President and Board of Directors
IfE’s Directors are elected by the Advisors, and are charged with protecting IfE’s legal and financial well-being. IfE’s President is appointed by the Board of Directors.
TEMITOPE OLAIFA, Chair, Board of Directors
Temitope Olaifa benefited from great teachers who exposed her to the world. By the age of nine, Tope had discovered historical figures from William Wilberforce to Mary Slessor, and historical people from the Kanuri of Borno to the Mau Mau of Kenya, and a host of other peoples in Africa whose lives and experiences caught her interest. She grew into an avid reader, which exposed her to wider terrains of life. She became a qualified teacher at the age of 16, launching her into leadership at a very tender age.
Temitope holds Master’s and PhD degrees in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She currently coordinates the Peace and Strategic Studies and the Security and Intelligence Studies Programmes of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria. There, she engages through advocacy in issues of social and environmental justice, peace and conflict, anti-corruption, gender and governance in fulfilment of her university’s requirements as a lecturer.
Temitope was trained as an Early Warning Signs monitor by the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) Nigeria. She is a training consultant on peace, security and governance issues for ActionAid, for Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action, for the West African Network for Peacebuilding, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (British Council), and for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). She collaborates with the Ministry of Commerce and Industries towards the welfare of indigenous land owners in mining communities, under the aegis of the Federation of Nigerian Mining Host Communities. She is also a Monitoring & Evaluation expert and a community mobiliser.
Temitope is a member of the West African Action on Small Arms (WAANSA), and an NGO consultant on Environmental Education with the Federal Ministry of Environment Nigeria. She has worked with many national and international development agencies. She has also engaged in policy formulation on Women, Peace and Security; National Peace Policy; National Policy on Monitoring and Evaluation; Ogun State Law on the Environment; Ogun State Law on Disability; and the Ogun State Child’s Rights Law.
As a Monitoring & Evaluation expert, Temitope has worked on assignments commissioned by the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding, World Bank, Lutheran World Federation, and a host of others. She has monitored and evaluated projects in Ogun, Lagos, Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Borno and Taraba States of Nigeria.
As a mediator, Temitope has engaged at the communal, organizational and familial levels, and has been able bring her proficiency in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to bear on the mediation processes, which have culminated in positive outcomes. As a community mobiliser, she has worked with youths, women and men in communities to develop mechanisms for mitigating Climate Change Impact. She has also advocated for government intervention in disaster risk mitigation in grossly impacted areas like the Owa River communities in Ijebu-Ode and Odogbolu areas of Ogun State, Ona-Egbo in Ilaro, Abule Otun in Abeokuta North Local Government, and Amolaso in Abeokuta South Local Government; all within Nigeria.
Temitope has worked with victims of human trafficking and child labor in border communities of Imeko-Afon, Yewa North, and has conducted training and empowerment programs for victims in Igan-Okoto in Yewa North LGA of Ogun State Nigeria. A Child’s Rights activist, she has engaged the legislature on the passage of child-related bills at both the national and state levels.
As Chair of the Board of Directors for IfE, Temitope contributes her leadership, skills and experience in peace and security matters to the Initiative for Equality. This is especially important given the growing potential for violence during this time of climate change, food insecurity, resource grabs and mass displacement across the world.
DEBORAH S. ROGERS, President
Deborah grew up in a multilingual academic family, living on four continents and establishing ties to a broad array of cultures. By the time she was 18, she had witnessed apartheid South Africa and the Bantustans, the Angolan war zone, anti-American demonstrations in Ghana, violence in inner-city St. Louis, and Lakota culture, reservation life and racism in South Dakota. Due to these early experiences, Deborah committed herself to working against inequalities and for environmental justice, rights and empowerment of indigenous and other marginalized peoples.
After obtaining a Master’s degree in ecology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and working for The Nature Conservancy, Deborah founded and directed the Technical Information Project. This NGO on the Northern Plains of the US provided public interest research, grassroots political organizing and strategic legal interventions on behalf of groups attempting to protect their communities and environment from exploitative mining, waste disposal and water sales. Here she developed a range of skills including public and political organizing, legal interventions, media relations, non-profit management and fund-raising. Her organization successfully influenced the public discourse, prevented the destruction of unique natural areas, and protected local communities from destructive development and even organized crime.
Indigenous people’s issues have always been particularly important to Deborah. Over the years, she worked with the Black Hills Alliance in South Dakota, Wisconsin tribes, Women of All Red Nations, and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (writing their original water quality regulations). She reported for the Lakota Journal, directed the Walking Forward Lakota health disparities project, and taught at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation. With strong childhood connections in Africa, she also followed the situation of the Indigenous forest peoples (Batwa and Bambuti) across the continent for decades, and has been working to support these Indigenous groups and their defenders since 2015.
