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IWGIA strengthens its foundation with Kathrin Wessendorf as new Executive Director

IWGIA welcomed Kathrin Wessendorf as its new Executive Director On 1 April 2020. Kathrin is a trained anthropologist from the University of Basel who brings with her over 20 years’ experience working with the Indigenous Peoples movement, helping to promote, protect and defend the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Kathrin has held multiple positions with IWGIA, including most recently as the Head of Programmes and Acting Executive Director, and has been highly involved in change processes and strategic development within the organisation over recent years. She brings that wealth of experience to the position as Executive Director, with strong skills in strategic programming, organisation and coordination as well as a deep understanding of IWGIA’s role and core work.

IWGIA Board Chair Ida Theilade welcomes Kathrin and is very pleased she accepted the position.

“Kathrin is uniquely positioned to drive the strategic direction of the organisation in tune with the needs of our partners and global network. She has been involved in nearly every aspect of the organisation and embodies the vision and core values of IWGIA. Kathrin is the best candidate we could wish for in order to continue the development of the organisation at a time when Indigenous Peoples are facing more challenges than ever, not least during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to an increase in human rights violations against Indigenous Peoples,” Theilade said.

Kathrin is highly respected in the field by Indigenous Peoples’ organisations, as well as among experts and IWGIA members and partners, having worked directly with key rightsholders and duty bearers in the advancement of Indigenous Peoples rights. From international mechanisms such as the Human Rights Council, UN General Assembly, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Green Climate Fund and Arctic Council, to large consortiums such as the International Land Coalition, Kathrin maintains an active and powerful network which IWGIA has benefitted from since she joined the organisation in 2000.

“I am honoured to continue to stand with Indigenous Peoples and support their work through the efforts of this great organisation in ensuring their rights are upheld. I started out as a volunteer for IWGIA back home in Switzerland and am excited to take this next step in my commitment to the Indigenous Peoples’ movement. I am happy to work with a great and dedicated team here in IWGIA, who shares my commitment,” Wessendorf said.

In 2019, more than 572 attacks and killings on human rights defenders took place and the renewable energy sector was in the top five of sectors that led to the most attacks. Indigenous Peoples make up 5% of the world's population, about 15% of the world's poorest, and up to 40% of the environmental and human rights defenders who are killed annually worldwide.

"Neither the climate nor the corona crisis must be an excuse to ignore fundamental human rights,"  Wessendorf said. “There is generally a great need to strengthen the rights agenda and focus on the rights of Indigenous Peoples globally. As a new director, I want to do everything I can for IWGIA to contribute to strengthening Indigenous Peoples’ rights.”

Tags: Human rights



IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Read more.

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IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for Indigenous Peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

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