Myrna Cunningham (Chair)*
Dr. Myrna Cunningham is a leading indigenous authority on women’s rights. She is chairperson for the Center for Autonomy and Development of Indigenous People, president of the Association for Women’s Rights in Development Board, and chair of the guiding committee for the Indigenous Ways of Learning and Knowing Fund. Dr. Cunningham served as Chair of the Permanent UN Forum on Indigenous Issues until 2012. In 2014, she was appointed as Special Ambassador for FAO, and she served as Adviser to the President of the UN General Assembly for the World Conference of Indigenous People.
A Miskitu from the Wangki river region of Nicaragua, Dr. Cunningham served as governor of the North Atlantic Autonomous Region and as a Member of the Nicaraguan Parliament and member of the Regional Autonomous Council of the North Autonomous Region from 1990 to 1997. Dr. Cunningham currently advises the Alliance of Indigenous Women of Central America and Mexico, the International Indigenous Women’s Forum, and the Disability Rights Fund. She is the founding Chancellor of the University of the Autonomous Regions of the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast. Dr. Cunningham received her medical degree from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua. She also holds an honorary doctorate from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
Don Roberts (Treasurer)
Don Roberts is CEO of Nawitka Capital Advisors Ltd, a firm which provides advice on strategic direction and raising capital for companies in the Renewable Energy, Clean Technology & Forest Products Industries. Prior to starting Nawitka in 2013, Mr. Roberts was a Vice-Chair of Wholesale Banking, and Managing Director in Investment Banking with CIBC World Markets Inc.
In addition to his work with Nawitka Ltd., Mr. Roberts is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Forest Resource Management at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver), and he serves in an advisory capacity for a range of government, industry, and NGO groups.
Augusta Molnar (Secretary)*
Dr. Augusta Molnar is a cultural anthropologist who has focused her career on forest and mountain communities, their tenure and rights, resources, and livelihoods. She is retired from the World Bank since 2006, having served as a project manager for land, forest, agriculture, and indigenous peoples grants and loans in Mexico and Central America and as a social specialist on forestry projects in South and Southeast Asia. She is a co-founder of the Rights and Resources Initiative, retired as Sr. Director of Country and Regional Programs since 2014. Dr. Molnar currently serves as the chair on the board of The Mountain Institute and is based in Colorado.
Eleni Kyrou is a development practitioner with a background in social development and urban development policy and planning, with 20 years of working experience across most of the global South. She currently serves as Senior Social Development Specialist for the European Investment Bank. Eleni has worked for civil society organizations, research institutions and multilateral/international agencies in the context of urban development and urban governance; access to housing for low income population groups at scale; participatory resettlement and relocation of informal settlers; relief aid and post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation. She holds a particular interest and associated experience in promoting socially just development; rights-based approaches to development; collaborative/participatory planning; and, gender in development. She is multilingual – with proficiency in English, Greek, Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese.
Abdon Nababan is a leading indigenous authority on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. He formerly served as the Secretary General of Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) of Indonesia, and now serves on the National Council of AMAN, representing Sumatra region. Mr. Nababan was the Coordinator of the Steering Committee at Network for the Defense of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (JAPHAMA) and serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Yayasan Setara/NTFP, Chairman of the Council of Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI), and Advisor at the Samdhana Institute. A Toba Batak from North Sumatra, Indonesia, Mr. Nababan has led successful campaigns to earn greater recognition for Indigenous Peoples’ rights, with a special focus on land and forest rights.
Samuel Nguiffo is a Cameroonian lawyer who specializes in community rights and land tenure in Cameroon and the Congo Basin. He is the Secretary General of the Center for Environment and Development in Yaoundé, which he created in 1995 with the specific aim of realizing sustainable management of Central Africa’s forests. Mr. Nguiffo was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 1999 for his work to protect the tropical rainforests of Central Africa. He currently sits on the Board of Directors at the Washington-based organization, Rights and Resources Initiative. He is based in Cameroon.
Vicky Tauli-Corpuz became the third UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in June 2014. Ms Tauli-Corpuz also served as the Chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues from 2005-2009. She is the founder of Tebtebba, the Indigenous People’s International Centre for Policy Research and Education, and as an activist, has helped organize Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines to campaign for their land rights. In 2009, she was awarded the Gabriela Silang Award from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples for her work at the forefront of the struggle for Indigenous Peoples’ rights.
Juan Manuel Torres Rojo*
Dr. Juan Manuel Torres Rojo is a natural resource economist who currently serves as Associate Professor at the Center for Research and Teaching of Economics (CIDE) in Mexico City. Dr. Torres Rojo served as Director of the National Program of Reforestation in Mexico, as Director General of the National Forestry Commission, and as Secretary General of the Center for Research and Teaching of Economics. He has worked as a consultant to the FAO, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and FIDA, consulting on public policy for different Ministries in the Mexican Government and Latin America. Dr. Torres Rojo’s research concerns productivity and harvesting of forest ecosystems, environmental services, climate change, and community forestry. He has published articles in academic journals and books related to natural resource management. Dr. Torres Rojo has been a Visiting Professor at the University of California at Berkeley and an Associate Professor at Universidad de las Americas Puebla. Dr. Torres Rojo earned his doctorate in Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics from Oregon State University.
Andy White is Coordinator of the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI). He also serves as President of the Rights and Resources Group, the nonprofit coordinating mechanism of the RRI Coalition based in Washington, D.C. Prior to co-founding RRI in 2005, Andy served as Senior Director of Programs at Forest Trends and Natural Resource Management Specialist at the World Bank, as well as worked as a consultant to the International Food Policy Institute, Save the Children Federation, and the Inter-American Foundation. He has worked extensively in Haiti, Mexico, and China. As Coordinator of RRI, he advises policy research, advocacy, and engagement in Asia, Latin America, and Africa and leads initiatives and networks to advance RRI’s mission. His research and publications have focused on forest tenure and policy, forest industry and trade, as well as the role of forests, communities, and institutions in climate change. Andy has a PhD in forest economics, a M.A. in anthropology from the University of Minnesota, and a B.S. in forestry from Humboldt State University.
*Founding Board Members