Who We Are
Fellows of the Rights and Resources Initiative
RRI Fellows are international leaders who work in areas of forestry, land and resource tenure, poverty reduction, human rights and who also are committed to helping advance RRI and its agenda. These fellowships are an honorary position enabling long-term collaboration with distinguished individuals who are not part of RRI Partner institutions.
Current Fellows of the Rights and Resources Initiative
- Liz Alden Wily
- Sally Collins
- Hans Gregersen
- Owen Lynch
- Sten Nilsson
- René Oyono
- Nonette Royo
- Madhu Sarin
- Xu Jintao
- Deborah Barry
- Paul De Wit
- Margarita Florez
Liz Alden Wily is a political economist with 35 years of experience in Asian and African states and shorter experience in many others. She works as an independent consultant and researcher and is an acknowledged expert on indigenous/customary ownership regimes. For several decades she has been a prominent advocate of legal recognition of customary and especially collective property rights. She has been a leader in devising community-based land administration and forest management regimes. She operates purposively from field to cabinet offices, as both practitioner and policy strategist and is a strong advocate of guided community-based learning-by-doing to underpin new policy and lawmaking to ensure these are rooted in workable and low-cost paradigms and driven by public will, thus less able to be derailed or remain un-applied.
In the 1970s she launched one of the earliest minority land rights programmes in Africa (in respect of Botswana’s Kalahari hunter-gatherer San). In the early 1990s she led the establishment of the first community-owned and managed forest reserves in Tanzania and has been at the forefront of new rights-based national land and forest policies in a number of sub-Saharan states. She has also designed and led the implementation of innovative tenure programmes in post-conflict states, notably Sudan and Afghanistan. Her recent work in Liberia with the local NGO Sustainable Development Institute has been pivotal to the emerging recognition of Liberia’s rich forest resource as the property of local communities.
She has published extensively on issues related to rights, tenure and forests, including a volume on land and forest issues in eastern and southern Africa with IUCN, and a volume on Liberian land and forest rights. Liz served as a member of the technical working group on property advising the global Commission for the Legal Empowerment of the Poor chaired by Hernando de Soto and Madeline Albright (2006-2008). She holds a doctorate in the political economy of African land tenure systems from the University of East Anglia, England.
Her most recent work has been in Nepal, in relation to the emergent scientific land reform being developed by the Maoist-led post-conflict government. Liz’s professional ambitions are modest; she informs RRI she is ‘unlikely to rest’ until the communal land assets she estimates as amounting to more than 4 billion hectares globally are legally entrenched in the hands of their rightful owner/shareholders, the world’s 2+ billion rural poor.
Sally Collins served as the first Director of the USDA Office of Environmental Markets. She retired in August 2010. OEM continues to play an instrumental role in advancing markets for ecosystem services provided by farms, forests, and ranches across the country. As Director, Collins supported the USDA Secretary in developing uniform, science-based guidelines and the infrastructure necessary to create markets for carbon, biodiversity, and water.
Collins has spent more than 25 years in natural resource management, working at the “field level” as a forest manager for 20 years prior to coming to Washington DC. Her last field assignment was Forest Supervisor of the 1.6 Million acre Deschutes National Forest. She served most recently as Associate Chief for the U.S. Forest Service, sharing responsibilities with the Chief for management of all of the 155 National Forests and Grasslands, providing support to tribal, state and private lands, and overseeing the International Program Office. She supervised an organization of over 40,000 employees and a budget of more than $5 billion. Under her administration, the Office of International Programs doubled in size due to an expanded partnership with USAID, a partnership that recognized the nexus between forest protection and human well-being. As leader of this work, Collins travelled to a number of countries to establish long-term partnerships. She worked with Gabon on the establishment of protected areas, and participated in the establishment of the Congo Basin Partnership. She worked on log tracking and enforcement in Madagascar, restoration in Vietnam, and tenure and governance in China (a country that recently completed some major tenure reforms of the forest sector).
Collins currently works with Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) to help the largest forested countries of the world establish secure tenure arrangements and laws for their forested estates. For 6 years, she has served (and continues to serve) as Co-Chair of Megaflorestais, an organization established to informally connect the top forest leaders in the world. The group has collectively shared and advanced issues around climate change, deforestation, illegal logging, REDD and associated markets (including the Amazon Fund) and tenure/governance issues fundamental to forest protection and poverty alleviation. In October, 2010 she co-hosted Mexican and Brazilian Forest leaders in Montana on “Re-Thinking Forest Regulations Internationally.” Additionally, she works with RRI more generally to support their efforts in tenure and governance reform associated with REDD+ and with the establishment of protected areas around the world.
