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The Leadership Program is excited to introduce the first cohort of the Indo-Pacific Leadership Lab (IPLL), a program that is jointly launched by the East-West Center and the Japan Foundation. This year's 16 fellows from 11 countries will critically examine leadership that emphasizes localization and community engagement within the broader context of climate change adaptation and mitigation and that has the potential to drive improvements in local, regional, and global policy. The year-long program will begin virtually in October 2023 and include three one-week, in-person seminars held in Honolulu, Fiji, and Tokyo. Together, the fellows will critically examine current responses to climate change adaptation and explore community approaches and their connections to local and regional policy.

Program Dates

The program runs virtually from October 2023 to September 2024. In-person seminars will be held in:

  • Honolulu, Hawaiʻi (January 28-February 3, 2024)
  • Fiji (April 21-27, 2024)
  • Tokyo, Japan (September 8-14, 2024)

Meet the inaugural cohort!

Photos of the16 fellows of the 2023-2024 Indo-Pacific Leadership Lab.
The 16 fellows of the 2023-2024 Indo-Pacific Leadership Lab.

Yolarnie Amepou, Independent State of Papua New Guinea

Ms. Amepou is the Director of the Piku Biodiversity Network, a non-government organization in Papua New Guinea. She graduated from the University of Papua New Guinea with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology, and was accepted into a master’s program at the University of Canberra, Australia, for work on community conservation of the endangered pig-nosed turtle. In 2017, she shelved the master’s program to co-found the Piku Biodiversity Network after noticing the need for sustainable environment conservation action along the Kikori River Delta—an area that is home to 10 tribes and over 50 villages.

In 2020, Ms. Amepou began assisting local communities to understand and act for climate change adaptation, mitigation and justice, providing information from community to government and vice versa. She facilitates projects that use strategies in environmental education, knowledge generation, and support for community conservation action. Ms. Amepou is working toward the vision of informed and empowered local communities collaborating to sustain a healthy Papua New Guinea environment that supports local culture and contributes positively to biodiversity conservation and climate change resilience. This is a vision she extends to the greater Asia Pacific Region. With her contribution and effective local implementation, she believes global climate targets can be achieved.

Shrestha Biplabi, Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal

Ms. Biplabi is an intersectional feminist and advocate for climate justice and gender equality. Her work is inspired and informed by lived realities of women and girls in the Asia and the Pacific region. She is currently a Programme Director at Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Center for Women (ARROW) where she leads multi-country programs for constituency building on the intersections of climate change, gender equality, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. Her areas of expertise are evidence-based advocacy, creating spaces for linking and learning and innovative approaches to climate solutions. Since 2017, she has also represented voices from the region in spaces such as, but not limited to, UNFCCC Conference of Parties (CoP), Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD), Commission on the status of Women (CSW), and High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Prior to ARROW, Ms. Biplabi’s focus in Nepal was strengthening grassroots civil society. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Gender and Peace Building from the University for Peace in Costa Rica as a scholar of the Asian Peacebuilders Scholarship Program. Ms. Biplabi is committed to ensuring that diverse and marginalized voices, who are most affected by climate change, are at the center of climate-related decisions in the Asia Pacific region.

Zahra Khan Durrani, Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Mrs. Durrani currently serves as the Humanitarian Learning and Research Lead for a multi-country localization program at Islamic Relief Worldwide, an international non-profit. Her work revolves around conducting impactful development research, supporting implementation of humanitarian projects, and integrating climate change and humanitarian localization. She was given the High Achiever’s award by her organization for the third consecutive year in 2022. With a background in Development Economics and a Master of Philosophy degree in Development Studies, her passion for addressing climate change and vulnerability led her to design and lead a groundbreaking national research project on Climate-Induced Migration in Pakistan: Global Discourse, Local Realities, and Governance, which was launched at COP26. Previously, Mrs. Durrani spearheaded a national climate advocacy campaign in Pakistan where she engaged with stakeholders from diverse sectors and connected research findings to practical solutions for collaborative actions that strengthen local communities and build their resilience to climate impacts.

Mrs. Durrani’s vision is to continue bridging the gap between research and action, focusing on climate adaptation, local empowerment, and sustainable development in the Asia region. She is committed to driving positive change by working collaboratively with diverse stakeholders and nurturing a future where vulnerable communities are better equipped to tackle climate-related challenges.

