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Kanni Wignaraja

Assistant Secretary-General, Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, United Nations Development Programme
Kanni Wignaraja
  • Kanni Wignaraja

    Ms. Kanni Wignaraja began her role as UNDP’s Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific on 18 November 2019. Before, Ms. Wignaraja served as the Acting Assistant Administrator and Director of UNDP’s Bureau of Management Services and as Special Adviser to the UNDP Administrator, roles that she performed throughout 2019 after working as the Director of the UN Development Operations Coordination Office from 2014 to 2018.
    Ms. Wignaraja has over twenty-five years of experience of the UN’s mission and UNDP’s role in the sustainable development agenda. She has a deep knowledge of the Asia-Pacific region, as well as the global, regional and country level workings of UNDP, across policy, programme, management and operations.
    Prior to joining the UN, Kanni worked with the Ford Foundation in New York. Kanni has contributed to numerous papers, articles and conferences in areas of public policy, institutional reform, capacity development, human rights and leadership.
    Ms. Wignaraja holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration (Development Economics) from Princeton University and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Bryn Mawr College. She is married and has two children.

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Heike Alefsen

Regional Representative, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Regional Office for the Pacific
Heike Alefsen
  • Heike Alefsen

    Heike Alefsen has almost 30 years of human rights, legal, political and development work experience with the United Nations, the Council of Europe and civil society. Until 2020, she was Senior Human Rights Adviser to the UN Country Team in Bangladesh and to the UN Development Group Asia-Pacific in Bangkok. As Deputy Head of the OHCHR Regional Office for South-East Asia, she established a country programme for Myanmar. Prior to that, she coordinated policy and information of the Human Rights Council’s special procedures at OHCHR Geneva. She also served with the UN Division for the Advancement of Women and the UN Development Fund for Women in New York, as Council of Europe Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and with Amnesty International’s Legal Office in London.

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Katia Chirizzi

Deputy Regional Representative, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Regional Office for South East Asia
Katia Chirizzi
  • Katia Chirizzi

    Ms. Katia Chirizzi joined the OHCHR Regional Office for South East Asia in Bangkok in 2015, where she is the Deputy Representative.  She is with OHCHR since 2007, working on various assignments in Nepal, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, and in Geneva.

    From 1999 to 2007, Ms. Chirizzi worked for the Organization for the Security and Co-operation in Europe in Kosovo and Serbia, including as Deputy Director of the Department of Human Rights and Rule of Law in Kosovo.

    Over the past 23 years Ms. Chirizzi operated in conflict and post-conflict settings, on issues related to human rights protection, with a strong focus on economic, social and cultural rights, indigenous peoples, environmental protection, and business and human rights.

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Fernand de Varennes

UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues
Fernand de Varennes
  • Fernand de Varennes

    Fernand de Varennes is Extraordinary Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Pretoria (South Africa), Adjunct Professor at the National University of Ireland-Galway (Ireland), and Cheng Yu Tung Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong (China). 

    Fernand de Varennes’ work and commitment focusses on the human rights of minorities, as well as the prevention of ethnic conflicts, the rights of migrants, the relationship between ethnicity, human rights and democracies, and the use of federalism and other forms of autonomy arrangements to balance competing cultural interests. His contributions on these topics in many parts of the world, including as a professor for almost 20 years at Murdoch University in Australia, and as a guest professor at the following institutions in Africa, Asia and Europe: Åbo Academy, Dato Bunka University, Ethiopian Civil Service University, Gakushuin University, Peking University, Seikei University, Universitas Pelita Harapan, Universitas Sam Ratulangi, Université de la Réunion, University of Hong Kong, University of Pretoria, and Vytautas Magnus University. 

    Fernand de Varennes holds degrees from the Université de Moncton (LLB, 1988), the London School of Economics and Political Science (LLM, 1992), and the Rijksuniversiteit Limburg (becoming in 1996 the University of Maastricht, Dr Juris, 1996).

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Jerald Joseph

Commissioner, Malaysia Human Rights Commission
Moderator, High-Level State Panel
Jerald Joseph
  • Jerald Joseph

    For the last 20 years, Mr Jerald Joseph has been a human rights defender and trainer consultant at both local and international levels. He specialises in human rights issues concerning the rights of Indigenous Peoples, elimination of racial discrimination, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as Human Rights Based Approach in Development (HRBA).

