Speakers

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  • William Jefferson Clinton was born on August 19, 1946, in Hope, Arkansas. As a delegate to Boys Nation while in high school, he met President John Kennedy in the White House Rose Garden. The encounter led him to enter a life of public service. Clinton graduated from Georgetown University and in 1968 won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. He received a law degree from Yale University in 1973, and shortly thereafter entered politics in Arkansas.

    He was defeated in his campaign for Congress in Arkansas's Third District in 1974. The next year he married Hillary Rodham, a graduate of Wellesley College and Yale Law School. In 1980, Chelsea, their only child, was born. Clinton was elected Arkansas attorney general in 1976, and won the governorship in 1978. After losing a bid for a second term, he regained the office four years later, and served until his 1992 bid for the Presidency of the United States.

    Elected president of the United States in 1992, and again in 1996, President Clinton was the first Democratic president to be awarded a second term in six decades. Under his leadership, the United States enjoyed the strongest economy in a generation and the longest economic expansion in U.S. history. President Clinton's core values of building community, creating opportunity and demanding responsibility resulted in unprecedented progress for America, including moving the nation from record deficits to record surpluses; the creation of over 22 million jobs-more than any other administration; low levels of unemployment, poverty and crime; and the highest homeownership and college enrollment rates in history. His accomplishments as president include increasing investment in education, providing tax relief for working families, helping millions of Americans move from welfare to work, expanding access to technology, encouraging investment in underserved communities, protecting the environment, countering the threat of terrorism and promoting peace and strengthening democracy around the world. His Administration's economic policies fostered the largest peacetime economic expansion in history. President Clinton previously served as the governor of Arkansas, chairman of the National Governors' Association and Attorney General of Arkansas. As former chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, he is one of the original architects and leading advocates of the Third Way movement.

    The Clinton Foundation and its Work
    After leaving the White House, President Clinton established the William J. Clinton Foundation with the mission to strengthen the capacity of people in the United States and throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence. To achieve this, the Clinton Foundation is focused on four critical areas: health security, with an emphasis on HIV/AIDS; economic empowerment; leadership development and citizen service; and racial, ethnic and religious reconciliation. The Clinton Presidential Center, located in Little Rock, Arkansas, is comprised of the Library, the archives, Clinton Foundation offices and the Clinton School of Public Service.

    Following the 2002 Barcelona AIDS Conference, President Clinton began the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative (CHAI) to assist countries in implementing large-scale, integrated, care, treatment and prevention programs that will turn the tide on the epidemic. It partners with countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia to develop operational business plans to scale-up care and treatment. CHAI works with individual governments and provides them with technical assistance, human and financial resources, and know-how from the sharing of the best practices across projects. The ultimate objective in each of these countries is to scale up public health systems to ensure broad access to high-quality care and treatment. The Initiative's long-term goal is to develop replicable models for the scale-up of integrated programs in resource-poor settings. CHAI is currently bringing life-saving care and treatment to over a quarter of a million people around the world.

    In September 2005, President Clinton hosted the inaugural meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). CGI is a non-partisan catalyst for action, bringing together a community of global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges. The inaugural meeting brought together 35 current and 10 former heads of state along with hundreds of other leaders from governments, the business community, and NGOs who contributed to innovative solutions to alleviate poverty, promote effective governance, reconcile religious conflicts and protect the environment. Nearly 300 commitments were made to improve the lives of people living on six continents, with private corporations and non-profit organizations pledging almost 70% of all commitments, which are valued in excess of $2.5 billion.

    In the United States, President Clinton also works through the Clinton Foundation Urban Enterprise Initiative to help small businesses acquire the tools they need to compete in the ever-changing urban marketplace. He also works along with the American Heart Association on the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to combat childhood obesity and reverse this deadly trend facing American children.

    Following Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, President Clinton and former President Bush led a nationwide fundraising effort and established the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund to assist survivors in the rebuilding effort. This campaign was the second collaboration for the former presidents, the first being their work on relief and recovery following the Indian Ocean tsunami. President Clinton also serves as Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, as appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2005.

  • Trisha Brown (November 25, 1936—March 18, 2017) was an American dancer and choreographer whose avant-garde and postmodernist work explores and experiments in pure movement, with and without the accompaniments of music and traditional theatrical space.

    Brown studied modern dance at Mills College in Oakland, California, and received her BA in 1958. Her style began developing after she met choreographer Yvonne Rainer in 1960; together they became founding members of the experimental Judson Dance Theater in 1962. From 1970 through 1976 Brown was also a founding member of the improvisational Grand Union, and in 1970 she formed her own company, the Trisha Brown Dance Company, which was an all-female dance company until 1979.

    Brown was influenced by the avant-garde style developed most prominently by Merce Cunningham during the 1960s and ’70s. Avant-garde dancers believed that dance could be divorced from music, that dances could be themeless and plotless, and that dance could also reflect the dancer’s internal rhythms.

    During this period Brown developed several experimental pieces. Her first, Leaning Duets and Falling Duets, choreographed from 1968 to 1971, involved dancers supporting and testing each other’s strength. In Walking on the Wall (1970) dancers moved while hanging in harnesses perpendicular to a wall. In Accumulating Pieces (1971) the dance was built up from a series of discrete gestures, each gesture building on the previous one. Her Roof Piece (1973) in New York City employed 15 dancers, each on a different Manhattan roof, following each other’s sequence of movements while the audience watched from another roof. At this time Brown also did Man Walking down the Side of a Building (1970) outside a lower-Manhattan warehouse; Spiral (1974), in which the dancers were parallel to the ground while walking down trees in a Minneapolis, Minnesota, park; and the quartet Locus (1975), a piece that had no costumes or lighting effects.

    In the late 1970s and ’80s, Brown began to incorporate design and music into her pieces and to work in traditional theaters instead of outdoors. Reclassified as a postmodern choreographer, she presented such pieces as Glacial Decoy (1979), which featured a backdrop of black-and-white photos by Robert Rauschenberg; Set and Reset (1983), with costumes and film clips by Rauschenberg and a score by Laurie Anderson; and If You Couldn’t See Me (1994), a solo in which Brown’s back is to the audience for most of the performance. Her later works include M.O. (1995), which was set to Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Musical Offering, and Present Tense (2003), a collaboration with artist Elizabeth Murray that included music by John Cage. I love my robots (2007), which featured robots made of cardboard tubes, drew praise for its wit and poignancy.

    Brown directed several operas and choreographed Carmen (1986). Suffering from vascular dementia, she created her last dance in 2011. Her numerous honors include a MacArthur Foundation fellowship (1991).

  • His Excellency Shinzo Abe is the Prime Minister of Japan.

    For more information please visit the Office of the Prime Minister.

  • Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah (formerly Rania Al-Yasin) was born in Kuwait on August 31, 1970 to a notable Jordanian family of Palestinian origin.

    She completed her primary and secondary education in Kuwait and in 1991 obtained a bachelor's degree in Business Administration from the American University in Cairo.

    Upon her graduation from university, Queen Rania returned to Jordan and pursued a career in banking, followed by a brief career in the field of information technology.

    His Majesty King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein (then Prince) married Queen Rania on June 10, 1993. They have four children: HRH Prince Hussein, born June 28, 1994; HRH Princess Iman, born September 27, 1996; HRH Princess Salma, born September 26, 2000; and HRH Prince Hashem, born January 30, 2005.

