Speakers Biographies

Jessica Alexander
The New Humanitarian (CoRD)

Jessica Alexander is a humanitarian aid professional with nearly 20 years experience in operations, evaluation and policy. Her career includes global deployments spanning Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

She currently teaches humanitarian affairs at numerous global universities and is the editor of The New Humanitarian’s Rethinking Humanitarianism series. She has authored various policy papers, mainstream articles and a book, Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid.

Dr Muhtari Aminu-Kano
Nigerian Conservation Foundation

Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano is the current Director General/ CEO of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation. The organisation is working with a network of Community Based Organisations to address the humanitarian and development crises in the Nigerian part of the Lake Chad Basin.
He has more than thirty years of executive and managerial experiences in living natural resources management, biodiversity conservation. He bagged a first-class degree from Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria (1981), and a PhD in Applied Ecology from the Imperial College, University of London (1987).

He has worked at (i) the Humanitarian Academy for Development (HAD), Birmingham, UK (2016 – 2018); where he led research, design and implementation of monitoring and evaluation and strategic partnership for that institution; ii) Senior Policy Adviser at Islamic Relief Worldwide, Birmingham, UK (2011 – 2015) where he led in policy analyses and the development of several internal policies and external policy positions on a range of humanitarian issues; iii) Senior Adviser on Policy & Advocacy at the Birdlife International Secretariat, Cambridge, UK (2003 – 2011); and iv) Director/CEO, Savanna Conservation Nigeria (SCN), Kaduna, Nigeria (2003).

As Programme Assistant (FAO Resident Representative in Nigeria) on a leave of absence from the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Agriculture (1997), Dr. Aminu-Kano spearheaded research and wrote policy papers on aspects of Nigeria Agriculture, including a briefing on “Paths to agricultural sustainability for Nigeria”. He was Assistant Director at the Lake Chad Research Institute, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, in NE Nigeria. He also lectured at Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria (1987 -1989).

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Hibak Kalfan

Hibak Kalfan is the Executive Director of Network for Empowered Aid Response (NEAR). NEAR is a network of southern local and national NGOs who have come together to reshape the global response to economic, human and environmental threats. Kalfan has more than 13 years’ experience and worked with several stakeholders in the Humanitarian, Media, Development and Government sectors in the Horn of Africa and Middle East.

Kalfan began her career as the founder of The African Future (2007), a non-profit organization hoping to improve the education and healthcare in Somalia. She has since held several senior positions within Internews, World Bank Group, ACTED, Relief International among others.

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Dr Hugo Slim
Blavatnik School of Government

Hugo Slim a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict (ELAC) at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford. His humanitarian career has involved lead roles in academia, policy and operations. He was Head of Policy and Humanitarian Diplomacy at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from 2015-2020 and Chief Scholar at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue from 2003-2007.

He was Reader in International Humanitarianism at Oxford Brookes University from 1994-2003 and worked as a frontline humanitarian for Save the Children and the United Nations in Morocco, Sudan, Ethiopia and the Palestinian Territories. Hugo has also been a board member of Oxfam GB and the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (CAFOD).

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Hany Abdel Gawad EL-bana OBE

Hany Abdel Gawad El-Banna OBE is the co-founder of Islamic Relief, the largest Western-based international Muslim relief and development NGO, established in 1984 in Birmingham, UK.

Since leaving Islamic Relief in 2008, Dr. El-Banna along founded th eMuslim Charities Forum (MCF), of which he is Chairman and The Humanitarian Forum where he was President till early 2020. Dr Hany now is the Chairman of Zakat House, a social enterprise helping new and growing charities. He is also the chairman of The World Humanitarian Action Forum (WHAF) Dr El-Banna has visited over 80 countries on behalf of these organisations.

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Hareth Alareyani
Life Makers Meeting Place

Hareth Al-Eryani has had M.A. in TESOL from Canterbury Christ Church University (UK) and a Post-graduate Diploma in International Child and Youth Care for Development, ECDVU, Victoria University – Canada. Hareth has been working in many local and international NGOs since 2012; leading projects in education, child protection and emergency response. Currently, he is holding the position of the External Relations & Coordination Officer at Life Makers Meeting Place Organization (LMMPO) in Yemen. He is responsible of communication with the donors and various stakeholders; writing proposals and reporting to the donors; attending donors’ meetings’ participating in the clusters’ system with the privilege of being Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) and technical working groups members in various clusters. Hareth has a advisory status in his organizing and providing support to all the staff with regards to grants and various programs.

