Scholars, Activists and Journalists Supporting, empowering, Mobilizing

Our Organizing Committee

Organizing Committee

Our Organizing Committee members are dedicated members of our network who are working in the field of nonviolence. They are researchers, activists, thought leaders and supporters of the work of our Global Grassroots Activists Network.

Vedran Obucina


Vedran Obućina is one of the three co-founders of Solidarity 2020 and Beyond. He is a political scientist and theologian from Croatia. He holds an MA in Political Science from University of Zagreb and MA in Theology from Old-Catholic Patriarchy. He is PhD researcher at the University of Regensburg in Germany. His academic work is focused on religion and politics, with an accent on peacebuilding possibilities of religious institutions worldwide. In area studies, he is focused mostly on the Balkans, Mediterranean, Middle East, Caucasus and Central Asia and authored a book “Political System of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” He occasionally teaches at various Croatian universities and has a long list of participation at international seminars, conferences and academic events. As a priest in Orthodox Old-Catholic church, and secretary of the Archbishop, Vedran is also active in religion-based peacebuilding, reconciliation and conflict prevention/resolution and participates in such activities in the Balkan countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia), Middle East (particularly in cooperation with International Interreligious Institute in Qom, IR Iran; and al-Amana centre in Oman), but is ready to apply his knowledge and expertise worldwide. He is part of Maydan Association network, focusing on Mediterranean, Research Fellow of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2015/2016, and Rotary Peace Fellow at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand in 2020. He is also the Ambassador of the Institute for Economics and Peace (Sydney, Australia), Rotary Positive Peace Activator 2022/2023, and Fellow of the Kaiciid Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue .He worked for six years in public diplomacy, and since 2005 is constantly involved in journalism (local newspapers, he was the senior editor in Matica hrvatska, the leading cultural institution in Croatia, from 2009 until 2016) and writes opinion articles for the Polish National Bank, Croatian foreign policy website and Al Jazeera network.

Marita Rainbird


Marita Rainbird is one of the three co-founders of Solidarity 2020 and Beyond and has been working in the international media business as a producer, writer, director, distributor, project manager and a trainer of intercultural communication skills and diversity in media issues. In 2004-2008 Marita was in charge of a 1,7 m€ media education and work training project for immigrants and ethnic minorities  in Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE to promote equality and diversity in European media.  The success of Mundo encouraged her to initiate Icebreaker Productions in 2010. In 2009 – 2016 Marita was working with vulnerable children and youth in Finland, Zimbabwe, Argentina and Kenya using different forms of art in empowering media projects that dealt with children’s rights, peace and environment. Marita is an International Business Communications graduate and has certificates from EAVE – European Audiovisual Entrepreneurship, Multimedia Script-writing in Helsinki Theatre Academy and Directing of Children’s Films in Helsinki University of Applied Sciences. In 2018 she completed her studies of sustainable tourism and published two fable books about Finnish nature.  In 2020 Marita studied Peace Building in Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok and continues her work as a documentary maker in Icebreaker Productions ( in Helsinki.

Azaz Al-Shami

Azaz Elshami is a Sudanese-American with more than 10 years of experience in public diplomacy, policy research, and capacity building. She has a deep understanding of Africa and the Middle East, with a particular focus on Sudan and the Gulf’s geopolitics, socio-political, and socio-economic issues coupled with strong knowledge of Islamic ideologies and cultures. Azaz also advocates for Internet access rights and furnished the Sudan Section for the Freedom on the Net report during 2015-2017. Azaz earned an MA in International Policy and Practice from George Washington University’s Elliott School in Washington, DC (2014), where she was selected as an honorary fellow. During her program, she focused on the fields of social movements, identity and conflicts, ethnic policy, and new trends in Islamist militancy in Sub-Saharan Africa. She invested personal time studying more about Islamic militancy, social movements, and conflicts in ethnically diverse societies. Elshami also researches topics related to the impact of globalization and digital development on the dynamics of interaction between peoples and power in authoritarian regimes or regimes in the transition to democracy. 