    Since her marriage to then Prince Abdullah, Queen Rania has channeled her energies behind initiatives that aim to improve the livelihood various sectors of society in Jordan and beyond.

    In Jordan, Queen Rania's activities encompass issues such as education, health, youth, and the environment, among others. Her Majesty has been particularly vocal about the importance of cross cultural and interfaith dialogue towards greater understanding, tolerance and acceptance across the world. She also has a special interest in several core issues: the promotion of excellence, creativity, and innovation in education; the improvement of the quality of life of the family unit including the protection of children from violence and the promotion of early childhood development; and the development of income-generating projects and the advancement of best practices in the field of microfinance.

    Promoting excellence and creativity in education
    Queen Rania believes strongly that enhancing education is vital for bridging gaps, giving people hope, improving lives, and ensuring stability throughout the world. To this effect, over the past few years, Her Majesty has launched, championed, and given patronage to a number of initiatives in education and learning.

    Improving Access to Early Childhood Programs and IT
    Her Majesty championed the development and implementation of the Ministry of Education's (MOE) program of introducing a national early childhood development program and curriculum in Jordan. Queen Rania has also been a strong supporter of a nationwide program to introduce computers and information technology into schools across Jordan.

    Raising the Bar
    In October 2005, Her Majesty initiated, in partnership with the MOE, an annual teacher award, known as the Queen Rania Al-Abdullah Award for Excellence in Education, aimed at setting national standards of excellence in teaching, and celebrating, encouraging and honoring those who achieve them.

    Preparing Youth for the Workplace
    Queen Rania believes that an essential aspect of education is to equip youth with the necessary skills that enable them to perform well in the workplace. She is a strong supporter of INJAZwhich was established by Save the Children in 1999 and launched as a Jordanian non-profit organization by Her Majesty Queen Rania in 2001. INJAZ aims to build the skills of Jordan's future work force and enhance competitive adaptability in the global marketplace. Designed for youth between 14 and 24 years of age, INJAZ training courses develop leadership capacity and familiarize students with financial issues and the needs of the local market. The program works in cooperation with private sector volunteers who teach the INJAZ training courses.

    In May 2004, Her Majesty hosted the first joint annual meeting for the advisory council and board of directors of World Links Arab Region (WLAR) - a program which aims to improve educational outcomes, economic opportunities, and mutual global understanding for youth in developing countries through the use of technology and the Internet.

    Providing a Well-Rounded Education
    Queen Rania is establishing the first hands-on children's museum in the Kingdom with the mission to create interactive learning experiences that have the power to encourage and nurture lifelong learning for children and their families.

    Improving the quality of life of the family unit
    In 1998, Queen Rania oversaw the launching of Jordan River Foundation's Child Safety Program, which aims to comprehensively address the immediate needs for protecting children at risk of abuse and to adopt a long-term campaign to increase public awareness about violence against children. "Dar Al-Aman," the child safety center, which is the first of its kind in the Arab region, became operational in August 2000, offering protection and rehabilitation to abused and neglected children and counsel to their families. In 2005, JRF opened the Queen Rania Family and Child Center which promotes positive, hands-on training for parents and provide facilities to encourage constructive and educational activities for children.

    Queen Rania heads the National Council for Family Affairs, which was established by a royal decree in September 2001 to contribute to improving the quality of life of all Jordanian families. The council aims to ensure the right policy environment to support the development of family protection and unity and to identify and implement mechanisms for increased coordination between Jordanian public institutions and civil society organizations working in the field of family affairs. It also collects data and information, contributes to policy developments, and monitors and shares information on the well-being of children and families.

    The council's establishment as an umbrella organization came as a fruition of concrete national efforts to promote the well-being of Jordanian families. The National Team for Family Safety, which is chaired by Her Majesty, had been set up in 2000 to safeguard women and children in particular from domestic violence and abuse, and to establish a unified policy on preventing, managing, and treating cases of abuse. The Queen also headed the National Team for Early Childhood Development, founded in 2000 to draw up a national strategy to comprehensively tackle the issue of Early Childhood Development in Jordan.

    In March 2000, Queen Rania was appointed by the Jordanian Government to chair the Royal Commission on Human Rights.

    Encouraging income-generation and microfinance
    In 1995, Queen Rania established the Jordan River Foundation (JRF), a non-governmental organization working at the grassroots level to motivate low-income Jordanian families to participate in microfinance and income-generating initiatives. The foundation's projects include Jordan River Designs, Wadi Al-Rayan, and Bani Hamida. These initiatives not only assist women in creating additional sources of income to support their families, but are also designed to empower women to become decision-makers within their family unit and to be skilled contributors to the Jordanian economy. Additionally, these projects have contributed to the revival of a heritage of craft production and tribal rug-weaving in Jordan.

    In 1998, under the direction of Queen Rania, the Jordan River Foundation embarked on a project to deliver non-financial business support and training to microentrepreneurs in order to assist them in launching, expanding, and improving their businesses. Focusing on long-term sustainability and the adoption of best practices, this initiative is an extension of the Queen's recognized involvement in microfinance in the international arena.

    Encouraging the use of IT, tourism, and the preservation of Jordan's heritage
    Queen Rania also actively supports the development of Jordan's tourism sector, backing initiatives such as the International Center of Excellence Project that aims to develop and maintain Jordan's hospitality services. Through her involvement, the Queen is helping to highlight Jordan as a safe, comfortable, and first-class tourism destination that offers modernity and top-notch services on the one hand, with authenticity and heritage on the other.

    On the cultural front, Queen Rania supports numerous events that promote Jordan's heritage, arts, and cultural diversity. The Queen headed the Higher National Committee of the Declaration of Amman the Arab Cultural Capital 2002.

    She heads the Higher National Committee of the Jordan Song Festival, and also lends annual patronage to the Jordanian Festival for the Arab Child Song.

    In tribute to His Majesty the Late King Hussein, and on the first anniversary of his death, Queen Rania produced "The King's Gift", a children's book about the Late King. Proceeds of the book go to the benefit of underprivileged children across Jordan.

    Working internationally
    In September 2002, Queen Rania accepted an invitation by the World Economic Forum (WEF) Foundation Board to join as a member. She is also the Chairperson for the nominations committee of the Young Global Leaders at WEF. In January 2003, the Queen attended her first meeting as the only serving member from the Arab World. The Queen was invited to become a member of the Board in recognition of her concern for the state of the world and her commitment to engaging in collaborative efforts to meet the challenges of this century.

    In November 2000, in recognition of her commitment to the cause of children and youth, the United Nations Children's Fund invited Queen Rania to join its Global Leadership Initiative. The Queen is working alongside other world leaders, including former South African President Nelson Mandela, in a global movement seeking to improve the welfare of children.

    In 2001, Queen Rania became a member of the Board of Directors of the GAVI Fund, a non-profit organization harnessing resources that seek to provide children in the poorest countries of the world with access to life-saving vaccines. She joins world-famous personalities to call attention to the need to vaccinate every child, everywhere.

    In early 2002, Queen Rania joined the Board of Directors of the International Youth Foundation, based in Baltimore, Maryland, in the United States. She joins a distinguished group of business, government, and civil society leaders from across the globe to support the work of one of the world's largest public foundations helping young people learn basic life skills and get the education, training, and opportunities they need to succeed.