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Prof. Hari Darshan Shrestha

Hari Darshan Shrestha is working in Institute of Engineering, Tribhuvan University as a Professor since 1991. Beside this he worked as executive director of Institute of engineering consultancy services and central material testing laboratory for about 6 year. Involve in design, planning, management and implementation of projects. He served International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent (IFRC) as Team leader on 1994 flood rehabilitation program for 2 year. Later, He joined IFRC as Emergency Response, Recovery and Reconstruction experts immediate after 2004 Tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia for one year. He served as Director Recovery and reconstruction program of Save the Children, USA in Aceh Tsunami program from 2006 to 2008. After successful completion of Tsunami program in Aceh He was promoted to Director, Global Construction Quality and Technical Assistance Unit, provide technical support from project design to implementation of emergency response, recovery and reconstruction program as well as Disaster Risk Reduction and Management support Save the Children’s program in different country offices till 2011. He was one of the core member in Haiti Earthquake Emergency Response program, West Sumatra Earthquake Response Program, Java Earthquake Response Program, East Timor and Kirgizstan conflict response program and Pakistan Flood Response and Reconstruction Program.

After more than 6 year works abroad on beginning of year 2012, he decided to back to Nepal to contribute on Disaster Risk Management, reconstruction through resilient development approach and actively participate in ongoing economic and social transformation of Nepal as a ‘social democrat’. He establish Center of Resilient Development (CoRD), 2013, organization working in DRR & M. He is also provided technical advisory to the country offices in different part of world of Save the Children in Disaster Risk reduction, recovery and reconstruction program as Advisor (consultant) of Save the Children USA till 2015. He also involve in research and development works of various organization; government, NGO/INGO. He developed and published numbers of handbook, manual, guidelines and papers in journals in the area of Disaster Management, Environment & Climate Responsive design, development, earthquake resistant design and construction, construction administration, education etc. Participated in various conference, seminar, and workshop on humanitarian field and also presented the papers.

He was General Secretary of Federation of Engineering Institution of South and Central Asia (FEISCA), General Secretary of Nepal Engineers Association (NEA), Immediate past President, Structural Engineers Association Nepal (SEANEP), Executive Member and presently Advisor of Disaster Preparedness Network Nepal (DPNet). Founder member and member board of Directors of NEAR.

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Marie-Rose Romain Murphy
Fondation Communautaire Haitienne-Espwa/The Haiti Community Foundation

Marie-Rose Romain Murphy is the President of RMC-Romain Murphy Consulting, a nonprofit management and strategy firm that works with U.S and International organizations. Born and raised in Haiti, she’s the Founder of ESPWA, Inc., a Haitian-led organization focusing on the long-term development of Haitian organizations working in Haiti. She’s also the Co-Founder and Chair of the Haiti Community Foundation, Haiti’s first community foundation. She has 30 years of experience and a strong track record in community development, human services, humanitarian projects, philanthropy, marketing, executive leadership and social entrepreneurship. Her core interest is the creation of viable and sustainable pathways of development for low-income individuals, marginalized communities and developing countries.

A member of various international networks and a recipient of a number of awards, Marie-Rose has an MBA from Babson College, an M.S. in Community Economic Development from New Hampshire College and a B.S. in Journalism with a focus on International Relations from Boston University.  She also holds a Certificate in Asset Management from the Consortium for Housing Asset Management. She is fluent in French, Haitian Creole and English. A published author of two books, she’s written a number of articles and blogs for U.S and international organizations as well as international magazines and publications.

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Mihaela Zupancic Magovac OBE

Mihaela Zupancic Magovac is Head of Unit dealing with international and inter-institutional relations, and legal framework, at European Commission’s department for Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (DG ECHO). She has been in this position since January 2020, while previously she was in charge of communication strategy and crisis communications in the same department of the European Commission.

She started her career in European institutions in 2005 as Head of the European Commission’s Representation to Slovenia. Prior to her engagement in European institutions, she had a rich career in media as a journalist, foreign correspondent and editor.

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Degan Ali

Executive Director of Adeso, Degan Ali has more than 20 years of hands-on experience in the humanitarian and development field. Degan is a strong believer in transforming the current aid system to give more power and voice to local communities and civil society organizations. Following this belief, Degan continues to innovate and develop new solutions to build the infrastructure that will truly shift power and resources, including co-founding the Network for Empowered Aid Response (NEAR).

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Mervat Shelbaya
Head, IASC & Secretariat and Chief, IASB

Ms. Shelbaya is the Head of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) secretariat, appointed by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. In this capacity Ms. Shelbaya plays a critical role supporting UN and non-UN humanitarian partners in this unique humanitarian forum on critical operational, policy and advocacy issues in support of strengthened humanitarian action. She is also Director of OCHA’s Inter-Agency Support Branch (IASB) which, in addition to the IASC secretariat, comprises key inter-agency services and tools, including the Humanitarian Leadership Strengthening Section (HLSS) which serves as the primary adviser to the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) and the IASC on issues relating to humanitarian leadership, such as the identification of high potential HC candidates, appointment of HCs, and leadership development and support.

