OUR STORY

Too many photographs of European or NATO summits are made up of rows of grey suits. Too often women remain on the sidelines of key discussions, negotiations and decision-making in foreign and security policy.

 

WIIS Brussels started almost two decades ago as a loose group of volunteers aiming to change the status quo. In 2013, under the leadership of Cristina Gallach, then Director for Media and Communications at the Council of the European Union - now Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and for Ibero-America and the Carribbean of the Spanish government - we began the journey from an informal “band of sisters” to an organised and registered not-for-profit association of male and female professionals dedicated to making waves in the Brussels, European and global foreign affairs and security sector. Under the leadership of our successive Presidents WIIS Brussels has become a key actor of the Brussels security and gender discussion. We offer our network of some hundred members and close to a thousand contacts regular activities, ranging from professional development and training workshops to networking opportunities and gender-balanced policy debates.

 

Diversity is as much about making sure half of the world’s population is involved in decision-making as it is about leveraging the diversity of ideas that is necessary to develop the innovative and sustainable solutions to global security challenges. We believe in paying more than just lip-service to inclusion, diversity and gender-balance: we offer our members the tools to enhance their skills and develop their career, and partner with forward-looking organisations such as The Brussels Binder to offer concrete solutions to the "mostly-male” syndrome plaguing the Brussels policy debate. We regularly welcome leading female speakers and writers to contribute new proposals to current debates.

 

Please browse our website, support our efforts and join us as we work for a secure world.

MISSION

 

Women In International Security (WIIS - pronounced ‘wise’) Brussels is an independent, non-partisan, non-for-profit organisation, registered under Belgian law.

 

It belongs to the global family of WIIS chapters, which are dedicated to advancing the leadership and professional development of women in the field of international peace, security and defence. There are close to 50 independent chapters around the world whose members include policymakers, military personnel, diplomats, legislative aides, scholars, students, journalists, entrepreneurs and business representatives at all stages of their careers. We are about community building and networking.

 

WIIS Brussels promotes training and mentoring for the next generation of women leaders. It offers various platforms harnessed by technology to amplify women voices among security experts and practitioners to engage in more inclusive ways. It takes part in intellectual diversity through discussions on current policy challenges. It also offers informal opportunities for experts and practitioners to discuss their differences“off the record” in a polarized world. It benefits from the presence of the EU institutions and NATO, as well as a very high concentration of diplomatic representations, international organisations, and other influential stakeholders, putting it at the centre of key policy discussions on international relations, security and defence.

 

WIIS Brussels is led by an energetic team of volunteers who constitute its Steering Committee. A high-level Advisory Committee provides strategic guidance.

TOWARDS A PEOPLE FIRST SECURITY CONCEPT

INITIATIVE 2020

 

In the face of such forces as geopolitical competition, nationalism and "strongmen politics", as well as economic malaise and the fight over resources in a post-coronavirus environment, the recent gains in the debate about women in international security, the presence of women in foreign and security decision-making, and the promotion of gender-sensitive international policies and norms are seriously challenged. The current situation requires nothing short of a cultural shift in the public debate over the very concept of international security, towards an agenda that is no longer alienating to women, nor threatening to vulnerable members of society.

 

WIIS Brussels is an association of security experts and practitioners committed to advancing women's leadership to contribute their voices in addressing current peace and security challenges, offering a safe space as a platform to broker new informal ways in a polarized world. In shaping the post-Covid19 foreign and security policy debate, WIIS Brussels choose to lead with a new initiative 2020 putting people first, and focusing on two pillars: "community" leading from compassion, and "connectivity" among people harnessed by technology.

 

As a vibrant community and a powerful network, WIIS Brussels puts a premium on its members, training as well as mentoring the current and next generations of women leaders. Now more than ever, we need to champion young, talented women to take part in an inclusive, equitable, and diverse debate over peace and security priorities. We will lead from a place of transparency, authenticity, and respect as one of many voices. As a "connector" in the age of artificial intelligence, we will contribute expert views on foreign and security policies, building bridges with other fields, recognising the expertise of others, and the wisdom of those with experiences from different origins, backgrounds and ages. Together we will co-create new pathways, restorative and regenerative strategies for future generations to feel safe and thrive.