    In September 2003, Queen Rania accepted an invitation to join the Board of Directors of the Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA), thus formalizing a relationship of support and advocacy which began in 2000. By accepting this invitation, Queen Rania reaffirmed her belief in FINCA's vision that microfinance organizations provide a tangible means of giving large numbers of the world's poorest a real stake in their societies.

    In 2005 Queen Rania was appointed as the MENA regional ambassador for Junior Achievement International.

    She is Honorary President of the Arab Academy for Banking and Financial Sciences (AABFS), a pioneering institute in the region offering technical and academic training in banking and financial services. Queen Rania is also one of three Global Leaders for UNICEF.

    She is Honorary President of the Arab Women Labor Affairs Committee of the Arab Labor Organization and is Honorary Chairperson of the Jordanian Chapter of Operation Smile.

    Queen Rania is Patron of the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), and in October 2001 she was awarded the prestigious Italian Government-sponsored Life Achievement Award in recognition of her efforts for the international cause of osteoporosis. Queen Rania is also patron of the Arab International Women's Forum and, Ambassador for the Hans Christian Anderson Foundation promoting literacy, and in September 2005, she was awarded the Honorary Citizenship of Milan.

    Her Majesty is President of the Jordan Society for Organ Donation and the Jordan Cancer Society.

    On July 12, 2001, Queen Rania was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) degree from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

    She is fluent in Arabic and English, and has a working knowledge of French.

  • Paula-Mae Weekes is a retired Justice of Appeal of the judiciaries of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and The Turks and Caicos Islands. She was educated at the Bishop Anstey High School, a premier secondary educational institution established in 1921 by Bishop Arthur Henry Anstey for the education of Anglican girls.

    In 1977 she entered The University of the West Indies, Faculty of Law, Cave Hill, Barbados graduating in 1980 with a Bachelor of Laws (Hons).  She obtained her Legal Education Certificate from the Hugh Wooding Law School in 1982 and was admitted to the practice of law in Trinidad and Tobago later that year.

    President Weekes joined the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions as State Counsel I in November 1982.  After eleven years representing the State in the Magistrates’, High and Appeal Courts she resigned as Senior State Counsel in 1993 and entered private practice.  She established her own Chambers after a brief period in the Chambers of a distinguished Senior Counsel.

    In 1996 she was invited to apply for the office of Puisne Judge in the Judiciary of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and was so appointed on September 1, 1996.  She presided in the trial courts for nine years, almost exclusively in the criminal jurisdiction.

    President Weekes was elevated to the Court of Appeal in January 2005 and presided in that court for eleven years.  She retired from the Judiciary of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on August 31, 2016, after two decades of service.

    Upon her retirement President Weekes was invited to join the Appellate Bench of the Judiciary of The Turks and Caicos Islands.  On her assumption in September 2016 she became the first woman to serve in that capacity.  Her last sitting was in November/December 2017 and she resigned in January 2018 ahead of her nomination for the Presidency.

    President Weekes is a qualified judicial educator, having been made a Fellow of the Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute in 2000.  Since that time, she has been deeply involved in training for various levels of judicial officer and has conceptualised, designed and facilitated a wide range of training programmes both locally and regionally.

    Immediately after retirement from the Judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago President Weekes enjoyed a new incarnation as Executive Director of PMW Criminal Justice Consultancy and Training a small outfit providing services geared towards the development of the criminal justice sector.  This venture is now in abeyance.

    President Weekes was Course Director for Ethics Rights and Obligations of the Legal Profession at the Hugh Wooding Law School (2010-2016) and created the current course manual, supervised associate tutors, pioneered innovative pedagogical techniques and served as First Examiner during that period.

    From 1997 until her election as President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago President Weekes was the Chancellor of the Anglican Church in the Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago.  She was a member of the Diocesan Council and provided legal services on ecclesiastical and other matters to three successive Bishops of the Diocese.

    President Weekes received the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, which is the highest national award on 14th September 2018. She is a member of the Platform for Girls’ Education, which is a global body comprised of 12 influential people aimed at securing 12 years of quality education for girls across the world. The Platform, which is co-chaired by the British Foreign Secretary and the Kenyan Minister of Education, arose out of commitments to girls’ education made at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April 2018. The intention of the Platform is to build the capacity of developing countries to provide girls with quality education.

    President Weekes is an avid cultivator of orchids and enjoys exploring foreign lands.

    Biographical information provided by the Office of the President of Trinidad and Tobago in October 2018.

  • Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president of the French Republic on May 6, 2007. He previously served as Minister of State, in charge of the Interior and Regional Development between  2004 and 2007; Minister of State in charge of Economy, Finance and Industry in Jean-Pierre Raffarin's second government; and Minister of the Interior, Internal Security and Local Freedom in Jean-Pierre Raffarin's government.

    President Sarkozy has held positions of elected office since 1977, when he served as a member of the Municipal Council of Neuilly-sur-Seine.  He went on to become mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine, a role he filled from 1983 - 2002.  During this time he also served as vice-chairman of the General Council of the Hauts-de-Seine in charge of cultural education (1986-1988) and was elected to the National Assembly as deputy for the Hauts-de-Seine (1988-2002). He has served as chairman of the Rassemblement pour la République (Rally for the Republic) local committee (2000), chairman of the General Council of the Hauts-de-Seine (2004), and minister for the budget (1993-1995) and for communication (1994-1995), among other positions.

    President Sarkozy is a lawyer formerly registered with the Bar of Paris. He received a law degree in 1981 and a masters degree in civil law in 1978. He earned his masters in political science (thesis on the 27th April, 1969 Referendum) and studied at the Institut d'études politiques de Paris from 1979-1981.

    President Sarkozy is the author of Testimony: France in the Twenty-first Century (2007) and numerous other publications.  He is married and the father of three children.

  • Her Excellency Michelle Bachelet is the President of the Republic of Chile.

    For more information, please click here

    Source: Online biographical information provided by the Office of President Michelle Bachelet.

  • On 11 November 2011, Michael D. Higgins was inaugurated as the ninth President of Ireland.

    A passionate political voice, a poet and writer, academic and statesman, human rights advocate, promoter of inclusive citizenship and champion of creativity within Irish society, Michael D. Higgins has previously served at almost every level of public life in Ireland, including as Ireland’s first Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.

    Michael D. Higgins was born on 18 April 1941 in Limerick city and was raised in County Clare. He was a factory worker and a clerk before becoming the first in his family to access higher education. He studied at the University College Galway, the University of Manchester and Indiana University.

    Michael D. Higgins is married to Sabina Higgins, and they have four children. Sabina Higgins attended the Dublin Stanislavski Acting Studio and was a founding member of the Focus Theatre.

    As a lecturer in political science and sociology in National University of Ireland, Galway, and in the United States, Michael D. Higgins was a passionate proponent for the extension of access to third level education beyond the walls of established Universities. He was centrally involved in the development of extra-mural studies at National University of Ireland, Galway, and he travelled extensively across the West of Ireland to provide accessible evening classes for interested citizens.

    A desire to work more directly for equality and justice led Michael D. Higgins to enter public life and he went on to serve as a public representative at many levels from Councillor and Mayor to 9 years in the Seanad and 25 in Dáil Éireann.