After shifting her primary focus from environmental to social issues, Deborah taught at the Oglala Lakota tribal college on the Pine Ridge Reservation, contrasting traditional Lakota cultural perspectives with Western scientific views in every lesson. She then managed a $5.5 million health disparities project serving three Lakota reservations in South Dakota. This project, the first such inter-ethnic collaboration in South Dakota history, required extensive cross-cultural dialogue, focus group input, language translation, and formal tribal review of project concepts. Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US, she founded and co-chaired a local intercultural group in western South Dakota which presented a series of popular forums on the shared history and values of Islamic, Jewish and Christian ethnic groups, successfully forestalling any threats of individual anti-Muslim violence in the region.
Deborah returned to graduate school in 2005, where her doctoral research at Stanford University focused on cultural change, and particularly the spread of socioeconomic inequality. Her research findings have been published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), Proc-B (Proceedings of the Royal Society-B), and PLoS ONE (Public Library of Science), garnering review comments including “one of the most significant papers to be written in anthropology in the last 20 years” (Nina Jablonski). Her study on cultural change was chosen as one of the “100 top science stories of 2008” by Discover Magazine. While at Stanford, she was also active in the Stanford Labor Action Coalition and the Stanford Immigrant Rights Coalition.
Several decades of experience and research have led Deborah to identify socioeconomic inequality as one of the primary factors underlying our current unsustainable human trajectory. After obtaining her PhD, she worked for the UN in Bonn for one year, and then founded Initiative for Equality, a global network of advocates and community organizers working on issues related to social, economic and political inequality. Her unusually broad background provides a significant advantage in taking on these complex and interdisciplinary issues. Deborah is equally comfortable doing cutting-edge research, going on the lecture circuit, or engaging in grassroots organizing. She devotes her lifetime of knowledge, experience and commitment to promoting the shift towards socioeconomic equality and sustainability in human societies.
Deborah is a non-voting Ex Officio member of the IfE Board of Directors.
LUIZ FERRARO, Vice Chair, Board of Directors
Luiz Ferraro received a PhD in Sustainable Development from the University of Brasília, after a BA in Agronomic Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Sciences, both from the University of São Paulo. From 2000-2019 he taught as Professor of Environmental Sciences and Sustainable Development at the State University of Feira de Santana. From 2012-19, he also served as Superintendent of Environmental Research for the Secretary for the Environment of Bahia State.
Luiz currently coordinates work on 28 different social, economic and environmental programs for the Renova Foundation, created to restore the Doce River Basin after the 2015 Fundão Dam mining disaster. In this capacity, he oversees licensing and authorization processes, program monitoring and evaluation, team building efforts, and physical and financial planning for this $200 million per year program. Projects include traditional and indigenous peoples’ initiatives, environmental monitoring, community development, socio-economic, educational and cultural projects, rural property planning and recovery, and ecological restoration. His earlier positions on this project included Social Development and Dialogue Manager (2019-20), Executive Director of Governance (2020-21), and General Manager of Recovery Programs (2021-22).
As a teen, Luiz read about a massacre of landless families, which opened his eyes to his country´s reality. This raw description showed how closely related inequality, misery, power, land ownership, land grabbing and violence have been across Brazil’s history, but also at the local, regional and global level around the world. From the moment he learned about this, Luiz took responsibility and was determined to act so that marginalized people could empower themselves. He started his professional life working with the Landless movement, and his PhD research was on land grabbing, and the resistance by traditional communities. Luiz now brings his commitments, his personal and professional connections, as well as his expertise with political strategies, team building, projects and budget management to the IfE mission.
DAVID BERRY, Treasurer, Board of Directors
David Berry was born in Ottawa Canada, began school in Arlington, Virginia, and returned to Canada where he served as an economist in the Ministry now called Resources Canada. After immigrating to the United States, he was a principal in a company that built computers in the 1970s that automated buildings to save energy. He had the strange idea that computers would play a big role in our future.
David co-founded the Sustainable Water Resources Roundtable, a federal advisory committee subgroup, where government agencies, corporations, universities and NGO’s work on sustainability of water resources including topics of available supply, water quality, infrastructure and habitat.
While at the White House Council on Environmental Quality for seven years during the Clinton Administration, he chaired Groups on Sustainable Development and Industrial Ecology in response to recommendations of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development. The groups under his leadership, raised awareness of environmental, social and economic trends, and encouraged creative action by organizations and individuals.