PRIORITIES AND WAY AHEAD

 

The "next generation" training and mentoring program will support the individual and collective needs of our community providing to our members various opportunities, from building resilience to speech writing, personal coaching, and ultimately support women entrepreneurs providing their services in the face of a disrupted and fast changing work environment. This is about our own personal growth.

 

The "new cast" platform harnessed by technology will serve our broad community, including other WIIS chapters, to share our collective voices and opinions through videos, podcasts and creative writing. It will allow our younger members of WIIS Brussels campus, the young professionals, and the long-standing security experts and practitioners to team up and engage, offering recommendations for decision makers in Brussels and beyond. This is about reaching out to others in a more inclusive and diverse way.

 

The "creative security table" will offer informal opportunities to experts and practitioners to discuss "off the record" and bridge the gap in a polarised world. This policy initiative will bring opposite views, different generations, public and private interests in the peace and security debate to discuss their differences in a safe space, and enrich the field for high-ranking officials in our Brussels-based institutions. This is about our policy/advocacy contribution to a new international foreign and security debate. 

 
 
 
TEAM
CRISTINA GALLACH
Honorary President

Cristina Gallach is Spain's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs since 2020. She previously served as High Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda of the Spanish government; United Nations' Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information; Head of the Public Relations Unit in the Council of the European Union; Spokesperson to Javier Solana, then European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy; and NATO Deputy Spokesperson. Cristina was instrumental in bringing a new energy to WIIS Brussels and moving it from a loose association to a dedicated group of volunteers, serving as its first President under the new governance structure. As Honorary President, she continues to bring her wealth of experience in communications, information, public diplomacy, international affairs and security policy, combined with transformational leadership and hands-on management expertise, to the cause of more gender equality in international relations.

ISABELLE FRANÇOIS
President

ifrancois(at)wiis-brussels.org 

Isabelle is an expert in international security with a 30-year professional experience from the Canadian government to international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as academia and think tanks. She is currently Adviser for the Science for Peace and Security at NATO. She has also worked as a consultant providing policy advice to the private and public sectors, and volunteered in several nonprofit organizations. She has served in a number of capitals: Ottawa, Brussels, Moscow, Washington. She led many international teams, developing and implementing various projects bringing people from different cultures together, and fundraising for causes she felt strongly about. Isabelle has authored over fifty publications on international security issues, spoken at many conferences, and given various interviews to the press. She received her Law degree from Sorbonne, Paris, her Ph.D in Political Science from Université de Montréal, Canada, a Certificate in Essentials of Leadership from London School of Economics (LSE), and her Life Coach Certificate from the United States (QSCA).

ROSA BALFOUR
Member of the Steering Committee (Policy)

rbalfour(at)wiis-brussels.org | @rosabalfour

Rosa Balfour is director of Carnegie Europe. Her fields of expertise include European politics, institutions, and foreign and security policy. Her current research focuses on the relationship between domestic politics and Europe’s global role.

She has researched and published widely for academia, think tanks, and the international press on issues relating to European politics and international relations, especially on the Mediterranean region, Eastern Europe and the Balkans, EU enlargement, international support for civil society, and human rights and democracy.

Balfour is also an associate fellow at LSE IDEAS. In 2018 and 2019, she was awarded a fellowship on the Europe’s Futures program at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.

Prior to joining Carnegie Europe, Balfour was a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. She was also director of the Europe in the World program at the European Policy Centre in Brussels and has worked as a researcher in Rome and London.

MIRUNA BOUROS
Member of the Steering Committee

mbouros(at)wiis-brussels.org 

Miruna currently works as Consular Officer at the Irish Embassy in Brussels. A Belgian ‘Brusseleir’ with Romanian roots, Miruna acquired an interest in international affairs and more particularly EU-Asia relations and conflict resolution early on during her studies. A cum laudae graduate several times over, she holds a MA degree in Political Science from the Vrije Universiteit Brussels, as well as a double MA in European Studies (EU-Asia relations) and International Commerce conferred jointly by KU Leuven and Seoul National University in South Korea, where she spent 1 year studying abroad. Prior to her current work Miruna was a trainee at the Belgian Permanent Representation to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and at the UNESCO HQ in Paris, as well as at the EU Institute for Security Studies in Brussels. She is fluent in English, Dutch, French, Romanian and Italian, and is currently trying to build up her Korean skills.

