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Staff

Co-Executive Directors: Mayra Gomez and Bret Thiele

The Global Initiative was founded and is led by Bret Thiele (JD) and Mayra Gómez (PhD).  With over thirty years experience between them, Bret Thiele and Mayra Gómez have a long track record of human rights advocacy resulting in a range of groundbreaking outputs, outcomes and impact in the area of ESC rights.

Bret Thiele received his Juris Doctorate, cum laude, from the University of Minnesota Law School and his undergraduate degree, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Minnesota.  Mayra Gómez received her PhD in Sociology from the University of Minnesota, where her graduate work in the area of human rights received a Graduate Research Excellence Award, the Don Martindale Award for Recognition of Excellence in Graduate Scholarship, the Anna Welsch Bright Memorial Research Award, as well as research grants from the MacArthur Interdisciplinary Program on Global Change, Sustainability and Justice.  Both were recipients of the Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellowship award.  From 1998 to 2001, Bret and Mayra worked as aides to an Independent Member Expert to the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Prof. David Weissbrodt.

Since that time, Bret and Mayra have worked with several international human rights organizations, including ten years each with the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), where Mayra served as the Senior Expert on Women and Housing Rights and Bret as the Senior Expert on Litigation and Legal Advocacy.  They have also held various consultancies with Amnesty International, Global Rights, the Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam, UN-Women, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (dealing with work in the area of forced eviction and land as well as in conjunction with the mandates of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Water and Sanitation).

Bret has successfully litigated ESC rights before the World Bank Inspection Panel, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the European Committee of Social Rights as well as before various United Nations treaty-monitoring bodies and as amicus curiae before domestic courts in several countries.  His strategic litigation has successfully advanced the justiciability of ESC rights at various international and national levels including using the principle of indivisibility by placing issues of housing rights and the rights to water and sanitation before bodies, such as the Human Rights Committee, that until then dealt almost exclusively with a narrow interpretation of civil and political rights.

Mayra has coordinated a wide-range of advocacy activities — including fact-finding missions, training missions and advocacy before international and regional bodies — on various issues including ensuring that women and girls throughout the world are able to enjoy their ESC rights.  In particular, her work has led to international standard setting in the area of women’s housing, land and property rights through her work with international mechanisms such as the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as regional bodies such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.  Her research publications have been widely cited by such organizations as Amnesty International, Plan International, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN-Habitat, among others.

Both Bret and Mayra have participated in dozens of human rights fact-finding and training missions both domestically and abroad,  with work carried out in Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, El Salvador, Finland, France, the Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, the Netherlands, Occupied Palestinian Territory (West Bank and Gaza), the Philippines, Senegal, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan (Darfur), Suriname, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and Viet Nam.   Over the years, their successes in human rights advocacy have been covered by global media outlets such as the BBC, Al-Jazeera, Radio France Internationale, Voice of America, among others, as well as by various other national media sources.

Bret and Mayra lecture frequently to international students, human rights activists, policy makers and representatives of international organizations, including at the University of Minnesota Law School, the University of Chicago, the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin, the Central University of Europe, Åbo Akademi (Turku, Finland), l’Institut Universitaire des Hautes Etudes Internationales (University Institute for Higher International Studies, Geneva, Switzerland) and the Danish Institute for Human Rights (Copenhagen, Denmark) as well as for non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International and Global Rights.  Together, they have authored close to one hundred human rights articles, books and reports, and have been regular contributors to the Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights.

Bret served on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International – USA (AIUSA) from 2003 – 2009. Mayra served on the AIUSA Board of Directors from 2007-2010, Chairing its International Committee from 2007-2009. She also served for four years on the AIUSA Women’s Human Rights Steering Committee, co-Chairing the Committee for two years.  She and Bret were members of AIUSA’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Advisory Committee (2003 – 2009) and its Dignity Campaign Member Advisory Committee (2010 – 2012).