    As Ireland’s first Minister for the Arts in 1993-97, Michael D. Higgins’ achievements included the reinvigoration of the Irish film industry, the establishment of Teilifís na Gaeilge, now TG4, and the repeal of censorship under Section 31 of the Broadcasting Acts. He also established a rich network of local arts and cultural venues which brought a crucial access to citizens across Ireland to these facilities. Moreover, he drove the revitalisation of Ireland’s canal network, resulting in over 1,000 kilometres of navigable waterways, supporting thousands of jobs, and creating wealth in many rural and economically-deprived areas of the State.

    Michael D. Higgins has, like many in Ireland, seen generations of his family emigrate. He has a strong interest and solidarity with the Irish abroad and has been a regular visitor to Irish Centres in Britain.

    Throughout his life, Michael D. Higgins has campaigned for human rights and for the promotion of peace and democracy in Ireland and in many other parts of the world, from Nicaragua and Chile to Cambodia, Iraq and Somalia. In 1992, Michael D. Higgins was the first recipient of the Seán MacBride Peace Prize from the International Peace Bureau in Helsinki, in recognition of his work for peace and justice in many parts of the world.

    Michael D. Higgins is also a writer and poet, contributing to many books covering diverse aspects of Irish politics, sociology, history and and culture. He has published two collections of essays — ‘Causes for Concern — Irish Politics, Culture and Society’ and ‘Renewing the Republic’. He has also published four collections of poetry — ’The Betrayal; The Season of Fire; An Arid Season’ and ‘New and Selected Poems’.

    Among the other appointments Michael D. Higgins has held are:

    • Member of Dáil Éireann for 25 years;
    • Member of Seanad Éireann (the Irish Senate) for 9 years;
    • Ireland’s first Cabinet Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht 1993-97;
    • As Minister, he had direct responsibility for the promotion of the Irish language and for the economic and social development of Irish-speaking areas in the State;
    • Labour Party Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs in the Irish Parliament and founder member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs;
    • Lord Mayor of Galway on two occasions;
    • Honorary Adjunct Professor at the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland, Galway;
    • Regular columnist for the popular ‘Hot Press’ magazine over the period 1982—1992, during which he engaged a young audience in the social issues of the day.

     

    Source: President of Ireland website, April 2018

  • Mary Ellen Iskenderian is President and CEO of Women’s World Banking, the global nonprofit devoted to giving more low-income women access to the financial tools and resources they require to achieve security and prosperity. Ms. Iskenderian joined Women’s World Banking in 2006 and leads the Women’s World Banking global team, based in New York and also serves as a member of the Investment Committee of its $50 million impact investment fund. Prior to Women’s World Banking, Ms. Iskenderian worked for 17 years at the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank. Before, she worked for the investment bank Lehman Brothers. Ms. Iskenderian is a permanent member of the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as a member of the Women’s Forum of New York and the Business and Sustainable Development Commission.  Ms. Iskenderian holds an MBA from the Yale School of Management and a Bachelor of Science in International Economics from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

    Source: Woman's World Banking

  • On 5 June 2018, the United Nations General Assembly elected Ecuadorean Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of its upcoming 73rd session; only the fourth woman to hold that position in the history of the world body, and the first since 2006.

    The President-elect of the seventy-third session of the General Assembly, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, has more than 20 years of multilateral experience in international negotiations, peace, security, defence, disarmament, human rights, indigenous peoples, gender equality, sustainable development, environment, biodiversity, climate change and multilateral cooperation. She has served Ecuador as Minister of Foreign Affairs (twice), Minister of National Defence, and Coordinating Minister of Natural and Cultural Heritage.

    In those capacities she coordinated the Sectorial Council on Foreign Policy and Promotion, which includes the Ministries of Tourism, Culture and HeritageForeign Trade, and the Environment. Ms. Espinosa Garcés was Chair of the Group of 77 and China until January 2018, and also served as Chair of the Andean Community. At the fifty-sixth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, she promoted the adoption of the resolution presented by Ecuador entitled “Indigenous women: key actors in poverty and hunger eradication”. She was a chief negotiator at the sixteenth and seventeenth Conferences of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, where she facilitated the adoption of key elements in the outcome document entitled “The future we want”.

    As Minister of National Defence of Ecuador, Ms. Espinosa Garcés participated in debates on women, peace and security, and promoted the creation of the South American Defence School of the Union of South American Nations, among other initiatives.

    In 2008, she was the first woman to become Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations in New York. During that posting, she cofacilitated the Working Group on the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly at its sixty-third session. She also led efforts at the global level towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

    As Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, she led and supported various negotiation processes at the Human Rights Council. She chaired the work of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Geneva, and at the twenty-first Conference of the Parties (COP 21) on Climate Change in Paris.

    Ms. Espinosa Garcés was Special Adviser to the President of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the Constitution of Ecuador in 2008 and Regional Director (South America) and Adviser on Biodiversity (Geneva) at the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In both positions, she worked for approximately 10 years on various initiatives at WIPO and WTO; participated in negotiations on intellectual property, and traditional and ancestral knowledge; and supported the Andean Community and the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization on strategic management and sustainable development.

    Before beginning her political and diplomatic career, Ms. Espinosa Garcés was Associate Professor and Researcher at the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales Sede Ecuador. During her time in academia, she received scholarships and grants from the Latin American Studies Association, the Ford Foundation, the Society of Woman Geographers and the Rockefeller Foundation towards her research in the Amazon. She also received awards from the German Agency for Cooperation, Deutsche Gesellschaft fϋr Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) and Natura Foundation for her research work.

    Ms. Espinosa Garcés has written over 30 academic articles about the Amazon region, culture, heritage, sustainable development, climate change, intellectual property, foreign policy, regional integration, defence and security. She is a PhD candidate in Environmental Geography at Rutgers University. She holds a master’s degree in social sciences and Amazonian studies and a postgraduate diploma in anthropology and political science from the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales Sede Ecuador, as well as a bachelor’s degree in applied linguistics from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador.

  • Madeleine K. Albright is a professor, author, diplomat and businesswoman who served as the 64th Secretary of State of the United States. Dr. Albright received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Obama on May 29, 2012.

    In 1997, Dr. Albright was named the first female Secretary of State and became, at that time, the highest ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. As Secretary of State, Dr. Albright reinforced America’s alliances, advocated for democracy and human rights, and promoted American trade, business, labor, and environmental standards abroad. From 1993 to 1997, Dr. Albright served as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and was a member of the President’s Cabinet. From 1989 to 1992, she served as President of the Center for National Policy. Previously, she was a member of President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Council and White House staff and served as Chief Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Edmund S. Muskie.

    Dr. Albright is a Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. Dr. Albright is Chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm, and Chair of Albright Capital Management LLC, an investment advisory firm focused on emerging markets. She also chairs the National Democratic Institute and serves as the president of the Truman Scholarship Foundation. She is a member of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Policy Board, a group tasked with providing the Secretary of Defense with independent, informed advice and opinion concerning matters of defense policy. Dr. Albright also serves on the Board of the Aspen Institute. In 2009, Dr. Albright was asked by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to Chair a Group of Experts focused on developing NATO’s New Strategic Concept.

