Lilit Simonyan is a social activist dedicated to educating and connecting people to bring positive change in their communities. She founded a non-profit youth organization, Stepanavan Youth Center, at the age of 22 with the aim to contribute to the development of Armenia by empowering its youth. Simonyan is the initiator and manager of over 60 local, national and international youth projects. Among them are projects directed to the empowerment of girls in regions of Armenia (GLOW Girls leadership and empowerment project); European youth projects on intercultural learning, peace building and conflict resolution; environmental education; and gender equality. Her contributions to the nonprofit and youth sector have been recognized by the Prime Minister of Armenia, the International Youth Foundation, IREX, the Aspen Institute Romania, and the Jean Sauve Foundation.
Simonyan conducts professional courses at the American University of Armenia, and is also a member of the pool of trainers of the European Youth Forum and a trainer of the European Commission SALTO EECA EVS program.
Simonyan holds two BAs in Foreign Languages and Economics and an MA in Public Administration from the University of Kansas.
Agnès Ebo’o is the founder of the Citizens Governance Initiatives in Cameroon, a nonprofit association that promotes accountability and citizens' participation in governance by using international law, constitutionalism and constitutional rights as the foundation of its work.
A lawyer by training, Ebo'o is involved in several regional initiatives that promote open government and the rule of law in Africa. These include the Academy for Constitutional Law and Justice in Africa, a yearly summer program for the training of future constitutional law experts in Africa; and the Gulf of Guinea Citizens Network, a network of advocates for accountable management of the natural resources in the Gulf of Guinea region.
Ebo'o holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Poitiers, France, an LLM from the University of Wales Cardiff, UK and is currently a doctoral candidate in the International Maritime Law Institute in Malta, where her research focuses on the problem of maritime piracy off African coasts.
Updated December 2013
Yu Liu is currently an associate professor for the Department of Politics at Tsinghua University. She has taught courses dealing with Chinese politics, comparative politics, and many classes on modern politics. Liu is an active "public intellectual" in China, authoring political columns and commentaries for several well-known newspapers and magazines. Her book entitled Details of Democracy was selected as Book of the Year by a number of influential media, newspapers and websites.
Liu received her BA and MA in the Department of International Politics at the Renmin University of China, and her Ph.D. in the Department of Political Science at Columbia University.
Beatriz Torres serves as the editor of Perspectiva magazine, a Latin American quarterly publication on politics, economy, and society at the Political Science Institute (ICP). ICP is a think tank dedicated to studying, advancing and circulating the principles and values of democracy as a political, economic and social system. She previously served as communications director at ICP. In the past, she has spent several years working with NGOs such as, Transparencia por Colombia and Planeta Paz, organizing events and collaborating with their publications.
Torres earned her BA in Political Science at Javeriana University and is currently working on obtaining her MA in Marketing at the School of Higher Studies in Business Administration (CESA).
Ahmed Salah is the executive director of The House of New Future Center for Legal and Human Rights Studies in Egypt and works as a freelance reporter on the side. Born into a politically active family, Salah continued in the family tradition by becoming an independent political activist in 2001. Most notably, Salah was one of the co-founders of the Kifaya Movement (the Egyptian Movement for Change) in 2004 and remains a member of the Coordinators Council of Kifaya to oversee the strategic direction of the initiative.
In addition, he is also the co-founder, strategist, ideologist, and foreign affairs representative of the April 6 Youth Movement, which launched in March 2008 until November 2010. In these capacities, Salah was able to coordinate political parties to stand in opposition to the Mubarak regime and served as a principle organizer for the January 25th revolution. At present, he is working hard to create democratic representation from across Egypt.
Ghada Shahbender is an Egyptian activist dedicated to political reform and human rights advocacy in Egypt. Shahbender is a member of the board of trustees of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights where she recruits women and youth to play a more active role in Egyptian political life. In addition, Shahbender is one of the 10 founding members of Shayfeencom (we are watching you in Arabic), the Popular Monitoring Movement, a volunteer initiative that creates public awareness campaigns to combat corruption, monitor elections, and create greater transparency in government.
Shahbender received her BA in Mass Communications and her MA in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from the American University in Cairo.