David has spoken and undertaken projects in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. He leads workshops and retreats in the US, Mexico, Canada, and gave seven talks in Russia in 2013 to a range of groups including the Academy of Science, business people in Moscow, the Science Forum of the former closed city of Chernogolovka, and a spiritual centre. He is a member of the Balaton Group, a global network on systems and sustainability.
David was President and Chair of the Dharma Centre of Canada, one of the oldest meditation centres in North America. He continues to support and teach at that centre and others, knowing a practice of calming and awakening deepens and enhances the experience of all other aspects of peoples’ lives and encourages empathy for others.
In the 1970s and 80s, he performed on Korean and American television and radio including on National Public Radio’s “The Prairie Home Companion.”
Daniel Mathews (Australia) is a mathematician and activist. He is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Mathematics at Monash University in Melbourne. He has degrees in law and science, diplomas in languages and music, a PhD in pure mathematics from Stanford University, has worked at a tech startup, and is admitted to practice law in Victoria.
In addition to his academic work as a pure mathematician, his passion for social justice and equality has led him to various forms of activism. He was a founding member of Wikileaks and was involved in several of its early publications, such as the operating manual of Guantanamo Bay. He was the first individual involved with Wikileaks to face a lawsuit over its publications, successfully defending press freedom. Although long having parted ways with that organisation over various issues, he remains a strong advocate of press freedoms.
He has been involved in antiwar activism in the US, legal work for police accountability in Melbourne, advocacy for civil liberties and against draconian encryption laws in Australia, fighting for better conditions for university staff, and served on the council of an electoral political party. His writing has appeared in venues from the Guardian to technical mathematics journals. He has been involved with IfE since its inception, serving on the IfE Board of Advisors from 2011 to 2018.
ELIKIA AMANI ZAHINDA
Elikia was born in South Kivu Province, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. After obtaining his state diploma at Kisangani, Elikia continued his university studies at USEA Bengamisa and USEC Katana, where he obtained diplomas as Forest Technician Engineer and a license in Environment (BAC degree). He also obtained a Research Certificate in Sustainable Community Forestry at the World Forest Institute in Portland, Oregon, US, through a scholarship from ITTO (International Tropical Timber Organization) in 2009-2010. During his International Fellowship program at WFI, he had the opportunity to visit the Grand Ronde Tribes Reservation in Oregon, where he learned how they sustainably managed their forests and resources.
In South Kivu Province, Elikia worked at PHARMAKINA Bukavu as assistant head of the agricultural sector, and manager of plantations and forests. In this position, he got to know the indigenous Batwa people who worked as climbers to cut branches from large trees in the canopy above the cinchona plantation in Kalehe Territory, harvesting the leaf-cutting caterpillars through a barter arrangement. It was during this collaboration that he came to understand that the Batwa were marginalized and deprived of their rights by the Congolese State and local communities. He also realized the important role that the Batwa could play in the conservation of nature and the protection of the environment, thanks to their traditional knowledge and cultural values.
On his return from Oregon in 2010, Elikia was appointed as General Coordinator of the Congolese Network of Foresters in the DRC (RCF RDC) by the General Assembly of the organization. Under his direction, RCF RDC has worked to promote the rights of the Batwa as well as the protection and sustainable management of local forests. RCF RDC has carried out Field Hearings to understand and document the problems of the Batwa communities; has leased farm fields on behalf of the Batwa for agricultural activities; and has conducted successful legal advocacy for the Batwa, the most recent case being that of Chief Jean Marie Kasula and his extended family, who were illegally convicted in a one-day trial with no opportunity for legal defense, and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
As a member of the IfE Board of Directors, Elikia contributes his knowledge on the legal, social and economic empowerment of the indigenous Batwa people, and how that can be facilitated by protection of their land rights and their ability to manage their traditional forest lands.
Born and raised by a single self-employed (small business owner) woman, I became aware of class distinctions and their attendant difficulties early in life. I saw and experienced poverty and deprivation. These experiences did not break me. They rather molded and shaped me into the activist I am today – questioning the status quo and fighting for fairness, justice, equality, and equity. The strength to fight and continue to fight was imparted to me from seeing my mother’s daily struggles to keep a roof over our heads, to keep clothes on our bodies and to put food in our stomachs. And in all that still smile and be thankful. Her courage and resilience built character and strength in all of us.
Throughout school my instinct to challenge arrangements I did not understand and speak up for others, led me to take on leadership roles. After secondary school, whilst waiting to go to university, I served as Regional Coordinator for Students Representative Council developing and implementing leadership training for young student leaders and taking on issues such as advocating for improvements in quality of food served in boarding schools, and the inclusion of secondary school students as voting members of the National Union of Ghanaian Students (which hitherto was dominated by tertiary institutions). Being female and young did not deter me at all as I had not encountered the notions of age and gender yet and how they withhold one from engaging in certain spaces.