    Dr. Albright’s latest book, Fascism: A Warning was published on April 10 and debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. She is the author of five other New York Times bestselling books: her autobiography, Madam Secretary: A Memoir (2003); The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs (2006); Memo to the President: How We Can Restore America's Reputation and Leadership (2008); Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box (2009); and Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 (2012).

    Dr. Albright received a B.A. with Honors from Wellesley College, and Master’s and Doctorate degrees from Columbia University’s Department of Public Law and Government, as well as a Certificate from its Russian Institute. She is based in Washington, DC.

  • Leymah Gbowee received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her work in leading a women’s peace movement that brought an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. Gbowee shared the prize with fellow Liberian Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Yemen-native Tawakkol Karman. Gbowee and Sirleaf became the second and third African women to win the prize, preceded by the late Wangari Maathai of Kenya.

    Leymah is the founder and president of Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa based in Liberia. Her foundation provides educational and leadership opportunities to girls, women and youth in West Africa.

    Leymah was born in central Liberia in 1972. She was living with her parents and sisters in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, when the First Liberian Civil War erupted. She recalls clearly the day the first Liberian civil war came to her doorstep. “All of a sudden one July morning I wake up at 17, going to the university to fulfill my dream of becoming a medical doctor, and fighting erupted.”

    Witnessing the effects of war on Liberians, she decided to train as a trauma counsellor to treat former child soldiers.

    A second civil war broke out in 1999 and brought systematic rape and brutality to an already war-weary Liberia. Responding to the conflict, Leymah mobilized an interreligious coalition of Christian and Muslim women and organized the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement.  Through Leymah’s leadership, thousands of women staged pray-ins and nonviolent protests demanding reconciliation and the resuscitation of high-level peace talks. The pressure pushed President Charles Taylor into exile, and smoothed the path for the election of Africa’s first female head of state, fellow 2011 Nobel Laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Documenting these efforts in the Tribeca Film Festival 2008 Best Documentary winner Pray the Devil Back to Hell, Leymah demonstrated the power of social cohesion and relationship-building in the face of political unrest and social turmoil.

    In 2007, Leymah earned a Master’s degree in Conflict Transformation from Eastern Mennonite University in the United States. Meanwhile, she continued to build women’s agency in fighting for sustainable peace.  She is a founding member and former coordinator for Women in Peacebuilding/West African Network for Peacebuilding (WIPNET/WANEP). She also co-founded the Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN-Africa) to promote cross-national peace-building efforts and transform women’s participation as victims in the crucible of war to mobilized armies for peace.

    Ever-focused on sustaining peace, Leymah continued working on behalf of grassroots efforts in her leadership positions. She served as a member of both the African Feminist Forum and the African Women’s Leadership Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights, and as a commissioner-designate for the Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  Through these positions, Leymah addressed the particular vulnerability of women and children in war-torn societies.

    In her current position as President of Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, Leymah pushes for greater inclusion of women as leaders and agents of change in Africa.

    Since winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Leymah travels internationally to speak about the pernicious and devastating effects of war and gender-based violence. She has been featured on a number of international television programmes including CNN, BBC and France24, and speaks internationally advocating for women’s high level inclusion in conflict-resolution. She has received several honorary degrees from universities, and is a Global Ambassador for Oxfam.

    She serves on the Board of Directors of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, Gbowee Peace Foundation and the PeaceJam Foundation, and she is a member of the African Women Leaders Network for Reproductive Health and Family Planning. She has received honorary degrees from Rhodes University in South Africa, the University of Alberta in Canada, Polytechnic University in Mozambique, and University of Dundee in Scotland. After receiving the Barnard College Medal of Distinction in 2013, she was named a Distinguished Fellow in Social Justice. Leymah is the proud mother of six children.

    When asked how she first found the courage to become a peace activist, Leymah explained: “When you’ve lived true fear for so long, you have nothing to be afraid of. I tell people I was 17 when the war started in Liberia. I was 31 when we started protesting.  I have taken enough dosage of fear that I have gotten immune to fear.”

    "It is time to stand up, sisters, and do some of the most unthinkable things. We have the power to turn our upsidedown world right."

    Source: Nobel Women's Initiative

  • Lee C. Bollinger became Columbia University's nineteenth president in 2002. Under his leadership, Columbia stands again at the very top rank of great research universities, distinguished by comprehensive academic excellence, historic institutional development, an innovative and sustainable approach to global engagement, and unprecedented levels of alumni involvement and financial stability.

    President Bollinger is Columbia's first Seth Low Professor of the University, a member of the Columbia Law School faculty, and one of the country's foremost First Amendment scholars. Each fall semester, he teaches "Freedom of Speech and Press" to Columbia undergraduate and graduate students. His most recent book, Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open: A Free Press for a New Century, has placed Bollinger at the center of public discussion about the importance of global free speech to continued social progress.

    As president of the University of Michigan, Bollinger led the school's historic litigation in Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, Supreme Court decisions that upheld and clarified the importance of diversity as a compelling justification for affirmative action in higher education. He speaks and writes frequently about the value of racial, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity to American society through opinion columns, media interviews, and public appearances around the country. Columbia remains one of the most diverse universities among its peer institutions and has seen the number of applicants to Columbia College and the selectivity of admissions at the school reach record levels.

    As Columbia's president, Bollinger conceived and led the University's most ambitious expansion in over a century with the creation of the Manhattanville campus in West Harlem, the first campus plan in the nation to receive the U.S. Green Building Council's highest certification for sustainable development.  An historic community benefits agreement emerging from the city and state review process for the new campus provides Columbia's local neighborhoods with decades of investment in the community's health, education and economic growth.

    The first two buildings, the Jerome L. Greene Science Center and the Lenfest Center for the Arts opened in the spring of 2017. The Jerome L. Greene Science Center is the headquarters of the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, a cornerstone venture among Columbia's expanding interdisciplinary initiatives in neuroscience, nanotechnology and precision medicine. The home of state-of-the-art performance, screening, and presentation spaces, and a vibrant, publicly accessible venue for Columbia's Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, the Lenfest Center allows Columbia University's School of the Arts to realize the creative vision of students and faculty, while becoming an active, engaged partner with the thriving cultural life of Upper Manhattan.

    Bollinger's commitment to excellence in architecture is evident across Columbia's campuses, from Renzo Piano's master plan for Manhattanville, to Rafael Moneo's design for the Northwest Corner Building on the historic Morningside campus, to the new Columbia Sports Center at Baker Field designed by Steven Holl.

    Among Bollinger's signal achievements at Columbia are the development of a network of eight Columbia Global Centers on four continents and the creation of new venues on the University's home campus supporting global conversations and scholarship, including the World Leaders Forum and the Committee on Global Thought

    From November 1996 to 2002, Bollinger was president of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he also served as a law professor and dean of the law school.

    He is a fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He is widely published on legal and constitutional issues involving free speech and press, and his books include: Eternally Vigilant: Free Speech in the Modern EraImages of a Free PressThe Tolerant Society: Freedom of Speech and Extremist Speech in America; and Contract Law in Modern Society: Cases and Materials.  In January 2010, Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide Open: A Press for a New Century was published by Oxford University Press.