Dr. Stephen Asek

Stephen Asek Nkem is a democratic governance and peace building experts with more than 10 years of international development field experience at senior management level. He served for more than 3 years consecutively as University of Gothenburg’s Department of Political Science lead researcher for Cameroon under the Variety of Democracy program (V-Dem). He is currently the resident country director for International Governance Institute-a UK based international INGO and has equally served as international consultant to assess, map and design UNDP’s Prevention of Violent country program in Ethiopia. Before joining the Solidarity 2020 Initiative Stephen worked as political analyst and mediation expert for the African Union continental Mediation Support Unit under the AU’s Peace and Security Department. He is also a past fellow of the Joint International Center on Nonviolent Conflict and Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy’s summer program on advanced Nonviolent Conflict.

Mariam Azeem

Mariam Azeem works at Rhize as Director of Movement Support and Learning. She is in charge of developing programs,  designing training and devleoping curriculum for movement support and building work. She has a background and passion for working with youth, women, gender and sexual minorities. She is a renowned civil resistance trainer whose work focuses on transformational leadership, human rights education, nonviolent conflict and creating participatory and accountable citizenship and democracy. She received her certification in human rights education from the Council of Europe in 2010 and further nurtured her skills for human rights education from Equitas in 2012. In 2010, through collaboration with the Ministry of Human Rights, SIDA and a national youth organization, she launched a national human rights education program that covered 41 districts of Pakistan, including Azad and Jammu Kashmir. Mariam played a vital role in drafting first ever transgender human rights bill that was recently passed in the parliament in Pakistan. After graduating from Fletcher Summer Institute on Nonviolent Conflict and Civil Resistance in 2013, she began the translation of blogs and articles on nonviolent civil resistance. Coady’s transformational women leadership course in 2014 opened avenues of new ideas for her to work in the field of peace, nonviolence and civil resistance. In 2016, through support of the Learning Initiative Network fund by ICNC, she initiated a series of first ever training on the subject of nonviolent civil resistance and movement building to create understanding and importance of inclusive and participatory democracy and citizenship and demand deep, transparent and accountable democracy in Pakistan.

Dr. Marie Berry

Dr. Marie Berry is an Associate Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, where she is affiliated with the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy. She is also the Director of the Inclusive Global Leadership Initiative (IGLI). She is a political sociologist with a focus on mass violence, gender, politics, and development. Her research examines the political, economic, and social consequences of armed conflict. Her first book, War, Women, and Power: From Violence to Mobilization in Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina (Cambridge University Press 2018), draws from over 260 interviews with women in Rwanda and Bosnia to investigate the impact of violence on women’s political mobilization. In the project she integrates a feminist, gender-focused perspective into historical institutionalist research on the long-term social and political consequences of war.  Together with Milli Lake (LSE), her current research critically examines women’s empowerment interventions after war. As part of the Women’s Rights After War (WRAW) Project, they are compiling a dataset and series of case studies aimed at evaluating whether, and under what conditions, women’s empowerment interventions can differentially benefit women from different backgrounds, map onto—and even aggravate—existing socio-political cleavages, and be used instrumentally by regimes to consolidate their political control. Her other ongoing major research project, Measuring the Micro-Dynamics of Women’s Mobilization (MicroMob), aims to gather fine-grained, gender disaggregated data on who participates in mass protest events around the world using participant-generated photographs from episodes of contentious politics. She completed her Ph.D. in sociology at UCLA in June 2015. 

