As we gear up for Valentine's Day, Devex is celebrating power couples making an impact on today’s most pressing global issues. Check out our list of seven top power couples in development, and chime in with any we missed using the hashtag #DevCouples.

1. George and Amal Clooney  

Photo by: US Embassy Jakarta / UNICEF

People’s two-time “Sexiest Man Alive” George Clooney and his wife, Amal, are the newest additions to the international development power couple roster. George Clooney is a longtime human rights advocate and the co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project, which uses satellites to monitor human rights crimes on the borders of Sudan and South Sudan. Amal Clooney is an accomplished human rights lawyer, serving stints on the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Practicing law at Doughty Street Chambers in London, she specializes in international law, criminal law, human rights and extradition. She is also an acting adviser to former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Fast fact: For snagging the most sought-after Hollywood bachelor, among her other feats, Amal Clooney was named the “Most Fascinating Person” of 2014 by U.S. broadcasting legend Barbara Walters.  

2. Bill and Melinda Gates

Bill and Melinda Gates are co-founders of the world’s largest private foundation, which is committed to improving health care and reducing extreme poverty around the globe. The foundation has donated more than $6.6 billion to global health programs alone, with a primary focus on malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis. The Gates are among the top givers globally, giving $1.5 billion in 2014.

Photo by: Sebastian Derungs / World Economic Forum / CC BY-NC-SA 

Their latest initiative, “The Art of Saving a Life,” has sparked a global conversation on the impact of vaccines. The campaign features contributions from artists, writers, musicians and photographers, including icons such as photographer Annie Leibovitz, novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and singer Angelique Kidjo.

Fast fact: Bill Gates reads for an hour before bed, no matter what time he gets home. His reading topics range from public health to the history of shipping containers.

3. Bill and Hillary Clinton

Photo by: Barack / CC BY-NC-SA

For the Clintons, philanthropy is a family affair. Bill, Hillary and daughter Chelsea Clinton founded the Clinton Foundation to “bring people together to take on the biggest challenges of the 21st century.” The foundation has several initiatives, which focus on targeted demographics and implement projects worldwide. Most notably, the Clinton Global Initiative convenes global leaders annually to create and implement innovative solutions to the world's most pressing challenges.

Fast fact: Texts from Hillary Clinton,” a Tumblr started in the 2012 election cycle, launched a series of popular political memes featuring the former U.S. first lady and played a role in growing her digital audience. She has 2.8 million Twitter followers.

4. Tony and Cherie Blair

Photo by: Remy Steinegger / World Economic Forum / CC BY-NC-SA

British power duo Tony and Cherie Blair are both philanthropists in their own right. Tony Blair is the founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, an interfaith charity that promotes understanding and fights poverty. In 2008, Cherie Blair launched the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, a development organization that aims to support female entrepreneurs in developing countries through skills-training programs.

Fast fact: Tony Blair began his career in the public spotlight as the lead singer of the Ugly Rumours, a maudlin rock cover band, while studying at Oxford.

5. Paul and Didi Farmer

Photo by:

Paul and Didi Farmer are not just a couple with big ideas; they also play a big role in implementing their work on the ground by providing health care services to the world's poorest people. The couple lives full-time in Rwanda with their children, where Dr. Paul Farmer, an infectious disease doctor and medical anthropologist, works as chief strategist for Partners in Health. His wife, Didi, also a medical anthropologist, runs community health worker programs. Paul Farmer has been instrumental in the fight against Ebola in West Africa, working to boost medical staff at local clinics and hospitals and to rebuild broken health care systems in the region.

Fast fact: Speaking on the Ebola outbreak, Paul Farmer told Devex: “We've met the enemy [of Ebola] — and he is us.”

6. Steve and Carrie Hessler-Radelet

Photo by: Peace Corps

Carrie Hessler-Radelet and husband Steve are a D.C.-based power couple. Carrie Hessler-Radelet was appointed as the U.S. Peace Corps director in 2014, spearheading a revamp in the volunteer organization’s application and selection process. Steve Radelet is the chief economist for USAID, after serving as deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury for Africa, the Middle East and Asia from 2000 to 2002 and a brief stint at Center for Global Development as a senior fellow.  

Fast fact: Steve Radelet and Carrie Hessler-Radelet served together in the Peace Corps in Western Samoa, now known as Samoa.

7. Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi

Photo by:

Coined as “Beijing’s ‘it’ couple,” Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi are a powerhouse business couple with a heart for giving back. Zhang Xin and husband Pan Shiyi own SOHO China, a commercial real estate giant in Beijing. Its philanthropic arm, the SOHO China Foundation, however, is dedicated to education initiatives for Chinese students. In 2014, the foundation  launched a $100 million initiative to create scholarships at leading international universities for Chinese students, regardless of students’ financial backgrounds.

Fast fact: In 2014, Zhang Xin was named the 62nd most powerful woman in the world by Forbes, ahead of Samantha Power, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Helene Gayle.

Follow the rest of the series and share your own advice using the hashtag #DevCouples.

Read more international development news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive the latest from the world’s leading donors and decision-makers — emailed to you FREE every business day.

About the author

  • Carine Umuhumuza

    Carine Umuhumuza is a former associate director of communications at Devex, where she wrote about the latest trends, tips, and insights on media and communications for the global development community. Previously, Carine led digital initiatives at Devex for development agencies, major corporations, NGOs, and social enterprises.

Join the Discussion