The AFS Global Intercultural Education Symposium Speakers

AFS was honored to have some of the world's most distinguished leaders in peace and education join us for the event. The speakers were: 


Óscar Arias 

President of Costa Rica from (2006-2010 and 1986-1990). Arias received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his efforts to end the Central American crisis. He is also a recipient of the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism and a trustee of Economists for Peace and Security. 


Vigdis Finnbogadóttir

President of Iceland (1980-1996), First Woman in the World to be democratically elected a constitutional Head of State. Currently serving as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and a Member of the Club of Madrid.

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Éric Falt

Éric Falt is the Assistant Director-General for External Relations and Public Information at UNESCO. Mr. Falt oversees the work of the organization in the political field, with Member States in particular, and coordinates activities geared towards civil society. During his career, he served as Director of the UN Information Centre in Islamabad, Pakistan and in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in Iraq, Haiti and Cambodia. 

Andreas Schleicher

Director for Education and Skills, and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris. Mr. Schleicher supports the Secretary-General’s strategy to produce analysis and policy advice that advances economic growth and social progress.

Special Youth Representative

Special Youth Representative

Chernor Bah

A leading youth advocate for global education and serveing as the youth representative on the High-Level Steering committee for the UN Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative, Chernor Bah is Chairperson of the Youth Advocacy Group. Chernor has worked with youth in Liberia, Lebanon, Haiti, Philippines and other emergency settings, leading efforts to strengthen youth voices in development and policy processes. He founded and led the Children's Forum Network, presenting a report on the experience of Sierra Leonean children to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and co-wrote the 2007 "Will You Listen? Young Voices from Conflict Zones" report. 

J. Brian Atwood

The current chair of Global Policy Studies and a professor of Public Policy at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. From 2010 to 2012, J. Brian Atwood served as chair of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. Professor Atwood served for six and a half years as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) during the Clinton administration. He led the Clinton transition team at the State Department and was under secretary of state for management prior to his appointment as head of USAID. During the Carter administration Professor Atwood was assistant secretary of state for congressional relations and in 2001, Professor Atwood served on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Panel on Peace Operations.

The AFS Global Intercultural Education Symposium Facilitators


Vishakha Desai

Vishakha Desai, Member of the International Board of Trustees of AFS Intercultural Programs, is Special Advisor for Global Affairs at Columbia University and President Emerita of the Asia Society. She is an Asia scholar with a focus on art, culture, policy, and women’s rights.

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Roberto Ruffino 

Roberto Ruffino is the Secretary General of Fondazione Intercultura and Honorary Chairperson of the European Federation for Intercultural Learning. He is internationally recognized as an expert in the field intercultural education.


Melissa Liles 

Melissa Liles is Chief Education Officer for AF Intercultural Programs. She directs AFS’s global intercultural learning initiatives and outreach, working with expert academics, practitioners and AFS leaders in over 60 countries.