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2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Members of the UNESCO Expert Group

Below is an overview and biographies of all the members of the UNESCO Global Independent Expert Group.

Screen shot of Zoom meetings with the experts
Screenshot from an expert group meeting on 28 January 2021.
UNESCO Global Expert Group

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Get to know the 14 international experts that make up the UNESCO Global Independent Expert Group.

Agnes Binagwaho  |  University of Global Health Equity (UGHE), Kigali, Rwanda

Picture of Agnes Binagwaho
University of Global Health Equity

Dr. Binagwaho is a pediatrician who from 2002 to 2016 served the Rwandan health sector in various high-level government positions in Rwanda, first as the Executive Secretary of Rwanda's National AIDS Control Commission, then as Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, and then for five years as Minister of Health in Rwanda. According to Bill Gates (and many others), she helped turn Rwanda into a global success story; maternal and child mortality have dropped significantly, life expectancy rose dramatically (28-67, and Rwanda now has some of the best HIV treatment and vaccine coverage numbers. Not the least, Rwanda has achieved almost universal access to health care, a remarkable achievement in a low-income country. Binagwaho serves as Senior Advisor to the Director General of the World Health Organization, has been a member of the United States National Academy of Medicine since 2016 and a fellow of the African Academy of Sciences since 2017. She is a charismatic and innovative leader, exemplified with her widespread of twitter during her function as a minister of health - where she invited twitter users from Rwanda and across the world to discuss topics as family planning in Africa, building a national health sector, combatting substandard medicines, and the role of national and international institutions in global health (under the hashtag #ministerMondays"), and making sure Rwandans who did not have access to the Internet to contribute as well via SMS (by partnering with a Rwandan-American ICT company).

After her work as health minister, Binagwaho became dedicated to radically changing the way health care is delivered around the world by educating the future workforce in the health sector. Therefore, she co-founded the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE) in Kigali, Rwanda in partnership with the Bill Gates foundation and Partners in Health, where she now serves as Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive. The university is dedicated to promoting sustainability and equal access to health for everybody by introducing interdisciplinary and innovative approaches. In order to achieve its ambitious goal, Binagwaho and her colleagues are now building campuses across the Global South. Binagwaho was named among the 100 Most Influential African Women for 2020.

Cheikh Mbow  Future Africa, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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University of Pretoria

Cheikh Mbow has a PhD in Remote Sensing and Forestry from the University of Dakar and Copenhagen University, and from 2002 to 2003 he carried out his postdoctoral studies in Canada. He is the inaugural Director of Future Africa at the University of Pretoria and was appointed as such in September 2019. Future Africa is a platform to develop leadership in transdisciplinary research in Africa to address GRAND challenges that hinder shifts towards a future of the African continent that is prosperous, equitable and sustainable. During his period as Director of Future Africa, he is also fulfilling the role of Professor at the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Science.

For a decade, Mbow was an Associate Professor on remote sensing-GIS and climate change at the Institute of Environmental Sciences, Science Faculty; and Laboratoire d’Enseignement et de Recherche en Géomatique, Polytechnic Faculty of the University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar, where he led research team known as Climate Change, Adaptation and Environmental Risks. He previously served as a Professor at the Institute of Environmental Sciences at University Cheikh Anta Dop of Dakar, Senegal, and has fulfilled many science leadership roles at the World Agroforestry center in Kenya and the START-International Secretariat in USA. Furthermore, he was lead scientist in various regional and global programmes, such as the Global Observation of Forest Cover and Land Degradation (GOFC-GOLD), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Future Earth and the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP). From 2016 to 2019 he led START International-Inc, a think tank based in the US that works on research and capacity building in developing countries, mainly Africa and Asia. Prior to this he was Senior Scientist on climate change and agroforestry (2011-2006) at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi, Kenya. Before this he was Professor at the Institute of Environmental Sciences at University Cheikh Anta Dop of Dakar, Senegal. Mbow has contributed significantly to academic through a plethora of publications in the field of environmental sustainability.