Collins has received a number of awards and recognition for her work, including the designation as the Starker Lecture Recipient in May of this year from Oregon State University, and the 2010 Stan Adams Partnership Award from the National Association of State Foresters. She served on an advisory committee for Yale’s International Forestry Program, and has spoken extensively both nationally and internationally on climate change, REDD, and forest management, and carbon and other ecosystem service markets. She is most proud of her recognition by the communities in which she has worked as a person who effectively involves people in decision-making and her ability to establish creative partnerships to accomplish work.
She received her BS from the University of Colorado and her Master’s from the University of Wyoming in Natural Resources Management and Political Science.
Hans Gregersen is a Professor Emeritus of the College of Natural Resources and Department of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota, where he joined the faculty in 1970. He worked on the Technical Advisory Committee of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) from 1991 until his retirement in 2006. Most recently, he has carried out an assessment of the World Agroforestry Center’s progress in implementing the recommendations of its most recent External Program and Management Review. In 2006 and 2007 he carried out a major assessment of the FAO global forestry program, as part of the major Independent External Evaluation of the FAO.
His technical work deals with environmental and natural resources policy and economics issues, with a particular focus on integrated watershed management, forest and water management and policy, agroforestry and sustainable development. He has worked on these issues with numerous international institutions, including on staff at the FAO, as a long-term consultant to the World Bank, the InterAmerican Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank. In 2000 and 2001 he served on the World Bank’s Advisory Committee for its evaluation of World Bank forest policy. He has led numerous studies and published more than 180 works on natural resource policy, economics, evaluation, forestry, watershed management, sustainable development, agroforestry and social forestry.
Owen J. Lynch is currently a visiting professor at the University of the Philippines College of Law. Previously he worked as a senior attorney and managing director of the Law and Communities and Human Rights and Environment programs at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) in Washington, DC, (1997-2006) and a Senior Associate at the World Resources Institute (1990-96). He taught at the University of the Philippines College of Law (1981-88), and at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (1991-2006). Owen has been has been actively engaged for three decades in fostering public interest law careers in Asia, Africa, and the Pacific. His substantive focus is on environmental justice, law and sustainable development, and his special expertise is on community-based property rights (CBPRs) and their legal recognition in national and international law. He is a member of the executive council of the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) (1998-2011 terms). Owen is the author of many scholarly articles on indigenous and other local communities, legal history, and CBPRs, as well as articles written with policy advocacy in mind. Owen earned a B.A. degree cum laude from St. Johns University (Minnesota) in 1975, a J.D. from The Catholic University of America in 1980, and Master of Laws and Doctor of Laws degrees with honors from Yale University in 1985 and 1992. His doctoral dissertation was titled “Colonial Legacies in a Fragile Republic: A History of Philippine Land Law and State Formation with Emphasis on the Early U.S. Regime (1898 – 1913),” and was awarded Yale University’s Ambrose Gherini (International Law) Prize in 1992.
Sten Nilsson is CEO of Forest Sector Insights AB. A native of Sweden, he has had a distinguished academic career in forest sector analysis with emphasis on policy analysis. He is considered an expert on international forests and global forest sector analysis, and is frequently asked to address international meetings on issues dealing with the forest sector. His recent research and expertise includes topics such as:
- Globalization, economic growth and the forest sector
- Structural change in the global forest industry
- Convergence of fiber, food and fuel
- The Future of the Russian forest sector
- Impacts of global illegal logging
- The Chinese forest sector
Sten was previously a director at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). Before joining IIASA in 1986, he was Leader of the Institute of Forest Industry Market Studies and Professor in Economic Planning at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. During 1983–84, he was appointed by the Canadian Government to set up new strategies for the forest sector in Canada. In 1985, he headed two commissions for the Swedish government concerning intensified research in the forest sector in Sweden.
René' Oyono's biography will be published shortly.
Nonette Royo is a lawyer, specializing in indigenous issues, natural resources and land rights in South East Asia.
In the Philippines, Nonette is co-founder of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, LRC-KSK, FoE Philippines, and the Women’s Legal Bureau. In Indonesia, Nonette works with environmental and social justice advocates, particularly with networks for community based forest management. Due to her experience, she has been able to facilitate programming work with bilateral support funds for biodiversity and community rights and their positioning in conservation and development practice. She has also facilitated the creation of several innovative NGO networks and multi stakeholder coalitions. This includes support for several sub-granting institutions working with regional community foundations focused on social issues in key forest and biodiversity areas.
Her years of legal and policy advocacy assistance have included mapping, regional planning, and legal defense services for peoples and forests in South East Asia and Papua regions. Nonette has assisted with agreements among local Adat institutions, mapping facilitators and inter-sectoral agencies, all within a decentralized, multi-stakeholder land use planning framework.
Nonette’s work in research, analysis and policy reforms focuses on governance and strengthening local institutions in the region, bridging institutions and leaders. She also served a three-year term as Research and Social Outreach Vice President of the Ateneo de Cagayan University in Mindanao, Southern Philippines.
