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A farewell message to Julie Koch

Julie Koch is resigning as the Executive Director of IWGIA and has her last working day on October 29 and here is IWGIA's Chairman of the Board, Knud Vilby's farewell words.

We would have liked to have her with us as the head of IWGIA for much longer. Julie is a dedicated hard-working manager who has played a very important and positive role for IWGIA over the last few years.

As a relatively small international organisation with most of the world on its agenda, but a very limited funding base, IWGIA faces many challenges.

As a human rights organisation working to promote indigenous people’s rights in close cooperation with indigenous peoples’ own organizations, IWGIA must take on new, important work tasks while maintaining the important rights work that has characterised the organisation for more than 50 years.

It is becoming still more important to focus on the role of indigenous peoples in preserving the climate and reaching the sustainable development goals. As an organisation we are fighting for indigenous peoples’ rights while at the same time acknowledging that indigenous peoples’ fight for the environment is also a fight benefitting the whole of mankind.

We also have the ambition to become a global documentation centre in relation to indigenous peoples.

To be able to do what is needed, we also need to diversify and increase our funding. IWGIA’s finances are dependant on a few major donors and we were in an economic crisis a few years back when we lost an important core donor. Today, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is IWGIA’s only core funder.

Julie’s task has been to head and steer a process of transformation while simultaneously preserving what has made IWGIA the highly respected organisation it is today.

It has been a difficult process, as well as one of dedication, to develop strategies, strengthen and diversify funding, and improve external communication for IWGIA.

It has been tough work throughout the whole period—and at times an up-hill struggle— wherein Julie has had to face skepticism and resistance towards change.

As members of IWGIA will know, Julie was also given the task by the Board to investigate the possibilities of changing the name of IWGIA to something more idiomatic and easier to remember, with the aim of making IWGIA more visible in wider circles. This ended with proposals rejected by a majority of members.

IWGIA is nevertheless in a much healthier position today than when Julie joined the organisation. Strategies are in place, new donors are on board (though still not enough), communication has been strengthened and donor satisfaction has improved.

IWGIA’s finances are also healthy, although we still need more funding.

And it is my feeling there is a good work environment in the secretariat with extremely dedicated and professional staff members.

What has happened in recent years is of course a joint effort, but we have a lot to thank Julie for. She has headed the process with a lot of stamina and, when needed, patience and a healthy fighting spirit.

The Board gave her the task of being a proactive manager with the aim of heading a necessary transformation and she has fully lived up to those expectations.

On a personal level, it has been a pleasure for me as chairman to work with Julie. It has often been an almost joyful cooperation, marked by mutual confidence even when it was at its toughest. I have enjoyed it.
IWGIA has a lot to thank Julie for and we wish her all the best.

Knud Vilby

Chairman of IWGIA




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

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