Shaazka Beyerle

Shaazka Beyerle is a Senior Fellow, Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center, Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University, and a Senior Research Advisor, Program on Nonviolent Action, U.S. Institute of Peace. She’s a researcher, writer and educator in nonviolent action, with a focus on anti-corruption and accountability (including linkages to governance, development, and violent conflict) as well as gender and nonviolent action. She’s the author of Curtailing Corruption: People Power for Accountability and Justice. From December 2015 to June 2017, she was the lead researcher for a World Bank-Nordic Trust Fund project and co-author of the subsequent report, Citizens as Drivers of Change: Practicing Human Rights to Engage with the State and Promote Transparency and Accountability. In 2016, she was a Visiting Professor at the University for Peace in Costa Rica. She testified at a U.S. Congress Committee on Security and Cooperation in Europe hearing on combating corruption in the OSCE region. She is an elected member of the UN Convention Against Corruption Civil Society Coalition (2020-2022). Ms. Beyerle speaks frequently at conferences, workshops and webinars, including Civicus, Geneva Peace Week, International Anti-Corruption Conference, International Studies Association, PeaceCon and the World Bank Fragility Forum. She earned an M.A. in international relations from George Washington University and a B.A. in psychology (major) and women’s studies (minor) from the University of Toronto.

Ram Kumar Bhandari​

Ram Kumar Bhandari has led the struggle to secure justice for victims and survivors in Nepal. He has over a decade experience working with marginalized communities (in particular the families of the disappeared, victims and survivors of conflict, ex-combatant youth, ethnic minorities, rural youth and women groups). Ram’s activism began when his own father disappeared in 2001. In the years since he has pioneered many new techniques of grassroots mobilization, campaigning and networking. Ram helped to launch the community Radio station, the network of families of the disappeared (NEFAD), the Committee for Social Justice, the Conflict Victims Common Platform and Alliance for transitional justice. He has also submitted petitions to the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, and the Nepali Supreme Court. Ram has written extensively on victims’ rights and nonviolent conflict in English and Nepali. He is a PhD candidate at Nova School of Law in Lisbon.

Subindra Bogati

Subindra Bogati is the Founder / Chief Executive of Nepal Peacebuilding Initiative – an organisation devoted to evidence based policy and action on peacebuilding, human rights, good governance and humanitarion issues. He leads design, execution and oversight of projects on access to peace and justice, community dialouge, social cohesion and humanitarian response. He coordinated projects of Saferworld (2007-2010) and Small Arms Survey (2011-2014) on people centred security provision, integration and rehabilitation of Maoist Combatants, armed groups and small arms and light weapons. He has provided consultancy services to a number of international agencies including BBC World Service, United Nations Development Programme, Adam Smith International, Coffey International, Internews, IDS (University of Sussex), International IDEA, Development Pathways, German Institute of Global and Area Studies and Swiss Solidarity. He holds an MA in International Relations from London Metropolitan University. He was awarded the FCO Chevening Fellowship in 2009 at the Centre for Studies in Security and Diplomacy, the University of Birmingham.

Dr. Janet Cherry

Janet Cherry is a Professor of Development Studies at the Nelson Mandela University in Gqeberha, South Africa. Her current research projects are using participatory action research to confront the major challenges of society, namely climate change and inequality. This is through transdisciplinary local and regional projects.

With a history of activism in the anti-apartheid movement, as a student leader and a founder of the United Democratic Front and the End Conscription Campaign, Janet is currently active in local, national and international organisations and networks including the Amandla Collective, the Climate Justice Charter movement and the Palestine solidarity movement. She is a member of the African Ecofeminist Network and the African Coaching Network, and serves as advisor to the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict and the Solidarity2020 and Beyond network. She has served as a trainer in strategic nonviolence for social movements in many countries including Zimbabwe, Guinea, Egypt and Palestine.

Dr. Eliane Fersan

Over a 17-year career, Eliane (Elle) Fersan has dedicated herself to improving policy and changing lives through international development, advocacy, campaigning and fundraising, collaborating with national and international agencies including the U.S. Department of State, the United Nations and local governments. Fersan’s advocacy work focuses on women, Human Rights and immigrant rights in the U.S., Lebanon, the Middle East and North Africa. She was an adjunct professor of History at the American University of Science and Technology, Beirut (2008-2012). Fersan is the director of the Immigrants and Global Migration Initiative at the Gould School of Law, University of Southern California (USC). She is also the founder and CEO of Global Nexus Solutions, LLC a Los Angeles based consulting firm bringing together a network of experts and advisors specializing in global public affairs. She is a Global Women Leader Eisenhower Fellow (2015), Truman National Security Fellow (2020), she was named one of UNESCO’s Top 40 Lebanese Women from the Grassroots and has won numerous U.S. Department of State honor awards for her contributions to civil society development. She led the Youth and Culture Center of Zouk Mikael Lebanon to be recognized as a Top 30 World deserving initiative in Urban Human Development in 2012.

