Minority Rights Group International (MRG) Deputy Director, Claire Thomas, writes this opinion piece for the Thomson Reuters News Foundation.+ LEARN MORE
Agnes Kabajuni, Managing Director, MRG Africa
Agnes is MRG’s Africa Regional Manager. She has over 16 years of experience in the field of human rights and has extensively worked in research and advocacy, both on international and national levels. Her area of expertise includes cultural rights, women’s rights and ethnic minority and indigenous rights.
Andrea Spitálszky, Legal Officer
Andrea joined MRG in April 2017. Since then, she has been running various projects related to discrimination against the Roma in Central and Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans. Currently, she is coordinating the REILA and the ERELA projects which aim to increase access to justice for Roma victims of discrimination in Hungary, Serbia, Croatia and Bulgaria. She is a Hungarian lawyer specialised in human rights and international law. Andrea previously worked as a Legal Officer at the Mental Disability Advocacy Center (currently, Validity Foundation) and as a research consultant for the European Network Against Racism and Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund.
Anna Alboth, Media Programmes Coordinator (Europe)
Anna coordinates the Media, Minorities and Migration programme, with a special focus on Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia and is responsible for MRG media work in Europe. Previously she has worked as a journalist, a coordinator and a human rights activist and a initiator of Civil March For Aleppo. Anna is also one of the founders of European Youth Press network, running dozens of trainings for journalists.
Anna Szentes, Office and Finance Assistant (Europe)
Anna has been working with the Budapest office since May
Arroi Baraket, Tunisia Communication Officer
Arroi is MRG’s Tunisia Communication Officer. She joined MRG in November 2020. She previously worked as a journalist for television and online media, working mainly on issues dealing with economic and social rights, women’s rights, minority rights and migrants’ rights. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Gender Studies.
Bethany Partridge, Assistant Finance Officer
Bethany is Assistant Finance Officer for MRG’s London Office. She joined MRG in January 2021. Bethany is currently training for the AAT and also works as a classical musician.
Billy Rwothungeyo, Africa Media Officer
Billy is the Media Officer (Africa) with MRG, based in the Africa Regional Office. Billy comes from a media background, having worked as journalist in Uganda for nearly ten years. He has a special interest in the extractives industries, environmental change & justice and public policy. He holds an MSc Communication for Development from the University of Reading’s Graduate Institute of International Development, Agriculture and Economics.
Carl Söderbergh, Director of Policy & Communications
Carl has been heading MRG’s Policy & Communications department since 2009. He has previously worked for Amnesty International (Sweden) and UNHCR. He assisted in opening Amnesty’s office in Afghanistan, and worked for UNHCR in Pakistan and Sudan.
Cécile Clerc, Director of Development & Partnerships
Cécile has been running MRG’s Development & Partnerships team since 2007. She has extensive experience in fundraising with a specific focus on statutory fundraising.
Chelsea Gonzalez, Acting Legal Projects Officer
Chelsea is a human rights lawyer based in France. Before joining MRG, she worked on legal advocacy projects for asylum seekers rights and the rights of religious and ethnic minorities. Her legal research has focused on non-discrimination law and freedom of expression cases in regional human rights courts.
Christine Apio, Finance and Administration Officer, MRG Africa
Christine is MRG Africa’s Finance & Administration Officer. Among other things, she prepares financial accounts for Management, donors and auditors and offers finance and administrative support to MRG’s partners.
Claire Thomas, Deputy Director
Claire is passionate about minority rights and has worked over many years to challenge injustice and support efforts to build fairer and more inclusive societies. During over 15 years at MRG, Claire has ingrained a collaborative and solutions-led approach that has been a driver in working with new partners, on new thematic areas and in more places that were deemed too risky or contentious by others in the field. As Deputy Director, Claire focuses on four key areas which she considers critical to MRG’s success: Read more >
Colin Luoma, Researcher
Colin Luoma is a Researcher at MRG, working on litigation and advocacy matters concerning biodiversity conservation and the rights of indigenous peoples and minorities under international law. He is a currently a doctoral researcher at Brunel University London, focusing on the cultural rights of indigenous peoples, as well as a qualified U.S. lawyer with several years of litigation, advocacy and research experience.