CLAIRE CRAANEN-FRANCIS
Secretary General 

ccraanen(at)wiis-brussels.org | @clairecraanen

Claire Craanen-Francis is a Speechwriter in NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division, Press & Media Section. She writes speeches, articles and other written material for the NATO Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General.

Prior to joining the speechwriting team, she was a member of the Counter-Terrorism team in NATO’s Emerging Security Challenges Division. She also worked several years on crisis anticipation/ horizon scanning and wrote policy papers to inform the senior leadership at NATO Headquarters of potential upcoming security developments in the Middle East and North Africa, Russia, South Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.

She started her career at NATO in the Operations Division where she was responsible for analyzing and assessing current political and security developments related to the Alliance’s operations in Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo, Iraq and at sea off the Horn of Africa.

Claire has been a member of WIIS Brussels since 2005 and has contributed to growing the network and establishing WIIS as a non-profit organisation in 2015.

She holds a MA in Political Science/International Relations (University of Leiden, the Netherlands) and a Certificate in Peace & Conflict studies (University of California, Berkeley).

MARIA DEL CARMEN FERNANDEZ FERNANDEZ-POYATO
Member of the Steering Committee

cfernandez@wiis-brussels.org

Carmen is currently working at the DG DEVCO in the European Commission, where she has acquired sound experience in EU external policy and programming. She has previously worked in Central America and DR. Congo, in peace and state building projects. Carmen is a lawyer and holds a MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics, where she specialised in peace and conflict, and EU foreign affairs. Her areas of interest and research include women, peace and security, humanitarian-development nexus, the EU as a normative power, and justice and security. She is a Spanish native speaker and is also fluent is English and French.

SABRINE DAO
Member of the Steering Committee

sdao@wiis-brussels.org

Sabrine is currently a Public Relations Assistant at Redscope Consulting, a Brussels-based agency providing consultancy in leadership to the European Institutions, the corporate sector and international non-profit organisations. Prior to this, she actively worked for UNICEF France in the North Committee, leading the communication department. Sabrine holds both a BA in Law and in Political Science. She is an International Relations Master's candidate, specialised in peace, security and conflict. Her expertise lies in gender studies, conflicts, peacebuilding, human rights and international security which stems from her interest in the Arab world and Sub-Saharan African matters. She has previously acquired first-hand experience of how these conflicts play out on the international stage during a placement at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in 2018. A native French speaker, she is multilingual, speaking English and Spanish and learning Arabic, and Russian.

FLORENCE FERRANDO

Member of the Steering Committee

fferrando@wiis-brussels.org

Florence is working since January 2018 as a Consultant at CEIS European office, a French strategic consultancy specialized in sectors of national sovereignty and digital transformation. Florence works on several types of missions for public and private customers and performing a large range of tasks from desk research and support activities on deliverables to follow-up of large projects. Most of her work focuses on digital transformation in defence sector, as she was involved in several studies on new technologies, such Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain, for industry and public entities.

 

Owing two International Relationships second-year master’s degrees from Lyon 3 Jean Moulin University with specializations in international security, defence and business intelligence, Florence studied especially defence themes such as cross-border cooperation, no-state threats, defence economics or nuclear deterrence.

As part of her education, Florence achieved several internships within the French public sector (French General Delegation for Armament Naval Techniques, police force) as monitoring officer, and the aeronautic industry (MBDA, Safran). 

 

As member of WIIS Steering Committee, Florence is notably involved in the Digital & Innovation Series organisation - a series of events on women and the digital transformation of the security and defence sectors.

