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Introducing our five new Civil Society Advisory Governors

Five civil society representatives will stand shoulder to shoulder with our Member States to advance our mission.

Posted on 15/06/2023
By Commonwealth Foundation

The Commonwealth Foundation works to advance the interests and needs of the people of the Commonwealth, through a rich combination of grants, platforms and partnerships.

The Foundation has always involved civil society closely in our work. We continue this fine tradition through our Civil Society Advisory Governors. This mechanism—known simply as CSAG—brings civil society representatives from each region of the Commonwealth into the heart of our work: standing shoulder to shoulder with our Member States in advancing the Foundation’s mission and shaping our future direction.

‘The diversity and richness that our Civil Society Advisory Governors bring to our organisation will ensure that we remain connected and relevant’

In 2022 the Foundation conducted a comprehensive review of the CSAG mechanism. Under the new terms of reference that emerged from the review, we sought governors whose background and experience ensure they will make a genuine contribution to the Foundation’s programming, and whose connections will enable them to become champions of the Foundation and of Commonwealth values within their regions and networks.

‘They are, after all, our bridge to the people of the Commonwealth’

We are delighted to announce that the Foundation’s Board of Governors has approved the appointment of the following persons as our Civil Society Advisory Governors for a two-year term.

Dr Helen Kezie-Nwoha (Africa)

Dr Helen Kezie-Nwoha, representing Africa, brings extensive experience with the Women’s International Peace Centre and the  Gender Is My Agenda Network. Her expertise will help us put gender—a major theme across all our work—at the centre of our activities.

Safaath Ahmed Zahir (Asia)

Representing Asia, Safaath Ahmed Zahir has a passion for women’s rights and an impressive track record of civil society engagement. As a recipient of the Queen’s Young Leader Award, Safaath embodies the essence of the constructive engagement between civil society and government that we strive for.

Darrion Narine (Caribbean)

From the Caribbean, Darrion Narine joins us with a wealth of knowledge and connections within youth-focused organisations. His previous roles, including Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Forum Task Force, have demonstrated his tireless commitment to youth inclusion and his understanding that young people are central to a flourishing and sustainable Commonwealth.

Mario Gerada (Europe)

For Europe, Mario Gerada brings extensive experience of front-line human rights work with a special focus on migration. His understanding of the importance of constructive engagement between government and civil society, gained through his leadership within a national civil society organisation, will be invaluable.

Dr Justin Koonin (Pacific)

Finally, Dr Justin Koonin, representing the Pacific, is a renowned health policy expert and President of Australia’s largest civil society organisation dedicated to HIV/AIDS and the advancement of health rights for gender minorities. Dr Koonin’s expertise will be crucial in helping us advance our agenda around health justice —one of three key themes in our strategic plan.

Our new Civil Society Advisory Governors will play a critical role in the years ahead: not only advising on the Foundation’s continuous improvement, but also by contributing to the development of the programme for the next Commonwealth People’s Forum that will be held in Samoa in 2024.

The diversity and richness that our Civil Society Advisory Governors bring to our organisation will ensure that we remain connected and relevant; they are, after all, our bridge to the people of the Commonwealth—and we are committed to learning from them so they can guide and inspire our work.