Givi Chanukvadze recently served as an executive manager for the Tbilisi Public Service Hall, under the Ministry of Justice of Georgia. Chanukvadze has over seven years of working experience, heading the leadership and management functions in different organizational structures of the Government of Georgia.
Chanukvadze actively assisted the Minister of Economic Development of Georgia, Minister of Justice of Georgia and Head of the Administration of the President of Georgia, to spearhead major economic and civil service reforms coupled with aggressive privatization, liberalization, deregulation and the elimination of trade and bureaucratic barriers. These policy reforms helped Georgia to be recognized as one of the world’s top reformer countries, ranking at 11th place in the ‘World Bank Ease of Doing Business’ ranking. It also led to the United Nations Public Service Award for the simplification and modernization of Georgian civil service, particularly for Public Service Hall project.
Chanukvadze received his MPA degree from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University and BA from the Georgian Technical University in public policy. Chanukvadze has successfully completed several international executive education trainings at leading universities in Europe.
Updated Sept. 2014
Prathima Manohar is the founder and president of The Urban Vision, a social initiative that focuses on solution-driven research, advocates best practices in policy and design and facilitates public dialogue on policy choices in urban development. Their online platform allows citizens to report, debate and outline solutions towards major civic issues with the aim of creating accountable governments and devoted communities.
Outside of her work as a social entrepreneur, Manohar has been a contributing columnist on architecture, urban development and design with India’s leading daily newspaper—the Times of India. She has also been a correspondent with France24, a 24-hour global TV news channel. She has worked on pilot projects and research on issues such as affordable housing, participatory planning and green cities. She is a board member for the American Alumni Association of India and is on the advisory board of several social venture startups in India.
Manohar holds a BA in architecture from the MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology in Bangalore and was selected as a Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center Fellow where she researched and studied ICT and governance.
Updated December 2013
Dini Savitri Rahim
Dini Rahim is a development practitioner and educator with ten years of experience working in civil society, policy advocacy and capacity strengthening programs in Indonesia. At present, she works as a lecturer in Political Science and International Affairs at the University of Airlanggain Surabaya, Indonesia. Most recently, Rahim served as a senior technical consultant for the USAID-funded Habibie Center where she conducted a comprehensive policy review towards the government’s Grand Strategy on Conflict Prevention and Peaceful Development.
From 1999 to the present, Rahim has worked on several donor-funded programs, which focus on democracy promotion at the national level, democracy processes at the local level (decentralization), conflict management/transformation, and economic growth programs in Indonesia.
Rahim earned her MA in Comparative Politics from Northern Illinois University as a Fulbright scholar from 2002-2004. She holds a BA in International Relations from the Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia.
Sandra Hamid is a cultural anthropologist and a development specialist with a strong interest in political participation and civic education. She has been at The Asia Foundation's office in Indonesia for eight years, where she serves as senior director for programs. In this capacity, Hamid provides leadership in programmatic development and the implementation of cross-cutting nation-wide programs in the fields of governance and elections, law and gender, and most recently on knowledge institutions and public policy.
Hamid has overseen the Foundation’s Aceh Programs where her work focused on gender justice. At present, she leads a partnership with AusAID on a new initiative to strengthen the knowledge sector—engaging NGOs, think tanks, and university centers—cultivating productive relationships between knowledge and public policies. Hamid also has extensive political experience, having served in the Indonesian National Mandate Party, one of the first political parties formed immediately after Suharto's downfall.
Hamid holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Indonesia in Business Administration. She was a Fulbright scholar from 1992-1994.
Auni Sulaeman works for the National Democratic Institute (NDI) as a program manager and trainer for the Political Party Development program in Iraq. In this capacity, Sulaeman trains youth, women, and senior members from Iraqi political parties on campaign strategy and techniques to enhance their internal democratic practices. Sulaeman has experience as an election observer, monitoring both federal and provincial elections in Iraq since 2005, as well as municipal campaign elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He also worked for the United Nation Assistant Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) as a language assistant from 2006 to 2007.
