IRIN Board Members

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Howard French, President

Associate Professor, Columbia Journalism School, New York

Mr. French is an award-winning former New York Times international correspondent and author of several books on Africa and Asia. His career in journalism began as a freelance reporter for The Washington Post and many other publications in West Africa. From 1990 to 2008, he reported for The New York Times as bureau chief for Central America and the Caribbean, West Africa, Japan and the Koreas, and China in Shanghai. His work was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize; he was twice the recipient of an Overseas Press Club Award, and he has also won the Grantham Environmental Award, among other awards. Mr. French is the author of "A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa" (2004), which was named non-fiction book of the year by several newspapers, and won the 2005 American Library Association Black Caucus Award for Non-Fiction, and was runner up for the Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage and for the Hurston Wright Foundation's non-fiction prize. He is also the author of “China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants are Building a New Empire in Africa, which will be published by Alfred A. Knopf in May 2014. His work has been published in The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, Rolling Stone, Transition, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Crisis, and Travel and Leisure. Mr. French was a 2011 fellow of the Open Society Foundations and is presently researching a book about the geopolitics of East Asia.

Andy Martin, Vice-President and Treasurer

Founder and Director, Firetail, London, UK

Mr. Martin is the founder and Director of the civil society strategy consulting firm Firetail. He has over 15 years of experience as a strategy consultant and is an advisor to senior leaders in charities, NGOs, foundations and social enterprises. He has led strategy and evaluation engagements for clients including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Nations, the Queen’s Trust, the Royal Society of Chemistry, Oxfam International, Save the Children UK, Malaria No More UK, Comic Relief and Anthony Nolan. He also works as an advisor to a number of start-ups and social ventures. Prior to founding Firetail, Mr. Martin was Head of Strategy for Cancer Research UK, where he ran the Strategy Unit and Consumer Insight teams, covering fundraising, marketing and public engagement for the UKʼs largest charity. He was a founder member of the commercial strategy consulting firm Credo, and a founding Governor of the public participation organisation, The Democratic Society. Mr. Martin holds a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from the University of Oxford. He was the lead author of a 2014 report, commissioned by the UN, to determine whether IRIN’s spin-off was feasible.

Dr. Marco Ferrari, Secretary

Former Deputy Head of Swiss Humanitarian Aid Department, Thun, Switzerland

Mr. Ferrari served as the Chair of the ‘Drafting’ and the ‘Main Committee’ of the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in January 2005 in Kobe, Japan, which led to the adoption of the Hyogo Framework for Action. Since 1975, he has played an active role in development and cooperation and has worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Swiss NGO Caritas and, for more than 20 years, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs) in various functions, including as Deputy Head of the Humanitarian Aid Department. He also served as the Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the Senior Civil Emergency Planning Committee of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He is presently Member of the Board of the Global Risk Forum GRF Davos. He holds a doctoral degree from the Faculty of Law of the Zürich University. Mr. Ferrari was involved in organizing one of the earliest Swiss grants to IRIN in the 1990s.

Peter Bouckaert, Member

Emergencies Director, Human Rights Watch, Geneva

An expert in humanitarian crises, Mr. Bouckaert is responsible for coordinating the organization's response to major wars and other human rights crises. A Belgian-born Stanford Law School graduate, specializing in the laws of war, Mr. Bouckaert is a veteran of fact-finding missions to Lebanon, Kosovo, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Macedonia, Indonesia, Uganda, and Sierra Leone, among others.Mr. Bouckaert was recently in the Central African Republic, where he has conducted investigations into ethnic cleansing and war crimes committed during the current civil war. Mr. Bouckaert is featured in the 2014 documentary film "E-Team," which was premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2011, he investigated the use of landmines, the execution of prisoners and arbitrary arrests of African migrant workers in Libya. He has testified about war crimes before the United States Senate, the Council of Europe, and at the Yugoslav Tribunal (ICTY) in the Hague, and has written opinion pieces for papers around the world. His work has been profiled in Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, The Stanford Lawyer, and The Santa Barbara Independent Newspaper.