Sylvia C. Frain, United States of America

Dr. Frain is Co-founder and Director of Impact and Research of Fåha’ Digital Media (FDM), a non-profit located on Saipan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. FDM’s mission is to support Indigenous storytellers while developing an equitable film industry in the Mariana Islands. She served in the role of Public Affairs Coordinator at the US Consulate General in Auckland, as well as the US Mission in New Zealand, the Cook Islands, and Niue focusing on climate governance and policymaking in the Indo-Pacific region.

Dr. Frain earned her PhD in Peace & Conflict Studies at The National Center for Peace and Conflict Studies | Te Ao O Rongomaraeroa at the University of Otago | Te Whare Wānanga Otāgo in Ōtepoti | Dunedin, Aotearoa New Zealand and a Master Degree in International Studies in the field of Peace & Conflict Resolution at the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. In 2018, she was the inaugural postdoctoral research fellow at the Pacific Media Center and was awarded a Whitinga Research Fellowship in Visual Arts | Toi Whakatu in the School of Art + Design | Te Kura Toi a Hoahoa at Auckland University of Technology | Te Wānanga Aronui o Tāmaki Makaurau.

Oscar A. Gómez, Japan

Dr. Gómez is Associate Professor at the College of Asia Pacific Studies, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu, Japan, where he teaches Development Studies, Public Policy, and International Relations. His main interest is in global governance and the practice of human security, emphasizing international cooperation and humanitarian crises (disasters, climate change adaptation, forced displacement, and pandemics). Major recent projects include research on (1) human security norms and perceptions in the ASEAN+3, (2) crisis management beyond the humanitarian-development nexus, and (3) the “global south” and non-Western humanitarianism. From 2013 to 2018 he worked as a research fellow for the Japan International Cooperation Agency Research Institute. He was part of a panel discussion at the United Nations on human security operationalization in 2013 and co-authored background papers for 2014, 2016, 2020, and 2022 UNDP’s Human Development Report Office reports. The Asia Pacific region is particularly exposed to direct and indirect consequences of climate change, requiring the collaboration of multiple actors for successful adaptation. Dr. Gómez would like to help this process through practice, research, and preparing the next generation of professionals to sustain and build upon present efforts.

Maho Hayashi, Japan

As a consultant specializing in solving the management challenges of large corporations, Ms. Hayashi aspires to transform businesses into a more sustainable force, while actively addressing environmental issues like climate change and ocean pollution. As an avid surfer who deeply cherishes the sea, her goal is to preserve this beautiful ocean for future generations. She wants to ensure that the way of life for the people of the Asia Pacific region, who have a deep connection to these waters, continues to thrive and endure.

Sayaka Hori, Japan

Dr. Hori is an Assistant Professor at Osaka University, specializing in water management. She has extensively researched local and community-based environmental problems, chiefly focusing on water resource management. The scope of these projects spreads across various geographical landscapes including Vietnam, the Netherlands, and her home country Japan. She is enthusiastic about being part of the Indo-Pacific Leadership Lab and wants to learn, share, and collaborate towards a sustainable future. Dr. Hori is firmly convinced that our collaborative efforts can manifest significant advancements in environmental strategies, ultimately enriching peoples’ lives.

Raksha Kumar, Republic of India

Ms. Kumar is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in India. She has reported from 12 countries on human rights issues, with specific focus on land and forest rights. She regularly reports on media freedoms and innovation from Asia for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Her stories on Afghanistan, Myanmar, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam have received wide-spread appreciation. She has produced an audio documentary for NPR’s Rough Translation podcast. In 2016, she wrote, directed and edited a video documentary on the Rationalist Movement in India. The film was screened across 30 venues in India.

In 2021, Ms. Kumar was a summer fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University. A Fulbright scholar, she graduated from Columbia University with a degree in journalism. She also holds two postgraduate diplomas in Human Rights Law and Peace Studies. As a fellow of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women in Law and Development (APWLD), she participated in the Women’s Summit in Indonesia and a UN consultation on labor rights in Thailand. She hopes to continue her association with the broader Asia Pacific region in the future.