REBEKKA HAFFNER

Member of the Steering Committee

rhaffner(a)wiis-brussels.org

Rebekka Haffner works as a Project Officer at the European Organisation of Military Associations (EUROMIL). She works on European security and defence policy as well as on employment and social legislation which has an influence on the military personnel EUROMIL represents. Rebekka previously worked for the Brussels representation of the German development agency GIZ. She holds an MA in Security and Diplomacy Studies from Tel Aviv University as well as a BA in Politics and History and a BA in Politics and Law from the Westfälische Wilhelms Universität in Münster, Germany. In addition to her native German, Rebekka speaks English, Dutch and French and is currently learning Arabic.

CORINNA HÖRST
Former WIIS President (2015-2019), Member of the Steering Committee

chorst(at)wiis-brussels.org 

Corinna Hörst is senior fellow and deputy director of GMF’s Brussels office. She supports the executive director in all aspects of strategic planning, operations, personnel, management, and communication. In this capacity, she plays a central role in program planning, networking, and relationship building with the EU institutions, NATO and stakeholders from governments, media, business, as well as nongovernmental and think tank communities. She monitors and frequently comments on transatlantic relations and European affairs and is engaged in various women leadership development and diversity activities.

She is also co-founder of The Brussels Binder, an online database of female policy experts. Her recent book “Women Leading The Way in Brussels,” co-authored with Claudia de Castro Caldeirinha (John Harper Publishing, 2017) looks at women leadership in Europe and Brussels, including vignettes of women who exercise leadership across different sectors in Brussels. Before coming to GMF in 1999, she was a teaching associate at Miami University, teaching American and world history and worked as assistant project manager at a publishing company in Germany. Hörst has a PhD and master’s degree in history and studied at Miami University in Ohio, United States, the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and St. Andrews University in Scotland.

PAULINE MASSART
Vice-President, Operations and Outreach

pmassart(at)wiis-brussels.org 

Pauline Massart has been an active member of WIIS Brussels since 2010, and coordinates the group’s outreach, membership, fundraising and network. She is Deputy Head of the EU Office of CEIS, a French strategic advisory company. She was previously Head of Media & Communication at the European Defence Agency, after heading the Peace, Security & Defence Programme of the Brussels-based think-tank Friends of Europe (previously the Security & Defence Agenda) for eight years. She began her career in the defence industry, after studying at King’s College London, the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris and Leiden University in the Netherlands. Massart is on the Board of the Brussels Binder, the online female expert database. She speaks English, French, German and Italian, and is the mother of two children.

ROMANA MICHELON
Member of the Steering Committee

rmichelon(at)wiis-brussels.org 

Romana Michelon joined NATO in 2015, and works within the office of the Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security. Before joining this team, she worked on EU-NATO cooperation as part of the Operations Division of NATO’s International Military Staff. Prior to NATO, Romana specialized in EU foreign policy and Middle Eastern affairs. She worked on the geopolitical implications of the discovery of natural gas in the East Mediterranean at the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., and on energy and water diplomacy in the Middle East within the European External Action Service. She holds a bachelor's in European studies from Maastricht University, a master’s in international relations from the University of Amsterdam, and a master's in conflict resolution from King’s College London. Romana speaks Dutch, English, Italian and French, and is currently studying Modern Hebrew.

DARIA NASHAT
Member of the Steering Committee

dnashat(at)wiis-brussels.org 

Daria Nashat is a resilience and leadership trainer, speaker, and co-creator of the Women’s Sanctuary Circle. She is trained in Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR), Co-active Coaching Fundamentals, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), and co-author of the ZIF 'Stress Management Handbook' for civilian experts in peace missions. 

Prior to founding her own business, she worked in the field of peacebuilding, refugee return and post-conflict development. Her career includes experiences with the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, PAX Netherlands; the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America, NATO, and the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in the U.S. Congress. 

Daria has been a WIIS member (WIIS Global, Germany, Belgium) for almost two decades. She is passionate about social justice issues, a mother with a vision, and a book lover. A native of Berlin, Germany, Daria has lived abroad for more than 20 years in Belgium, the U.S., and the Netherlands.

Daria holds a MA degree in Political Science and Education from University of Tübingen, Germany and studied at University of Leuven, Belgium and University of Minnesota, US. She is fluent in German, English and Dutch and has basic knowledge of French.