Dr. Zubair Ghouri

Dr. Zubair is an Ex Member, Planning commission of Pakistan. He has also served as CEO, Lahore Knowledge Park Company. He is a PhD from UK in Conflict Management & Media. He has been with Chevening, Fletcher’s & Rotary as a post-doctoral fellow from universities of International repute. He is an alumnus of University of Ulster, Tufts University, University of Westminster, Chulalongkorn University, and the Hague Institute of global governance.

He has more than 20 years of experience as a Senior executive that cross cuts work as a strategic leader, corporate head, education expert, policy advisor, and media professional through public service, academia, development sector and the media. He is a media person par excellence and regularly appears on international / national media talking on issues on regional and international issues.

Dr. Joan Gomez

Co-director and faculty of the Gestalt Barcelona Institute. Gestalt-oriented psychologist and psychotherapist. Full member of the Spanish Association of Gestalt Therapy AETG. Coordinator at the German International Cooperation agency GIZ of training programs for the civil society of Palestinian refugees in the Middle East. Trained in Gestalt and systems at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland GIC, in participation and systems at the Gestalt DOS Institute of Barcelona, as a therapist at the Escuela del Taller de Gestalt de Barcelona ETGB, in enneatype psychology and in Integrative clinical psychology in the IPETG of Alicante.

Poncho Gonzales

Alfonso Poncho Hernández, a Mexico City based activist, community organizer, philosopher and anthropologist, with more than 10 years of work with nonviolence and peacebuilding. An experienced trainer, he has delivered workshops, seminars and conferences in several universities in Mexico, and in countries like India, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, and the USA. His academic work has been focused on the research about the use of arts on the social responses to violence, civil resistance and creative social movements in Latin America, and peacebuilding through cultural practices in communities with high levels of violence in Mexico. Cultural Practices and the Social Response to Violence in Mexico: An Anthropological Study of Resilience and Social Agency through Counter-Discursive Arts documents and analyzes the creative strategies displayed by feminist movement in Mexico in the last 7 years. It explores the concepts of symbolic activism, innovation and performativity, to understand the political actions against gender violence and the power of symbols in civil disobedience. This work looks at the new feminism boom in Latín America by the study of the recent history but also by the voice of its agents: the new feminist artists and activists.

María Belén Garrido

María Belén Garrido is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Catholic University Eichstätt/Ingolstadt. Her Ph.D. thesis is about military and police actions against civil resistance movements in Ecuador between 1997 and 2005. She was a lecturer at the Catholic University in Ecuador and UNIVA in Mexico and has worked as a researcher at FLACSO (Facultad Latinomericana de Ciencias Sociales). She holds a Master’s degree in Peace Studies, a postgraduate degree in Migrant Counseling and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a major in International Relations. She is a member of the organizing committee of Acción Noviolenta para las Américas. Her main research areas are peace and conflict studies, with a particular focus on nonviolent action. She has done several workshops on nonviolent communication, nonviolent action, mediation, conflict resolution and negotiation, and published several articles on these topics.

Dr. Lester Kurtz

Lester Kurtz is the editor of the Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace and Conflict (3 vols., Elsevier) and The Warrior and the Pacifist (Routledge), co-editor of Women, War and Violence (2 vols., Praeger), Nonviolent Social Movements (Blackwell), The Paradox of Repression and Nonviolent Movements (Syracuse U. Press), Nonviolent Conflict and Civil Resistance (Emerald), and The Web of Violence (U. of Illinois Press) as well as author of books and articles including Gods in the Global Village (Sage; Beijing University Press Chinese translation), The Politics of Heresy (U. of California Press), Evaluating Chicago Sociology (U. of Chicago Press), and The Nuclear Cage (Prentice-Hall). He is currently working on a book on Gandhi’s Paradox, two edited volumes on Women, War, and Violence (Praeger, 2014), another on The Paradox of Repression, and a project called “Peaceful Warriors.” He has lectured in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America and served as chair of the Peace Studies Association and the Peace, War, and Social Conflict Section of the American Sociological Association, which recently awarded him its Robin Williams Distinguished Career Award.

