Our leadership

Our founder, artist and social activist - Forest Whitaker

Forest Whitaker believes that, in order to attain peace and prosperity, communities and nations must heed the voices of their diverse and vibrant youths. He is the founder and CEO of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI). Through WPDI, he has developed the Youth Peacemaker Network, a global peacebuilding social network with hubs in South Sudan, South Africa, Uganda, the United States, and Mexico. He and WPDI are committed to providing educational tools and economic opportunities to young women and men in regions affected by conflict and armed conflict.

Forest Whitaker is also co-founder of the International Institute for Peace, UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, and a member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy Group. He is dedicated to cultivating youths’ artistic talents. As a member of former President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, he also worked closely with elementary school students to demonstrate the limitless power of the arts to express their voices and creative energies.

True to his belief in the potential of youths, Forest Whitaker works, through his production company, Significant Productions, to support young, talented filmmakers. He views film as a medium that can enlighten people across the globe. He has produced several award-winning documentaries that touch on a wide range of social issues.


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Forest Whitaker’s artistic and humanitarian contributions have been widely recognized at home and abroad. He has received many distinctions for his acting, including the 2007 Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, a performance for which he also received a BAFTA Award, a SAG Award, and a Golden Globe. In addition, Whitaker received the Best Actor Award for Bird at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival. In 2007, he received the Cinema for Peace Award for his ongoing advocacy for child soldiers and his work with inner-city youths. He was awarded the Humanitas Prize in 2001. In 2013, Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center appointed him a Martin Luther King, Jr. Fellow. That same year, he was made a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in recognition of his work serving those affected by conflict and violence.

Over the recent years, Forest Whitaker has also received awards honoring his humanitarian work from the Los Angeles Press Club, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the NAACP, Refugees International, the MLK Health Foundation, the World Childhood Foundation, the Southern California Mediation Association, and others. In recognition of his role as artist and activist, he has been honored with the Crystal Award at the 2017 edition of the Davos World Economic Forum. In 2018, the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London awarded him an Honorary Fellowship. He was also among the recipients of the 2019 Kennedy Center Award for the Human Spirit.

Forest Whitaker’s commitment to peace and social justice has led him to work ever more closely with the United Nations and its various bodies. He has addressed the Security Council, in 2014, and the Human Rights Council, in 2019. In 2011, he started an association with UNESCO as Goodwill Ambassador for Peace and Reconciliation, which was strengthened three years later when he was appointed as UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation. In this role, he works toward global peace and community building through non-violence education, research, and training. In 2012, in recognition of his contributions to the values embodied by the UN, he received the United Nations Correspondents Association’s Advocate of the Year Award. In 2014, he started collaborating with the Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict as an Advocate for Children Affected by War. In 2019, this office invited him to sit on the steering committee of the Global Coalition for the Reintegration of Child Soldiers. In 2016, he was appointed to the Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy Group by the UN Secretary-General who renewed his membership in this group in 2019.

Above all, Whitaker believes that ordinary people can and must come together to change the world. In his own words, “Even a seemingly small action can cause ripples that make an enormous impact.”

Our board members

Headquarters members

Caroline Descombris Executive Director Paris
Valentine Goret Chief of Staff Paris
Jacques Plouin Senior Strategic Advisor Paris
Nina de Selding Monitoring & Evaluation Officer Paris
Gary Paterson Communications Officer Paris
Callum Hamilton Copywriter Paris
Lucius Reibel Administrative Assistant Los Angeles

Field offices

France See the staff and location
Aminata Sidibé Project manager

Community Learning Center – Opening soon
Quartier Villette-Quatre Chemins
93300 Aubervilliers

HQ – Main Office in Paris
UNESCO Headquarters
7 Place de Fontenoy,
75007 Paris

Our action in France
Gabon, Cameroon and Chad See the staff and location
Gabin Moussavou-Mapaga Business trainer
Our action in Gabon, Cameroon and Chad
Mexico See the staff and location
Kathia Loyzaga Program manager Chiapas
Heriberto Garcia Program manager Tijuana
Mayrette Velazquez Meza Administrative Officer Tijuana
Lizeth Bonifaz Administrative Officer Chiapas
Sarah Isis Paez Elenes Conflict Resolution Expert
Tanya Alejandra Mota Program coordinator Tijuana
Rossana Llorens Business trainer Chiapas
Moisés Aldama Vázquez Business trainer Tijuana
Omar Ruiz ICT trainer Chiapas
Jorge Adan Pazos Lopez ICT trainer Tijuana
Yolanda Perez Program assistant Chiapas
Martin Toledo Program assistant Tijuana