    Pioneering the programme of non-discrimination, Mr Jerald Joseph’s success was in the visits by the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance and the UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues, to Malaysia.

    Mr Jerald Joseph received his Bachelor of Applied Science in Industrial Chemistry from University Science Malaysia. He subsequently earned his Masters in Human Rights from Mahidol University, Thailand.

    He was one of the senior civil society members who led the Malaysian NGOs’ reporting to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group in Geneva and had engaged with key stakeholders during Malaysia’s previous UPR process.

    Mr Jerald Joseph’s active engagement with the ACSC/ASEAN People’s Forum (APF) process since 2006 had led to his election as the Chair of the Regional Steering Committee for APF in 2015.  As APF Chair, he negotiated for an ASEAN People’s Statement which was presented to the ASEAN Chair prior to the ASEAN Summit. He also instituted the Terms and Engagement Modality and led the interface dialogues for the 2015 APF.

    He also served as a member of various human rights organisations including the Commonwealth Foundation, Asian South Pacific Bureau for Adult Education, Asia-Pacific NGO Steering Committee of World Conference against Racism (WCAR).

    He is presently a Board Member and Advisor of the Anti-racism and Non-Discrimination Programme of Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat Sdn Bhd (Pusat KOMAS).

    Mr Jerald Joseph was appointed as a Commissioner of SUHAKAM in June 2016 for the term 2016-2019.

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Sajjad Hassan

Founder member, The South Asia Collective
Moderator, thematic Session 1: Substantive root causes of contemporary conflicts involving minorities
Sajjad Hassan
  • Sajjad Hassan

    Sajjad Hassan is a human rights defender and trainer working with minorities in India and the wider South Asia region. Sajjad is founder, together with regional experts and practitioners, of the South Asia Collective. Set up as a regional minority rights advocacy platform, also for collaborative evidence gathering, learning and sharing, SAC tries to amplify regional civil society voices for rule of law, justice and peace in South Asia, and against impunity. Sajjad also anchors Citizens Against Hate in India, a community resource network against anti-minority targeting and discriminations. Sajjad holds a PhD in politics from the London School of Economics, UK.  

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Rita Manchanda

Independent Consultant, South Asia Forum for Human Rights
Thematic Session 1: Substantive root causes of contemporary conflicts involving minorities
Rita Manchanda
  • Rita Manchanda

    Rita Manchanda is a scholar, and human rights and peace advocate working in South Asia with particular attention to defending the rights of vulnerable and marginalised groups: women, religious and ethnic minorities and forcibly displaced persons. Attention to the multifaceted deficits of power is reflected in Sage Series in Human Rights Audits of Peace Processes which I edited and co-authored; and publications such as ‘No Nonsense Guide to Minority Rights in South Asia’, ‘Sates in Conflict with their Minorities’, ‘Media & Mediated Public Discourse on “Terrorism” and “Defending Religious Freedoms in India” (forthcoming).

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Kamarulzaman Askandar

Research and Education for Peace, School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia
Thematic Session 1: Substantive root causes of contemporary conflicts involving minorities
Kamarulzaman Askandar
  • Kamarulzaman Askandar

    Kamarulzaman Askandar (Zam)is a Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and the Coordinator of the Research and Education for Peace Unit at Universiti Sains Malaysia (REPUSM). He is also the Representative of Malaysia to the Advisory Board of the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (ASEAN-IPR). As the Regional Coordinator of the Southeast Asian Conflict Studies Network (SEACSN), he has been helping with transformative peacebuilding processes in the region for many years, especially in conflict affected areas like Mindanao (Philippines), Aceh (Indonesia), and Southern Thailand.

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Rode Wanimbo

Coordinator, Women's Department of Evangelical Church of Indonesia (GIDI)
Thematic Session 1: Substantive root causes of contemporary conflicts involving minorities
Rode Wanimbo
  • Rode Wanimbo

    I am Rode Wanimbo. I was born and grew up in Agamua, the central highland of West Papua, Indonesia. Since 2013, I was entrusted to be a coordinator of Woman Department of Evangelical Church of Indonesia named GIDI.