Emna Gelacia, MENA Assistant
Emna joined MRG in June 2020. She previously volunteered for a festival on intersectional feminism and organised human libraries in Tunisia to grant visibility to minorities and increase tolerance and understanding among different groups. In the US, she volunteered for the ‘Stew Fest’, a Native American festival, and took a class on Gender and Indigenous representation. She is always eager to seize opportunities that help her grow her knowledge about minorities and indigenous people. At MRG, she is happy to work on Tunisia project to fight against all types of discrimination in the country and on NORAD project to address freedom of religion and belief in 7 MENA countries.
Eunice Olembo, Africa Legal Officer
Eunice Olembo joined MRG in July 2018 as the Advocacy Officer Kenya in the landmark African Court ruling on the Ogiek Case. She is now working as the Legal Officer East and Central Africa in MRG Africa. Before joining MRG, she worked with the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) and the Refugee Consortium of Kenya (RCK).
Félicien Balikunda, Capacity Building Officer, Africa Regional Office
Felicien joined MRG in July 2011 as Programme Assistant in Africa Office. He is now working as Capacity Building Officer. Before joining MRG, he worked with Uganda Red Cross Society and GTZ as Education Assistant and Programme Assistant respectively in a refugee settlement in Uganda.
Geoffrey Kerosi, East Africa Health Education Coordinator
Geoffrey coordinates health and education projects in East Africa. Previously he worked as a human rights defender conducting policy research, strengthening capacity of community partners, social network building and participating in positive dialogues with duty bearers in Kenya.
Giulia Di Mattia, Administrator
Giulia joined MRG in March 2010. Before joining MRG, she worked at the British Red Cross, Council of Europe, UN OHCHR and Amnesty International. Giulia has been involved in human rights work in Kenya, as well as indigenous and minority capacity building. She has more than 15 years of experience in the field of human rights.
Glenn Payot, UN Advocacy Consultant
Glenn has been representing MRG at the United Nations since 2013. Previously, he worked as delegate to the UN for the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and as UN advocacy officer for the coalition Impact Iran.
Gözde Aslanhan, Turkey Programme Assistant
Gözde joined MRG in February 2021. She has worked in various organizations for minority youth and women since 2009. She organised many initiatives, conferences as well as trainings on human rights and minority issues. She is a minority fellow at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Global Politics and Societal Changes.
Ifra Asad, South Asia Programme Assistant
Ifra Asad has been a part of MRGE since June 2018. She has previously worked in civil society organisations concerning women’s rights and children’s education and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy. Originally from Karachi, Pakistan, she is now based in Budapest, Hungary.
Jennifer Castello, Head of Law (on maternity leave)
Jennifer is the Head of Law based in MRG’s London office. She joined the legal department in September 2017 as a Legal Officer challenging slavery in Mauritania through strategic litigation, capacity building and international advocacy. She is a qualified French lawyer and has worked extensively on immigration and asylum law. Jennifer has been involved in international tribunals working for the international criminal court and the united assistance to the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia.
Joshua Castellino, Executive Director
Joshua Castellino took on the role of Executive Director at MRG in October 2018 and brings a wealth of legal knowledge around minority rights, access to justice and the interplay between security, development and human rights. ‘At MRG we have an opportunity to amplify these voices enabling real learning and can therefore be a catalyst for the creation of transformative movements that learn and adapt based on strategic imperatives aimed at combatting entrenched discrimination,’ says Joshua. He regularly engages with multilateral organizations and with Law Societies and NGOs in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, on issues of human rights advocacy and public international law… Read more >
Julie Barrière – Legal Programmes Officer
Julie is a Human Rights lawyer with project management certification. Before joining MRG, she worked on social development programs in Egypt. She also organised advocacy and lead programs for two years in Uganda for gender equality, women empowerment and for the abolition of the death penalty with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Laia Pau Romaní, Project & Partnerships Development Coordinator
Laia joined the fundraising team in February 2019. Laia has experience in project development and grant management in Non-Governmental Organizations and International Organizations. She has more than 6 years of experience working in the field of human rights and minority rights, including research, capacity-building, advocacy and field monitoring work, with a focus on the Balkans. Her previous jobs include the OSCE, the European Commission and the European Centre for Minority Issues. She holds a Master’s degree in History and a Master’s in International Human Rights Law and Democratization.