Eveline Kurniati, Republic of Indonesia

Ms. Kurniati leads sustainable fishery and aquaculture initiatives that focus on strengthening resiliency of coastal communities. As a Program Manager, she is developing the legacy of LINI Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Indonesia. She holds a Master of Aquaculture Science and Technology from James Cook University, Australia. With over nine years of experience, she has worked across Indonesia addressing socio-economic and ecological challenges, finding solutions and implementing actionable interventions in coastal-marine resources management. She works closely with coastal communities in restoring reef ecosystems and promoting sustainable fisheries through education and collaborative management.  Ms. Kurniati’s dedication contributes to a future where small-scale fishers and coastal communities across Indonesia and the broader Asia-Pacific region are not only empowered, but also inspired to take a leading role in overseeing their coastal-marine areas. Communities’ voices are not only heard but also integrated into the fabric of responsible management, fostering a harmony with nature, local wisdom, and progress.

Adi Litia Nailatikau, Republic of Fiji

Ms. Nailatikau is currently a Program Consultant with Conciliation Resources and a proud member of the inaugural Technical Working Group of the Pacific Women’s Mediators Network. In previous roles she has worked with the International Finance Corporation, the Fiji Film Industry, and as an Assistant Language Teacher to the JET program in Okinawa, Japan. She holds an LLB, majoring in Environmental Law, and a master's degree in Diplomacy & International Relations. A trained Pacific Peacebuilder, Litia envisions a Pacific Security mandate that prioritizes peacekeepers working with women and peacebuilders for a more secure and stable Pacific region that prioritizes human security alongside traditional security.

Sarah Novak, New Zealand

Ms. Novak is a New Zealander working in infrastructure investment at Morrison & Co, an organization with a long history and strong focus on renewable energy, decarbonization, and sustainability. Ms. Novak holds a MSc in Environmental Change and Management from the University of Oxford, where she researched how farms and farmers in mountainous areas of New Zealand's South Island can play a role in carbon sequestration to meet the country's climate targets. Sarah has previously worked as a strategy consultant at the Boston Consulting Group, as well as in the not-for-profit sector and in government. She has lived and worked in Asia, Oceania, Europe, and North America, and has written and published work on a range of environmental issues across the Indo-Pacific. 

Yota Oue, Federated States of Micronesia

Mr. Oue is the Energy, Climate, and Development Director at Ocean, Climate, and Energy Advisors (OCEA) Incorporated, a consulting firm in Pohnpei, Micronesia. Concurrently, he also serves as the Operations Manager for Steady Palms, a small business that focuses on delivering professional services and specialized procurement for information technology, renewable energy, and sustainable cooling needs for the public and commercial sectors in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). He is incredibly blessed to have been selected as a Gates Millennium Scholar for the Class of 2013.

Mr. Oue received his Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Environmental Studies at Fordham University in New York City, and recently completed his Master of Science in Energy Policy and Climate at Johns Hopkins University. His graduate thesis delves into the technology, policy, and partnerships needed to build and maintain a robust and resilient solar photovoltaic (PV) mini-grid in Pohnpei, Micronesia. Mr. Oue describes his work and learning passions as operating at the nexus of energy, climate change, and economic development. He aspires to be the North Pacific’s clean energy integration, energy efficiency, and climate adaptation expert. In his free time Mr. Oue enjoys teaching and training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as the co-founder of the FSM Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation.

Muhammad Zahir Ramli, Malaysia

Dr. Ramli is an Associate Professor in coastal hydrodynamic and morphology, and a Research Fellow at the Institute of Oceanography and Maritime Studies (INOCEM) at the International Islamic University Malaysia. He received his PhD from the University of Southampton where he studied as a Ministry of Higher Education scholar in engineering and the environment. His research has primarily focused on analyzing the impacts of climate change on ecosystems, communities, and coastal infrastructure. He has been actively involved in a national long-term project assessing the impact of future sea level rise on environmentally sensitive coastal areas in Malaysia and is a recognized expert of the Malaysia Board of Technology for Marine Science and Technology. He has authored multiple journals on climate change adaptation and has been appointed as a consultant for numerous environmental impact assessment projects.  Dr. Ramli is dedicated to fostering community empowerment through innovative adaptation plans that contribute to building community resilience.