    The four priority programmes of Woman Department of GIDI are training of trainers for literacy, basic health, story-telling in a circle, decolonizing the Bible, Ecumenical prayer circle for justice and peace. These are forms of constructive resistance which started from the grassroot in order to develop hope for positive change. We believe that to save community is to serve the community itself.

     It has been challenging to live our lives as minority group of people ruled in a system which led by dominant culture. Together with an amazing teamwork, we are committed to play our roles as human right activist in the midst of structural injustices and ongoing militarization operation.

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Radhika Coomaraswamy

Member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation
Moderator, Thematic Session 2: Normative framework: the human rights of minorities and conflict prevention
Radhika Coomaraswamy
  • Radhika Coomaraswamy

    Radhika Coomaraswamy received her BA from Yale University, her J.D. from Columbia University and her LLM from Harvard University. In Sri Lanka, she was Director of International Centre for Ethnic Studies from 1982 to 2005 and the Chairperson of the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission from 2003 to 2006. Recently, from 2015-2018, she was a member of the Constitutional Council.

    Internationally, Radhika Coomaraswamy served as UN Under Secretary General and as Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict from 2006 until her retirement in 2012.

    Earlier, from 1994 to 2003, she was the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, an independent expert attached to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

    In 2014, the UN Secretary General asked Radhika Coomaraswamy to lead the Global Study to review the fifteen year implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

    In 2017 she was appointed to the UN Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar and also appointed as a member of The Secretary General’s Board of Advisors on Mediation.

    She was privileged to be asked to deliver the Grotius Lecture of the American Association of International Law in 2013 and has received numerous honorary degrees and honors.

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Mohna Ansari

Former member National Human Rights Commission of Nepal
Former member National Human Rights Commission of Nepal
Mohna Ansari
  • Mohna Ansari

    Mohna Ansari, a well know activist and Nepal’s only female attorney, started her career as a journalist at a young age reporting on the women and children issues. After her graduation in 2003, she served with the Nepal Bar Association providing free legal aid to women affected by the domestic violence. From 2004 to 2010, she worked with the Action Aid, the McConnell Foundation, the Women’s Power Development Centre and the UNDP. She implemented women’s education and empowerment program, reported on the plight of women and, raised their voice at public forums. During the armed conflict, she advocated for the protection of women from sexual violence.

    In 2010, Ms Ansari was appointed as member of the National Women Commission (NWC). She worked with the Constituent Assembly committees to advance important provisions for women’s rights, representation and protection. After completing the NWC tenure, she was reappointed as member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in 2014. Herself coming from a disadvantaged group, Ms Ansari has raised the voice of disadvantaged and marginalized communities in Nepal. In doing so, she has faced multiple challenges, often in forms of maligning campaign and threats. She writes in the national papers and participates in TV debates to raise women rights, human rights and Rule of Law issues.

    Ms Ansari’s has been honored with awards for her work by several Nepali organizations, including the National Award “Suprabal Jana Sewa Shree” given by the President of Nepal. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in law and a Master’s in Sociology.

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Mohammad Shahabuddin

Chair in International Law & Human Rights, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham
Thematic Session 2: Normative framework: the human rights of minorities and conflict prevention
Mohammad Shahabuddin
  • Mohammad Shahabuddin

    Mohammad Shahabuddin is Professor of International Law & Human Rights at Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham. He specialises in history and theory of international law and human rights, and also in ethnicity and nationalism, self-determination, minority rights, and ethnic conflicts from international law perspectives.  His research is informed by critical, postcolonial, and TWAIL (Third World Approaches to International Law) scholarship. He is the author of Ethnicity and International Law: Histories, Politics and Practices (Cambridge University Press, 2016) and Minorities and the Making of Postcolonial States in International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2021). He is a recipient of the prestigious Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship (2018-2020).

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Tehmina Arora

Legal Consultant, ADF International
Thematic Session 2: Normative framework: the human rights of minorities and conflict prevention
Tehmina Arora
  • Tehmina Arora

    Tehmina Arora is a human rights lawyer practicing in Delhi, focusing on rights of religious minorities and women. She serves as legal consultant to ADF International. As a lawyer, she has successfully advocated for the rights of survivors of communal conflicts and targeted violence across South Asia. Arora has written frequently on religious freedom violations in South Asia and the impact that restrictive laws have on the rights of religious minorities.  

