Leadership Dialogue 1: Biographies

Azza Karam

Azza Karam (Egypt-Netherlands)
Official bio

Secretary General, Religions for Peace - the largest multi-religious leadership platform with 92 national and 6 regional Interreligious Councils. Professorship of Religion and Development, Vrije Universiteit (Netherlands). Former Senior Advisor on Culture, UNFPA, former Senior Policy Research Advisor, UNDP, and Founder and Convenor of the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Religion and Development. Expertise in: interfaith initiatives; global multi-religious collaboration, gender issues, governance, human rights, conflict and humanitarian issues, political Islam. She has served in intergovernmental, international and non-governmental organisations, and has lectured in various academic institutions in Europe, North America (including the US Military Academy/West Point), and in the Arab region.

Achim Steiner

Achim Steiner (Germany)
Official bio

Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Vice-Chair of the UN Sustainable Development Group. He is also Director of the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford. Former UNEP Executive Director, former IUCN Director General; Secretary-General of the World Commission on Dams. Expertise in: environmental sustainability, social equity; economic development; sustainable development, climate resilience and international cooperation.

Vanessa Nakate

Vanessa Nakate (Uganda)

Vanessa Nakate is a climate justice activist from Uganda and founder of the Africa-based Rise Up Movement. She began striking for the climate in her hometown of Kampala in January 2019, after witnessing droughts and flooding devastating communities in Uganda. She now campaigns internationally to highlight the impacts of climate change already playing out in Africa, as well as promoting key climate solutions such as educating girls. In 2020, Vanessa was named a UN Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as being listed one of the BBC's 100 Women of the year and the 100 most influential young Africans.

John F. Kerry

John F. Kerry (USA)

On January 20, 2021, John F. Kerry was sworn in as our nation’s first Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and the first-ever Principal to sit on the National Security Council entirely dedicated to climate change. President Biden announced Kerry would have a seat at every table around the world as he combats the climate crisis to meet the existential threat that we face. In recent years, Kerry was the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s first ever Visiting Distinguished Statesman, following his four years as the 68th United States Secretary of State. As America’s top diplomat, he guided the Department’s strategy on nuclear nonproliferation, combating radical extremism, and the threat of climate change. His tenure was marked by the successful negotiation of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Climate Agreement. From 1985 to 2013, he served as a U.S. Senator representing Massachusetts, and was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2009 to 2013. Secretary Kerry served in the U.S. Navy, completing two combat tours of duty in Vietnam for which he received a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts. He received his undergraduate degree from Yale University and his law degree from Boston College Law School. Secretary Kerry is the best-selling author of A Call to Service, This Moment on Earth with his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry, and his 2018 memoir, Every Day Is Extra, which The New York Times described as “a bittersweet reminder of what the country once demanded of its leaders.” Secretary Kerry was the Democratic Party’s nominee for President of the United States in 2004.

Antonio Herman Benjamin

Antonio Herman Benjamin (Brazil)

Professor Antonio Herman Benjamin is a Justice of the National High Court of Brazil (STJ) and President of the Global Judicial Institute on the Environment. He is Chair Emeritus of the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL). Justice Benjamin is a Knight (Chevalier) of the National Order of the Legion of Honour (Ordre National de la Légion d'Honneur) of France and a Commander (Commandeur) of the Order of King Leopold of Belgium. He is also the recipient of the 2015 Elizabeth Haub Prize for Environmental Law, awarded by Stockholm University and considered the most prestigious international distinction conferred upon an environmental legal expert. He is a Goodwill Ambassador for Environmental Justice of the Organization of American States – OAS. In 2020, Brazilian scientists named after him a newly discovered species of orchid from the Amazon Rain Forest – Bulbophyllum antoniobenjaminii.

Sunita Narain

Sunita Narain (India)
Curriculum Vitae

Sunita Narain is a Delhi-based environmentalist and author.  She is currently the Director General of Center for Science and Environment (CSE) and Editor of the fortnightly magazine, Down To Earth. Dr. Narain plays an active role in policy formulation on issues of environment and development in India and globally. She has worked extensively on climate change, with a particular interest in advocating for an ambitious and equitable global agreement. Her work on air pollution, water and waste management as well as industrial pollution has led to an understanding of the need for affordable and sustainable solutions in countries like India where the challenge is to ensure inclusive and sustainable growth. She was a member of the Indian Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change and has been awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour. In 2005, the Centre for Science and Environment, under her leadership was also awarded the Stockholm Water Prize. In 2016, Time magazine selected her as one of the most influential people in the world. She received “The Order of the Polar Star” award from the Swedish Government in 2017.  CSE bagged the prestigious Indira Gandhi Prize for peace, disarmament and development for 2018. Ms. Narain continues to serve on national and international committees on environment.

Virginijus Sinkevičius

Virginijus Sinkevičius (Lithuania)

Virginijus Sinkevičius is the present Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, at the European Commission. Mr. Sinkevičius was from 2017 to 2019 Minister of Economy, and before he was leading the Committee of Economy at the Parliament of Lithuania. Mr. Sinkevičius was elected to the Parliament in October 2016. Prior, he was a Team Lead for Regulatory Affairs at Invest Lithuania. Mr. Sinkevičius holds BA in International Relations and Affairs from Aberystwyth University and Master‘s degree in European International Affairs from Maastricht University.

Dario Mejía Montalvo

Dario Mejía Montalvo (Colombia)

Dario Mejía Montalvo belongs to the indigenous Zenú Peoples of San Andrés Sotavento. Mejía Montalvo is a Political Scientist from the National University of Colombia, with a Master’s degree in Development Management from the University of the Autonomous Regions of the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast (URACCAN). He is a lecturer and consultant for organizations and institutions. He is also a member of the National Commission for Labor and Coordination of Education of the Indigenous Peoples of Colombia (CONTCEPI). Mejía Montalvo serves as the leader of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), and from 2008 to 2012, he served as the ONIC Counselor of Education. Additionally, Mr. Mejía Montalvo is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean; and the Technical Secretary of the Permanent Dialogue Mechanisms between the National Government and the Indigenous Peoples of Colombia. In 2014, Mr. Mejía Montalvo coordinated the adoption of Decree 1953, the indigenous component of the National Development Plan 2014 and  the shortened period procedure “Fast Track,” in the framework of the implementation of the Final Peace Accord.

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