Biologist with strong indigenous peoples’ knowledge appointed as new IWGIA chair
27 January 2020 | Copenhagen, Denmark | IWGIA welcomes the appointment of its new Board Chair, Professor Ida Theilade, who joined the Board in September 2019. Ida Theilade has a PhD in tropical botany from the University of Copenhagen and has worked with participatory management and the conservation of tropical forests for the past 25 years. Her research explores the role local and indigenous knowledge and institutions can play in natural resource management, tropical forest preservation and climate action.
“I am proud and excited to take on the role as IWGIA’s Board Chair. IWGIA is a key and well-respected organisation promoting, protecting and defending the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide. I have often encountered IWGIA and its work in my academic and project work globally and am honoured to be part of their long tradition,” Ida Theilade said.
In 2018, the University of Copenhagen awarded Ida Theilade with their Innovation Award for her years-long, on-the-ground work and research with the local grassroots movement Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN). In partnership with local and indigenous people, a local Cambodian IT company, local and international NGOs, and supported by Danish students, communities are now able to monitor and report illegal logging through an app on their mobile phones.
Through the “It’s Our Forest Too” initiative, Ida Theilade and partners were able to combine technology, social media and collective action to prove that local communities can have a huge impact on environmental protection. Ida Theilade would like to continue her support for those on the front line defending lands, resources and human rights.
Additionally, Ida Theilade researches indigenous knowledge and natural resource management, the importance of plant resources to local people and their priorities for conservation, as well as the linkages between livelihoods, poverty and conservation. It is this valuable expertise that she brings to IWGIA’s key work focusing on climate action, land rights, human rights defenders at risk and governance, which are at the core of the indigenous peoples’ movement.
Ida Theilade has taken over the Chair from Knud Vilby, a Danish journalist and development consultant who joined the Board in January 2015 and served as Board Chair for the last three years. Under his leadership, together with the rest of the Board members, Knud Vilby set the strategic direction of the Board and IWGIA in collaboration with the Executive Director, building a new strategic vision for the organisation since 2017.
“I would like to thank Knud Vilby for his instrumental work, dedication and vision in progressing IWGIA’s important mission and am looking forward to continuing IWGIA’s strategic direction,” Ms Theilade said.
Knud Vilby will continue as a regular member of the IWGIA Board.
IWGIA also welcomes two new members to the Board: Elsa Stamatopoulou and Rune Fjellheim. Elsa Stamatopoulou joins the Board as its new Vice-Chair, and is currently the first Director of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Program at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University, New York City. Rune Fjellheim is an indigenous Sámi economist who has been serving as the Director General of the Sámi Parliament of Norway since 2008.