Helena Bonciani Nader  The Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp), Brazil

Helena B. Nader is the head of the Institute of Pharmacology and Molecular Biology, as well as a professor at The Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp). She has a PhD that she obtained from Unifesp, and carried out her post-doctoral training as a Fogarty (NIH) fellow at the University of Southern California. She has the rank of Scientist 1A in the Brazilian Council of Scientific Development and Technology (CNPq). She has published more than 200 papers (Google Scholar h index = 55, more than 10,000 citations), has advised more than 100 master and PhD students in the science field, and mover 40 post-docs that are presently teaching and researching in Brazil and globally. Her research area of interest is molecular and cell biology of glycoconjugates.

Presently, Nader is member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, of TWAS - The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries, and of the São Paulo State Academy of Sciences. She is honor president, former President (2011-2017) and vice-president (2007-2011) of the of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Sciences (SBPC), former president of the Brazilian Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (SBBq, 2007-2008). She is a member of the National Council of Science and Technology (since 2011) and of the Superior Council of Capes (Capes) (since 2016). Her contributions have been accredited for addressing the gap in scientific development between the different regions of Brazil, and since 1999, her group back in São Paulo is enrolled in a program for improvement of nationwide high school education, as an attempt to empower the public education in Brazil that, unfortunately, is undergoing severe crisis. Nader has been the recipient of many national and global awards, and was even the first female at her university to become Pro-rector of Undergraduate, and Pro-rector of Research and Graduate programmes. Therefore, she has been a role model for many women in university spaces, raising women’s need for empowerment and breaking solid barriers in society.

Jamil Salmi  Universidad de Diego Poertales (UDP), Chile

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Jamil Salmi

Jamil Salmi is a Professor Emeritus of the Universidad de Diego Poertales (UDP) and academic/scholar of the Doctorate in Higher Education. In the past 25 years, he has provided policy advice to governments and university leaders in about 100 countries on all continents. He gives policy guidance on system-wide tertiary education reforms, including vision for the future and national development strategies, excellence initiatives, system-wide governance, financial sustainability, quality assurance, institutional differentiation, system articulation, and equity promotion strategies. Furthermore, Salmi advises on benchmarking, strategic planning and capacity building for establishing a world-class university or improving any type of tertiary education institution, including change management, resource mobilization and diversification, quality assurance, internationalization strategy, university-industry linkages, and equity promotion. His work has also been dedicated to evaluation of national higher education systems and reforms, and evaluation of donor programs in support of higher education capacity building in developing countries. Salmi has provided organization and delivery of leadership and strategic planning training for (i) Ministry of Higher Education officials, (ii) university leaders, and (iii) leaders of other tertiary education institutions (non-university institutions, student loan agencies, etc.). He works in English, French and Spanish.

Sylvia Schmelkes (co-chair) Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City

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Instituto Nacional para la Evaluación de la Educación

Sylvia Schmelkes is a Mexican Sociologist with an MA in Educational Research and Development at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City.  She was Academic Director of the Centro de Estudios Educativos, for 10 years.  She has also been a professor and researcher in the Departamento de Estudios Educativos of the Centro de Investigación y Estudios Avanzados, Instituto Politécnico Nacional, and in the Instituto de Investigación y Desarrollo de la Educación of the Universidad Iberoamericana Mexico City, which she headed (2007-2013).  She has written around 15 books and more than 150 articles and book chapters on the right to education, educational quality, values education, intercultural education and adult education.  She chaired the Governing Board of the Centre for Educational Research and Evaluation of the OECD (2002-2004).  She was awarded the Comenius Medal by the Czech Republic and UNESCO in 2008.  She received an honorary PhD from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California and an Honorary Degree as a Doctor of Law from the University of Concordia in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 2019.  She represented Latin America in the Advisory Group of the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report from 2016 to 2019.  She served for 8 years (2000-2017) as a member of the Governing Board of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.  She founded and was the first General Coordinator of Intercultural and Bilingual Education (2001-2007) that develops policy, curriculum and educational materials for intercultural and bilingual indigenous education and for intercultural education for all. She was head of the Research Institute for the Development of Education in Universidad Iberoamericana.  She chaired the governing board of the now extinct National Institute for the Evaluation of Education. At present she is Academic Provost of Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City.