EVA RIBERA
Member of the Steering Committee

eribera(at)wiis-brussels.org 

International Relations Master candidate specialized in gender studies, international security, transitional justice and human-capacity building, Eva Ribera decided on this career path after a long-lasting activism in Bordeaux, where she participated in the creation of a gender equality association. Thanks to a humanitarian mission within the German diplomatic corps, she gained first-hand experience on international responses to post-conflict development needs in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province. She also participated in a transitional justice project with the Sri Lankan NGO “Centre for Equality and Justice”. Through her research works, she further focused on gender-just peace in the post-conflict Western Balkans societies. In addition to her native French, she speaks English, has professional proficiency in German and has been learning Arabic for two years. 

ELENA SAENZ FEEHAN
Member of the Steering Committee

esaenzfeehan(at)wiis-brussels.org 

Elena is a Programme Executive at Friends of Europe’s Peace, Security and Defence team. She holds an MA in International Conflict studies from King’s College London University, and a BA in Political and Administration Sciences from Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona. Prior to joining Friends of Europe, she worked at Peace Brigades International UK assisting in the protection of human rights defenders, organisations and communities at risk.

TERI SCHULTZ
Member of the Steering Committee

tschultz(at)wiis-brussels.org 

Teri Schultz is an experienced multimedia journalist who has reported from more than two dozen countries, having lived in Finland, Russia and Belgium in addition to the United States. Based in Brussels since 2006, Schultz currently covers NATO and the European Union and can be seen, heard and read on NPR, on the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) and on her own podcast, Channeling Brussels.

 

Having begun her international career covering the disintegration of the USSR from Helsinki, Schultz remains particularly focused on counter-terrorism, security and defense with an emphasis on Russian disinformation and destabilization activities. Over her career, she has traveled six times to Afghanistan, been a Kiplinger Fellow in Digital Media, a journalism exchange participant in Pakistan with the Center for International Journalists, and a Knight International Press Fellow teaching throughout rural Russia. 

 

Schultz has a Master of Science in International Relations (magna cum laude) from the University of Helsinki and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism (with honors) from New Mexico State University. She speaks French and Finnish. She is a frequent debate moderator and panelist, active in promoting better gender balance across subject matters.

LAURA SEMMLER
Member of the Steering Committee

lsemmler(at)wiis-brussels.org 

Laura Semmler is a Senior EU Policy Officer at a Brussels-based boutique firm, Acquis EU Law & Policy, practicing in the broader area of EU policy and regulatory affairs, with a focus on advising foreign governments. She advises clients – diplomatic staff at the missions of third countries accredited to the EU, corporations and trade associations - on EU policy, regulatory and institutional developments, as well as on matters related to public and cultural diplomacy, media and communications. Through her practice, Laura has gained particular experience working on Middle Eastern and Central Asian affairs. Prior to joining Acquis, Laura served clients as an EU Policy Advisor at an international law firm in Brussels. She previously trained at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Republic of Moldova, and the Representation of the State of Bavaria to the EU in Brussels, where she worked on different aspects of German and EU external relations. Laura holds an MA in Political Science with a focus on International Relations from Goethe University Frankfurt, a Certificate (AEP) in International Relations and Affairs from Sciences Po Lyon in France, and a BA in Governance and Public Policy from Passau University, Germany. Laura speaks German, English and French, and has a basic knowledge of Spanish.

SOFIIA SHEVCHUK
Member of the Steering Committee

sshevchuk(at)wiis-brussels.org 

Sofiia Shevchuk is the Database Team Coordinator at the Brussels Binder and a Research Assistant at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Sofiia recently graduated from the College of Europe’s EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies program, where she wrote her thesis on European strategic autonomy and EU-NATO cooperation under the supervision of Professor Federica Mogherini. Prior to this, she worked for the Security and Defence programme at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, Brussels office. Before, she was also working for Visegrad Insight magazine, covering Central European security and foreign policy. Sofiia also gained professional experience in the Casimir Pulaski Foundation and the Embassy of Ukraine to the Republic of Poland.