Mark Bidder, Member

Head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Philippines

Mr. Bidder’s career in the management and coordination of emergency relief assistance spans more than 20 years and several continents. His expertise encompasses operations support, financial planning and management, systems design and strategic leadership. He has a flair for building high-performing teams and is recognized for inspiring and fostering innovation. Over the years, he has served as a senior humanitarian affairs officer with OCHA. In 2007, he was appointed to support the director of OCHA’s humanitarian news service, IRIN, develop and implement a new product and services strategy. During his tenure, IRIN’s service grew to include Asia and the Middle East. Before returning to OCHA, Mr. Bidder headed IRIN as its Officer-in-Charge. He is now the Head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the Philippines.

Dr. Sara Pantuliano, Member

Managing Director at the Overseas Development Institute

Dr. Sara Pantuliano is a Managing Director at the Overseas Development Institute, one of the world’s leading think tanks on aid and development, where she has led the humanitarian team for six years. She is a political scientist with extensive experience in conflict and post-conflict settings. Prior to joining ODI, she led the UN Development Programme’s peacebuilding unit in Sudan, managed post-conflict response in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains, was an observer at the IGAD Sudan peace process, and lectured at the University of Dar es Salaam. She holds a PhD in politics, has written widely on Sudan, South Sudan, the Middle East and humanitarian affairs, and is a recognised public speaker on these issues. She is the Managing Editor of Disasters journal and the vice-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Risk and Resilience. She is a Trustee of SOS Sahel and serves on the advisory boards of Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre and the UN Association of the UK, amongst others. Dr. Pantuliano oversaw the temporary hosting of IRIN at ODI during IRIN’s spin-off from the UN.

Paula Fray, Member

Founder and Managing Director of frayintermedia

Ms. Paula Fray has worked in media for more than three decades as a journalist, editor, trainer and media manager. An award-winning journalist, Ms. Fray was the first female editor of the Saturday Star newspaper. In 2005, she started Paula Fray and Associates (now frayintermedia) before joining Inter Press Service (IPS) as Africa regional director in 2008. As regional head, she oversaw the operations of the international development news agency. She was a trustee of Brand SA until March 2016 and is a trustee of Media Monitoring Africa. She has wide-ranging consultancy and project management experience and has served as a mentor for organizations such as Health-e and the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA). Ms. Fray graduated with a BJourn degree from Rhodes University and has a Women and Law Certificate from UNISA. A recipient of the prestigious Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University, she is a former member of the Nieman Foundation Advisory Board at Harvard.

IRIN Advisory Group

Patricia Banks, Co-Founder of IRIN

At the beginning of 1995, Ms. Banks joined the UN in Rwanda. That year, in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, she founded IRIN as a way of improving information flows to aid workers on the ground and humanitarian decision makers. Under her leadership IRIN expanded to cover all of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caucasus, South and Central Asia, the Middle East and East Asia. Film, radio and in-depth analysis were added to IRIN’s daily news coverage. Ms. Banks was a print and TV journalist in the UK until 1979. She then began her humanitarian career with CARE and World Vision in Thailand, Cambodia, Ethiopia and Mozambique. She worked in the UN system on humanitarian emergency programmes, and was responsible for media and information activities in Ethiopia, Angola and Sudan. She established the office for the Department of Humanitarian Affairs in Somalia in 1992 and served as Senior Regional Humanitarian Officer for the Caucasus. In January 2008, Ms. Banks assumed the post of Chief of the Advocacy Information Management Branch (AIMB) in OCHA New York, which she held until her retirement from the UN in May 2012.