Farai Maguwu

Farai Maguwu is the Executive Director of the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), a leading organization working on improved governance of natural resources in Zimbabwe. He has done extensive research and documentation on human rights, conflict minerals and illicit trade in Zimbabwe’s natural resources. In 2010 Farai was arrested for work of protecting the Marange community from human rights abuses and charged and detained for 40 days by the Zimbabwean government. He pioneered activism on extractive industries in Zimbabwe – lifting the lid on various aspects of human rights violations associated with extractivism. Because of his ground breaking work on Marange he was the first Zimbabwean CSO representative to address the Kimberley Process during its plenary in Namibia in 2009 on the state atrocities in Marange, thereby leading to Zimbabwe’s immediate suspension from the UN backed international rough diamond regulator.  He was subsequently selected by Zimbabwean civil society to become the first KP Civil Society Focal Point for Zimbabwe in 2010 following a decision reached by the KP in Russia in July 2010. In November 2011 Human Rights Watch honored him with the Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism. In 2012 he was also honored by Rapaport, a clean diamond campaigner, for protecting artisanal diamond miners in Zimbabwe’s Marange region. Farai holds an MA in Peace and Conflict Studies from the European University Center for Peace Studies in Austria and a Master in Peace and Governance from Africa University, Zimbabwe where he also obtained his Bachelor of Arts with Education Degree.

Dr. Laxman Pant

Laxman Datt Pant, a well-known media researcher, journalist, Freedom of Expression advocate, media trainer and university teacher hold extensive knowledge in the areas of media rights, freedom of expression and media development. He started his career as a radio journalist two decades ago and worked with numerous media institutions in different capacities ranging from a reporter to an editor. He worked as programme specialist at UNESCO for the implementation of range of activities on media development including the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. He has written half a dozen of books and contributed with numbers of research articles to journals on different disciplines media. A visiting professor of journalism and media studies at Kathmandu University in Nepal and Dhaka University in Bangladesh, Pant has contributed to the formulation of media and communication policies/strategies and the promotion of freedom of expression at national and international levels. Currently, the Chairperson of Media Action Nepal (MAN) and Senior Special Correspondent at TV Today, Pant is one of the editors/authors of the study “Supporting Safety of Journalists in Nepal: An Assessment based on UNESCO’s Journalists’ Safety Indicators” – published in 2016 by UNESCO, Paris.

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh

Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh teaches and conducts research at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities. He previously served on the faculties of the University of Tennessee, Duke, and Yale Universities. He and his wife returned to Palestine in 2008 starting a number of institutions and projects such as a clinical genetics laboratory that serves cancer and other patients. They founded (initial personal donation of $250,000) and run (as full time volunteers) the Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS) at Bethlehem University. Qumsiyeh published over 140 scientific papers on topics ranging from cultural heritage to biodiversity to cancer. His many published books include “Bats of Egypt”, “Mammals of the Holy Land”, “Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human rights and the Israeli/Palestinian Struggle” and “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment”. He also published hundreds of articles and letters to the editor and has an activism book published electronically (see He gave hundreds of talks in 45 countries around the world.  He especially believes in youth empowerment towards social and environmental causes.  The programs he & his wife created impacted thousands. He also serves on the board of a number of Palestinian youth and service organizations. PIBS-BU has become a “Mecca” for visitors to Palestine from around the world. Qumsiyeh was harassed and arrested for non-violent actions but also received a number of prestigious awards for these same actions. He and his wife and dozens of other volunteers and staff at PIBS continue to have “Joyful participation in the sorrows of this world” and make a real difference for sustainability of nature and human communities.

