Shada Islam (Brussels)

Shada Islam is responsible for policy oversight of Friends of Europe’s initiatives, activities and publications. She has special responsibility for issues related to the Future of Europe, Migration, the Asia Programme and the Development Policy Forum. Shada is Visiting Professor at the College of Europe (Natolin) where she teaches Asia-Europe relations and has been selected as a fellow by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). She has been named as one of twenty most influential women in Brussels by Politico. Shada is the former Europe correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and has previously worked on Asian and Migration issues at the European Policy Centre. She is one of the authors of Friends of Europe’s much-read “Frankly Speaking” commentary and is sought after as a speaker, commentator, columnist and moderator at high-level European and global events. Shada also continues to write on EU foreign and security policy, EU-Asia relations and trade and development issues for leading Asian, European and international publications and academic journals.


Alexandra Dufresne is an American lawyer for refugees and children, based in Zurich, Switzerland. In the U.S., she specialized in representing low-income refugees and immigrants detained by the Department of Homeland Security. She also taught seminars in Immigration, Refugee and Child Law and Policy at Yale College from 2006-2015 and worked as a lawyer for children at leading children’s rights NGOs. While in the U.S., she served on the Board of IRIS, New Haven’s refugee resettlement NGO. Alexandra moved with her family to Switzerland in 2016, where she teaches law at ZHAW and The University of Zurich Faculty of Law (starting Fall 2020) and is writing a textbook about American law. Alexandra serves on the Board of Trustees of Asylos, a Brussels-based NGO dedicated to providing asylum seekers and their counsel with high-quality human rights information, and continues to advise refugee lawyers in the U.S. on questions of law and strategy.

Farida T. Bena (SWITZERLAND)

Farida T. Bena, Director of Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy, International Rescue Committee Farida joined the IRC in 2017 as Director of Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy, based in Geneva. She brings over 20 years of experience in programming, policy and advocacy with a special focus on accountability and aid effectiveness. Among her previous roles, she worked for the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) from 2013 to 2015 and consulted for UNICEF, the European Commission, Save the Children, CARE International and others in fifteen countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Fioann Smyth (kenya)

Fionna Smyth is Head of Humanitarian Policy, Advocacy, Campaigns at Oxfam where she supported the development of the Global Refugee led Network since its inception,  and launched the IMatter campaign, a campaign that seeks to support women’s rights organisations in crisis contexts and pass the mic to  build their skills in advocacy and create platforms to amplify their voice. She previously held the position of Senior Advocacy Adviser SDGs, at UN Women. and previous to that she was Head of Campaigns at Amnesty UK. During her career she has worked in advocacy and campaigning on women’s rights in crisis contexts;  to address impunity for Sexual violence in The Democratic Republic of Congo and worked as the Director of Middle East Gender Hub which delivered programming on gender-based violence, women’s access to Justice and women’s political participation in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen and Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Dr Lara-zuzan golesorkhi (USA)

Dr. Lara-Zuzan Golesorkhi is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Global Affairs at the University of Portland (USA). She received her PhD from the New School for Social Research (USA) and holds a Master’s degree in International Affairs from the New School for Public Engagement (USA). Her expertise lies in migration, gender, civil and human rights. As a scholar, activist, and a migrant woman, she has advocated for migrant rights at the European Commission, the European Parliament, the United Nations, as well as on the federal and state level in Germany. In 2015, she was a winner of the United Nations Academic Impact Global Diversity Contest and has since been internationally recognized for her contributions as a human rights defender.

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Shaza Al Rehawi (Germany)








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