Ms. Shelbaya has over 20 years of experience in humanitarian affairs, including serving as the Deputy Chief of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) secretariat where she was instrumental in delivering on a successful Summit in 2016, which brought together more than 9,000 participants and culminated in key commitments made by global leaders to address the root causes of conflict, end need and enable countries and communities to better prepare for and respond to crises and be more resilient to shocks.

Ms. Shelbaya also managed response in the Asia-Pacific region as Section Chief in OCHA’s Operations and Advocacy Division and served as Deputy Chief of the Partnership Section, strengthening engagement and cooperation with Governments, Regional Organizations, Civil Society, and the Private sector. Prior to joining OCHA, she served with the UN World Food Programme in Afghanistan, Jordan, Liberia, the UAE and Rome in the areas of programming, preparedness, partnerships and monitoring and evaluation. Ms. Shelbaya also served as Director of Operations with ADRA International in Kukes, Albania and jump-started and managed its operations in Kosovo.

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Sara Pantiliano

Sara Pantuliano is Chief Executive at ODI, where she earlier served as Managing Director and Director of Humanitarian Programmes. She is a member of the UN Peace Building Fund’s Advisory Group, the High-Level Group on Humanitarian Investing of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the High-Level Commission on the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 Follow-up, Managing Editor of Disasters journal, Trustee of The New Humanitarian, and Vice-Chair of the Board of Muslim Aid.

She also served on the boards of Oxford University’s Refugees Studies Centre and the UN Association of the UK, and as a member of the ‘Independent Team of Advisers’ to ECOSOC on the reform of the UN Development System. She previously led a high-profile UN response in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains, acted as an observer at the IGAD Sudan peace process and lectured at the University of Dar es Salaam. She holds a PhD in Politics and has written extensively on conflict and humanitarian affairs.

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Sudhanshu S. Singh, an Indian humanitarian and development professional with over 32 years global experience, is founder and CEO of Humanitarian Aid International (HAI). HAI aims to become first Indian organisation, working globally with the Indian identity on poverty alleviation and disaster management. HAI is also currently hosting the international secretariat of Charter4Change.

Sudhanshu has worked with several international organisations at the Asia-Pacific level, and has been involved in managing responses to almost all major disasters in the Asia-Pacific region since 2001. Sudhanshu has been closely engaged with Agenda for Humanity, Grand Bargain and Charter for Change. He is member of the steering group of World Humanitarian Action Forum (WHAF). Sudhanshu is also one of the founders and international coordinator of Alliance for Empowering Partnerships (A4EP).

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Noha Yehia
Yemen Women Union

Noha Yehya is a holder of a Post Graduate Diploma in International Development and Gender conducted by the Gender and Development Research Center of the University of Sana’a in collaboration with the Roskilde University, Denmark. She is a highly trained humanitarian and development expert with 5 years of experience in leadership positions with Yemeni national NGOs and 10 years of experience in the social sector with UN agencies and Yemeni NGOs. She has also working experience in GBV, M&E.

Noha has a tremendous outreach and public speaking skills. That it is obvious through being a represented of local NGOs in Yemen on the World Humanitarian Summit-2016. She has participated in many international conference and workshops that are titled with many subjects including women in conflict. Since 2019, Noha Joined Yemen Women Union as the GBV Sub-cluster Co-Co-led in Yemen.

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Benedict Balderama

Benedict Balderrama is the National Coordinator of Partnership of Philippine Support Service Agencies (PHILSSA), a national network of NGOs involved in both development and humanitarian initiatives. Benedict and PHILSSA serves as secretariat to a national coalition of community-based local organizations focusing on DRRM-CCA, Aksyon sa Kahandaan sa Kalamidad at Klima (AKKMA)/ Action for Disaster and Climate Change Preparedness. PHILSSA and AKKMA are active in promoting Locally-Led Humanitarian Action. Benedict is a long-time NGO worker with more than 35 years of experience in community organizing, issue advocacy, social enterprises, and humanitarian action.

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Shahida Arif

Shahida Arif is part of NEAR and working as a Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific. She is also the thematic lead of South to South Learning and Exchange platform.

Shahida is an experienced humanitarian and resilience professional with a demonstrated history of working for more than 15 years in international relations, partnerships, humanitarian coordination, policy analysis and has led numerous emergency responses in the Global South. She has been part of various national and international organisations, Networks, UN agencies and Government Authorities on innovative and collaborative programming. She did her Master’s in Social Sciences and professional certifications in Brokering partnerships and Disaster Management.

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Imam Qasim Rashid Ahmad
Al-Khair Foundation

Imam Qasim Rashid Ahmad is the Exec. Chairman and Founder of Al-Khair Foundation, one of the UK’s foremost and fastest growing Muslim charities.
Under Imam Qasim’s leadership, the charity owns and operates three TV channels broadcasting on SKY, four UK schools, and a full complement of humanitarian and development work on a global footprint encompassing 64 countries. It is a singular achievement to have raised and spent over £175m over the last 10 years benefitting humanity.