Prior to joining NDI, Sulaeman worked for the Iraqi Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) as a translator and interpreter, and later as office manager for the Food Transition Team of CPA. Sulaeman has six years of experience in media and two and a half years in public relations.
Sulaeman earned his BA in English Language from the University of Mosul.
Aizhan Imasheva serves as managing director of the Kazakhstan Development Bank, where she is responsible for corporate strategy, investor relations, and human resources for this leading development institution. In this capacity, Imasheva pioneers work on corporate governance and organizational effectiveness, which includes gender-equity related issues in the corporate environment.
Prior to joining the Bank, Imasheva worked at the World Bank Group in Washington, D.C. in its Human Development Network and traveled frequently to developing countries in Africa and Asia. Her career started in the private and non-profit sectors, skills that she uses actively while coaching students and young professionals in Kazakhstan. Imasheva is very committed to causes such as health, education, gender equity and human power, and is an active member of various community organizations in Kazakhstan.
Imasheva is a graduate of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Boston University and Kazakh State University, School of Pharmacy.
Ruslan Dairbekov is a member of the International Media Lawyers Association (IMLA) and a lawyer for the Internews Network in Kazakhstan where he works to improve the legal and regulatory framework in areas of media law, freedom, and policy. Dairbekov provides legal consultation to journalists on their basic legal rights and creates media advocacy campaigns. Through active collaboration with government officials and parliamentary representatives, Dairbekov participates in the national working groups that outline a vision for media law development in Kazakhstan.
Previously, Dairbekov worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) where he provided legal assistance and interventions to help resettle 200 Afghan and Uzbek refugees, and attended to the problems affecting the rights and legal status of refugees and asylum seekers.
Dairbekov obtained two diplomas with honors from the International University of Kyrgyzstan, including an MA and BA in International Law. In 2007, he participated in the Media Law Advocates Training Program at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies’ Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy at the University of Oxford.
Otsieno Namwaya is a journalist by training and currently works as a researcher on Kenya with the Human Rights Watch, an organization dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world. Namwaya is spearheading research on the dynamics of pre-election violence in Kenya. He is a board member of Freedom House's East Africa Chapter. Prior to the Human Rights Watch, Namwaya worked at the Media Council of Kenya, the African Centre for Open Governance, and Freedom House. Namwaya lead a nationwide study examining the current state of media independence in Kenya and the factors which constrain the development of press freedom. His investigative journalism in leading Kenyan papers has uncovered the underground activity of Kenyan drug cartels, leading to a public investigation, and broke new ground by exposing corruption in the Kenyan media.
Namwaya has written and edited for newspapers such as the Nation Media Group, East and Central Africa’s largest media house; The Standard Group, Kenya’s oldest newspaper founded in 1902; and Expression Today, Kenya’s premier democracy, human rights and media journal published by The Media Institute. For the past decade, Namwaya has been on the forefront of the campaign for governance reforms and constitutional change in Kenya.
Namwaya earned a MSC in environmental science at Kenyatta University.
Updated September 2012
Lina Mikdashi is a development practitioner with extensive experience conducting field-based research projects for local and international development organizations. These assignments involved outreach with local communities to address socio-economic issues, human rights of migrant workers, and children's rights, among others. Most recently, Mikdashi served as a field officer for the UNDP technical support team to the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC) at the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, working in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. At a local NGO, Naba’a, located in the southern Lebanese city of Saida, Mikdashi executed various studies examining and assessing social risk factors affecting the behavior of adolescents. Her research found many factors affecting adolescent violent behavior, including family socioeconomic status, home and school environment, and lack of recreational spaces.
Mikdashi is also currently working as a development consultant on a study that aims to assess the needs of the Dinnieh area located in the north of Lebanon, which is characterized by high levels of poverty and limited access to public services.
Mikdashi obtained her MA in Development Studies from the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies and holds a BA in Political Science from the American University in Cairo.
Suvash Darnal is the founder and executive director of the Samata Foundation, a Kathmandu-based research and advocacy organization devoted to upholding the rights of marginalized groups in Nepal, particularly the Dalit community. Through outreach and advocacy, Darnal works with these groups to better enable them to be involved in policy-making and be equally represented in the Nepalese Constituent Assembly, which is tasked with writing a new national constitution. Darnal created the first Dalit research institution in Nepal, and has published a book on Dalit lawmakers to raise their profile and enable them to have greater influence in the Constituent Assembly.
