Board members

The board members are as follows:

Knud Vilby

Knud Vilby was appointed to the Board from January 2015 and was elected Chair in January 2017

Knud Vilby is a Danish journalist and development consultant. In the 1970’s Knud was editor in chief at the Danish Daily newspaper Information. Later he served as chairman of the Danish National UNESCO Commission, and as chairman of Dansk Forfatterforening (Danish Writers Association) He has been a chairperson for Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke (today ActionAidDenmark), member of the board of DanChurchAid and of the board of Danida (Denmark’s Development Cooperation). Presently he is a board member in FairFishing, Somaliland (one of three co-founders), chairperson for Jyderup Folk High School and for The Plum Foundation for Peace, Ecology and Sustainability.

Knud Vilby has published extensively about Africa, global development, poverty, climate and the environment.  Some of his more recent books include “The global journey” (in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish); “Independent? Tanzania’s challenges since Uhuru” (in Danish and English); “The fight against the poor. New frontiers are strengthening global inequality” (in Danish); and “Exposed” (“Udsat”in Danish). 


 Chris Tooley

Chris Tooley was elected to the board from January 2016 and was elected Vice-Chair in January 2017

Chris Tooley is from New Zealand/Aotearoa and is indigenous Māori (Ngāti Kahungunu). He holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge and is a Gates Scholar. He researches on the topic of self-determination and has published on struggles in New Zealand, Québec and Palestine and was a section-editor for the Cambridge Review of International Affairs and the managing-editor of the International Indigenous AlterNative Journal. He is also a graduate of the international development program at the United Nations University.

Chris was the Chief Advisor for the Minister of Māori Affairs in New Zealand’s Parliament (2009-2014), developing a number of Māori/Indigenous policies and strategies, including negotiating the governments change in position on the UNDRIP, endorsed in 2010. He is currently a consultant across a range of government, public sector and Māori entities and sits on the Academic Board of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, an indigenous-university in New Zealand. 

Karen Bundgaard Andersen

Karen B. Andersen, IWGIA Board member



 Karen B. Andersen was appointed to the Board from January 2013

Karen B. Andersen has a degree in English and Spanish from Copenhagen Business School. She is currently working as Programme Officer Finance and Administration at the International Dalit Solidarity Network.  

Her areas of experience and expertise include finance, fundraising and donor contacts.  Karen has a thorough knowledge and commitment to indigenous peoples’ rights and IWGIA's work after many years of working in IWGIA’s secretariat as Administrator (from 1986 to 2004). During this period she played an active role in IWGIA's development from a very small grass-root organisation to the organization it is today. As a board member she expects to contribute with knowledge and advice on especially economic and administrative issues.

Marianne Lykke Thomsen 

Marianne Lykke Thomsen was elected to the Board from January 2015

Marianne Lykke Thomsen lives in Greenland. She has a background in Inuit studies and anthropology.  She started working with Inuit Circumpolar Council on environmental issues and Traditional Knowledge, but has, for the past twenty years, worked in foreign affairs for the Government of Greenland, including a diplomatic posting as Representative of Greenland to Canada from 1998 to 2002. 

She has worked closely with organizations and governments across the Arcticand was actively engaged in the establishment of the Arctic Council. For many years, she represented the Kingdom of Denmark in the Council’s Sustainable Development Working Group and served as the international chair during the Danish-Greenland-Faroese chairmanship 2009-2011, where Greenland hosted the first Arctic Health Ministers’ Conference and the ‘Hope and Resilience in Suicide Prevention’ seminar co-organized with Inuit Circumpolar Youth Council. 

In successful cooperation with the Danish MFA, IWGIA and other partners, she was actively involved in the negotiations of UNDRIP and the establishment of EMRIP in 2007, as well as the run up to World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014. In 2006, she coordinated Greenland’s hosting of UNPFII’s ‘Partnership Visions for the Second Decade’ workshop, where an important precedent to host Pre-sessional meetings of the UNPFII outside the UN was also established. UN assignments include contributions to treaty bodies, UPR, and occasionally WIPO and CBD processes. 

Marianne Lykke Thomsen has supported the work of IWGIA since 1980, and will, in her capacity as a board member, continue to promote the constructive cooperation between ICC, IWGIA and the Governments of Denmark and Greenland in support of indigenous peoples.