His vision of Rescue, Recovery, Relief and Rehabilitation, alongside a goal of reaching victims at the earliest, means that the aid-delivery from Al-Khair Foundation is amongst the most effective and timely of the sector.

Imam Qasim firmly believes that as the need and the beneficiary dynamic evolve, so must the response from charities – donors and regulators require greater transparency and accountability and these are the hallmarks with which Al-Khair Foundation operates. These are also the principles which drive Imam Qasim.”

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Dylan Mathews
Peace Direct

Dylan Mathews is CEO of Peace Direct, an international peacebuilding organisation dedicated to supporting local peacebuilding efforts and amplifying the voices of local peacebuilders. His commitment to supporting local organisations in the global south spans over a decade. He has worked for a range of UK based international development and humanitarian organisations, including Oxfam, Landmine Action, the British Red Cross and Y Care International.

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Deni Melendez
Central America civil society network on DRR

Humberto Denis Meléndez Aguirre is currently the Executive Secretary of the Concertación Regional para la Gestión de Riesgos (CRGR -Central America civil society DRR network). He has experience in risk management and has worked for the attention of the climate crisis, humanitarian leadership, high business management, and development of processes for the participation citizen. In recent years he has served as Executive Secretary and facilitator of the National Network for Risk Management in Nicaragua (MNGR), an independent consultant, among other positions. He was born in Nicaragua.

Mr. Meléndez Aguirre has worked in different spaces for citizen participation, such as the Alliance for the Protection of Biodiversity – Nicaragua (APBN), Coalition of Organizations for the Right to Water (CODA), National Network of Drinking Water and Sanitation Committees (La Red CAPS), National Network for Risk Management – Nicaragua (MNGR), Citizen Forum for Monitoring the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), Network for Monitoring the Social Impacts of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in Nicaragua, Group of Interest for Sovereignty and Food and Nutrition Security (GISSAN), Nicaraguan Alliance against Climate Change (ANACC).

He has published documents and articles related to risk management and climate change and its adverse effects. He has also worked in the production of a dozen linked to the video or spaces’ social participation.

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Valeri Nkamgang Bemo
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Dr. Nkamgang Bemo has been an integral member within the Global Development division at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the past 12 years. Within the BMGF, Dr. Nkamgang Bemo pioneered and executed the Emergency Strategy to respond to all major world disasters, including the Haiti Earthquake in 2010, the Ebola Breakout in 2014, and the Nepal Earthquake in 2015. Additionally, Dr. Nkamgang Bemo designed and implemented a critical strategy for Agriculture Development in West Africa, with a focus on Nigeria. She holds over 20 years of direct experience in the field worldwide and is passionate about building local capacity within communities and national institutions, fostering innovative solutions and sustainable growth that results in lasting change.

Before joining the BMGF, Dr. Nkamgang-Bemo held various roles at the International Rescue Committee, most recently serving as Senior Technical Advisor for health in the Democratic Republic of Congo and West Africa. She has experience with a wide variety of NGOs internationally with extensive experience in Emergency Relief, as well as Clinical and Public health. Regarding education, Dr. Nkamgang Bemo received her MD from the University of Cote d’Ivoire, an Epidemiology Diploma at the University of Paris, and her MPH from Madrid Autonoma University.

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Rawaad Mahyub

Rawaad Mahyub is the CEO of WHAF and the Chair of the Aid Reimagined Global Summit Consultative Committee. WHAF aims to put beneficiaries first by building trust between different communities, organizations and individuals to maximize the effectiveness of humanitarian work. WHAF has three key areas of work; training, coordination and advocacy.

Rawaad has been working in the charity sector for over 15 years in the field of social development. Rawaad graduated from York University (U.K) with a Bachelors and Masters Joint honours degree in Chemistry with Management in Industry. His MBA at Birmingham University looked at decentralisation approaches of INGOs as a way of empowering local communities.

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Thea Hilhorst

Dorothea Hilhorst is a professor of humanitarian studies at the International Institute for Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University in The Hague. She is also the president of the International Humanitarian Studies Association, IHSA.

Thea’s focus is on aid-society relations: studying how aid is embedded in the context, impacts on governments and society, and is shaped by the manifold actions of actors in and around programmes for protection, service delivery and capacity development. She has a special interest in the intersections of humanitarianism with development, peacebuilding and gender-relations.

Her research programmes have taken place in settings affected by disaster, conflict and fragility, including Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Sri Lanka. Currently, her main research programme concerns cases where ‘conflict meets disaster’, that studies disaster governance in high-conflict, low-conflict and post-conflict societies. She was awarded an ERC advanced grant and will start a research programme on humanitarian governance in 2021.

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