WPDI Office in Tijuana
Community Learning Center
Calle Cananea
14095 Fraccionamiento Sonoita
Baja California

WPDI Office in Chiapas
Community Learning Center
Calle Hermanos Dominguez #25B, Barrio de San Antonio.
(Sobre las gradas del cerro San Cristobalito).
San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas.
C.P. 29250

Our action in Mexico
South Africa See the staff and location
Dr Chance Chagunda Program Manager
Virginia Vayisi Administrative and Finance Officer
Colvin Snell Business Skills Officer
Piwe Mpahlwa Conflict Resolution Officer
Siwe Dhlamini Conflict Resolution Trainer
Steffne Hughes ICT Trainer
Elsa Pienaar Program Assistant
Our action in South Africa
South Sudan See the staff and location
Richard Hoffman Country Manager
Dagu David Program Director
Adil Darama Administrative and Finance Officer
Gama Hassen Business Boot Camp Manager
Taban Francis Business skills trainer
Bush Buse Program Coordinator - Central Equatoria 
Alexander Moro Program Coordinator - Eastern Equatoria 
Daniel Mande Program Coordinator - Western Equatoria 
Paul Levi Wagbia Program Assistant
Agnes Kenyi Administration Assistant
Simon Anite WPDI Office driver

WPDI Juba Country Office
UNESCO compound
South East of UNMISS road
South Sudan

Our action in South Sudan
Uganda See the staff and location
Evelyn Laruni  Country Coordinator 
Anthony Okello  Finance and Administrative Officer 
Grace Lawino Business Bootcamp Manager
Ochen Christopher Olum  Program Coordinator - Acholi Sub-Region
Lukwago Joseph  ICT Coordinator - Acholi Sub-Region
Amoding Sylvia Conflict Resolution Education Trainer - Acholi Sub-Region
Obedi David Onen Business skills trainer  - Acholi Sub-Region
Acan Irene  Program Assistant - Acholi Sub-Region
Wiyajik Beatrice Office Assistant - Acholi Sub-Region
Patrick Owiny  Program Coordinator - Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement 
Opoka Wesley Conflict Resolution Education Trainer - Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement
Simon Oketayot  Business Skills Officer - Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement
Acayo Brenda Openy  Business skills Trainer - Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement
Rachkara Emmanuel Ameda Sexual reproductive Health Officer - Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement
Aber Kevin Olweny  Trauma Healing Officer - Kiryandong Refugee Settlement
Elias Ulego Oryem ICT Tech/Sports Tutor - Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement
Okello Collins Monday  Arts & Crafts facilitator - Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement
Odwee Winnie  Office Assistant - Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement
Judith Apio Program Assistant - Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement
Simon Peter Aleper Program Coordinator - Karamoja Sub-Region
Anyakun Moses Administrative Officer - Karamoja Sub-Region
Ambrose Alunga Tityon Trauma Healing & Rehabilitation Officer - Karamoja Sub-Region
Patrick Achia Lambert Business Skills Officer - Karamoja Sub-Region
Angella Kevin Business Skills Trainer - Karamoja Sub-Region
Boniface Bole Lokii ICT Trainer - Karamoja Sub-Region
Moses Loumo Conflict Resolution Education Trainer - Karamoja Sub-Region
Ambrose Otiang Arts & Crafts Trainer - Karamoja Sub-Region
Modo Charles  Driver - Acholi Sub-Region
Geoffrey Onen Akena Driver - Karamoja Sub-Region

WPDI Gulu Country Office
Community Learning Center
Plot 2-4 Bere Road, P.O Box 282
Gulu, Uganda

WPDI Kiryandongo Field Office
Community Learning Center
Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement
Camp Road, Cluster P
Kiryandongo, Uganda

WPDI Karamoja Sub-Region Field Office
Community Learning Center
Plot 3 Ojakala Road
Moroto, Uganda

Our action in Uganda
United States See the staff and location
Monya Kian Domestic Harmonizer Program Director
Karen DeVoogd Conflict Resolution Education Trainer
Gilbert Salazar Social-Emotional Learning Specialist
Maya Benitez Program Assistant

HQ – Office in California
17777 Center Court Drive N. Suite 600.
Cerritos, CA 90703
United States

HQ – Main Office in Paris
UNESCO Headquarters
7 Place de Fontenoy,
75007 Paris

Our action in United States