MATHILDE SIMILLION
Member of the Steering Committee

msimillion(a)wiis-brussels.org

Mathilde is a young graduate from Political Sciences and International Relations (UCL). She worked as an intern in the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI Agency) as Project Planning Coordinator and currently volunteers with feminist associations. Fascinated by counter-terrorism and politics, she holds three certifications in International Cyber Conflicts (University of New-York), Philosophical Ethics (University of Geneva) and International Women’s Health (Stanford University).  

LARYSA LACKO
Member of the Steering Committee

llacko(at)wiis-brussels.org 

Larysa Lacko is a Strategic Communications Policy and Plans Officer at NATO HQ’s Public Diplomacy Division in Brussels, where she leads communications planning in support of deterrence and defence policy, and posture management. Larysa is also a lecturer at the NATO School in Oberammergau, where she focuses on strategic communications in the context of deterrence messaging. 

 

Prior to joining NATO in 2016, Larysa worked in communications at Global Affairs Canada at the Embassy of Canada to Vietnam where she focused on Canada’s development work in the region. 

 

Larysa received a bilingual Master's in Public and International Affairs (MPIA) from York University in Toronto, and a Bachelor's (BA) in Translation Studies from Concordia University in Montreal. She speaks English, French, Ukrainian and conversational Polish.

CLOTILDE SIPP
Member of the Steering Committee

csipp(a)wiis-brussels.org

Clotilde Sipp is a Policy Adviser for Political, Security and European Institutions at the New Zealand Mission to the European Union. She was previously a Senior Programme Manager at the think-tank Friends of Europe, where she coordinated security, Asia and development-related activities. She previously worked for a sustainable development charity and for a global risk management and security services company. She holds an MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics (LSE), specialising on EU external policies, especially non-traditional security cooperation with Southeast Asia; and a BA in Politics & Linguistics from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. She is bilingual in French and English.

MARTA MARTINELLI
Vice-President

mmartinelli(at)wiis-brussels.org 

Marta Martinelli is head of the EU external relations team for the Open Society European Policy Institute, where she oversees policy development and EU advocacy within the institute. She acts also as OSF Special Advisor on security governance. She joined the Open Society Foundations in May 2010. Previously, Marta worked in Kinshasa for the European Union mission for Security Sector Reform in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. From 2005 to 2009, she advised the Belgian Directorate General for Development on peace-building policies in the Great Lakes Region. Marta has advised the European Commission, the European Parliament, the UNDP, OECD/DAC and UNIFEM on gender, peace support operations, and security system reform in Burundi, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Marta’s academic career includes holding a chair in peace and conflict studies at the Free University of Brussels, and teaching at the Institute of International Sociology in Gorizia (Italy) and at the UNESCO Chair for Peaceful Conflict Resolution and Human Rights in Bujumbura (Burundi). In Brussels, she serves as an adviser to the European Institute of Peace, the European Network for Central Africa, and Save the Children. She holds a PhD in conflict resolution and an MA in international politics and security studies from the Department of Peace Studies in Bradford (United Kingdom) as well as a BA in diplomacy and international relations from the University of Trieste (Italy).

NORA DOORLEY
Member of the Steering Committee

ndoorley@wiis-brussels.org

Nora is a Communication Officer at the Europe Direct Contact Centre, managed by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Communication. She has previously worked at the think tank Friends of Europe, Polis Network and the European Liberal Forum. Nora graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 2018 with a BA in English Literature, and spent the third year of her degree as an Erasmus student in Salzburg, Austria. In addition to her native proficiency in English and Irish, she speaks French and German at an intermediate level and is currently learning Dutch.    

 
ADVISORY COMMITTEE

WIIS Brussels's Advisory Committee give the organisation strategic advice and guidance.

 

This small group of dedicated individuals includes:

VERA ALEXANDER

Deputy Ambassador, Joint Delegation of Canada to NATO

Vera Alexander was the Chief of Staff to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs immediately prior to assuming her current position as Deputy Permanent Representative to the Joint Delegation of Canada to NATO. Previous assignments include postings to London, Washington and Moscow. At Headquarters she has served as Director of Media Relations and as Director of the Democracy Division. She also worked at the Privy Council Office from 2006-08 as the senior advisor for Canada’s mission to Afghanistan. Vera Alexander speaks English, French and Russian.