In university I had to contend with gender bias and the difficulties women interested in leadership faced such as ineligibility for presidency of a mixed Hall of Residence. This jolted me! Reactions to females in certain courses such as mechanical engineering showed how backward thinking was rife in a supposedly institution of higher learning. This firmed up my resolve to engage in spaces perceived as for particular category of people. I resolved to fight marginalization in any form, shape and manifestation.
I did my one-year National Service in the Community Improvement Unit of the Ghana National Service Scheme in a rural community. The tremendous positive impact that our work had on people’s lives made a huge impact on me. I changed my career path. I abandoned my field of study and decided to work in social development. My work in development education gave me deeper insights into the factors accounting for lack of the global South and the extreme wealth of privileged classes in the global North. This generated in me an interest in the field of natural resource management as a critical theatre of struggle for social justice and fairness. My natural resource rights work focused on community resource rights; communities’ rights to participate in resource governance, their rights to directly manage resources, and their rights to equitable benefits from third party and especially corporate exploitation of community resources.
My fight for social justice – equality and equity – has involved civil society activism, political campaigning and office-holding, and public and private sector consulting – all without ever losing my focus on community development. Whether working in the local government system as a District Chief Executive of the Shama District, as a deputy regional Minister of the Western Region or as a Presidential Advisor in the Office of the President, I have held on to the underlying principles of fairness and social justice. When I have served on steering and advisory committees of Open Society Initiative in West Africa (OSIWA), FAO/IUCN/IIED/AgriCord Forest and Farm Facility, FAO/WB/IUCN/IIED Growing Forest Partnerships, Care International’s Agricultural and Natural Resource Programme and many others, one thing has been consistent – principles of community development. And when I am working as a consultant to the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change, on Sustainable Cocoa, on Water and Sanitation, on Leadership training etc. the principles never change; and over the years, I have seen some real results that give hope that the struggle continues.
Pedi holds degrees in law and sustainable business management. She has worked in the higher education sector as a law lecturer since 2012, collaborating extensively with academics in Nigeria, South Africa, Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, among others. She is also a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Pedi has a keen interest in the relevance of law as an instrument for social change. She is also quite passionate about promoting sustainable and inclusive development through her research. She has been published in several high impact academic publications on the rights to water and sanitation, climate change and gender issues, from the perspectives of inclusiveness and sustainability. Pedi has also provided consultancy services and policy advice to various international organizations on development issues relating to her research interests.
Spurred on by her passion for inclusiveness, Pedi has engaged in various volunteering and social activism initiatives. She was a founding member of the ISC Delft Chaplaincy Volunteer Group. She has also been involved in the activities of IfE in various roles since 2013, and from 2017 to 2020 she served on the IfE Board of Advisors.
In Memory: SOREN AMBROSE
We are very sad to announce the death of our colleague, Soren Ambrose, on 05 December 2020. Below is his own short bio, written for this website several years ago, followed by the obituary written in December 2020 by friends and family, for his global community of colleagues, friends and family.
BIO: Soren Ambrose comes from Chicago, and has degrees from New York University and the University of Chicago. He has been an activist for global economic justice since 1994. His analyses of the international financial institutions (IFIs) and the global economy have been published and quoted extensively in U.S. and international media, and he was profiled in the Financial Times – unfortunately, on Sept. 11, 2001.
Soren’s interest in economic justice developed during his graduate studies on Nigerian literature and politics at the University of Chicago. He joined the Chicago chapter of the 50 Years Is Enough campaign, a coalition established for the 50th anniversary of the IMF and World Bank, shortly after its founding in 1994, and moved to Washington in 1995 to work with it. During his time in Washington, he also worked with the Institute for Policy Studies, Nicaragua Network, and the Alliance for Global Justice, which he co-founded.
He left the US in 2005 to move to Kenya, where he co-founded Solidarity Africa Network and Daughters of Mumbi Global Resource Center with his partner, Njoki Njehu. In 2007 he became Africa Program Coordinator at the Bank Information Center (BIC), a watchdog on the international financial institutions. He joined ActionAid International in 2009 to work on development finance, and is now its International Head of Policy, Advocacy, and Research, based in Nairobi. In his various roles, Soren has visited over 60 countries and seen many kinds of systemic problems – plus a few successes.
OBITUARY: Our beloved Christopher Soren Ambrose, 57, died in the early hours of Saturday, December 5, 2020 at Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya while undergoing treatment.