Sol Serrano  Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

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Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Sol Serrano is a Full Professor in the History Department of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She is a Chilean historian with a Master of Arts from Yale University (1982) and a Ph.D. in History from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She has been Vice Rector for Research Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile; Head of the Doctorate Program at the History Department, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She has been a visiting Professor at the Paris University-1 Pantheon-Sorbonne. Serrano has been a visiting Scholar at the following institutions: the Cushwa Center for the History of American Catholicism; University of Notre Dame (Rome Campus); Université de Paris I, Pantheon-Sorbonne; the Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut, Berlin; École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris; Luksic Visiting Scholar, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University; the Erasmus Institute; Senior Associated Member, Saint Anthony’s College, Oxford University. In 2001 she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Furthermore, Serrano received Chile’s 2018 National History Award.

Melody Brown Burkins  Dartmouth College, New Hampshire

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Eli S. Burakian, Dartmouth

Melody Brown Burkins is the Associate Director for Programs and Research in the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, and Adjunct Professor of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth. She has a Bachelor of Science in Geology from Yale, and completed both her Master of Science and PhD at Dartmouth. Her doctoral studies focused on earth and ecosystem studies of the Antarctic Dry Valleys. She works in a variety of positions and initiatives related to Arctic communities and their future. She is a Councillor to the UArctic global network for Dartmouth, a Senior Fellow in the UArctic Institute for Arctic Policy, the Vice Lead of the UArctic Model Arctic Council Thematic Network, and is a founding member of the UArctic Gender in Arctic Knowledge Production and Thematic Network. Furthermore, collaborating with Canadian and Alaskan colleagues, in 2017 she worked to host the first Arctic Science Diplomacy and Leadership Workshop at Dartmouth.

Dr. Burkins holds a variety of prestigious positions, some of which include the following: She is an elected member of the Founding Governing Board of the International Science Council (ISC), Chair of the National Academies’ Board on International Scientific Organizations (BISO), Past Chair of the U.S. National Committee for Geological Sciences, and was recently appointed to the United Nations' Office of Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) Global Assessment Report (GAR) Advisory Board. Also taking on many advisory positions, she is faculty advisor to the Science, Technology and Engineering Policy Society (STEPS) at Dartmouth, is on the advisory board for the Science Diplomacy Division of the International Network of Government Science Advisors (INGSA), and advises Aurora, a student organization that celebrates Alaskan culture and linking students to future opportunities in the North. Burkins also works in international settings to drive more inclusive and equitable society through the development of platforms for science policy and diplomacy.  This, she believes, includes prioritizing and incentivizing reciprocity and collaboration with local communities, respecting indigenous and local knowledge, and promoting efforts to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Dr. Burkins has been a cross-disciplinary policy advocate in relation to education and global science, and has worked for more than 25 years in governmental and academic capacities. Her work – spanning from the Arctic to the Middle East, contributes to some of the world’s most pressing issues, including sustainability, inclusion, gender equality, and peace.

Adrian Parr  University of Oregon

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Adrian Parr

Dr. Adrian Parr is an Australian cultural theorist and is the Dean of the College of Design at University of Oregon. Prior to this, she was Dean of the College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs (CAPPA) at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) and Professor at the University of Cincinnati, where she served as the Director of the Taft Research Center for five years. She was one of the founding signatories for the Geneva Actions on Human Water Security (2017) and has served as a UNESCO water chair since 2013. She is the curator for the Watershed Urbanism exhibition at the European Cultural Center for the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale. She is the founding director of The Intimate Realities of Water Project that studies the water challenges underprivileged communities around the world face. The documentary she produced and co-directed with Sean Hughes, The Intimate Realities of Water, examines how water shapes the everyday life of women in Nairobi's slums and it received 13 awards. She has published eight books, the most recent being a trilogy on environmental culture and politics: Birth of a New Earth (Columbia University Press), The Wrath of Capital (Columbia University Press), and Hijacking Sustainability (MIT Press). In 2011 she was awarded the Rieveschl Award for Scholarly and Creative Work at the University of Cincinnati. She has been interviewed for her views on climate change by The New York Times and is a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Seeram Ramakrishna  National University of Singapore