Lara Domínguez, Head of Litigation (acting)
Lara Domínguez is currently Acting Head of Litigation with oversight of MRG’s strategic litigation docket. Previously Lara was Strategic Litigation Officer at MRG. Prior to joining MRG, Lara worked at Three Crowns LLP and specialised in international arbitration. She received her JD from Yale Law School, where she was student director of the Immigration Legal Services Clinic, a member of the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, and a Herbert J. Hansell student fellow at the Center for Global and Legal Challenges. She has represented clients in their asylum proceedings before U.S. immigration authorities, co-authored white papers on complex issues of international law, and published articles in various academic publications.
Lauren Avery, Minority & Disability Intersectional Officer
Lauren co-ordinates the Minority/Disability Intersectional Discrimination project, working with disability rights activists from Indigenous and minority communities in project countries to engage in local, national and international advocacy. She holds a Masters in East Asian Development, a Masters by Research in Thai/Disability Studies and is currently undertaking doctoral research on disability rights activism at the University of York.
Loïc Druenne, Digital Communications Officer
After graduating in human rights from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Loïc worked for Le Monde des Religions in Paris (France) before joining the MRG team as a Media Consultant then as Digital Communications Officer. He is specialised in religious minorities.
Lydia Scott, Individual Giving Fundraiser
Lydia joined MRG in 2020 as an Individual Giving Fundraiser. Prior to this, Lydia worked in both local and UK-wide charities and across several fundraising streams. She has a long held interest in equality and human rights and holds a degree in History and Politics from Nottingham University.
Marta Kubicza, FAIR Programme Coordinator
Marta has been part of the Budapest team in various roles since September 2015, switching from the for-profit sector after 7 years. Marta has a special interest in fundamental rights, especially regarding the balancing between providing the freedom of speech and assembly and protecting groups from hate crimes.
Max J. Joseph, Iraq Programme Coordinator
Max joined MRG at the end of 2020 after spending several years investigating the political and security challenges faced by minorities in the Middle East as an independent researcher. Prior to this, he has held roles in strategic operations, policy and project management. Subjects of enduring interest include democratisation and indigenous rights in deeply divided societies, with a focus on Iraq and Syria. He holds an MSc International Public Policy from UCL.
Mays Al-Juboori, Civilian Rights Officer (MENA)
Mays Al-Juboori is a human rights professional with expertise in conflict, post-conflict, and international Law. At MRG, she works toward building civil society capacity in the Middle East, specialising on Iraq. Mays works closely with local activists on national policy and law, including draft legislation on women and minority rights. She authors human rights publications and provides regular consultation and briefings to governments and international agencies on gender, minority rights, the situation of human rights defenders and internally displaced people. She holds a qualification in Law LLB.
Menka Sandrasagren, Research Assistant on Modern Slavery Project
Menka graduated from SOAS University London with an MSc in Violence, Conflict and Development (Palestinian Pathway). She joined MRG in February 2020 as an intern where she assisted on the Tunisia project. She is now the Research Assistant on a project on the impact of COVID-19 on Modern Slavery worldwide. Her areas of expertise are in MENA politics and sexual minorities.
Mihaela Cojocaru, Research assistant: global evaluation project of indigenous languages initiatives
Mihaela joined MRG in 2020 as a research assistant for the evaluation of UNESCO’s action to revitalise and promote indigenous languages within the framework of the International Year of Indigenous Languages, while completing her master’s degree in International Development. Previously she has worked as a multilingual programme co-ordinator for Eastern Europe at Delegations for Dialogue. She loves all languages in the world and encourages anyone getting in touch to share a small phrase of their own with her.
