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Les Simm founded the International Forum for Understanding and serves as its Executive Director. Les works in the business sector, with governments, the UN, INGO’s and other entities in areas ranging from security risk management and business resilience to humanitarian operations and disaster relief. He has expertise in nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons disarmament, non-proliferation, arms control and verification, security sector reform and countering transnational organised crime. Having trained as a psychiatric nurse in his early career, Les has long-term interest in mental health and wellbeing. Les is a passionate supporter of the SDGs with a particular focus on project implementation and making a demonstrable and direct impact on people’s lives.
Heather Wokusch is the Director of Development for the International Forum for Understanding and the Executive Director of its SDG2030.me and MESPERO: Impact for Resilience projects. Her career in organizational development, human resources, education, cross-culture, and media has spanned five continents and multiple fields. After completing an advanced degree in Clinical Psychology in her native USA, Heather carried out development work in the Philippines, then spent decades in Japan and Europe consulting academic institutions and international business groups. A firm believer in Impact Tech and the democratization of knowledge, she is an expert in virtual learning. Heather also provides consultation on topics connected to organizational development (including digital transformation, leadership development, employee engagement, change management, strategy, and globalization).
Through her scientific study, artistic work, and academic training in public policy, Nour Barakeh strives to understand society from different viewpoints and to communicate complex topics. Her M.A. in Public Administration from Central European University emphasized the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) and environmental policies to mitigate climate change. Developing migration policies and combating human trafficking are also in scope.
With experience ranging from dance and theater to social work and journalism, she aims to support the establishment of sustainable educational projects focused on empowering people through raising awareness, and to counsel governments, NGOs and corporations on policies with a specific focus on the Sustainable Developments Goals. As a Global Citizen, she believes in proactively pursuing the necessary goal of peace.
She previously studied at the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Damascus and graduated from the Faculty of Pharmacy at Damascus University. As a sought-after speaker on the SDGs, refugee, and migration issues, she has spoken on numerous high-profile panels highlighting young, female voices such as at European Forum Alpbach alongside former UN SG Ban Ki-moon and former Austrian President Heinz Fischer as well as at a UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development among others. Nour Barakeh is also an Agents of Change Youth Fellow at Wilson Center.
From Uganda, Malaika Oringo is the founder and CEO of Footprint to Freedom, a survivor-led organization that believes the only way to eradicate human trafficking is by giving survivors a voice and the opportunity to lead.
For the past 17 years, Malaika has been intensively involved in the fight against human trafficking, as a representative of the Salvation Army at the EU Affairs Office in Brussels and more recently as a global consultant on anti-human trafficking efforts. She campaigns for victims’ rights and works to strengthen survivor inclusion and engagement in decision-making processes.
Rania Ali is an award winning Syrian filmmaker, public speaker, writer, and human rights and mental health advocate. She is an expert in media and communication strategies, leading projects with NGOs, working with governments advocating for human rights, peace building and mediation, and doing public speaking.
Layla Barakeh is a humanitarian worker and disaster-management specialist based in Syria. She specializes in mental health and psychosocial support and livelihood training.
Layla is the Director of Humanitarian Community Life (HCL), a capacity-building initiative for humanitarian settings in Syria and Yemen. HCL recently rolled out an intensive remote training program (in Arabic) for psychological first aid in disaster and recovery periods.
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