Dr. Yeela Raanan

Yeela Raanan was born and brought up in the Israeli Negev. She spent a year (eighth grade) in W. Sussex England during her father’s Sabbatical year in 1978 and studied for her PHD in anthropology in Utah, where she lived with her family for ten years. Returning to Israel after her studies, Yeela worked as the coordinator for the Negev Coexistence Forum, a Jewish-Arab organization based in the Negev. She left the organization, and has been with the RCUV- The Regional Council for the Unrecognized Bedouin Villages – a grassroots organization of the indigenous people of the Negev – for almost two decades. She also teaches for the department of Public Administration at Sapir College. She has returned to the Negev and lives with her family in Kibbutz Kissufim today. As the RCUV liaison to the Civil Society, Yeela is responsible for creating and maintaining working relationships with other (mostly Jewish) NGOs in Israel that are willing to work to promote the residents’ rights of the unrecognized villages. She handles the RCUV’s lobbying efforts. She also organized the sheep and goat heard owners in their struggle for more rights in Israel and to forward their economic development.

Nang Shining​

Nang Shining is a Shan ethnic from Southern Shan State in Myanmar. She has a Master of Arts in International Development Studies from Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, a second Master degree in the field of Sustainable Natural Resources Management from the University for Peace, Costa Rica and her third Master degree in the field of Global Politics at Ateneo De Manila University, Philippines. 

She worked for four years at EarthRights International’s Mekong School based in Chiang Mai, Thailand and served as the School Training Coordinator and Alumni Program Coordinator. She is a founder and Director of Mong Pan Youth Association based in Shan State Myanmar and a co-founder of Weaving Bonds Across Borders based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She is interested in the intersection of peace and conflict transformation, human rights, gender equality and environmental issues in the Mekong and Salween River basin countries.

Dr. Cecile Mouly

Cécile Mouly is a French national. She is a research professor and coordinator of the research group in peace and conflict at FLACSO Ecuador. She holds a Ph.D. in International Studies (University of Cambridge) and has published on peacebuilding, civil resistance, peace processes and the reintegration of former combatants, including a recent open-access book on peace and conflict studies (in Spanish). In addition to her academic background, she possesses practical experience in conflict transformation and peacebuilding in different countries (e.g. Burundi, Nepal, Ecuador-Colombia) with various organizations (UN, The Carter Center, OAS), and has facilitated numerous trainings on conflict analysis, peacebuilding, peace journalism and nonviolent action. She is one of the resource persons in “Conflict Prevention: Analysis for Action” of the UN System Staff College and one of the coordinators of the regional program on strategic nonviolent action in the Americas, organized by FLACSO Ecuador, the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador and CEMPROC. She has also been part of the Ecuador team of the Colombian truth commission since 2019.

Stephen Zunes

Dr. Stephen Zunes is a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he served as founding director of the program in Middle Eastern Studies. Recognized as one the country’s leading scholars of U.S. Middle East policy and of strategic nonviolent action, Professor Zunes serves as an associate editor of Peace Review and a contributing editor of Tikkun. He is the author of hundreds of articles for scholarly and general readership on Middle Eastern politics, U.S. foreign policy, international terrorism, nuclear nonproliferation, strategic nonviolent action, and human rights. He is the principal editor of Nonviolent Social Movements (Blackwell Publishers, 1999), the author of Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism (Common Courage Press, 2003) and co-author (with Jacob Mundy) of Western Sahara: War, Nationalism and Conflict Irresolution (Syracuse University Press, second revised expanded edition, 2022.)

Dr. Stellan Vingthagen

Dr. Stellan Vinthagen is Professor of Sociology, and the Inaugural Endowed Chair in the Study of Nonviolent Direct Action and Civil Resistance at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he directs the Resistance Studies Initiative. He is Editor of the Journal of Resistance Studies, and Co-Leader of the Resistance Studies Group at University of Gothenburg, Sweden. He has since 1980 been an educator, organizer and activist, participating in numerous nonviolent civil disobedience actions, for which he has served a total of more than one year in prison. One of his books is A Theory of Nonviolent Action – How Civil Resistance Works (2015).