Naumana Suleman, Pakistan Lead and South Asia Coordinator
Naumana Suleman is a human rights professional, researcher and trainer with two decades of work experience. Her areas of expertise are international human rights law (minority rights, women rights, child Rights, protection of human rights defenders), peacebuilding, conflict analysis and resolution, international/ UN human rights system. Read more >
Neil Clarke, Head of Legal Programmes and EU Advocacy
Neil has been working with MRG since 2004, starting in MRGs programmes team, including Africa, Asia and Europe regions. Between 2009 and 2019, Neil was Managing Director of Minority Rights Group Europe, based in Budapest, responsible for MRGs work in the Europe and Central Asia. He is currently Head of Legal Programmes and EU Advocacy and is be responsible for establishing MRG’s new office in Brussels.
Nicole Girard, Norad Religious Minorities & Southeast Asia Coordinator
Nicole has worked on MRG’s programmes in Asia since 2010. She specialises in minority and indigenous rights in South and Southeast Asia, women’s rights in particular, with a focus on ethno-religious nationalism and armed movements for south determination and the rights of indigenous peoples to land and natural resources.
Peter Grant, Commissioning Editor
Peter has edited publications at MRG since 2013. He has also worked as a freelance researcher and writer on urbanisation, climate change and migration.
Robert Nemeth, Hungarian Media Officer
Robert is MRG’s Hungarian Media Officer, he joined our team in July 2018. Previously he has worked for different Hungarian TV stations and online media outlets in various positions ranging from journalist to senior editor and news producer.
Silvia Quattrini, MENA Programmes Coordinator
Viktoria Villanyi-Nosko, Administration & Finance Coordinator (Europe)
Viktoria is responsible for the overall financial matters of the Budapest office including developing budgets for funding proposals, preparing financial reports for international donors, overseeing and supporting partners’ financial management of joint projects. Before joining the Budapest team, she has worked for over 15 years for international organisations, such as Freedom House Europe and NESsT, as Finance and Operations Officer. Currently she serves on the board of Transparency International Hungary.
Zsófia Farkas, Managing Director, MRG Europe
Zsófia is the Managing Director of Minority Rights Group International Europe, Eastern Partnership and Central Asia Regional Office. As an advocacy officer, she worked for various humanitarian and development NGOs on issues, like child trafficking, child protection, minorities and migration.
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Joshua Castellino, Executive Director
Joshua Castellino took on the role of Executive Director at MRG in October 2018 and brings a wealth of legal knowledge around minority rights, access to justice and the interplay between security, development and human rights. ‘At MRG we have an opportunity to amplify these voices enabling real learning and can therefore be a catalyst for the creation of transformative movements that learn and adapt based on strategic imperatives aimed at combatting entrenched discrimination,’ says Joshua. He regularly engages with multilateral organizations and with Law Societies and NGOs in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, on issues of human rights advocacy and public international law.
To advance MRG’s cause, Joshua stepped down as Dean of the School of Law at Middlesex University which he founded in 2012. He retains his Chair at Middlesex University, to continue teaching and supervising students who work on indigenous peoples and minority rights issues. His motivation for the move to MRG was two-fold. Firstly, to take on the challenge of engaging issues of insidious structural discrimination, through debate in the public square, at a time of heightened crisis around identity, transmitted into politics through populism. The second reason is that advocacy at these times requires a globalized knowledge base, built on knowledge of the work of incredible activists and advocates who are overcoming incredible odds, but whose voices are relatively unknown to other like-minded communities.
His unorthodox route to this work commenced as a journalist in Mumbai, with the Indian Express Group. He was awarded a Chevening Scholarship to pursue an MA in International Law & Politics in 1995 and completed his PhD in International Law in 1998 while working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant to Law Programmes. He has authored and edited eight books in international law and human rights law, on self-determination, title to territory and indigenous peoples rights, besides several articles on a range of these and other legal sub-topics. He completed the third, in a five-book series published by Oxford University Press, on issues concerning Global Minority Rights Law, the latest entitled Minority Rights in the Middle East: A Comparative Legal Analysis (with Kathleen Cavanaugh).
Joshua was part of the EU-China Experts & Diplomatic Dialogue and Lawyers for the New Millennium: Support for the Arab Law Union. He also serves on the Leadership Council of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network where he co-chaired the Thematic Group on Social Inclusion, Gender and Human Rights. He was appointed Chair, by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the 8th Forum on Minority Issues (2015), an inter-governmental dialogue with civil society under the auspices of the United Nations Human Rights Council. He was appointed Door Tenant at 25 Bedford Row, London, in June 2017.
