S. and European branches at the World Bank. Further, he surmises that this is retribution for Wolfowitz’s support of the Iraq war.

Robert Holland maintained that Wolfowitz’s resignation has nothing to do with Riza’s promotion. Holland served on the bank’s board of directors until 2006. Sari Nusseibeh wrotes an open letter to the Washington Post on April 30, 2007 about this "unfair and vicious campaign." Andrew Young describes Riza as "an admired World Bank professional and a champion of human rights." Sandra Day O’Connor a board member at the Foundation for the Future, describes Riza as "a very competent person." Even Clare Selgin Wolfowitz praises Riza, "Shaha Riza is a dedicated and serious reform advocate who has my respect."

On April 17, 2007, the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal publishes an op-ed that characterizes the scandal as a witch hunt. The New York Times called for Wolfowitz’s resignation on April 28, 2007.

World Bank stance

Wolfowitz was confirmed as our president in June 2005. Wolfowitz acknowledged his association with Riza. It violates a World Bank ethics rule against personal relationships between bank employees and their supervisors, including indirect supervision. Wolfowitz’s position was wrong. He believed that Riza should be allowed to keep her job at the bank if he recused himself from all personnel actions or decisions that involved her. He also wrongly thought that there was no World Bank rule governing informal relationships.


She studied at London School of Economics. She earned a master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Oxford in 1983. She studied at St Antony’s College. She relocated to the United States during the late 1980s, when she married Bulent Ali Riza. She speaks Arabic, Turkish, English, French and Italian. She gave birth to a son. She and Bulent Ali Riza are divorced.

Early life

She was born a British national in Tripoli, Libya to a Libyan-Turkish father and Syrian-Saudi mother. She grew up in Libya but attended Catholic boarding school in England. Her father is Khalid Alwalid Algargany, a consultant of King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, King Saud and King Faisal..

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