Mayra can be reached at: Mayra@globalinitiative-escr.org

Bret can be reached at: Bret@globalinitiative-escr.org

 

Geneva Representative: Lucy McKernan

Lucy McKernan is the Geneva Representative of the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. She is a human rights lawyer and experienced advocate for the human rights of persons living in poverty.  She brings to the role a wealth of experience in human rights advocacy from the national and international levels, including how to effectively utilise the human rights mechanisms to advance the normative ESC rights framework and catalyse change at the domestic level. Lucy is a skilled advocate who has worked with a wide range of actors, including States, UN agencies, human rights mechanisms and civil society partners and devotes considerable time to facilitating access to the Geneva human rights mechanisms for local and national civil society partners. She is responsible for advocacy before the Human Rights Council and its Special Procedures, the Treaty Bodies, and Missions to the UN in Geneva.   She is based in Geneva.

 

Lucy can be reached at: Lucy@globalinitiative-escr.org

 

Legal and research advisor: Sylvain Aubry

Sylvain Aubry is currently working as a Research and Legal Advisor with the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural rights. He’s been leading on research and advocacy on human rights and the role of the State in the delivery of essential services with the organisation since 2014, focusing in particular on privatisation in education and human rights. He is coordinating research in 12 countries as well as engaging with States, international organisations, and UN mechanisms. He has previously carried out research, capacity building and advocacy for various organisations, including Amnesty International, the Right to Education Project, FIAN International, ActionAid, and ESCR-Net, working on economic, social and cultural rights for the past 7 years. He has worked in particular on States’ obligations, the right to food, land rights, the right to health, corporate accountability, transitional justice, Roma rights,and the right to education, topics on which he has authored or co-authored about 30 reports and academic articles. He holds an LLM in international human rights law from the University of Essex and a Diploma in political sciences and international relations from Sciences Po Aix.

You can find his full profile on ke.linkedin.com/in/sylvainaubry/

Sylvain is currently based in Nairobi, Kenya.  Sylvain can be reached at: sylvain@globalinitiative-escr.org

 

Research and Campaign Officer: Océane Blavot

Océane Blavot is currently working at the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as a Research and Campaign officer. Océane works on privatisation in the delivery of social services in the global south and particularly on privatisation of education the African Francophone region.

Océane holds a Masters from IRIS Sup’, the well-known French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS) Think Tank’s school. During her Masters, she completed her dissertation on privatisation of social services in the global south through donors’ partnerships with private actors, which led to the publication of an article in IRIS’s Humanitarian Affairs Think Tank: “What donor strategy lies beneath the renewal of cooperation with the private sector?”. Previously to IRIS Sup’, Océane graduated from the University of Brighton in the UK, with a BA in “Globalisation: History, Politics, Culture”. Her previous work experience include the French Development Agency (AFD), as well as the French Education Coalition (Coalition Education).

Océane is currently based in Nairobi, Kenya, and can be reached at oceane@globalinitiative-escr.org

 

Research and Advocacy Assistant: Ashina Mtsumi

Based in Nairobi, Ashina Mtsumi is currently assisting with the research and advocacy project on a human rights analysis of the role of private actors in education.  Ashina is a lawyer by training and comes to the GI-ESCR from Hakijamii, one of our partners in this and other projects.

Ashina can be reached at: ashina@globalinitiative-escr.org

Legal Fellow

Zizipho Zondani is currently assisting with research and advocacy on privatisation in education and human rights. She holds an LLM in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights from the University of Essex.

Zizipho can be reached at: zizipho@globalinitiative-escr.org

Zizipho is currently based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Former Staff and Consultants

Research and Advocacy Assistant: Nabil Belkabir

Nabil Belkabir joined the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in September 2014 and is working on research and advocacy projects regarding privatization of education, especially in Morocco. He graduated in 2014 from the School of Governance and Economics, Rabat, after completion of a B.A. in Political science. Nabil has a strong experience as a human rights activist and he has been working for some years with a number Moroccan organizations on the right to education and human rights in general. He co-founded the Student Union for the Change of the Educational System (UECSE), and the Popular University in Morocco, working on the student participation to the elaboration of educational policies and on the popular education.

Nabil is based in Rabat, Morocco.

Consultant on the Rights Based Approach to Development:  Aled-Dylwin Fisher

Aled-Dylwin Fisher joined the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in August 2013 and began working on a series of practical guides related to the human rights based approach to development.  Aled has a BSc. in International Relations and History from the London School of Economics and Political Science as well as a MPhil. in Theory and Practice of Human Rights from the University of Oslo where he also taught courses on the rights based approach.

 

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