We are looking for Commonwealth citizens to share their views ahead of the 2024 Heads of Government Meeting. Sign up to take part

Regional Conversation: Asia and Indian Ocean

Jump to Guests
Melissa Tan
Dr Shahidul Alam
Shaahina Ali
Dr KM Gopakumar
Date & Time
9:00am, 16 April 2024 - 10:45am, 16 April 2024
About the event

This event marks the third of four Regional Conversations ahead of the 2024 Commonwealth People’s Forum in Samoa. We are inviting civil society experts from Asia and Indian Ocean to share their views.

Participants will contribute concrete recommendations to address some of the most urgent issues of our time—climate justice, health justice, and freedom of expression—and establish a renewed vision for the Commonwealth.

The contributions shared will help to shape this year’s People’s Forum, the largest gathering of civil society in the Commonwealth. The People’s Forum takes place alongside the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and offers a platform for civil society to challenge, engage and ultimately inspire change.

Our Regional Conversations—taking place across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, and the Pacific—are part of a wider effort to influence the proceedings at the Heads of Government Meeting. The findings of the Conversations—combined with those from international surveys and the People’s Forum itself—will be summarised and presented to decision-makers over the course of CHOGM.

This event will open with a summary of our global launch event held in November 2023, and then a panel of leading practitioners and advocates will present their regional perspectives. We will then move into breakout sessions where attendees will be able to present concrete and innovative ideas that can create a more resilient and sustainable common future.

Please note that this is an invitation-only event. If you want to contribute ideas and help shape the Commonwealth People’s Forum and Heads of Government Meeting in Samoa in October 2024, join our Path to Samoa: Online Consultation. 

Melissa Tan Moderator
Dr Shahidul Alam Speaker
Shaahina Ali Speaker
Dr KM Gopakumar Speaker
Melissa Tan

Melissa Tan is a TV host and producer, actress, climate activist and zero waste advocate. She is an Ambassador of EarthDay.org, the global environmental organisation that organises Earth Day for the last 50 years, and leads the Malaysian chapter of Fashion Revolution campaigning for a fair and clean fashion industry. Melissa connects to a wide, mainstream audience through her social media and website, creating digital content in sustainable living and fashion, climate action and other areas of the circular economy. Melissa is a trained Climate Reality Leader under Al Gore’s The Climate Reality Project. She co-founded a social movement organisation, The Green Guerrilla, and regularly works with major brands and NGOs on environmental projects. In 2023, she joined the Antarctic Climate Expedition to raise awareness about the threats facing the world’s oceans and how to save them. She hosts and produces on Tech360.tv, a regional online tech channel.

Dr Shahidul Alam

A Time Magazine’s Person of the Year 2018 and National Geographic Explorer at Large, photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry before switching to photography. Alam’s documentation contributed to the ouster of autocratic general Hussain Muhammad Ershad. Alam set up the Drik agency, Bangladesh Photographic Institute, Chobi Mela festival, Majority World agency and Pathshala, the South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world.

Shown in MOMA New York, Centre Georges Pompidou Paris, Tate Modern and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Alam received an honorary doctorate from the University of Arts London in 2022.

A chair of World Press Photo international jury, Alam has spoken at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities and is Honorary Fellow of Royal Photographic Society.

Described by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, Alam was arrested in August 2018, for criticising the Bangladeshi government, but was released on bail after over 100 days in jail after a massive global campaign for his release.

His book My journey as a witness has been described as ‘The most important book ever written by a photographer’. The Tide Will Turn by Steidl was listed in New York Time’s ‘Best Art Books of 2020’.

Shaahina Ali

Shaahina Ali is the Executive Director of Parley Maldives, where she leads a nationwide implementation of the Parley AIR Strategy, driving the upcycling, eco-innovation, and education initiatives that have helped transform her home into a global champion of change. Shaahina has engaged a network of island communities, schools, resorts, businesses, NGOs and government agencies in programs to reduce plastic waste, introduce recycling programs, boost eco-innovation, strengthen existing conservation efforts and inspire a new generation of ocean advocates. She is guided by a background in photojournalism and a passion for marine conservation. Shaahina has received a President of the Maldives Green Leaf Award for her work creating environmental awareness among school children.

Dr KM Gopakumar

Dr KM Gopakumar is the legal advisor and senior researcher with the Third World Network (TWN), New Delhi. His area of focus is the global intellectual property regime and its impact on developing countries.

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