Christopher Rosado, United States of America

Mr. Rosado designs and implements collaborative evidence-based approaches to address complex interconnected social and environmental challenges. As a behavioral scientist at Creative Action Tank, a socially driven management consultancy, he partners with academic, private, and non-profit organizations to leverage data and enhance program interventions. He received his Master of Arts degree in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University. With over ten years of experience in Southeast Asia he has successfully led change management, marine conservation, research, education, and social entrepreneurship programs.

Current projects include exploring community vulnerabilities to marine plastic waste, enhancing community driven coral reef conservation through technology, and piloting circular transformation opportunities with restaurant brands to achieve zero waste to landfill. Chris is concentrating on the intersection between marine ecosystems, community resilience and waste management to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change and support the development of inclusive policy in the Asia-Pacific region.

Alison L. Steele, United States of America

Ms. Steele is the Executive Director of the Environmental Health Project, a public health non-profit based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, that advocates for health-protective public policy in the face of oil and gas development. She earned her bachelor's degree in physics and her master’s in business administration, with a focus on sustainable business practices, studying sustainability principles and applications on multiple continents. During her professional career, she has addressed various issues related to energy and the built environment, and she has worked to mitigate adverse public health and climate impacts through multiple angles including the implementation of energy efficiency measures in buildings and adoption of stronger policy-based protections at various levels of government. Ms. Steele hopes to utilize her science, business, and international experience to help organizations and individuals reduce their environmental impacts through more responsible resource use, thereby better safeguarding our global community now and for future generations.

Maria Angela Zafra, Republic of the Philippines

Dr. Zafra is the Co-founder and Executive Director of Strategia Development Research Institute, Inc. (SDRI), a non-profit research organization based in the Philippines focused on providing policy research, capacity building, and technical assistance in various social and economic development areas. She is SDRI’s lead technical expert and project manager for practice areas related to organizational development, inclusive business models, climate change, sustainable tourism, gender inclusivity and women’s economic empowerment, and sustainable development. In October 2021 she was appointed for a two-year term to the National Panel of Technical Experts (NPTE) of the Climate Change Commission, the lead policy-making body of the Philippine government for climate action. The NPTE provides technical advice to the Commission on climate science, risk assessment, and enhancement of adaptive capacity.

The Leadership Program is excited to introduce the first cohort of the Indo-Pacific Leadership Lab (IPLL), a program that is jointly launched by the East-West Center and the Japan Foundation. This year's 16 fellows from 11 countries will critically examine leadership that emphasizes localization and community engagement within the broader context of climate change adaptation and mitigation and that has the potential to drive improvements in local, regional, and global policy. The year-long program will begin virtually in October 2023 and include three one-week, in-person seminars held in Honolulu, Fiji, and Tokyo. Together, the fellows will critically examine current responses to climate change adaptation and explore community approaches and their connections to local and regional policy.

Program Dates

The program runs virtually from October 2023 to September 2024. In-person seminars will be held in:

  • Honolulu, Hawaiʻi (January 28-February 3, 2024)
  • Fiji (April 21-27, 2024)
  • Tokyo, Japan (September 8-14, 2024)

Meet the inaugural cohort!

Photos of the16 fellows of the 2023-2024 Indo-Pacific Leadership Lab.
The 16 fellows of the 2023-2024 Indo-Pacific Leadership Lab.

Yolarnie Amepou, Independent State of Papua New Guinea

Ms. Amepou is the Director of the Piku Biodiversity Network, a non-government organization in Papua New Guinea. She graduated from the University of Papua New Guinea with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology, and was accepted into a master’s program at the University of Canberra, Australia, for work on community conservation of the endangered pig-nosed turtle. In 2017, she shelved the master’s program to co-found the Piku Biodiversity Network after noticing the need for sustainable environment conservation action along the Kikori River Delta—an area that is home to 10 tribes and over 50 villages.

In 2020, Ms. Amepou began assisting local communities to understand and act for climate change adaptation, mitigation and justice, providing information from community to government and vice versa. She facilitates projects that use strategies in environmental education, knowledge generation, and support for community conservation action. Ms. Amepou is working toward the vision of informed and empowered local communities collaborating to sustain a healthy Papua New Guinea environment that supports local culture and contributes positively to biodiversity conservation and climate change resilience. This is a vision she extends to the greater Asia Pacific Region. With her contribution and effective local implementation, she believes global climate targets can be achieved.