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Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu

Executive Director, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Moderator, thematic session 3: Obstacles to implementing the rights of minorities and early effective conflict prevention
Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu
  • Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu

    Shamini began her career as a news journalist in Malaysia. After several stints in communications, she took on a role as the Executive Director of Amnesty International Malaysia in 2013. In March 2020, she joined the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) in Bangkok, Thailand. She is a Chevening scholar and graduated with a MSc International Politics from the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS), London.

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Miriam Coronel Ferrer

Professor of Political Science, University of the Philippines
Thematic Session 3: Obstacles to implementing the rights of minorities and early effective conflict prevention
Miriam Coronel Ferrer
  • Miriam Coronel Ferrer

    Professor Miriam Coronel Ferrer joined the Department in 1992 and previously served as the director of the College’s Third World Studies Center and convener of UP’s Program on Peace, Democratization and Human Rights under the UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies.

    Prof. Ferrer chaired the government panel that negotiated and signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro  (CAB) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on 27 March 2014.   From January 2018-January 2021, she was a member of the United Nations’ Standby Team of Senior Mediators during which she provided mediation support to UN missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Maldives, Kosovo, Georgia, Southeast Asia, among others.  She also supported various undertakings to advance women and youth inclusion in mediation and peace processes.

    Recent awards received by Prof. Ferrer include the 2015 Hillary Rodham Clinton Award for Advancing Women in Peace and Security, the 2015 Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan Fr William F Masterson SJ Award, the 2014 United Nations Development Program N-Peace Award for Campaigning for Action, and the Gawad Lagablab awarded to outstanding alumni of the Philippine Science High School. She is also an alumnus of the Uppsala University’s Peace and Conflict Studies Program and the Solomon Asch Center’s Study of Ethnopolitics at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Cecil Shane Chaudhry

South Asia Deputy Team Leader for CSW
Thematic Session 3: Obstacles to implementing the rights of minorities and early effective conflict prevention
Cecil Shane Chaudhry
  • Cecil Shane Chaudhry

    Cecil Shane Chaudhry is serving as the South Asia Deputy Team Leader for CSW in UK, an organization that advocates for the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief for all. Prior to this role, Cecil served as the Executive Director of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) in Pakistan for over 7 years.  

    Being a Pakistani Christian and having himself experienced discrimination first-hand, Cecil felt led to raise his voice against the atrocities committed on marginalised and vulnerable communities. A former minority fellow from the OHCHR Minority Fellowship Program, he has extensively advocated internationally on the discrimination against religious minorities in Pakistan.

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James Tanis

former President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and former secretary of Bougainville's Department of Peace Agreement Implementation
Thematic Session 3: Obstacles to implementing the rights of minorities and early effective conflict prevention
James Tanis
  • James Tanis

    Former President James Tanis was born on the 18th of March 1965. Studied Business Administration at the Papua New Guinea University of Technology. Studies got disrupted by the Bougainville Conflict. Became a guerilla fighter with the Bougainville Revolutionary Army. In 1997 joined the Bougainville Peace Process becoming a peacebuilder and negotiator. Got Elected as the Vice President of the Bougainville People’s Congress, a coalition of different warring factions united together to end the war and find lasting peace. He was one of the few surviving negotiators and signatories of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.  After signing of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, served as Minister for Peace and Reconciliations in the Interim Bougainville Provincial government to implement reconciliations and weapons disposal to provide security for the first elections of the Autonomous Bougainville Government.  He became President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville after passing on of the first President to complete the balance of the first term.

     While he was serving President, he played key roles in pushing for Human Rights regime for Bougainville and Gender issues promoting role of civil societies in peacebuilding. Some of the Civil Society Organisations he founded are still very active on Bougainville today. He protected minority groups and encouraging the minority groups to join the Peace Process. In 2009 the President Tanis became Bougainville’s Human Rights Champion to promote Human Rights by giving it a Presidential attention. Former President James Tanis continues to play active roles at the civil society level. He continues to maintain strong relationships with the United Nations especially the United Nations Liaison Office on Bougainville. He was first invited in 2002 by the UN to participate in the Disarmament Education a 15 Countries study in Geneva, After the Geneva conference he was then invited by the Under Secretary of the Disarmament Affairs, Mr. Jayantha Dhanapala as a keynote speaker of Disarmament Education study group at the UN General Assembly Chamber in New York. Later he was invited to be a member part of Global Partnership in Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) and had represented Bougainville in the Pacific group and made interventions during GPPAC presentations at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Currently serving the Bougainville Government as Strategic and Political Advisor and an Eminent Person to prepare Bougainville for Independence after a successful independence vote in the Bougainville Referendum.