    Bollinger has received the National Humanitarian Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice and the National Equal Justice Award from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund for his leadership on affirmative action. He also received the Clark Kerr Award, the highest award conferred by the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, for his service to higher education, especially on matters of freedom of speech and diversity. He is the recipient of 10 honorary degrees from universities in this country and abroad.

    Bollinger is a director of Graham Holdings Company (formerly The Washington Post Company) and serves as a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board.

    After graduating from the University of Oregon and Columbia Law School, where he was an Articles Editor of the Law Review, Bollinger served as law clerk for Judge Wilfred Feinberg on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and for Chief Justice Warren Burger on the United States Supreme Court. He joined the University of Michigan Law School faculty in 1973.

    Bollinger was born in Santa Rosa, California, and raised there and in Baker, Oregon. He is married to artist Jean Magnano Bollinger, and they have two children and five grandchildren.

  • Kofi A. Annan was the seventh secretary-general of the United Nations, serving two terms from January 1, 1997, to December 31, 2006, and was the first to emerge from the ranks of United Nations staff. In 2001 Kofi Annan and the United Nations were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace with the citation praising his leadership for "bringing new life to the organization."

    After leaving the United Nations (UN), Kofi Annan continued to press for better policies to meet the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly in Africa. He also continued to use his experience to mediate and resolve conflict. In Kenya in early 2008, Mr. Annan led the African Union's Panel of Eminent African Personalities to help find a peaceful resolution to the post-election violence.

    In addition to his work with the Kofi Annan Foundation, Mr. Annan served as the chairman of the Africa Progress Panel, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the Prize Committee of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and Concordia 21, and as president of the Global Humanitarian Forum. Mr. Annan also served as the chancellor of the University of Ghana and is an active member of the Elders. He was also a board member, patron, or honorary member of a number of organizations, including the UN Foundation, the World Economic Forum, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Club of Madrid, and the World Organisation Against Torture.

    One of Kofi Annan's main priorities as secretary-general was a comprehensive program of reform aimed at revitalizing the United Nations and making the international system more effective.  He was a constant advocate for human rights, the rule of law, the Millennium Development Goals, and Africa, and sought to bring the organization closer to the global public by forging ties with civil society, the private sector, and other partners.

    At Mr. Annan's initiative, UN peacekeeping was strengthened in ways that enabled the United Nations to cope with a rapid rise in the number of operations and personnel. It was also at Mr. Annan's urging that, in 2005, member states established two new intergovernmental bodies: the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council. Mr Annan likewise played a central role in the creation of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the adoption of the UN's first-ever counter-terrorism strategy, and the acceptance by member states of the "responsibility to protect" people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.  His "Global Compact" initiative, launched in 1999, has become the world's largest effort to promote corporate social responsibility.

    Mr. Annan undertook wide-ranging diplomatic initiatives. In 1998 he helped to ease the transition to civilian rule in Nigeria.  Also that year, he visited Iraq in an effort to resolve an impasse between that country and the Security Council over compliance with resolutions involving weapons inspections and other matters - an effort that helped to avoid an outbreak of hostilities, which was imminent at that time. In 1999 he was deeply involved in the process by which Timor-Leste gained independence from Indonesia.  He was responsible for certifying Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, and in 2006 his efforts contributed to securing a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah. Also in 2006, he mediated a settlement of the dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria over the Bakassi peninsula through implementation of the judgment of the International Court of Justice. His efforts to strengthen the Organization's management, coherence and accountability involved major investments in training and technology, the introduction of a new whistleblower policy and financial disclosure requirements and steps aimed at improving co-ordination at the country level.

    Mr. Annan joined the UN system in 1962 as an administrative and budget officer with the World Health Organization in Geneva. He later served with the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, the UN Emergency Force in Ismailia, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees in Geneva and in various senior posts in New York dealing with human resources, budget, finance and staff security. Immediately before becoming secretary-general, he was under-secretary-general for peacekeeping. Mr. Annan also served as special representative of the secretary-general to the former Yugoslavia from 1995 to 1996, and facilitated the repatriation from Iraq of more than 900 international staff and other non-Iraqi nationals in 1990.

    Kofi Annan was born in Kumasi, Ghana on April 8, 1938 and passed on August 18, 2018.  

  • His Holiness the 14th the Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, is the head of state and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. He was born Lhamo Dhondrub on 6 July 1935, in a small village called Taktser in northeastern Tibet. Born to a peasant family, His Holiness was recognized at the age of two, in accordance with Tibetan tradition, as the reincarnation of his predecessor the 13th Dalai Lama, and thus an incarnation Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion.

    The Dalai Lamas are the manifestations of the Bodhisattva (Buddha) of Compassion, who chose to reincarnate to serve the people. Lhamo Dhondrub was, as Dalai Lama, renamed Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso - Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom. Tibetans normally refer to His Holiness as Yeshe Norbu, the Wishfulfilling Gem or simply Kundun - The Presence.

    The enthronement ceremony took place on February 22, 1940 in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

    Education in Tibet
    He began his education at the age of six and completed the Geshe Lharampa Degree (Doctorate of Buddhist Philosophy) when he was 25 in 1959. At 24, he took the preliminary examinations at each of the three monastic universities: Drepung, Sera and Ganden. The final examination was conducted in the Jokhang, Lhasa during the annual Monlam Festival of Prayer, held in the first month of every year Tibetan calendar.

    Leadership Responsibilities
    On November 17, 1950, His Holiness was called upon to assume full political power (head of the State and Government) after some 80,000 Peoples Liberation Army soldiers invaded Tibet. In 1954, he went to Beijing to talk peace with Mao Tse-tung and other Chinese leaders, including Chou En-lai and Deng Xiaoping. In 1956, while visiting India to attend the 2500th Buddha Jayanti Anniversary, he had a series of meetings with Prime Minister Nehru and Premier Chou about deteriorating conditions in Tibet.

    His efforts to bring about a peaceful solution to Sino-Tibetan conflict were thwarted by Bejing's ruthless policy in Eastern Tibet, which ignited a popular uprising and resistance. This resistance movement spread to other parts of the country. On 10 March 1959 the capital of Tibet, Lhasa, exploded with the largest demonstration in Tibetan history, calling on China to leave Tibet and reaffirming Tibet's independence. The Tibetan National Uprising was brutally crushed by the Chinese army. His Holiness escaped to India where he was given political asylum. Some 80,000 Tibetan refugees followed His Holiness into exile. Today, there are more than 120,000 Tibetan in exile. Since 1960, he has resided in Dharamsala, India, known as "Little Lhasa," the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-exile.

    In the early years of exile, His Holiness appealed to the United Nations on the question of Tibet, resulting in three resolutions adopted by the General Assembly in 1959, 1961, and 1965, calling on China to respect the human rights of Tibetans and their desire for self-determination. With the newly constituted Tibetan Government-in-exile, His Holiness saw that his immediate and urgent task was to save both the Tibetan exiles and their culture alike. Tibetan refugees were rehabilitated in agricultural settlements. Economic development was promoted and the creation of a Tibetan educational system was established to raise refugee children with full knowledge of their language, history, religion and culture. The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts was established in 1959, while the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies became a university for Tibetans in India. Over 200 monasteries have been re-established to preserve the vast corpus of Tibetan Buddhist teachings, the essence of the Tibetan way of life.