Shrestha Biplabi, Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal

Ms. Biplabi is an intersectional feminist and advocate for climate justice and gender equality. Her work is inspired and informed by lived realities of women and girls in the Asia and the Pacific region. She is currently a Programme Director at Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Center for Women (ARROW) where she leads multi-country programs for constituency building on the intersections of climate change, gender equality, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. Her areas of expertise are evidence-based advocacy, creating spaces for linking and learning and innovative approaches to climate solutions. Since 2017, she has also represented voices from the region in spaces such as, but not limited to, UNFCCC Conference of Parties (CoP), Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD), Commission on the status of Women (CSW), and High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Prior to ARROW, Ms. Biplabi’s focus in Nepal was strengthening grassroots civil society. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Gender and Peace Building from the University for Peace in Costa Rica as a scholar of the Asian Peacebuilders Scholarship Program. Ms. Biplabi is committed to ensuring that diverse and marginalized voices, who are most affected by climate change, are at the center of climate-related decisions in the Asia Pacific region.

Zahra Khan Durrani, Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Mrs. Durrani currently serves as the Humanitarian Learning and Research Lead for a multi-country localization program at Islamic Relief Worldwide, an international non-profit. Her work revolves around conducting impactful development research, supporting implementation of humanitarian projects, and integrating climate change and humanitarian localization. She was given the High Achiever’s award by her organization for the third consecutive year in 2022. With a background in Development Economics and a Master of Philosophy degree in Development Studies, her passion for addressing climate change and vulnerability led her to design and lead a groundbreaking national research project on Climate-Induced Migration in Pakistan: Global Discourse, Local Realities, and Governance, which was launched at COP26. Previously, Mrs. Durrani spearheaded a national climate advocacy campaign in Pakistan where she engaged with stakeholders from diverse sectors and connected research findings to practical solutions for collaborative actions that strengthen local communities and build their resilience to climate impacts.

Mrs. Durrani’s vision is to continue bridging the gap between research and action, focusing on climate adaptation, local empowerment, and sustainable development in the Asia region. She is committed to driving positive change by working collaboratively with diverse stakeholders and nurturing a future where vulnerable communities are better equipped to tackle climate-related challenges.

Sylvia C. Frain, United States of America

Dr. Frain is Co-founder and Director of Impact and Research of Fåha’ Digital Media (FDM), a non-profit located on Saipan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. FDM’s mission is to support Indigenous storytellers while developing an equitable film industry in the Mariana Islands. She served in the role of Public Affairs Coordinator at the US Consulate General in Auckland, as well as the US Mission in New Zealand, the Cook Islands, and Niue focusing on climate governance and policymaking in the Indo-Pacific region.

Dr. Frain earned her PhD in Peace & Conflict Studies at The National Center for Peace and Conflict Studies | Te Ao O Rongomaraeroa at the University of Otago | Te Whare Wānanga Otāgo in Ōtepoti | Dunedin, Aotearoa New Zealand and a Master Degree in International Studies in the field of Peace & Conflict Resolution at the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. In 2018, she was the inaugural postdoctoral research fellow at the Pacific Media Center and was awarded a Whitinga Research Fellowship in Visual Arts | Toi Whakatu in the School of Art + Design | Te Kura Toi a Hoahoa at Auckland University of Technology | Te Wānanga Aronui o Tāmaki Makaurau.

Oscar A. Gómez, Japan

Dr. Gómez is Associate Professor at the College of Asia Pacific Studies, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu, Japan, where he teaches Development Studies, Public Policy, and International Relations. His main interest is in global governance and the practice of human security, emphasizing international cooperation and humanitarian crises (disasters, climate change adaptation, forced displacement, and pandemics). Major recent projects include research on (1) human security norms and perceptions in the ASEAN+3, (2) crisis management beyond the humanitarian-development nexus, and (3) the “global south” and non-Western humanitarianism. From 2013 to 2018 he worked as a research fellow for the Japan International Cooperation Agency Research Institute. He was part of a panel discussion at the United Nations on human security operationalization in 2013 and co-authored background papers for 2014, 2016, 2020, and 2022 UNDP’s Human Development Report Office reports. The Asia Pacific region is particularly exposed to direct and indirect consequences of climate change, requiring the collaboration of multiple actors for successful adaptation. Dr. Gómez would like to help this process through practice, research, and preparing the next generation of professionals to sustain and build upon present efforts.

