IWGIA's international Board is the highest governing body of the organisation and works in close cooperation with our Executive Director. The Board consists of seven members and one staff observer. Two members of the Board are elected by and among our members, three members are appointed by the Board, two members are recruited by the Board from organisations with a particular expertise in indigenous/human rights, and one staff observer is elected by the secretariat staff.
Ida Theilade, Chair of the Board
Ida Theilade has a PhD in tropical botany from the University of Copenhagen and has worked with participatory management and conservation of tropical forests for the past 25 years. The research explores the role local and Indigenous knowledge and institutions can play in natural resource governance. This includes natural forests and human-modified environments such as protected forests, agro-ecosystems and community forests, at any ecological scale i.e. from genes to ecosystems. Current research centers on local and Indigenous knowledge and its uses in community monitoring of forests and co-benefits for biodiversity, rights and social well-being.
Project portfolio includes basic and applied research and advisory services on livelihoods, management and conservation. Capacity building in developing countries and dissemination of research results to a wider audience is an integral part of Ida Theilade’s work as a Professor in ethnobotany and Forest Governance at the University of Copenhagen. She has been a member of the IWGIA Board since September 2019 and became Chair of the Board in January 2020.
Rune Fjellheim, Vice-Chair
Rune Fjellheim runs his own consultancy company, Rune Fjellheim AS, where he leverages his expertise in Arctic and Indigenous Peoples issues. With deep roots in Sámi culture and a broad career background, he holds a solid knowledge of these issues. His professional background has been connected to promoting and protecting the interests and rights of Indigenous Peoples in general and the Sámi people in particular. His professional journey spans several decades and includes leading roles as director of the Sámi Parliament in Norway, as well as important positions in the Saami Council and the Arctic Council's Indigenous Secretariat.
At present he holds a position as senior adviser to the Saami Council on issues related to research and science issues. He also holds several board positions related to small scale business development in the Sámi area, is chair of the Sámi House of Oslo and chair of Mama Sara Education Foundation for Maasai Children.He became a member of the IWGIA Board in January 2020.
Nauja Bianco is a native Greenlander, born and raised in the capital Nuuk, now living in Copenhagen, Denmark.
For 15 years, Ms. Bianco worked in government and diplomacy for various bodies, including the Government of Greenland (in Nuuk and Brussels), as a diplomat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and in the intergovernmental organization of the Nordic Council of Ministers (a cooperation between Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland along with Greenland, Faroe Islands and Åland Island). In her work with the eg. the Arctic Council, Ms. Bianco has cooperated with Indigenous Peoples’ organisations and their agendas on the international scene. In 2018, she moved to Toronto, Canada, and became an independent consultant with her own company (Isuma Consulting) where she did strategic advisory work within Arctic and Nordic affairs and freelance journalism and communication. After returning to Denmark in 2020, she became the CEO of the North Atlantic House and the Greenlandic House in Odense, Denmark. North Atlantic House is a cultural house portraying arts and culture from Greenland, Faroe Islands, and Iceland along with a business network facilitating greater business knowledge of the three countries. The Greenlandic House works with Greenlanders (on all levels) living in Denmark and in this context Ms. Bianco among other things worked with the rights and status of Kalaallit (Greenlanders) in Denmark.
As of September 2023, Ms. Bianco revived Isuma Consulting and is now an independent consultant. She became a member of the IWGIA Board in January 2024.
Peter Dawson is an Aboriginal lawyer from Australia currently working as a Senior Advisor at the Norwegian National Human Rights Institution. He has over ten years’ experience working with Indigenous rights in Australia and Norway, including on issues related to constitutional change, land rights, extractive industries, climate change, intellectual property rights, statistics and data governance, hate speech and discrimination. He has also participated in several United Nations forums and has appeared as a third-party intervener before the European Court of Human Rights.
Peter holds a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Notre Dame Australia and a Master of Public International Law from the University of Oslo. He was raised on Noongar country in Western Australia and has family ties to Wiradjuri country in Central New South Wales. He currently lives in Oslo, Norway. Peter joined the IWGIA board in January 2024.
Dr. René Kuppe is a retired law professor from The University of Vienna/Austria whose academic work is centered on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, with a focus on Indigenous legal philosophies; Indigenous legal systems; protection of traditional Indigenous beliefs and religions; and sustainable development and Indigenous Peoples.
He has been involved in international law practice and legal policy work related to Indigenous Peoples’ rights, including work on the development of Indigenous autonomy arrangements and jurisdiction systems in Latin America, demarcation of Indigenous territories in Venezuela, and promoting the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ property systems in the Arctic. Based on his legal background and working relationships with Indigenous organisations he has been active in campaign work, most recently in the “German Koordinationskreis ILO 169” campaign, which led to the ratification of ILO Convention 169 by Germany in 2021. He joined the IWGIA board in January 2022.
Elifuraha Laltaika is a Senior Law Lecturer at Tumaini University Makumira (Arusha, Tanzania) and holds a Doctorate in Law from the University of Arizona. From 2017-2019, he served as an expert member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. He recently served as a Harvard Law School Visiting Scholar to examine extractive industry and community rights under International Law. Prior to that, he was a Senior Indigenous Fellow at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Among other accolades, he is the 2022 recipient of the Stilvana Kravchenko Environmental Rights Award – awarded annually to appreciate a scholar from anywhere in the world whose work empowers communities – recognizing his “broad impact in the law while working to support local communities”.
Elifuraha is Maasai, born and raised in the pastoralist Indigenous community in Ngorongoro, Tanzania. Since 2005, he has consistently worked on Indigenous Peoples issues at the national, regional and international levels, including training high court judges and practicing lawyers on Indigenous Peoples’ rights in Tanzania, through IWGIA support. He is currently serving as a Visiting Professor at the Peter Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia, Canada. He became a member of the IWGIA Board in January 2023.
Elsa Stamatopoulou joined Columbia University in 2011 after 31 years of service at the United Nations with some 22 years dedicated to human rights, in addition to eight years exclusively devoted to Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Indigenous issues were part of her formal portfolio since 1983 and she became the first Chief of the Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2003.
She is now the first Director of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Program at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia. Her academic background is in law, international law, criminal justice and political science (Athens Law School, Vienna University, Northeastern University and Graduate Institute of International Studies at the University of Geneva). She has received various awards, including the Ingrid Washinawatok El Issa O’Peqtaw Metaehmoh-Flying Eagle Woman Peace, Justice and Sovereignty Award and the Innovation in Academia Award for Arts & Culture, 2016, by the University of Kent (UK). In 2016, she was featured as one of the UN’s 80 Leading Women from 1945-2016. She became a member of the IWGIA Board in January 2020.
She has edited or co-edited six books — the most recent one on Indigenous Peoples and Borders (Duke U Press). Her first monograph was on Cultural Rights in International Law (Martinus Nijhoff/Brill), and the second (expected to be out in 2025) is on Indigenous Peoples in the International Arena: The Global Movement for Self-Determination (Routledge).
Julie Marion, Staff Observer
Julie is IWGIA’s Donor Relations Manager and Fundraiser. Her beating heart for human rights led her to join IWGIA in April 2018. She learnt the ropes of fundraising and donor relations at the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva, Switzerland. After enriching experiences with the UN and the private sector, she chose to go back to supporting human rights through what she knows best: raising funds for the cause. Julie holds a Master’s degree in humanitarian law and human rights from the University of Aix-en-Provence in France.