 

ILANA BET-EL
Historian, author, journalist and consultant

Ilana Bet-El is a senior adviser on energy, defence, geopolitics and communications, with over thirty years’ experience in both the private and the public sectors. She is also a widely published writer on politics, history and identity in the EU, Russia, the Middle East and the Trans-Atlantic community. With a background in academe and the media, she has worked for the UN in both the Balkans and New York — as well as advising multinationals and governments from her base in Brussels. She created and edited the editorial page of European Voice (now Politico), and has contributed hundreds of columns and opinion to pieces to a wide variety of international media. She holds a PhD from the University of London and is fluent in English, Hebrew and French.

 

CHRISTIAN LEFFLER

Former Deputy Secretary-General for Economic and Global Issues
at European External Action Service (EEAS)

Christian Leffler, born in Göteborg in 1955, obtained a Bachelor's degree in politics and international relations from the LSE. After doctoral studies at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva he joined the Swedish Foreign Service in 1980. Postings to Cairo and Paris were followed by the Political Affairs Department of the Ministry in Stockholm. After participating in the accession negotiations and in establishing the new working structures of the Representation in the first year of active Swedish EU membership, he became the first Swedish “Antici,” responsible under the Permanent Representative for policy coordination in the work in the Council of Ministers. He joined the European Commission in 1996, where he took up the post of Commission “Antici” and Head of the unit in the Secretariat General responsible for the coordination of relations with the Council of Ministers. In 1999, he became the Deputy Head of the Private Office of the Right Honourable Chris Patten, European Commissioner for External Relations. From 2002 until 2007, he was Director in charge of the Middle East and South Mediterranean in the European Commission’s Directorate General for External Relations. He then spent three years as Head of Cabinet of Mrs Margot Wallström, Commission Vice President for Institutional Relations and Communication. During 2010 Mr Leffler was Deputy Director General of the DG for Development and relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific States, as well as a senior adviser to EU High Representative for CESP and European Commission Vice-President Catherine Ashton, assisting her in the preparation for the establishment of the new European External Action Service. From the beginning of 2011 to 2015 he was Managing Director for Americas with the European External Action Service, and was Deputy Secretary-General for Economic and Global Issues from 2015 to his retirement in 2019. 

SHADA ISLAM

Founder and Director, New Horizons Project Geopolitical strategy advice and analysis

Shada Islam is a Brussels-based commentator on EU affairs. She runs New Horizons project, a strategy, analysis and advisory company. She was previously the Director for Europe and Geopolitics at Friends of Europe, where she was responsible for policy oversight of the think-tank’s initiatives, activities and publications, particularly on issues related to the Future of Europe, Migration, the Asia Programme and the Development Policy Forum. Shada is Visiting Professor at the College of Europe (Natolin) where she teaches Asia-Europe relations. She is also a VUB Fellow. She has been named as one of twenty most influential women in Brussels by Politico. Shada is the former Europe correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and has previously worked on Asian and Migration issues at the European Policy Centre. She is sought after as a speaker, commentator, columnist and moderator at high-level European and global events. Shada also continues to write on EU foreign and security policy, EU-Asia relations and trade and development issues for leading Asian, European and international publications and academic journals.

PHILIPPE MAZE-SENCIER

Chair, Global Public Affairs at Hill+Knowlton Strategies

Philippe Maze-Sencier has been working for 25 years at the nexus of policy, government relations and communications on transatlantic issues as well as in Africa, India and the Middle-East in the aerospace, energy, defense, and pharmaceutical sectors. Prior to joining Hill+Knowlton Strategies, he was the Managing Director at McLarty Europe and held multiple senior positions at APCO Worldwide. He also worked for the spirits division of the French luxury group LVMH in France and Germany; for the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva; and at the delegation of the European Commission in Washington, DC. Philippe holds a master of science in foreign service from Georgetown University and a master of arts in law (Cantab) from Cambridge University. During the course of his studies, he spent one year at the University of Bonn in Germany as a Konrad Adenauer Security Studies fellow.