Picture of Seeram Ramakrishna
National University of Singapore

Professor Seeram Ramakrishna, FREng, Everest Chair is among the top three impactful authors at the National University of Singapore, NUS. He is the Chair of Circular Economy Taskforce.  He is a member of Enterprise Singapore’s and ISO’s Committees on ISO/TC323 Circular Economy and WG3 on Circularity. He is also the Chair of Sustainable Manufacturing TC at the Institution of Engineers Singapore.  He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Springer NATURE Journal Materials Circular Economy - Sustainability.  Microsoft Academic ranked him among the top 25 authors out of three million materials researchers worldwide based on H-index. He is named among the World’s Most Influential Minds (Thomson Reuters), and the Top 1% Highly Cited Researchers (Clarivate Analytics). His senior academic leadership roles include NUS University Vice President (Research Strategy); Dean of NUS Faculty of Engineering; Director of NUS Enterprise; and Founding Chairman of Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS).  He is an elected Fellow of UK Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng); Singapore Academy of Engineering; Indian National Academy of Engineering; and ASEAN Academy of Engineering & Technology. He received a PhD from the University of Cambridge, UK; and The TGMP from the Harvard University, USA.

Tong Shijun  NYU Shanghai

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NYU Shanghai

Tong Shijun became the second Chancellor of NYU Shanghai on June 1, 2020. A scholar of Western and Chinese philosophy, he served as an administrator and professor of philosophy at East China Normal University for more than 20 years, and as party secretary there from 2011 to 2019.

Tong is the author of ten books in addition to many scholarly articles, translations, and joint publications. He is actively involved in international academic fora and is highly recognized by colleagues in China and abroad, particularly for his scholarship on critical theory and the works of contemporary philosopher Jürgen Habermas. Professor Tong received his doctoral degree from the University of Bergen (Norway) in 1994. He has served as a visiting scholar at the University of Bergen, a guest professor at Philipps-Universität Marburg (Germany), a Fulbright Research Scholar at Columbia University, and a member of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

In 2011, he was elected a Foreign Member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (Det Norske Videnskaps-Akademi). He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors for his teaching, research, and writing.

Anna Davies  |  Trinity College Dublin

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Anna Davies

Anna Davies is a Professor of Geography, Environment and Society at Trinity College Dublin, where she is also the director of the Environmental Governance Research Group and is on the steering committee for the Trinity Centre for Future Cities. Her research examines socio-political and spatial aspects of environmental policy making, and has worked on projects of various topics such as environmental planning and sustainable development, values and valuation of the environment, the politics of climate change, biodiversity, waste management, sustainability enterprise and sustainable consumption. She is presently the Principal Investigator of SHARECITY (2015-2021), which is a project funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program. The project utilizes a collaborative and trans-disciplinary framework to assess the practice and sustainability of city-based food sharing economies. 

Anna is a Member of the Royal Irish Academy (2017), and was the inaugural Chair of Future Earth Ireland. Furthermore she advises the Irish Government as a member of the National Climate Change Council (2015-2021).  She is currently a Board Member of the International Science Council. She has been on the management board of the social enterprise The Rediscovery Centre since 2008, which is  dedicated to providing community employment and training via innovative reuse of unwanted or discarded materials. Previously, she was a Chair of The Planning and Environment Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society, and she has been the Secretary of the European Roundtable on Sustainable Consumption and Production was a founding member of the Future Earth Knowledge Action Network for Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production, initially co-Chairing the working group on social change beyond consumerism. From 2009 to 2016 she acted as Principal Investigator of CONSENSUS, a large-scale multi-institutional project funded by the Environmental Protection Agency focused on consumption, environment and sustainability. From 2011 to 2016 she was an independent member of the National Economic and Social Council, and in 2017 and 2018 she participated as a member of the Expert Group for the Citizen’s Assembly on Climate Change. 

Anna has produced more than 100 reports, policy statements, peer reviewed books, book chapters and journal articles, including articles in leading international peer-review journals such as Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, the Annals of American Association of Geography and Geoforum. She has received various recognition for her work, including a prize from the Geography Society of Ireland for her contribution to Society and Community in 2012, and the Irish Researcher of the year in 2018, awarded by the Irish Research Council. In 2020 She was awarded an Inaugural Public Engagement Award by the European Research Council for her project SHARECITY.