In addition to full-time role at MRG Joshua continues to work in many other settings. He remains Adjunct Professor at the Irish Centre for Human Rights in Ireland, Visiting Professor at the College of Europe in Poland and the National University of Public Services in Hungary. He also plays an advisory role on a number of Boards and Trusts including for organizations such as the Medial Defense Legal Initiative, the Institute for Statelessness and Inclusion, the Tom Lantos Institute, The Institute of the Global South, the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre and EURAC.
Claire Thomas, Deputy Director
Claire is passionate about minority rights and has worked over many years to challenge injustice and support efforts to build fairer and more inclusive societies. During over 15 years at MRG, Claire has ingrained a collaborative and solutions-led approach that has been a driver in working with new partners, on new thematic areas and in more places that were deemed too risky or contentious by others in the field. As Deputy Director, Claire focuses on four key areas which she considers critical to MRG’s success:
Programme design – Claire applies rigorous planning to validate whether new projects and programmes actually respond to real needs on the ground and have the best chance to make a real long term difference to marginalised peoples’ lives. She encourages everyone to think and act ambitiously, and makes time to reflect on shortcomings and learning points which often form part of MRG’s published reports and transparent communications.
Fundraising – Claire has seen the funding climate change considerably and is therefore open to new thinking and how that might marry with innovative methods to ensure that much needed projects have the resources they need to run smoothly. Under her leadership, it has become MRG practice to adopt a long term financial view for new projects and programmes.
Human Resources – Claire contributes to overall organisational management with a particular focus on ensuring that MRG has the best people in place to design and run effective programmes; people with technical expertise, with vision, with passion and with integrity.
Monitoring – Claire oversees the delivery teams to strive for maximum impact and participatory development. She often reminds supporters, partners and staff that “we are fortunate to be small enough to be flexible and adaptive in our projects and programmes” and that “we shouldn’t forget that reducing discrimination within these societies and improving the life chances of those facing discrimination should also be the outcomes of every programme.”
Claire has a special interest in cultural programmes, advocacy strategies and techniques, gender, intersectional discrimination as well as the Sustainable Development Goals/Agenda 2030 and disaggregated data that counts everyone and means that everyone counts. Her personal highlights have included designing a programme that ultimately brought street theatre against racism performances to 100,000 audience members across the Middle East and North Africa, supporting the first ever minority Somali women to speak at an international forum, contributing to work that helped trigger the OHCHR to make a priority of the West Papuan peoples’ situation and designing the innovation minority inclusion audit approach to highlight the cycles of privilege and exclusion that continue to mean that minority community members are left behind. She is also working with communities affected by statelessness, such as the Dominicans of Haitian descent, to become a self-sustainable powerful lobby to achieve their own human rights.
Naumana Suleman, Pakistan Lead and South Asia Coordinator
Naumana Suleman is a human rights professional, researcher and trainer with two decades of work experience. Her areas of expertise are international human rights law (minority rights, women rights, child Rights, protection of human rights defenders), peacebuilding, conflict analysis and resolution, international/ UN human rights system.
She has been involved in designing and carrying out human rights advocacy initiatives at different forums in Pakistan, United Nations and European Union. She has seven human rights publications on her credit, the Heidelberg University – Germany and the Library of Congress – USA included her research on ‘needs for peacebuilding in Pakistan’ in their digital libraries. She has been a speaker and facilitator at several regional and international consultations and conferences. She is the first ever minority woman who served as an advisor to the UN Women Pakistan (Civil Society Advisory Group) and contributes articles for the Daily Times, Humsub and Naya Daur.
She earned a Bachelor’s degree in social work from the Kinnaird College for Women – Lahore, and a Master’s degree in political science from University of the Punjab – Lahore. She is a graduate in Peace and Justice Studies, from the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, University of San Diego, California. She has been a Rotary Scholar at the University of San Diego – USA (2014 – 2015) and is alumni of International Visitor Leadership Program of the US State Department. She has worked with a number of human rights organizations and at present she is working with the Minority Rights Group International.