 

JANE MORRICE
Vice-President for Communications of the European Economic and Social Committee, Deputy Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Equality Commission and former Deputy Speaker of the first Northern Ireland Assembly

Born in Belfast, Jane Morrice has worked in many challenging fields throughout her career; Deputy Speaker of the first Northern Ireland Assembly set up after the Peace Agreement, Head of the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland and former BBC reporter and Deputy Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Equality Commission. She was elected Vice President of the European Economic and Social Committee in April 2013 until October 2015. In this capacity, she was also President of the EESC Communications Group. Throughout her career she has been actively involved in peace building and conflict resolution. As EC representative, she was a member of Delors task force, which established the first EU PEACE Programme, and, during her time in politics, she worked on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. In her role as EESC Member she has written two reports on EU peace building and she continues to work to promote exchange of experience between Northern Ireland and people in conflict zones in other parts of the world.

 

CLAUDIA RITTER
Co-founder and President of the Sofia Foundation

Claudia Ritter, MA, MSc, CPCC-ACC, is an executive and leadership coach, facilitator and consultant headquartered in Brussels. Being cross-cultural through her education, upbringing and career, her expertise lies in delivering a uniquely holistic approach to all aspects of cross-cultural orientation, strategic communications, and leadership development training to international public organisations, governments, the corporate, and the non-profit sector. Claudia’s career has encompassed journalism, strategic communications, and organisational development. She has served in senior leadership positions at the European Commission and in other European organisations for twenty years, working as a lobbyist, and policy and communications strategist. Claudia has earned a Masters of Arts from Ruprecht-Karls-Universität (Heidelberg), and a postgraduate Masters degree of Science in Leadership from Boston University. She holds German and Dutch citizenship, and is a proficient speaker of six European languages. Alongside her activities as a business coach and consultant, she dedicates pro-bono time to projects promoting women entrepreneurs, in corporate governance, and as experts in the information media.

 

MARRIËT SCHUURMAN
Director for Stabilisation and Humanitarian Aid at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Marriët Schuurman is a senior diplomat having served the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs for more than 20 years. She currently serves as Director for Stabilisation and Humanitarian Aid, and was previously Human Rights Ambassador, and representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia . She also led the Task Force for the Netherlands' 2018 UN Security Council membership. Other duties include postings in Sudan, Zambia and Moscow, and strategic policy development regarding Kosovo and the African Great Lakes region. She served as the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security from 2014 to 2017. Ambassador Schuurman has held several board positions including the Presidency of the Works Council of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Presidency of the Council of the University of Amsterdam.

 

ALEXANDRE STUTZMANN

Senior Advisor to the President of the UN General Assembly, Team Leader for Human Rights, Social & Humanitarian & Cultural issues - Leader of the task force on 75th anniversary of the UN

As the Team Leader for social, humanitarian and cultural issues in the OPGA74, Alexandre Stutzmann is the focal point for Third Committee issues, which also prominently feature human rights and fundamental freedoms, migration and refugees, youth and education. Prior to joining the Office of the President of the General Assembly, Alexandre was the Director for parliamentary committees in the field of External Policies (foreign affairs, development, international trade, human rights, security and defence) in the European Parliament. His role was to coordinate the political and administrative support given to the work of several political bodies and develop synergies between external and domestic EU policy areas, while ensuring consistency with the work and action of other EU institutions or with third country counterparts. A European Union official since 2001, he previously headed the Secretariat of the Foreign Affairs Committee (2014-2015) and served as the Diplomatic Adviser to three Presidents of the European Parliament (2007- 2014). Alexandre is a graduate in humanities, political science and law from the Ecole Normale Supérieure as well as the Sorbonne University in Paris. He was also a postgraduate scholar at the European University Institute in Florence (1997-2001), where he focused on international relations, while teaching political science at New York University (1999-2001). A French native, his languages include English, German, Italian and Spanish.