Maho Hayashi, Japan

As a consultant specializing in solving the management challenges of large corporations, Ms. Hayashi aspires to transform businesses into a more sustainable force, while actively addressing environmental issues like climate change and ocean pollution. As an avid surfer who deeply cherishes the sea, her goal is to preserve this beautiful ocean for future generations. She wants to ensure that the way of life for the people of the Asia Pacific region, who have a deep connection to these waters, continues to thrive and endure.

Sayaka Hori, Japan

Dr. Hori is an Assistant Professor at Osaka University, specializing in water management. She has extensively researched local and community-based environmental problems, chiefly focusing on water resource management. The scope of these projects spreads across various geographical landscapes including Vietnam, the Netherlands, and her home country Japan. She is enthusiastic about being part of the Indo-Pacific Leadership Lab and wants to learn, share, and collaborate towards a sustainable future. Dr. Hori is firmly convinced that our collaborative efforts can manifest significant advancements in environmental strategies, ultimately enriching peoples’ lives.

Raksha Kumar, Republic of India

Ms. Kumar is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in India. She has reported from 12 countries on human rights issues, with specific focus on land and forest rights. She regularly reports on media freedoms and innovation from Asia for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Her stories on Afghanistan, Myanmar, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam have received wide-spread appreciation. She has produced an audio documentary for NPR’s Rough Translation podcast. In 2016, she wrote, directed and edited a video documentary on the Rationalist Movement in India. The film was screened across 30 venues in India.

In 2021, Ms. Kumar was a summer fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University. A Fulbright scholar, she graduated from Columbia University with a degree in journalism. She also holds two postgraduate diplomas in Human Rights Law and Peace Studies. As a fellow of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women in Law and Development (APWLD), she participated in the Women’s Summit in Indonesia and a UN consultation on labor rights in Thailand. She hopes to continue her association with the broader Asia Pacific region in the future.

Eveline Kurniati, Republic of Indonesia

Ms. Kurniati leads sustainable fishery and aquaculture initiatives that focus on strengthening resiliency of coastal communities. As a Program Manager, she is developing the legacy of LINI Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Indonesia. She holds a Master of Aquaculture Science and Technology from James Cook University, Australia. With over nine years of experience, she has worked across Indonesia addressing socio-economic and ecological challenges, finding solutions and implementing actionable interventions in coastal-marine resources management. She works closely with coastal communities in restoring reef ecosystems and promoting sustainable fisheries through education and collaborative management.  Ms. Kurniati’s dedication contributes to a future where small-scale fishers and coastal communities across Indonesia and the broader Asia-Pacific region are not only empowered, but also inspired to take a leading role in overseeing their coastal-marine areas. Communities’ voices are not only heard but also integrated into the fabric of responsible management, fostering a harmony with nature, local wisdom, and progress.

Adi Litia Nailatikau, Republic of Fiji

Ms. Nailatikau is currently a Program Consultant with Conciliation Resources and a proud member of the inaugural Technical Working Group of the Pacific Women’s Mediators Network. In previous roles she has worked with the International Finance Corporation, the Fiji Film Industry, and as an Assistant Language Teacher to the JET program in Okinawa, Japan. She holds an LLB, majoring in Environmental Law, and a master's degree in Diplomacy & International Relations. A trained Pacific Peacebuilder, Litia envisions a Pacific Security mandate that prioritizes peacekeepers working with women and peacebuilders for a more secure and stable Pacific region that prioritizes human security alongside traditional security.

Sarah Novak, New Zealand

Ms. Novak is a New Zealander working in infrastructure investment at Morrison & Co, an organization with a long history and strong focus on renewable energy, decarbonization, and sustainability. Ms. Novak holds a MSc in Environmental Change and Management from the University of Oxford, where she researched how farms and farmers in mountainous areas of New Zealand's South Island can play a role in carbon sequestration to meet the country's climate targets. Sarah has previously worked as a strategy consultant at the Boston Consulting Group, as well as in the not-for-profit sector and in government. She has lived and worked in Asia, Oceania, Europe, and North America, and has written and published work on a range of environmental issues across the Indo-Pacific. 