Yaoshiang Ho, former Vice President, Head of Business Development, at AOL/Huffington Post Media Group 

Until recently, Mr. Ho oversaw analytics and all partnerships, including distribution, ad networks, international deployments, traffic partnerships, content acquisition, and audience development for Huffington Post. He was also business lead for HuffPost Live, a live streaming news network. In that role he managed financial planning and analysis, audience development, and programming licensing. Prior to Huffington Post, he was Business Development Principal at Google where he developed content strategies and struck content acquisition partnerships for YouTube; negotiated sponsorships with sports leagues and live music promoters; and, developed fibre optic networks in East Africa as part of Project Link. When he managed business planning at The Associated Press, he built financial models for the expansion of financial news into the Asia-Pacific region and the launch of a premium ad network for newspaper members. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and an MS in Computer Science from Stanford.

Charles Onyango-Obbo, Africa Editor at the Mail & Guardian Africa 

A leading pan-African journalist, author and commentator, Mr. Onyango-Obbo is the former Managing Editor of The Monitor, a daily Ugandan newspaper. He also served as Executive Editor for the Africa and Digital Media Division within the Nation Media Group, based in Nairobi, Kenya. He is now Africa Editor at the Mail & Guardian, Africa’s first online newspaper. Mr. Onyango-Obbo has more than 87,000 followers on Twitter.

Dr. Adil A. Al-Qusadi, Co-Chair of the Saudi Humanitarian Emergency Aid and Response Team Program

Dr. Al-Qusadi recently headed the multi-million dollar transformation of the Saudi Red Crescent Authority (SRCA, 6,000 employees). Projected to take two years, under his leadership the organizational change was completed in half the time. He headed the organization’s International Humanitarian Aid Strategy Project, which developed a Vision for 2022 in partnership with the international consulting firm McKinsey & Co. Trained as a doctor of medicine, Dr. Al-Qusadi is a member of multiple government health commissions. He has represented SRCA in dozens of overseas missions, including: Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development (DIHAD XI), 2014; OIC Conference of Civil Society Organizations in OIC Member States, 2013, Turkey; and ASEAN Regional Disaster Emergency Response Simulation Exercise, Viet Nam. Currently he serves as co-chair of the Humanitarian Emergency Aid and Response Team (Saudi HEART), founded in collaboration with the Bangkok-based Asian Disaster Preparedness Center.

Naz Modirzadeh, Director, Program on International Law and Armed Conflict, Harvard Law School

Ms. Modirzadeh leads Harvard’s new International Law and Armed Conflict program, which studies the critical challenges facing the various fields of public international law related to armed conflict. Previously, she led the School’s Counterterrorism and Humanitarian Engagement Project. Ms. Modirzadeh regularly advises international humanitarian organizations, UN agencies, and governments on issues related to international humanitarian law/law of armed conflict, human rights, and counterterrorism regulations concerning humanitarian assistance. Shefocuses on the intersections between Islamic law, international human rights, and humanitarian law. She speaks, presents, and trains regularly in academic and professional circles on these topics. Her publications range from policy and monitoring reports on the use of torture to dilemmas in protection of civilians and the law of armed conflict. She previously worked for the Harvard Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research and Human Rights Watch, and served as Assistant Professor and Director of the International Human Rights Law graduate program at the American University in Cairo. She received her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley and her J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Michael Meyer, Founding Dean, Graduate School of Media and Communications at Aga Khan University

Mr. Meyer comes to Nairobi from the United Nations in New York, where he served for five years as the communications director and chief speechwriter for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. An award-winning correspondent for Newsweek, he chronicled the break-up of communist Europe and German unification and, subsequently, the decade-long war in the Balkans. Between 1999 and 2001, he worked in Kosovo with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, after which he returned to Newsweek as the magazine’s Europe Editor. He is the author of the Alexander Complex, an examination of the psychology of American empire builders, and the Year that Changed the World: the Untold Story of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, an eye-witness account of the revolutions of 1989, rated one of the “ten best books of 2009” by the Washington Post. He appears regularly as a commentator for MSNBC, CNN and NPR. He is a member of the New York Council on Foreign Relations and was an Inaugural Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.