As Executive Director of the Samdhana Institute, Nonette has helped to develop the Indigenous People’s Support Fund, in tandem with growing the Greengrants Alliance of Funds in Brazil and Mexico. This work focuses on nurturing local indigenous organizations’ visions of sustaining their work in protecting the remaining, key contiguous biodiverse landscapes in the region. Many of these sites are found in indigenous territories and the challenge remains how best to sustain these lands and their stewards with funding, support networks and involving appropriate institutions to advocate for the social, cultural, and economic rights of these communities.
Since 1991, she has been a member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, practicing environmental and Public Interest Law in the South East Asia Region.
Madhu Sarin's biography will be published shortly.
Xu Jintao biography will be published shortly.
Deborah Barry is one of the founders of RRI, helping in designing the Initiative and involved in all of the inception workshops from her base in Mexico as a Program Officer for Ford Foundation, and later while in CIFOR as the Senior Associate where she coordinated the CIFOR forest tenure and governance research in 10 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America in collaboration with RRI. This research program provided a base for the scoping of threats and opportunities in Latin America region which framed the first five years of RRI programs.
Deborah is a cultural and economic geographer has lived and worked for many years in Central America and Mexico. Currently she is an advisor to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources for Climate Change (Restoration) in El Salvador, based in San Salvador. While in Central America she founded several research institutions, including (PRISMA- Regional Program for Environment and Development Studies) which is attempting to understand the territorial dynamics of global trends on and with rural communities and social movements.
Until 2012, she was the Director for Strategic Outreach and Coalition Development, and earlier was Director for Country Initiatives. Deborah has carried out and led extensive research on agricultural policies, territorial governance particularly of forest communities, community forestry as a strategy for mitigation and adapting to climate change, livelihood and benefit streams of landscape and forest management, tenure and rights, and has written and published extensively on community forest and governance issues, including co-editor of and contributor to The Community Forest of Mexico ( 2005) and Forests for the People (2010). She is a co-author of numerous RRI and RRI partner/collaborator publications.
Paul De Wit is an expert in land tenure reform with over 30 years of experience and working on land policy analysis and reform processes in 20 countries in Africa, Latin America, and Europe. He received formal training from University of Ghent in Belgium with a BSc in Agronomy and MSc in Tropical Soil Science.
He has worked with a range of organizations, including the FAO, EU, DFID, USAID, MCC, World Bank, UN-Habitat, UNDP and the Right and Resources Initiative, amongst others. His work has provided pro-community/pro-poor rights advocacy campaigns with essential tools and his analyses have contributed to important legal and policy reforms in several countries.
More specifically, Paul has worked with RRI on several projects. He conducted an assessment of the implementation of the Communal Lands Registry and Cadastre in Guatemala, conducted a scoping mission assessing forest and land tenure policy landscapes in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Currently, Paul is leading a research cluster for RRI’s Tenure Baseline Study in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Paul’s practical, hands-on approach and consistently high quality field work, coupled with influential positions advising UN and World Bank programs, provides new intelligence, operational savvy, and greater influence for RRI’s work at multiple levels.
Margarita Florez is a lawyer with expertise in environmental law issues, including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), forest policy, as well as Afro-descendant and indigenous collective tenure. She is currently the Director of the Environment and Society Association (AAS), a nongovernmental organization dedicated to the promotion and defense of human and environmental rights, and has been a Collaborator of RRI at the Latin America regional level since 2010. Margarita has over 30 years of experience across the Latin American region promoting innovative and critical reforms in public environmental, forest, and tenure policies. She has led review and monitoring processes for the implementation of international environmental and human rights agreements which have benefited the participation of civil society and community based organizations in decision-making on environmental and collective tenure rights.
In the 80s, she accompanied the consolidation of the regional indigenous organization in southern Colombia and advised its land reclamation projects. During the creation of the new Constitution of Colombia in 1991, Margarita promoted and served as an advisor on the inclusion of issues of environmental law and collective tenure for Afro-descendants, as well as supported the participation of indigenous leaders in the constitutional process. She worked closely with the first two indigenous senators in Colombia to support their sponsorship of laws on natural resource management and rights of Indigenous Peoples. She served as an attorney for the national system of parks and protected areas and produced the first draft proposal for Colombia’s forest certification standard.
She has brought her extensive knowledge of environmental issues and rights to serve as a civil society representative and observer in the implementation of the CBD and in the Inter-American Development Bank. She has served as a member of the Board of Directors of Third World Network (Malaysia) and the Third World Institute (Uruguay), as a member of the Crucible Group II organized by the International Development Research / International Plant Genetic Resources Institute / Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, and a member of the Reinventing Social Emancipation Group at the University of Coimbra (Portugal). She has authored and co-authored several books and countless articles, including studies on the social and environmental impacts of large-scale coal mining. Currently she is developing a regional study for RRI on the impacts of the extractive industry on collective territories and forests in Latin America.