Yota Oue, Federated States of Micronesia

Mr. Oue is the Energy, Climate, and Development Director at Ocean, Climate, and Energy Advisors (OCEA) Incorporated, a consulting firm in Pohnpei, Micronesia. Concurrently, he also serves as the Operations Manager for Steady Palms, a small business that focuses on delivering professional services and specialized procurement for information technology, renewable energy, and sustainable cooling needs for the public and commercial sectors in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). He is incredibly blessed to have been selected as a Gates Millennium Scholar for the Class of 2013.

Mr. Oue received his Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Environmental Studies at Fordham University in New York City, and recently completed his Master of Science in Energy Policy and Climate at Johns Hopkins University. His graduate thesis delves into the technology, policy, and partnerships needed to build and maintain a robust and resilient solar photovoltaic (PV) mini-grid in Pohnpei, Micronesia. Mr. Oue describes his work and learning passions as operating at the nexus of energy, climate change, and economic development. He aspires to be the North Pacific’s clean energy integration, energy efficiency, and climate adaptation expert. In his free time Mr. Oue enjoys teaching and training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as the co-founder of the FSM Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation.

Muhammad Zahir Ramli, Malaysia

Dr. Ramli is an Associate Professor in coastal hydrodynamic and morphology, and a Research Fellow at the Institute of Oceanography and Maritime Studies (INOCEM) at the International Islamic University Malaysia. He received his PhD from the University of Southampton where he studied as a Ministry of Higher Education scholar in engineering and the environment. His research has primarily focused on analyzing the impacts of climate change on ecosystems, communities, and coastal infrastructure. He has been actively involved in a national long-term project assessing the impact of future sea level rise on environmentally sensitive coastal areas in Malaysia and is a recognized expert of the Malaysia Board of Technology for Marine Science and Technology. He has authored multiple journals on climate change adaptation and has been appointed as a consultant for numerous environmental impact assessment projects.  Dr. Ramli is dedicated to fostering community empowerment through innovative adaptation plans that contribute to building community resilience.

Christopher Rosado, United States of America

Mr. Rosado designs and implements collaborative evidence-based approaches to address complex interconnected social and environmental challenges. As a behavioral scientist at Creative Action Tank, a socially driven management consultancy, he partners with academic, private, and non-profit organizations to leverage data and enhance program interventions. He received his Master of Arts degree in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University. With over ten years of experience in Southeast Asia he has successfully led change management, marine conservation, research, education, and social entrepreneurship programs.

Current projects include exploring community vulnerabilities to marine plastic waste, enhancing community driven coral reef conservation through technology, and piloting circular transformation opportunities with restaurant brands to achieve zero waste to landfill. Chris is concentrating on the intersection between marine ecosystems, community resilience and waste management to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change and support the development of inclusive policy in the Asia-Pacific region.

Alison L. Steele, United States of America

Ms. Steele is the Executive Director of the Environmental Health Project, a public health non-profit based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, that advocates for health-protective public policy in the face of oil and gas development. She earned her bachelor's degree in physics and her master’s in business administration, with a focus on sustainable business practices, studying sustainability principles and applications on multiple continents. During her professional career, she has addressed various issues related to energy and the built environment, and she has worked to mitigate adverse public health and climate impacts through multiple angles including the implementation of energy efficiency measures in buildings and adoption of stronger policy-based protections at various levels of government. Ms. Steele hopes to utilize her science, business, and international experience to help organizations and individuals reduce their environmental impacts through more responsible resource use, thereby better safeguarding our global community now and for future generations.

Maria Angela Zafra, Republic of the Philippines

Dr. Zafra is the Co-founder and Executive Director of Strategia Development Research Institute, Inc. (SDRI), a non-profit research organization based in the Philippines focused on providing policy research, capacity building, and technical assistance in various social and economic development areas. She is SDRI’s lead technical expert and project manager for practice areas related to organizational development, inclusive business models, climate change, sustainable tourism, gender inclusivity and women’s economic empowerment, and sustainable development. In October 2021 she was appointed for a two-year term to the National Panel of Technical Experts (NPTE) of the Climate Change Commission, the lead policy-making body of the Philippine government for climate action. The NPTE provides technical advice to the Commission on climate science, risk assessment, and enhancement of adaptive capacity.