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Meet our Executive committee members, elected at the 2021 Biannual General Meeting.
Hemantha Withanage was elected Chair of Friends of the Earth International in July 2021. A science graduate from the University of Kelaniya in Sri Lanka, Hemantha joined the environmental justice movement in 1990 as an environmental officer for the Environmental Foundation Ltd. In 2004, he co-founded the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) - the most visible environmental organisation in Sri Lanka today. From 2005-2008, Hemantha was Executive Director of the Philippines based NGO Forum on ADB, a network of civil society organisations monitoring the Asian Development Bank - for which he has also been the elected International Convenor a number of times. Hemantha has held leadership positions in number of other regional and international networks and is a leading environmental activist in the Asia Pacific region. He served on our Executive Committee from 2010-2018, and is currently CEJ's Senior advisor.
Silvia Quiroa, Vice-chair. Silvia is the Executive director of CESTA, Friends of the Earth El Salvador, and has been a member of the organisation for the past 17 years. She has an MSc in environmental management and she specialised in solid waste and water management. She has developed and followed up environmental projects and proposals.
Lucia Ortiz, Treasurer. Lucia joined Friends of the Earth Brazil in 2000 as a rebel geologist and environmental justice activist, committed to fighting coal power plants and mining in southern Brazil. Since then, she has joined the antiglobalisation movement, taken part in the World Social Forum and several international fora, and been in charge of local campaigns and national networks. She has acted as Regional coordinator for the Climate Justice and Energy programme in ATALC, and International coordinator of the Economic Justice and Resisting Neoliberalism programme for Friends of the Earth International. Nowadays, she is a mother, ecologist, feminist, anti-racist, antifascist movement builder, committed to system change and internationalist solidarity, and President of Friends of the Earth Brazil.
Bertrand Sansonnens is senior international adviser at Pro Natura/Friends of the Earth Switzerland. Bertrand has been involved for more than 20 years in many issues and projects dealing with biodiversity conservation, sustainable use of natural resources and community management. He has a PhD from Lausanne (Switzerland) and Montpellier (France) and studied local agroforestry systems in Sri Lanka and Sumatra, Indonesia. Since he started working for Pro Natura, he has engaged in many capacity building activities together with Friends of the Earth member groups, mostly in Central and Eastern Europe, while maintaining a strong interest in and link to the Global South. He has been a member of the European region Executive committee as well as a member of the international Forests & Biodiversity steering group.
Víctor Barro has been a member of Friends of the Earth Spain's Executive Committee since 2006 and Chair since 2010 9. He currently coordinates the Economic Justice campaign. At the local level he co-founded various social and solidarity economy projects within the framework of food sovereignty. Victor has been an activist with Friends of the Earth International since 1998. He defines himself as a “rebellious global optimist”. Despite having a degree in agricultural engineering, his main contribution to Friends of the Earth in recent years is as a communicator and photographer, especially with social movements. With his communication work, Victor wants to contribute to the protection of the rights of environmental defenders against human rights violations.
Mai Taqueban is the Executive Director of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center/Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC). Her work focuses on the recognition and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples and upland rural communities to land and environment. She started in LRC as a law intern, later as Research and Policy Development Adviser. Mai is Chair of the Alternative Law Groups and co-Convener of the Panaghiusa Philippine Network to Uphold Indigenous Peoples’ Rights. She has a PhD in Anthropology and teaches at the University of the Philippines Diliman. Mai also sits on the steering group for FoEI’s Economic Justice Resisting Neoliberalism programme and the Executive Committee of the Asia Pacific region.
Anabela Lemos has been an environmental justice activist for over 20 years. She was the founding member and Vice-Director of Livaningo, Mozambique’s first environmental organisation (founded in 1998). In 2004 she moved on to start JA! Justiça Ambiental/Friends of the Earth Mozambique she has been the Director of the Board ever since. In addition her responsibilities have included JA's strategic planning process, governance and fundraising, co-coordinating the Mphanda Nkuwa dam campaign as well as involvement in research, campaigns, and fieldwork. Anabela received the Mozambican National Environmental Prize in 2005. She is one of the founder members of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, GAIA (an alliance between individuals, NGOs, community-based organisations, academics and other parties, working together to stop incineration globally). She is on the Advisory Board for the Southern Africa Global Greengrants Fund.
Chima Williams joined the Nigerian environmental justice movement in the early 90s as a student volunteer for Environmental Rights Action (ERA) on its formation in 1993. He founded Students Environmental Assembly Nigeria - the first ever Students Environmental Justice Movement in Nigeria in 1998. Upon graduation, he continued with environmental and human rights activism providing pro-bono legal services to indigent citizens and communities suffering from human and environmental rights abuses. In 2004, Chima joined ERA/Friends of the Earth Nigeria and has led in prosecuting multinational corporations in both their host and home countries on environmental pollution cases. In October 2020, Chima was appointed the Acting Executive Director of ERA.