Ralien Bekkers

Professional Background

After two years serving as the Dutch Youth Representative for Sustainable Development to the UN, from Rio+20 to COP20, Ralien Bekkers moved to the United States for a master’s program at Yale University. There, she worked on the agreement and implementation phase of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including at the office of the UN Secretary-General. Currently residing in Washington, Ralien works with an international coalition for the implementation of the Paris Agreement: NDC Partnership (ndcpartnership.org). From 2019-2021, the Netherlands co-chairs this coalition. Ralien collaborates with developing countries to accelerate the implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), mobilize necessary financing, and enhance international ambition to implement climate actions in alignment with the SDGs.

Personal Motto 

“The greatest gift that life has to offer is the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing”
– Theodore Roosevelt

Rachida Talal-Azimi

Rachida Talal-Azimi is secretary to the Board of the Worldconnectors. Currently, she is working on her PhD at the Radboud University Nijmegen. Rachida is conducting research on the diversity of rules and systems within the international market of Islamic banking.

Professional background

Rachida used to work at the department of Economic Research at the Rabobank. Here, she was involved with research at a macro-economic level and a broad range of topics concerning the financial sector. Before that, she worked at the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets. During her study, Rachida completed an internship at the ‘Immovable Property Knowledge Group’ at the Ministry of Finance (Dutch Tax & Customs Administration). Rachida holds a Master degree in Islam and Arabic, and obtained a Bachelor degree in Arabic language and culture and Middle Eastern studies. She is the founder of the Muslim Student Association Nijmegen. Furthermore, Rachida started the foundation Nour el Hayat, a small foundation that is, among other things, concerned with unprivileged children in Morocco.

Personal motto
“No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” – Martin Luther King

Martien Lankester

Martien Lankester is Executive Director at Avalon Foundation, an organisation that since 1991 has developed and implemented projects in the field of sustainable/organic farming and agri-environmental programs in over 30 countries. These programs are always set up in cooperation with local partners, with the aim to combine food security with sustainable land use. Martien is also a member of the Advisory Council of care farm Gerbrandastate.

Professional Background
Martien Lankester was trained as a medical doctor and public health specialist, and has been involved in sustainable food for more than 45 years. Next to his medical practice he set up in 1977 a (still existing) organic farm to underline the need for sustainable food production. The broad multiple benefits of organic farming, the relation between agriculture and nature/biodiversity/ecosystems and the true cost of food production are important themes in his work. In the early nineties he established besides Avalon in Fryslan also the foundation Soune Groun (Healthy Soil). Later he also chaired the Supervisory Board of IUCN Netherlands Committee for six years.

Personal Motto
“The sustainable farmer is the doctor of the future who can heal the earth.”

Ewald Wermuth

Ewald Wermuth is CEO of the European think and do tank ECDPM. ECDPM provides policy advice for governments and other institutions, especially on the field of EU-Africa relations. The think thank focuses on generating knowledge serving cohesive and inclusive development policy.

Professional background
Former positions were CEO International & Public Affairs at IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative and  permament representative at the UN organisations concerning food and agriculture, such as the FAO and IFAD. Next tot his, Ewald Wermuth held various positions in policy advising and management at various ministries and ambassies. He has gained much experience on developing partnerships with businesses during his time as Secretary-General of the MVO and IDH.

Personal motto
Policy matters!

Floor van Uhm

Floor van Uhm is Advisor to the CEO of KIT Royal Tropical Institute, where she focuses on strategy, policy and the Sustainable Development Goals. Together with Worldconnector Mark Schneiders, Floor has been closely involved in setting up the first SDG House in the Netherlands at KIT. The SDG House will offer a unique environment for SDG related initiatives to identify synergies, create solution partnerships, and stimulate knowledge development, which supports the implementation of the SDGs in the Netherlands. 

Professional background

After obtaining her Master International Relations, Floor worked at the GroenLinks Tweede Kamerfractie in the Dutch House of Representatives. She continued her career as Advocacy Manager at Fairfood International, where she founded the Morocco Hotspot Project. This project was focused on strengthening women’s rights in the Moroccan tomato sector. As Sustainability Consultant, Floor was Coordinator of the Worldconnectors network. In the same period, she co-founded the “Living Wage Lab” , focused on achieving fair wages in the agri-food sector. She also worked at the NGO Hivos where she advocated for increased women’s participation in peace processes in the Middle East.

