Previous Speakers

Negusu Aklilu, Environmental Activist 

Negusu AkliluNegusu Aklilu is Director of the Forum for Environment in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He has been working as an environmental campaigner for the last 15 years and has played a leading role in advocating for environmental rights in Ethiopia and beyond. He led some successful campaigns at home and two campaigns in the run-up to the Copenhagen Climate Conference in 2010. One is the African Climate Appeal, a politico-moral appeal by key African environmental activists initiated by Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai. The other campaign, ³America, Take the Lead Now², produced a petition signed by about 2 million Ethiopians to the US government. 

Currently, Negusu co-chairs the Ethiopian Civil Society Network on ClimateChange (ECSNCC), comprising about 60 organizations. He is a representative of civil society organizations in Ethiopia¹s National Environment Council. He has authored a number of articles on a range of environmental issues and serves as editor of Akirma, a local environmental magazine, as well as co-editor of the Ethiopian Environment Review. 

Some of his other initiatives in Ethiopia include the national Green Award Program, the annual Ethiopian Environment Review, and the new local Green Tax initiative.

Currently, he serves as a co-chair of the UNEP Major Groups and StakeholdersAdvisory Group on International Environmental Governance, which has been providing inputs for the Rio+20 process. 

He was voted one of the 25 most influential Ethiopians in 2009/2010 by Addis Neger, Ethiopian newspaper. In the same year, he was voted as one of the 13 emerging global environmental leaders by the Global Environmental Governance Program that was then hosted by the College of William and Mary and Yale University. 

He is trained in biology and ecology and later in Environmental Diplomacy ata UNEP/University of Geneva post-graduate course. 

Negusu was named Yale World Fellow in June 2011.

Fatima Kassam, International Policy Advisor

Fatima Kassam

Fatima Kassam currently serves as a Special Advisor to the African Union (AU) on the African Risk Capacity (ARC) project.   ARC is a project of the African Union to create an African-owned, AU-led, stand-alone financial entity that would provide participating AU Member States with immediate resources in the event of a natural disaster.  

Fatima previously served as Deputy Director of Governor Schwarzenegger’s Commission for Jobs and Economic Growth where she focused on innovative solutions to structural problems in the California economy, creation of economic clusters around emerging industries and engagement with high-level decision makers -- particularly in Africa and Asia -- to facilitate mutually beneficial business partnerships between governments and large private firms.

Fatima has also worked extensively with non-profits that cultivate informed civic engagement and increased awareness about the perils of growth without equity.  In this capacity, she designed core curriculum for the Hands On Network’s nationwide Citizen Academy; Emory University’s Ethics and Servant Leadership Forum; and the Aga Khan Foundation USA’s Global Village in Action.


 Eden Gelan, Community Development Worker

Eden Gelan

Eden graduated from Haramaya University with a BA in Law, but her desire to help the underprivileged and give voice to the voiceless has been expressed outside of her academic descipline.

Shorty after graduation she co-founded an NGO, Beza Community Development Association (BCDA), which empowers people living with HIV by providing income generation activities, counseling, medical support, and education.  During this time she also completed an MA in HIV/AIDS Counseling in Relation to Theological Studies at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology.  Working as Project Coordinator, she has been able to create and implement new ways of taking care of at-risk communities.





 Jelani Nelson, Computer Scientist

Jalani Nelson

Jelani Nelson recently completed his doctoral studies in the Theory of Computation group at CSAIL in MIT, where he also completed undergraduate studies in mathematics and computer science (2005), and received an M.Eng. In computer science (2006). Jelani's research has mostly focused on the development of efficient algorithms for massive datasets, and especially algorithms that use little memory and require only a single or few passes over the data (so-called "streaming algorithms"). Jelani will spend the next two years doing postdoctoral work at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, Princeton University, and the Institute for Advanced Study before joining the computer science faculty at Harvard.