Prior to this, Darnal was the founding member of the Jagaran Media Center, created to build awareness in the media about marginalized groups and train Dalit youth as journalists. He has also served as chairperson for the Collective Campaign for Peace (COCAP), an umbrella human rights organization that seeks to strengthen the Nepali democracy through programs advocating for accountability, peace, and human rights.
Darnal earned an MA in Political Science and a BA in Journalism from Tribhuvan University. Darnal was awarded the Reagan Fascell Democracy fellowship in 2008-2009 from the National Endowment for Democracy.
David Tola Winjobi
David Tola Winjobi is a human rights activist, an educational consultant, a professional counselor, and a gender analyst, among other roles. Winjobi worked briefly at Catholic Overseas Development Agency as policy advocacy advisor, and later served as the national coordinator of Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP)—the world’s largest anti-poverty campaign and monitor of the implementation of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) around the world. He is also the principal coordinator of CAFSO-WRAG for Development, an NGO that campaigns for the fulfillment of human rights, democracy and good governance.
Winjobi conducted a study in 2008 on the MDGs implementation in Nigeria, and the resulting report has become an advocacy tool with the government of Nigeria. He has also spoken at both the United Nations in New York and Geneva.
Winjobi obtained his first degree in Education/English Language from the University of Ife, Nigeria in 1986. Subsequently, he received an MA in Peace and Conflict Management from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology.
Asif Shah has nearly two decades of experience as a public servant in Pakistan, where he currently serves as the secretary to the government of the Sindh province in Pakistan. He also serves as the administrator and district coordinating officer of the Saghar district of Sindh. In this role, he is responsible for 13 public sector departments and oversees policy-making, management and development of the district.
Since joining the civil service in 1993, Shah has served as assistant commissioner,
municipal commissioner and additional deputy commissioner, where he has overseen development projects, municipal services and the maintenance of law and order. He has played an active role in drafting the Independent Prosecution Service Bill and implementing reforms related to prisons and women under the Asian Development Bank’s Access to Justice Program.
Shah holds an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School and a bachelor's degree in engineering from the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology in Pakistan.
Updated December 2013
Igor Belikov is currently the CEO of the Russian Institute of Directors (RID) a nonprofit organization founded in November 2001 to develop, incorporate and monitor standards of corporate governance in Russia. RID is the leading expert and resource center for corporate governance and a key contributor to the drafting and ongoing improvement of the Russian Code of Corporate Conduct. Belikov oversees the operations of RID and is responsible for maintaining relationships with RID corporate members, and developing partnerships with international organizations. Belikov has served on the board of a number of Russian companies, most notably Lukoil and Acron. He is a member of an expert group concerned with updating the national development strategy until the year 2020 (“Strategy 2020”). Belikov's actions have been recognized for helping to build the foundations for a market economy in Russia.
Belikov received his Ph.D. in Modern History from the Institute of African Studies at the USSR Academy of Sciences.
Ebrahim Fakir is currently manager of the Governance Institutions and Processes department at the Electoral Institute for the Sustainability of Democracy in Africa (EISA) office in South Africa. EISA aims to contribute to an African continent where democratic governance, human rights, and citizen participation are upheld in a peaceful environment. In his current role, Fakir provides strategic leadership and management to EISA's mission to strengthen political parties, provide legislative support, and support local governance.
Fakir is also a research associate for the African Legislatures Project at the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Social Science Research, and was formerly an analyst at the Centre for Policy Studies in Johannesburg and the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA). Fakir writes on politics and society, the state, democracy and development, and serves as an analyst, commentator and facilitator to domestic and international media.
Fakir earned a BA in English literature at the University Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and later became a visiting fellow at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex.
