Keynote Speakers


Mirei Endara de Heras, Minister of the Environment, Panama

As Panama’s first Minister of the Environment, Mirei directs the newly created Ministry (sanctioned by the President in March 2015) and its ambitious environmental agenda centered around six pillars: modernizing institutional and regulatory frameworks; mainstreaming climate change resilience and low emission economic growth; promoting sustainable tourism as a mechanism to integrate protected areas into the national economy; REDD+; advancing water security and managing coastal marine resources. Previously, Mirei led the transformation of Panama’s Natural Institute of Renewable Resources into Panama’s Environmental Agency in 1998, expanding the scope of the agency and setting up the National Climate Change Program. In 2000, she founded the Panama office of The Nature Conservancy, where she negotiated the first debt-for-nature swap between the United States and Panama, creating a permanent endowment fund to conserve Chagres National Park which ensures 40% of the water needed for Panama Canal operations and 50% of the water needed for national human consumption. After participating in the inaugural class of the Aspen Institute’s Central America Leadership Initiative, she founded the CALI Foundation, building a leadership network of social, business and government leaders throughout the region. She has served on the boards of ANCON, the oldest environmental organization in Panama, the Smithsonian Foundation and EXPLORA, an arts and sciences center. Mirei is an alumnus of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies’ Master of Environmental Management Program.

Stewart Maginnis, Global Director, Forests and Climate Change Programme, Nature-based Solutions Group, IUCN

As Global Director of the Nature-based Solutions Group, Stewart holds overall responsibility for IUCN’s work on Ecosystem Management, Forests, Water, Gender, Social Policy, Economics and Business & Biodiversity. He has over 28 years of broad experience in the area of natural resource management, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, including 13 years full-time field work in Tanzania, Sudan, Ghana and Costa Rica. More recently he has worked extensively in national and international natural resource and climate change policy arenas. During the past 12 years he has been a recognized leader in the conceptual development and promotion of “forest landscape restoration” (FLR), an approach which has now been adopted by many national and international polices and initiatives, including the Bonn Challenge to restore 150 million hectares of impoverished and degraded landscapes over the forthcoming decade. An agriculturalist by training, he holds a M.Sc. in Forestry and Land Use from the University of Oxford and has been a study fellow at the University of Manchester. He has a keen interest in the linkage between forest conservation and livelihood security of the rural poor, the practical application of ecosystem or landscape approaches in forest management and on the role of civil society in local and national natural resource governance arrangements.

James Mayers, Head, Natural Resources Group, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

James Mayers is Head of the Natural Resources Group at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) – the Group has twenty-five staff and an annual budget of about £7 million. He has twenty-eight years of research, management and evaluation experience in natural resources and rural development issues, emphasising forestry, ecosystem and institutional resilience and governance. James has managed a range of multi-country initiatives such as: Policy That Works for Forests and People; Developing Markets for Watershed Services and Livelihoods; Forest Governance Learning Group; Tenure and REDD+; Water Ecosystem Services under Climate Change; Land Access in Sub-Saharan Africa; and the China-Africa Forest Governance Project. His work experience spans a wide range of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asia and Latin America, and has carried project preparations, monitoring and evaluation initiatives for, amongst others, DFID and the EC. The Sustainable Development Goals present new opportunities - a strong call in particular to tackle inequality and leave no one behind. James is co-managing the IIED response, working with partners on increasing investment in locally-controlled and sustainable land and natural resource use as a key route to delivery of these Goals. 

Milagre Nuvunga, Executive Director, MICAIA Foundation

Milagre is the Executive Director of the MICAIA Foundation, whose headquarters are in Chimoio, in Central Mozambique. Trained as a forester, she began her career as a junior officer in the Forestry and Wildlife Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture in Mozambique. Later on she held senior positions within the Mozambican Government including Director of the National Forest Research Centre and National Director for Forestry and Wildlife, both within the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as National Director for Natural Resources Management and Senior Policy Advisor in the Ministry for the Coordination of Environmental Affairs. Milagre has also worked as a Forest Project Officer for UNDP’s Forestry Capacity Program in the Sustainable Energy and Environment Division and the UN Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF), based in New York. Her last international position was with the Ford Foundation, where she served as a Program Officer for Environment and Community Development in East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) based in Nairobi, for 6 years. Milagre is the co-founder of a hybrid institution combining a Mozambican NGO, the MICAIA Foundation, a Mozambican social enterprise, EcoMICAIA Limited, and a UK based charity, MICAIA. The development of environmentally sound, participatory strategies for community development in poor rural areas based both on people’s rights and responsibilities, has been the main thread underlining her professional path.


Closing Remarks

Charles McNeill, Senior Advisor on Forests and Climate, United Nations Development Program (UNDP)

Charles is responsible for Forests & Climate policy at UNDP, where over the past two decades he has been a leader in UNDP’s work throughout the developing world on sound environmental management for poverty eradication. He always devotes special attention to engaging with Indigenous Peoples and local communities. He led the Forests action area of the UN SG’s Climate Summit 2014 by coordinating a powerful coalition of developing & developed countries, companies, IPs and CSOs resulting in major announcements to reduce deforestation and increase forest restoration, including the New York Declaration on Forests. In 2008 he co-founded the UN-REDD Programme, now supporting 60 developing countries with more than $250 million.  He also created Community-based REDD+, a partnership between UN-REDD and the GEF Small Grants Program to deliver grants to IPs and communities for REDD+ activities. Charles worked to ensure that perspectives of IPs and local communities were introduced into the inter-governmental discourse on SDGs before their adoption in Sept 2015. He founded in 2002 the Equator Initiative, a capacity building, knowledge and advocacy effort to foster successful local solutions for people, nature and resilient communities, featuring the Equator Prize. Previously, Charles managed UNDP’s GEF work throughout Africa and was responsible for global policy and programming. Prior to joining UNDP in 1992, he worked in the NGO sector on hunger eradication and development in South Asia and Africa. After receiving his PhD in genetics, with a focus on conservation biology at UC Davis, Charles held several academic posts addressing a range of environmental and development issues.