Global Leadership Dialogues

What are the real life experiences that inspire today’s global thought-leaders and policymakers? What mistakes have they learned from? What are their hopes for the next generation of global environmental governance? These topics and more are covered in Global Leadership Dialogues, the newest publication series from the Center for Governance and Sustainability.


Based on in-person interchanges, the stories told in the Dialogues series offer insights into the professional work and personal experiences of notable professionals in the global governance field. The tone and content of this series are informal, and the publications are not subject to peer review. Instead, the purpose is to provide in-depth perspectives on what these leaders think about key issues in global governance, what inspires them, and how they imagine the future.

Volume 4, Issue 2: Fighting for the Future

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Vincent Biruta has served as Rwanda’s minister of environment since August 2017. Prior to this, he was the minister of natural resources from 2014 and minister of education from 2011. Previous roles include president of the Rwandan Senate; president of the National Transition Assembly; minister of public works, transport and communication; and minister of health. Minister Biruta is passionate about the intersection of the environment and the economy to achieve sustainable green growth and socioeconomic transformation.


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Volume 4, Issue 1: Champion for Change

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Erik Solheim became the sixth Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme after an outstanding career as environment and development minister of Norway, chief mediator in the Sri Lanka peace talks, and head of the OECD Development Assistance Committee. Solheim has been a prominent figure in Norwegian politics since the 1980s. He served as secretary and leader of the Socialist Left Party and was elected to parliament in 1989, 1993, and 1997.


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Volume 3, Issue 4: Sustainable Finance Visionary


Rachel Kyte is CEO and special representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL). Before assuming this position in January 2016, she was the vice president and special envoy on climate change at the World Bank. She has also served as vice president for Business Advisory Services at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and as director for Environment and Social Development at the IFC.

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Volume 3, Issue 3: Environmental Envoy

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Achim Steiner has served as Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for the past 10 years. In fall 2016, he will be leaving UNEP to join the Oxford Martin School as its new director. Part of his legacy at the UN is the effort to reform the organization, which culminated in the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (also known as the Rio+20 conference) that strengthened UNEP. Steiner led UNEP as it evolved and implemented the outcomes of the Rio+20 conference. A particularly notable transition is the transformation to universal membership and the establishment of the UN Environment Assembly.

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Volume 3, Issue 2: Pioneer Chemist

Reiko Kuroda is one of the world’s leading chemists,  professor at the Research Institute for Science and Technology at Tokyo University of Science and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo. Dr. Kuroda is also a leading policymaker in Japan and globally. She was a member of the Committee for Realizing a Gender-Equal Society, the Council for Science and Technology Policy (CSTP), and vice president of the International Council for Sciences (ICSU). She has received numerous prestigious awards for her exceptional work, especially in the fields of chemistry and biology, such as the 2013 L’Oréal-UNESCO Award For Women in Science. She also received the Prime Minister’s Commendation for Efforts Toward the Formation of a Gender-Equal Society in 2014 for her work in promoting equality for women scientists.


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Volume 3, Issue 1: Biotechnology Trailblazer

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Hayat Sindi is cofounder of Diagnostics For All, a Massachusetts nonprofit that designs low-cost diagnostic devices to improve health services in developing countries. She is also president of the i2: Institute for Imagination and Ingenuity, an organization that seeks to engage scientists, technologists, and engineers in entrepreneurship and social innovation. She earned a degree in pharmacology from King’s College in London and became the first woman from the Arabian Gulf to earn a PhD in biotechnology, which she completed at Cambridge University.


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Volume 2, Issue 4: UN System Scholar


Lorraine Elliott is professor of international relations in the Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs in the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University (ANU), an ANU Public Policy Fellow, an associate for the Climate and Environment Governance Network (CEGNET) at ANU, and Chair of the Board of Directors for the Academic Council on the UN System (ACUNS). She is also affiliated faculty in the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Elliott has conducted research on global environmental governance and regional environmental governance in Southeast Asia, climate security and human security in the Asia Pacific, and transnational environmental crime. 


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Volume 2, Issue 3: Wildlife Advocate

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John Scanlon entered office as Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora in 2010. Internationally, Scanlon has served as head of the law program at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), director of the IUCN Environmental Law Centre, strategic advisor for the World Commission on Dams, and remains a member of the IUCN World Commissions on Environmental Law. In 2007, Scanlon joined the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as a principal advisor and as a team leader of the Strategic Implementation Team where he led the development of the Medium-Term Strategy, a reform framework for UNEP.

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Volume 2, Issue 2: Sea Change Scholar

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Susan Avery became the first atmospheric scientist and the first woman to hold the position of president and director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) in 2008. Avery is active in a number of scientific institutions, serving as a member of the Director-General’s Science Advisory Committee for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); on the advisory committee for Environmental Research and Education for the National Science Foundation; and as a chair on the Science Advisory Board for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In addition, in 2013, she was appointed to the UN Scientific Advisory Board, which provide advice to the UN Secretary-General on science, technology, and innovation for sustainable development.

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Volume 2, Issue 1: Naturalist and Novelist 

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Stanley Johnson, an Ambassador for the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), and he serves as honorary president of the Gorilla Organization. As a renowned writer and environmental advocate, Johnson has extensive experience working with global environmental Center for Governance and Sustainability is a senior fellow at the governance, and has recently published a book on the first 40 years of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

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Volume 1, Issue 2: Climate Champion

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Christiana Figueres is the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. She founded the non-profit Center for Sustainable Development of the Americas, and directed it for eight years (1995 – 2003). She also designed and helped to establish national climate change programs in eight Latin American countries, thereby promoting strong participation of the countries in that region in the Climate Change Convention.  

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Volume 1, Issue 1: Environmentalist Extraordinaire


Gus Speth served as the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (1993 – 1999) and as the Dean of Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (1999 – 2009). He founded the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute. 

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Future editions of Global Leadership Dialogues will feature national policymakers, academics, and leaders of intergovernmental agencies. Each of these interviews will provide a glimpse into current governance topics through the eyes of these global agents of change. The Center for Governance and Sustainability looks forward to sharing these documentary excerpts with you. Stay tuned!