Updated September 2012
Svitlana Zalishchuk a journalist, activist and initiator of influential civic campaigns in Ukraine. She is the founding director of the Ukrainian NGO, Centre UA, which works to reassert citizens’ influence on politics, promote democratization, develop freedom of speech and deepen European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine. In this role, Zalishchuk oversees the New Citizen public campaign, which unites more than 50 Ukrainian NGOs and approximately 200 public leaders. Using modern communication opportunities, it has proved to be one of the most popular and influential platforms to enhance citizen participation in politics.
Zalishchuk is a founder of “Chesno” (Fair) movement that monitors candidates and acting members of the parliament against integrity criteria using communication technologies. She is also the co-initiator of the influential journalist movement “Stop Censorship” that unites dozens of prominent Ukrainian journalists fighting for freedom of speech. Previously, Zalishchuk used to be an anchor of the live political TV-show “From the other side” and an international reporter at the 5th TV-Channel – the only media that broadcasted the Orange Revolution in 2004. Also she has experience working in the government and administration of the President in 2005-2006.
Zalishchuk graduated from the Institute of Journalism at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.
Updated December 2013
José Vicente Haro
José Vicente Haro is currently a professor of Constitutional Law and Administrative Law at the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello. He is a consultant on constitutional and political issues in Venezuela, the first vice president of the Venezuelan Association on Constitutional Law, and author of more than thirty articles published on constitutional law and political issues regarding Venezuela. A lawyer by trade, Haro has served as an advisor to many Venezuelan legal institutions and high-ranking government officials, including the Senate of the Congress of Venezuela; the Minister of Justice; the Attorney General; the Venezuelan Constitutional Convention, among others. Most notably, Haro was the clerk of the Venezuelan Supreme Court and chief of the Office of Research and Legal Advising of the National Assembly (Venezuelan Congress).
Haro worked directly in the drafting of the Constitution of Venezuela (1999) and in the drafting of several Venezuelan laws, such as the Organic Law on Public Administration (2001) and the Anticorruption Law (2002).
At present, Haro is a Ph.D. candidate at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and holds a Master’s of Law degree in Constitutional Law from the same university.
Rueben Lifuka is an architect, a civil activist, international facilitator and a development consultant in Zambia. In 2007, he assumed the role of chapter president of Transparency International Zambia (TIZ), which works to promote accountability and transparency in the public sector. In this role, Lifuka serves as TIZ's official spokesperson, representing the organization to government actors, international organizations, and the media. Lifuka is currently serving his second and final term.
Lifuka has served as an advocate to civil society to pave the way for a new constitutional order, which effectively promotes fundamental freedoms and citizen engagement. In October 2011, he was appointed by the Zambian Republican President to serve on a technical committee mandated to draft the new Zambian Constitution. And recently in 2012, he was appointed by the Minister of Justice to be the chairperson of the National Governing Council for the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) in Zambia. In 2008, Lifuka was elected to serve as one of three Africans on the international board of Transparency International. He was reelected for a second term in 2011. Lifuka is also a board member of the UK charity Build IT International and serves as the first board chairperson of the multi-donor Zambian Governance Foundation. He also leads a development consultancy firm, Dialogue Africa, offering organizational management services to local and international clients.
Lifuka holds a BA in architecture from Copperbelt University, Zambia and a postgraduate diploma in project management from Cambridge University. He is currently working towards an MSc in integrated environmental management at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom.
Updated September 2012
Titus Gwemende currently serves as a senior policy advisor to the Netherlands Foreign Affairs’ mission in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia. He is responsible for a multi-million dollar economic governance portfolio with an emphasis on anti-corruption, natural resources governance and public financial management.
He recently served as acting executive director of programs at Transparency International Zimbabwe, where he coordinated research, advocacy and
capacity building programs on political finance in five southern African countries. As an anti-corruption activist, blogger and whistleblower, he has highlighted cases of significant abuse of power in both the public justice system and pro-democracy movement. He has mobilized thousands of Zimbabweans through rallies and liberation technologies to speak out against corruption and bad governance. He is also the founder of the Civil Society Organization
Economic Governance Roundtable, the only civil society organization leadership platform for policy analysis and advice for government and business.
Gwemende holds an MA in international affairs from Ohio University, a BA with honors in development studies from Midlands State University in Zimbabwe and is currently working toward a law degree at the South African University.
Updated December 2013