Diana Vinding

Diana Vinding was elected to the Board from January 2017 

Diana Vinding is a social anthropologist. She also holds a degree in International Relations from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques, Paris, France. 

Diana has been working and teaching at Roskilde University Center and SPRØK (CBS, Copenhagen). She has worked as Programme Officer in Ibis (a Danish NGO), and has held consultancies for a number of other Danish NGOs and organizations, including MS, Danida, DanChurch Aid and Nepenthes (now Verdens Skove). She has written and edited several reports and working papers on indigenous peoples for ILO, the secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and IFAD.

Her connection with IWGIA goes back to the 1970s when she was appointed Editorial Secretary, a position she held for a couple of years while finishing her master in anthropology.  From then on, and although working elsewhere, she always kept a strong relationship with the organization and a deep commitment to indigenous rights. In the 1990s, she re-joined IWGIA where she for a number of years worked with different regional issues – mainly in southern Africa and Latin America - thereby acquiring an extensive personal relationship with indigenous peoples and their organizations around the world. For several years, Diana also served as the coordinating editor of The Indigenous World/El Mundo Indígena. 

Now retired from work, Diana has upheld her strong interest in indigenous issues, editing several IWGIA reports and serving as interim coordinating editor of The Indigenous World/El Mundo Indígena 2016. Diana has previously served on the Board of IWGIA and with her long and profound knowledge of the organisation and the indigenous world, she hopes to once more contribute to its further development. 

Tyge Lehmann 

Tyge Lehmann was appointed to the board from January 2017

Tyge Lehmann is a former Danish ambassador. He holds a MA degree in Law from the University of Copenhagen and has been part of the Danish Foreign Service from 1965 until 2007.

Since 1986 Tyge has been actively involved in matters related to human rights -in time of peace as well as during armed conflict-, the fight against international terrorism and issues related to the law of the sea. He has served as agent of the Government of Denmark in proceedings before the International Court of Justice in the Hague as well as the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg. In 1993 he was the head of the Danish delegation to the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna and the World Conference against Racism held in Durban in 2001. Tyge has also served as the Danish representative in the UN Commission on Human Rights (from 1996 to 1998).

During his career, Tyge has been actively involved in promoting the rights of indigenous peoples in the UN system in close cooperation with Greenland and IWGIA. A major achievement in this respect has been the establishment of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2000.

Laila Susanne Vars

Laila Susanne Vars was appointed as an institutional member to the Board from February 2017

Laila Susanne Vars holds a law degree (cand.jur) and a PhD in international law from the University of Tromsø, the Arctic University of Norway. She is an indigenous Sámi from the Northern Sámi area (Guovdageaidnu). She is the former Vice-President of the Sámediggi- Sámi Parliament in Norway 2009-2013, she was a member of the Sámi Parliamentarian Council 2009-2017 and has also served as legal adviser at the Sámi Parliament in Norway 2001-2005. She is the Deputy Chair of the board of the Faculty of Law at the University of Tromsø, and former member of the UNESCO Commission of Norway. She held the position as the Director of Gáldu- The Resource Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2013-2017. Gáldu was merged with the National Institution on Human Rights NHRI) in Norway January 1 2017. Laila is now Head of Department at the NHRI in Norway.

Since 2004 Laila has been actively involved in matters related to indigenous and human rights on the national and international level, both as an academic and as an indigenous politician. She was actively involved in the negotiations on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as representative of the Sámi Parliament. As Director of Gáldu, Laila has cooperated with IWGIA both through her own capacity as expert on indigenous and Sámi rights and through institutional cooperations between Gáldu and IWGIA on various publications. In her capacity as a board member, she hopes to contribute in a positive way to the ongoing strategic and structural process with the aim to strengthen IWGIA further. 

 Signe Leth - Staff Observer 

Signe Leth is the Asia coordinator for IWGIA. She holds an M.A. in anthropology and History of Art from Aarhus University. Signe has been living in North East Cambodia for four years (2006-2010) working with indigenous peoples issues (research on domestic violence among the Kreung, Village development planning, and land rights issues in particular). Before joining IWGIA in February 2016, Signe worked as Asia coordinator in the Danish Centre for Culture and Development.