Jan Bouke Wijbrandi

Professional background

Jan Bouke studied international economics and anthropology at the Vrije Universiteit. His work focused on international cooperation, with a detour into science (research among refugees in Sudan) and media. He worked within the sector for organizations such as Stichting Oecumenische Hulp (Head of Food and Nutrition), Médecins Sans Frontières (Head of Communication and Fundraising), Oxfam Novib (Director of Campaigns), and UNICEF Netherlands (General Director). He has experience at the international level and has been involved in various projects related to international cooperation and the SDGs. Jan Bouke has a keen interest in the intersection between international cooperation, the SDGs, and societal support.

Personal motto

The urgent problems of our time require personal commitment and credibility, collaboration across borders, and open and inclusive dialogue.

Veronique Swinkels

“It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.”
(oriah mountain dreamer)

Professional Background

Veronique Swinkels aims to change the world through creativity and activism. Until recently, she served as the director of BBK/Door Vriendschap Sterker, a communication agency for a better world. Currently, through Go for Good, she is actively working to systematically bring the SDGs and sustainability onto the agenda of businesses and policymakers. Veronique is a facilitator and next-generation coach, awakening the activist spirit in the new generation of leaders to drive faster changes in companies and systems. She is the founder of Duurzaamheids Dialoog and Global Goals Accelerator, an Earth Charter friend, and a board member of Worldconnectors and Lab Toekomstige Generaties (Future Generations Lab). She also serves on the board of LEAP, an international think tank that releases the Global Europe Anticipation Bulletin every month. Veronique studied Communication and Communications Policy, completed the mediation training at the Center for Conflict Resolution, Deep Democracy at the Dialogue Hunters, Creative Leadership at THNK, and the online Sustainability Management program at Cambridge University.

Personal Motto

Learn from nature about the power of collective intelligence.

Jan Willem van den Braak

Jan-Willem van den Braak has worked at VNO-NCW, the largest employers’ organization in the Netherlands, from 1977 until February 2013. From 2000 until 2006 he worked as Director Social Affairs and until 2009 as Director of the Brussels office. He was also Head of the Staff Department Lifeview & Corporate Social Responsibility.

Professional background
Van den Braak was a member of the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER) in the period of 1998-2008 and has published several books and articles about his experiences about Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability.

Laure Heilbron

Laure Heilbron is the commercial director of the Social Impact Factory. The core mission of the Social Impact Factory is to create social entrepreneurial solutions for social challenges. Solutions are co-created with social entrepreneurs, knowledge institutions and other local stakeholders. We strive to create entrepreneurial solutions for social challenges that create impact for communities and are financially sustainable.

Professional background

Laure is co-initiator of De Partnership Verkiezing, a competition to find the best business case for international development. He worked as a strategy consultant for A.T. Kearney en NewForesight. As the Executive Director of the Organic Cotton Accelerator he worked on fostering industry-wide collaboration to create a prosperous cotton sector that benefits everyone, from farmer to consumer.

Laure holds an MSc in Management and Strategy from the London School of Economics and an MSc in International Development Studies from Utrecht University. He is also Senior Fellow of Humanity in Action, a global network committed to promoting human rights, diversity and active citizenship.

 Personal motto
“If you keep thinking about what you want to do or what you hope will happen, you don’t do it, and it won’t happen” – Desiderius Erasmus

Rosalie de Bruijn

Rosalie de Bruijn is a member of the Worldconnectors board and program and community manager with a passion for sustainable development. She is owner at Sustainable Connections, community manager at MVO Nederland and member of the Young Club of Rome.

Professional background
Rosalie has obtained an Advanced Master in International Development (AMID) from the Radbound University Nijmegen, a Master in Social Geography fron the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and a bachelor in the Cultural Anthropology of Development Sociology from the University of Leiden. She has worked with Cordaid, the University of Leiden and the UvA. From 2012 she has worked at NCDO and in this capacity coordinated the Dutch preparation to Rio+20, the UN summit on Sustainable Development, the international sustainability network Earth Charter and several lectures and events. Rosalie was program maker at Oneworld – the largest journalistic platform in the Netherlands in the field of global connectedness and sustainability. Through programs (online platform, events and campaigns), she made complex societal issues accessible for a wider public.

Personal motto
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” – Eleanor Roosevelt