WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 26, 2023) — The Rights and Resources Group’s (RRG) Board of Directors has named as its new members three well-known Indigenous and local community leaders and land rights defenders: Cécile Ndjebet from Cameroon, Patrick Saidi Hemedi from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Shree Kumar Maharajan from Nepal.
With the arrival of these three new members, RRG —the coordinating body of the Rights and Resources Initiative—continues to advance its commitment to becoming a rightsholder-led coalition. This will ensure that RRI’s strategies and priorities reflect the demands, and strengthen the capacities of, the local communities, Indigenous Peoples, Afro-descendant Peoples, and women’s organizations that form its global coalition.
Cécile, Patrick, and Shree have devoted their careers to defending the rights of Indigenous and local communities, and the women within these communities, in Asia and Africa. Their leadership has been characterized by their focus on rights-based conservation that prioritizes the role of communities in strategic ecosystems.
Cécile, an agronomist and social forester from rural Cameroon has dedicated her work to promoting women’s representation and interest in environmental policies. Her concern for the lack of collective action among women’s organizations in Africa led her to co-found the African Women’s Network for Community Forest Management (REFACOF) in 2009, which she now leads. The REFACOF network has expanded across 20 African countries.
Cécile’s over three decades of experience advocating for women’s land rights and forest restoration in Africa earned her the award of Climate Change Champion from the Central African Forestry Commission in 2012. In 2022, the United Nations Environment Program named her Champion of the Earth for Inspiration and Action.
Patrick Saidi Hemedi is the national coordinator of the Dynamique des Groupes de Peuples Autochtones (DGPA) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a network of 45 Indigenous organizations working to guarantee the rights of the Indigenous Pygmy Peoples and to promote their knowledge as a model for forest management and protection.
Patrick and DGPA spent 14 years lobbying for a historic bill to protect and promote the rights of the DRC’s Indigenous Pygmy Peoples, which President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi signed into law in November 2022.
Shree Kumar Maharjan is Deputy Secretary–General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP), an organization based in Thailand with 46 members from 14 countries in Asia all defending and promoting the rights of the region’s Indigenous Peoples. He belongs to the Indigenous Newar Nationality of Nepal. The Newars are the traditional inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley who settled in the area 2,000 years ago.
Shree’s experience has spanned South and South-East Asia with a focus on Thailand, Nepal, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, India, and Bangladesh. He also serves a senior research analyst at Collaborating for Resilience (CoRe) and his work has been published in multiple international conservation science journals.
Cécile, Patrick, and Shree’s appointment to RRI’s leadership is a step forward in the coalition’s efforts to prioritize the representation of Indigenous Peoples, Afro-descendant Peoples, local communities, and women in its strategies, programming, and governance. To read more about the Board of Directors, click here.