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Taisuke Komatsu

Under Secretary-General of the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
Moderator, thematic session 4: Ways forward towards addressing gaps in human rights mechanisms to protect minorities and prevent conflicts
Taisuke Komatsu
  • Taisuke Komatsu

    Taisuke Komatsu is the Under Secretary-General of the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) and based in Geneva, Switzerland. He provides technical assistance and capacity-building trainings to civil society organisations including indigenous, minority, migrant and other racialised groups to effectively engage with the UN human rights system. He closely works with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and supports civil society representatives from the Asia-Pacific and other regions to cooperate with the Committee to advance their human rights advocacy for racial justice and equality.

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Anchana Heemmina

Founder and Director, Duay Jai Group
Thematic Session 4: Ways forward towards addressing gaps in human rights mechanisms to protect minorities and prevent conflicts
Anchana Heemmina
  • Anchana Heemmina

    Anchana Heemmina is a human rights defender and the founder of the Duay Jai Group and a director for 11 years, an organization that provides rehabilitation services for torture victims in Thailand and monitor human rights situation in conflict area. Anchana Heemmina is experienced working on human rights and contributed to the compiling of a report on torture of members of the Muslim Malay minority who had been arrested for alleged involvement with the Deep South insurgent groups in Thailand.

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Farah Mihlar

Lecturer, College of Social Sciences and International Studies, University of Exeter
Thematic Session 4: Ways forward towards addressing gaps in human rights mechanisms to protect minorities and prevent conflicts
Farah Mihlar
  • Farah Mihlar

    Farah Mihlar grew up in Sri Lanka during the height of the country’s armed conflict. On becoming a journalist, and reporting from the war-torn areas of Sri Lanka and she realised the full imact of armed conflict on civilians. She has always been drawn to and affected by the vast and intense suffering caused by war, especially on how it affects women, and I am passionate about justice.

    Farah started her career as a journalist in Sri Lanka and worked for a number of national and international media organisations, such as Reuters, the BBC World Service, The Times of India and in Sri Lanka; the Sunday Times, Daily Mirror, ETV and Capital Radio.

    She moved to England to do a MSc in Social Policy at the London School of Economics (LSE) and subsequently went on to do her PhD in the Study of Religion at the School of Oriental and African Studies.

    Amidst her academic work she built a career in conflict prevention and international human rights. She has worked for a number of international organisations, including the UN, International Crisis Group and Minority Rights Group International. Her work involved research and publications; human rights training; project management and conducting international advocacy with the UN Human Rights Council.

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Jewher Illham

Thematic Session 4: Ways forward towards addressing gaps in human rights mechanisms to protect minorities and prevent conflicts
Jewher Illham
  • Jewher Illham

    Jewher Ilham is an author, an advocate for the Uyghur community and her imprisoned father.  

      

    As an advocate, she testified before the U.S. Congressional-Executive Committee on China, wrote op-eds in the New York Times and the Guardian, received numerous awards worldwide on behalf of her father. In 2015, she recounted her experiences in her book, Jewher Ilham: A Uyghur’s Fight to Free Her Father. She was invited to be the key speaker at 2019 Ministerial to advance religious freedom hosted by Pompeo, the former Secretary of State. She was also invited to the White House to speak to former POTUS on the Uyghur issue. Following that, she had the opportunity to speak at the UN general assembly on the atrocities the Chinese government is committing on the Uyghurs. 

     

    In December 2019, Jewher accepted the Sakharov Price on behalf of her father and urged the European Parliament to take a stand and hold the Chinese government accountable. In 2020, she was invited to be the key speaker at the Geneva summit to discuss the Uyghur plight. 

     

    She is currently working at the Worker Rights Consortium as an associate/Project to Combat Forced Labour.  

    Her second book Because I have to: the path to survival, the Uyghur struggle will be released on Nov 15th of 2021. 

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