Dag Olav Hessen (co-chair)  |  University of Oslo

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University of Oslo

Dr. Dag O. Hessen has a Master of Science in biology, a Master in Public Law and a PhD in Biology from the University of Oslo. In 1983 Hessen began as an assistant professor at the University of Oslo, and in 1988 he became a Research leader at Norway Institute of Water Research before becoming a full professor in Biosciences at University of Oslo in 1993. Presently he is also head the Center for biogeochemistry in Anthropocene at the University of Oslo in the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.

Hessen’s major interests include food web ecology and “ecological stoichiometry” in aquatic food-webs. Additionally, he has papers on genomic evolution and regulation of growth rate via rDNA and RNA in various organisms. Furthermore he has ongoing studies on climatic effects on element cycling and biota at high latitudes, however his current interest is carbon cycling in ecosystems and its bearings on climate. He also has a wide collaboration with social sciences, and has published some 25 popular science books related to humans in nature and humans nature.

Tristan McCowan  |  University College London

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Victoria Wiley

Tristan McCowan is Professor of International Education at the Institute of Education, University College London. His work focuses on higher education and international development, particularly in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, including issues of access, quality, innovation and impact. His latest book is Higher Education for and beyond the Sustainable Development Goals (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), and he is editor of Compare – a Journal of International and Comparative Education. He is currently leading a multi-country Global Challenges Research Fund project on universities and climate change.

Andy Stirling  |  University of Sussex

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University of Sussex

Elected a fellow of the UK Academy of Social Science in 2017, Andy Stirling has been a Professor of Science and Technology Policy at Sussex University since 2006. He has an MA in archaeology and social anthropology (Edinburgh University 1984) and a doctorate in science and technology policy from the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU, (University of Sussex, 1994). 

Through the early 1980s, Stirling worked as a field archaeologist and ecology and peace activist. In 1985 he joined Greenpeace as a volunteer, going on to co-ordinate their international nuclear, disarmament and energy campaigns and serving between 1994 and 2016 on their international and UK boards. He has also worked variously as a building labourer, laboratory technician, hospital porter and factory, farm and mental health care worker. 

Stirling has worked in SPRU at the University of Sussex for more than 25 years as a transdisciplinary 'policy-engaged' researcher, teacher and policy adviser on the politics of science, technology and innovation. Here, he has served in a variety of different roles including as Science Director (2006-2012), Research Director for the Sussex University Business School (2009-2012), Professor in SPRU (since 2006) and co-director of the ESRC STEPS Centre (since 2006). 

In this time, Stirling played lead roles in a variety of projects, including deputy direction the DEFRA/ESRC Sustainable Lifestyles Research Group (2010-2014); Sussex lead PI for the ESRC Nexus Network (2014-2017). He has also taken on a policy advisory role, in which he has served 2 terms on the ESRC Research Committee (2009-2015) and on 9 UK government advisory committees (eg: the Advisory Committee on Toxic Substances; the BIS GM Science Review Panel, the DIUS Sciencewise Steering Board and the DEFRA Science Advisory Council). 

Other advisory roles include for the Royal Society, Nuffield Bioethics Council and Department for Business in the UK as well as in 5 other countries and 10 other intergovernmental organisations (eg: as a lead author for the International Panel on Social Progress; as well as membership of OECD, UNESCO, US Hastings Bioethics Centre, UN IHDP, EEA and European Science Foundation bodies). Furthermore, he was Rapporteur for the EC Science in Society Advisory Committee and a member of EU expert committees on Energy Policy, ‘Science and Governance’, ‘Making Sense of Science’ and ‘Technology Foresight’. 

He has additionally served (in an unpaid capacity) as an advisor for a number of commercial firms (eg: Shell, Unilever, Scottish Nuclear) and public interest organisations (eg: Global Energy Observatory, Demos and Green Alliance). Through his work, Stirling aims to assist in 'democratising progress' towards equal societies, distributed power and a flourishing Earth.