    In 1963, His Holiness promulgated a democratic constitution, based on Buddhist principles and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a model for a future free Tibet. Today, members of the Tibetan parliament are elected directly by the people. The members of the Tibetan Cabinet are elected by the parliament, making the Cabinet answerable to the Parliament. His Holiness has continuously emphasized the need to further democratise the Tibetan administration and has publicly declared that once Tibet regains her independence he will not hold political office.

    In Washington, D.C., at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in 1987, he proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan as a first step toward resolving the future status of Tibet. This plan calls for the designation of Tibet as a zone of peace, an end to the massive transfer of ethnic Chinese into Tibet, restoration of fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms, and the abandonment of China's use of Tibet for nuclear weapons production and the dumping of nuclear waste, as well as urging "earnest negotiations" on the future of Tibet.

    In Strasbourg, France, on 15 June 1988, he elaborated the Five-Point Peace Plan and proposed the creation of a self-governing democratic Tibet, "in association with the People's Republic of China."

    On 2 September 1991, the Tibetan Government-in-exile declared the Strasbourg Proposal invalid because of the closed and negative attitude of the present Chinese leadership towards the ideas expressed in the proposal.

    On 9 October 1991, during an address at Yale University in the United States, His Holiness said that he wanted to visit Tibet to personally assess the political situation. He said, "I am extremely anxious that, in this explosive situation, violence may break out. I want to do what I can to prevent this.... My visit would be a new opportunity to promote understanding and create a basis for a negotiated solution."

    Contact with West and East
    Since 1967, His Holiness initiated a series of journeys which have taken him to some 46 nations. In autumn of 1991, he visited the Baltic States at the invitation of Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis of Lithuania and became the first foreign leader to address the Lithuanian Parliament. His Holiness met with the late Pope Paul VI at the Vatican in 1973. At a press conference in Rome in 1980, he outlined his hopes for the meeting with John Paul II: "We live in a period of great crisis, a period of troubling world developments. It is not possible to find peace in the soul without security and harmony between peoples. For this reason, I look forward with faith and hope to my meeting with the Holy Father; to an exchange of ideas and feelings, and to his suggestions, so as to open the door to a progressive pacification between peoples." His Holiness met Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1980, 1982, 1986, 1988 and 1990. In 1981, His Holiness talked with Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Robert Runcie, and with other leaders of the Anglican Church in London. He also met with leaders of the Roman Catholic and Jewish communities and spoke at an interfaith service held in his honor by the World Congress of Faiths: "I always believe that it is much better to have a variety of religions, a variety of philosophies, rather than one single religion or philosophy. This is necessary because of the different mental dispositions of each human being. Each religion has certain unique ideas or techniques, and learning about them can only enrich one's own faith."

    Recognition and Awards
    Since his first visit to the west in the early 1973, a number of western universities and institutions have conferred Peace Awards and honorary Doctorate Degrees in recognition of His Holiness' distinguished writings in Buddhist philosophy and for his leadership in the solution of international conflicts, human rights issues and global environmental problems. In presenting the Raoul Wallenberg Congressional Human Rights Award in 1989, U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos said, "His Holiness the Dalai Lama's courageous struggle has distinguished him as a leading proponent of human rights and world peace. His ongoing efforts to end the suffering of the Tibetan people through peaceful negotiations and reconciliation have required enormous courage and sacrifice."

    The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize
    The Norwegian Nobel Committee's decision to award the 1989 Peace Prize to His Holiness the Dalai Lama won worldwide praise and applause, with exception of China. The Committee citation read, "The Committee wants to emphasize the fact that the Dalai Lama in his struggle for the liberation of Tibet consistently has opposed the use of violence. He has instead advocated peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people."

    On 10 December 1989, His Holiness accepted the prize on the behalf of oppressed everywhere and all those who struggle for freedom and work for world peace and the people of Tibet. In his remarks he said, "The prize reaffirms our conviction that with truth, courage and determination as our weapons, Tibet will be liberated. Our struggle must remain nonviolent and free of hatred."

    He also had a message of encouragement for the student-led democracy movement in China. "In China the popular movement for democracy was crushed by brutal force in June this year. But I do not believe the demonstrations were in vain, because the spirit of freedom was rekindled among the Chinese people and China cannot escape the impact of this spirit of freedom sweeping in many parts of the world. The brave students and their supporters showed the Chinese leadership and the world the human face of that great nations."

    A Simple Buddhist monk
    His Holiness often says, "I am just a simple Buddhist monk - no more, nor less."

    His Holiness follows the life of Buddhist monk. Living in a small cottage in Dharamsala, he rises at 4 A.M. to meditate, pursues an ongoing schedule of administrative meetings, private audiences and religious teachings and ceremonies. He concludes each day with further prayer before retiring. In explaining his greatest sources of inspiration, he often cites a favorite verse, found in the writings of the renowned eighth century Buddhist saint Shantideva:

    For as long as space endures
    And for as long as living beings remain,
    Until then may I too abide
    To dispel the misery of the world.

    For as long as space endures
    And for as long as living beings remain,
    Until then may I too abide
    To dispel the misery of the world.

  • Since 2014 Frans Timmermans he has served as First Vice-President of the European Union Commission, in charge of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.  Previously, Timmermans was Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, a Member of the Dutch parliament, representing Partij van de Arbeid (the Dutch Labour Party), Dutch Minister of European Affairs, and as a diplomat and civil servant in various senior advisory and administrative positions in the Dutch government and the European Union Commission.  Timmermans holds a degree in French Language and Literature from Radboud University Nijmegen and has completed postgraduate coursework in European Law and French Literature at the University of Nancy.  

  • Dr. Sanjay Gupta is the Emmy®-award winning chief medical correspondent for CNN. Gupta, a practicing neurosurgeon, plays an integral role in CNN's reporting on health and medical news for American MorningAnderson Cooper 360°, CNN documentaries, and anchors the weekend medical affairs programSanjay Gupta, MD. Gupta also contributes to CNN.com and CNNHealth.com.

    His medical training and public health policy experience distinguish his reporting on a range of medical and scientific topics including brain injury, disaster recovery, health care reform, fitness, military medicine, HIV/AIDS, cancer and other areas. In 2011, Gupta has reported from earthquake- and tsunami-ravaged Japan, adding clarity and context to the human impact and radiation concerns. In 2010, Gupta reported on the devastating earthquake in Haiti and unprecedented flooding in Pakistan.

    Based in Atlanta, Gupta joined CNN in the summer of 2001. He reported from New York following the attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. In 2003, he embedded with the U.S. Navy's "Devil Docs" medical unit, reporting from Iraq and Kuwait as the unit traveled to Baghdad. He provided live coverage of the first operation performed during the war, and performed life-saving brain surgery five times himself in a desert operating room. 

    Gupta contributed to the network's 2010 Peabody Award-winning coverage of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2006, Gupta contributed to CNN's Peabody Award-winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina, revealing that official reports that Charity Hospital in New Orleans had been evacuated were incorrect. His "Charity Hospital" coverage for Anderson Cooper 360°resulted in his 2006 News & Documentary Emmy® for Outstanding Feature Story. In 2004, Gupta was sent to Sri Lanka to cover the tsunami disaster that took more than 155,000 lives in Southeast Asia, contributing to the 2005 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award for CNN.