Hugo Manassei, Global Head of Service Design, DigitasLBi

Mr. Manassei is a designer and entrepreneur who applies design thinking, business expertise and a deep understanding of digital technologies to build new types of services. He has worked with some of the biggest brands in the UK and US, while they grappled with the task of reshaping their businesses in the emerging digital age. From there, he moved into the public sector, where he focused on innovation. He was a founding partner of the internationally renowned public service design agency, Participle, which not only designs new services, but builds and scales them as enterprises. He is now with Digitas LBi, a global marketing and technology agency that transforms businesses for the digital age. In both the commercial and public sectors, he helped some of the largest institutions behave differently, embrace digital technologies as a way of building new relationships with customers, and bring about fundamental social change. Mr.Manassei received a M.A. in Anthropology of Media from University of London; a B.A., with honors, in Product Design from Glasgow School of Art; and a B.A., with honors, in Business Studies.

Dr. Randolph Kent, Senior Research Fellow, King’s College

From 2005-2014, Dr. Kent directed the Humanitarian Futures Programme at King’s College, London. The programme was designed to help enhance the anticipatory and adaptive capacities of humanitarian organizations to deal with the types of humanitarian threats that need to be faced in the future. He accepted his post with Kings College, London, after completing his assignment as UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia in April 2002. Prior to his assignment in Somalia, he served as UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Kosovo [1999], UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Rwanda [1994- 1995], Chief of the IASC’s Inter-Agency Support Unit [1992-1994], Chief of the UN Emergency Unit in Sudan [1989-1991] and Chief of Emergency Prevention and Preparedness in Ethiopia [1987-1989].

Peter da Costa, Consultant

Mr. da Costa is a development policy and strategic communication specialist who has worked extensively in Africa as well as on global issues and initiatives for more than two decades. A trained journalist, he reported from West Africa during the early 1990s for a range of print, broadcast and multimedia outlets. In 1994 he became Regional Director for Africa of Inter Press Service. In 1997 he was appointed Senior Communication Adviser to the UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, headquartered in Ethiopia. In 2003 he left the UN to pursue doctoral studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and was subsequently awarded a Ph.D. in Development Studies. His areas of expertise include Translating Research into Policy; Strategic Communication; Monitoring and Evaluation; and Organizational Development.

Robert Powell, Humanitarian Media Specialist 

Mr. Powell has wide experience in reporting and editing news, training journalists and supporting media development projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Over the past decade, Mr. Powell has focussed increasingly on the humanitarian dimension to communication in developing counties. He served as IRIN’s Managing Editor for West Africa [2003-2005] and went on to work for the infoasaid project [2010-2012], a joint venture between BBC Media Action and Internews which helped aid agencies improve their two-way communication with disaster-affected communities. Since 2012, Mr. Powell has continued to specialise in humanitarian communication and the use of communication to improve the resilience of vulnerable communities. Over the past two years, assignments have taken him to Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Ethiopia and Jordan. Mr. Powell also worked as a correspondent for Reuters news agency for 16 years in Portugal, Africa and Latin America. He holds an MA Honours degree in Hispanic Studies from the University of Edinburgh and speaks French, Spanish and Portuguese fluently.

Sean Lowrie, Director, START Network

With a background in mechanical engineering, Mr. Lowrie has been a humanitarian aid worker since 1990. He is currently director of the Start Network, formerly known as the Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies. He has worked for local organizations, lived in refugee camps, managed major relief operations in complex political emergencies, led global humanitarian operations for an international NGO, facilitated the introduction of humanitarian standards on six continents, and worked with many organizations to improve their performance. Mr. Lowrie has visited some 70 countries, worked in 22 and lived in 10. He is retraining as a social scientist through a PhD at the School of Social Science and Public Policy at King’s College London, where he is writing a thesis on organizational collaboration. He also contributes to Humanitarian Futures research programme and is a founding partner of the strategy consultancy Sensitive Dynamics.