    In addition to his work for CNN, Gupta is a member of the staff and faculty at the Emory University School of Medicine. He is associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital.  In 1997, he was selected as a White House Fellow, serving as a special advisor to First Lady Hillary Clinton.

    Source:  Information provided by CNN on behalf of Sanjay Gupta.

  • His Excellency Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani is the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

    For more information please visit the Office of the President.

  • Jim Yong Kim (@JimYongKim), M.D., Ph.D., is the 12th President of the World Bank Group. Soon after he assumed his position in July 2012, the organization established two goals to guide its work: to end extreme poverty by 2030; and to boost shared prosperity, focusing on the bottom 40% of the population in developing countries. In September 2016, the World Bank Group Board unanimously reappointed Kim to a second five-year term as President.

    During his first term, the World Bank Group supported the development priorities of countries at levels never seen outside a financial crisis and, with our partners, achieved two successive, record replenishments of the World Bank Group's fund for the poorest. The institution also launched several innovative financial instruments including facilities to address infrastructure needs, prevent pandemics, and help the millions of people forcibly displaced from their homes by climate shocks, conflict, and violence.

    Kim's career has revolved around health, education, and improving the lives of the poor. Before joining the World Bank Group, Kim, a physician and anthropologist, served as the President of Dartmouth College and held professorships at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. From 2003 to 2005, as director of the World Health Organization's HIV/AIDS department, he led the "3 by 5" initiative, the first-ever global goal for AIDS treatment, which greatly to expand access to antiretroviral medication in developing countries. In 1987, Kim co-founded Partners In Health, a non-profit medical organization that now works in poor communities on four continents.

    Kim has received a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship, was recognized as one of America's "25 Best Leaders" by U.S. News & World Report, and was named one of TIME magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World."

    Source: World Bank Group 

  • Ameenah Gurib-Fakim has been, prior to joining the State House, the Managing Director of the Centre International de Développement Pharmaceutique (CIDP) Research and Innovation as well as Professor of Organic Chemistry with an endowed chair at the University of Mauritius. Since 2001, she has served successively as Dean of the Faculty of Science and Pro Vice Chancellor (2004- 2010). She has also worked at the Mauritius Research Council as Manager for Research (1995-1997).

    Ms Gurib-Fakim earned a BSc in Chemistry from the University of Surrey (1983) and a PhD from the University of Exeter, UK (1987). During her academic journey, she has participated in several consultation meetings on environmental issues organized by international organizations. Between 2011-2013, she was elected and served as Chairperson of the International Council for Scientific Union – Regional Office for Africa, and served as an Independent Director on the Board of Barclays Bank of Mauritius Ltd between (2012-2015).

    As a Founding Member of the Pan African Association of African Medicinal Plants, she co-authored the first ever African Herbal Pharmacopoeia. She has authored and co-edited 28 books, several book chapters and scientific articles in the field of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. She has lectured extensively across the world; is a Member of the Editorial Boards of major journals, has served on Technical and national committees in various capacities. Elevated to the Order of the Commander of the Star and Key by the Government of Mauritius in 2008, she has been admitted to the Order of the Chevalier dans L’Ordre des Palmes Academiques by the Government of France in 2010 and is the recipient of 4 DSc (s).

    Elected Fellow of several academies and societies, Ms Gurib-Fakim received several international prizes including the 2007 l’Oreal-UNESCO Prize for Women in Science, the African Union Commission Award for Women in Science, 2009.

    On 05 June 2015, she was sworn in as the 6th President and the First Female President of the Republic of Mauritius. She was elevated to the Order of GCSK by the Government of Mauritius, admitted to the Order of Francois 1er des Deux Siciles by Prince Charles of Bourbon and received the ​Legion d’Honneur from the Government of France in 2016. In 2017, she received both the lifelong achievement award of the United States Pharmacopoeia-CePat Award and the American Botanical Council Norman Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award. In 2018, she received the Order of St George at the Semperopernball, Dresden, Germany and the Global Energy Parliament Award, State of Kerala, India.

    In June 2016, she was in the Forbes List for the 100 ‘Most Powerful women in the world’ and 1st among the Top 100 Women in Africa Forbes List 2017. She is honoured as one of Foreign Policy’s 2015 Global Thinkers.​

    Source: Office of the President of the Republic of Mauritius

  • Dr. Alassane Outtara was elected as the 5th President of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire for the first time in 2010. An economist by training, President Ouattara holds a bachelor degree in Business Administration from Drexel Institute of Technology, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as well as a master's degree and a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. 

    In 1968, he joined the International Monetary Fund (IMF) where he held positions of increasing responsibilities, and later joined the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), where, at the Age of 40, he became Deputy Governor and later Governor of the Bank. 

    In April 1990, while Côte d'Ivoire was hit by an unprecedented crisis, Dr. Alassane Ouattara was appointed by late President Félix Houphouët-Boigny as Chairman of the Inter-ministerial Committee for Coordination of the Stabilization Program and Economic recovery. A few months later, he was appointed as Côte d'Ivoire's first Prime Minister and Head of Government, until December 1993. He then returned to the IMF where he served as Deputy Managing Director; the highest position held by an African in this institution, to date. 

    After his rich international career, Dr. Ouattara decided to return to his home country in 1999, where he took the presidency of the Rassemblement des Republicains (RDR) - one of Côte d'Ivoire's major political parties. In 2010, Dr. Ouattara won the presidential election with 54.10% of votes. 

    President Ouattara is considered as the father of the new emerging Côte d'Ivoire. He introduced many economic reforms that have transformed Côte d'Ivoire and improved the livelihood of millions of Ivorians.

    Under President Ouattara's leadership, Côte d'Ivoire became the 3rd fastest growing economy in Africa. Based on the tremendous economic growth and social progress experienced during his first presidential term, President Ouattara was brilliantly reelected for a second term in October 2015, on the first round of elections, with 83.66% of votes.

    Source: Office of the President of Côte d'Ivoire

  • Andrej Plenković was sworn in as Prime Minister on 19 October 2016, thus becoming the 12th Head of Government since Croatia's independence. On 17 July 2016, he was elected President of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), a member of the European People's Party.

    Born in Zagreb on 8 April 1970, Andrej Plenković is married and has two children. He is fluent in English, French, and Italian, and conversant in German.

    Political Career

    • October 2016 Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia
    • September 2016 Won the general elections with a solid pro-European, reformist, centre-right and
    • Christian-democratic agenda
    • June 2016 President of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)
    • 2013-2016 Member of the European Parliament
    • 2011-2013 Member of the Croatian Parliament
    • 2010-2011 State Secretary - for EU Affairs
    • 2011-2012 Conducted a successful referendum campaign on EU membership

    Diplomatic Career

    • 2005-2010 Deputy Ambassador to France
    • 2002-2005 Deputy Head of Croatia's Mission to the EU
    • 2001-2002 Member of the Negotiating Team on the Stabilisation and Association Agreement
    • 1997-2001 Head of the Department for European Integration
    • 1996-1997 Department for Analysis
    • 1995-1995 Head of the Office of the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs
    • 1994 Joined the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

    Education

    • 2002 Master of International Law, Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb
    • 2002 Bar Exam
    • 1997 State Exam
    • 1993 Bachelor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb

     
    Source: Permanent Mission of the Republic of Croatia to the United Nations

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