Sir Michael Marmot

content“I’m not a policy wonk who engages in an evidence-free dialogue about what we should be doing. My approach is to bring the best evidence to bear on the policy questions. The only way I know to enter the dialogue is tease out the implications of evidence… [For example] if you subsidize public transport for older people, they move around more, they remain more socially connected. We can’t show an impact of subsidies to public transport for older people and mortality but other studies have shown that social isolation kills older people, so putting that chain of reasoning together, subsidized public transport that allows older people to be more socially connected and social connections relate to mental health, physical health, and indeed survival in older people. And what we’ve shown is that there’s a social gradient in older people in degree of social connectedness.”

- Sir Michael Marmot on why all matters are health matters, interview with Julia Belluz, a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot is the Director of the Institute of Health Equity. He has led research groups on health inequalities for over 35 years. He chaired the Commission on Social Determinants of Health (CSDH), which was set up by the World Health Organization in 2005, and produced the report entitled: ‘Closing the Gap in a Generation’ in August 2008.

At the request of the British Government, he conducted a Strategic Review of Health Inequalities in England post 2010, which published its report 'Fair Society, Healthy Lives' in February 2010. This was followed by the European Review of Social Determinants of Health and the Health Divide, for WHO Euro.

He also chaired the Breast Screening Review for the NHS National Cancer Action Team and was a member of The Lancet-University of Oslo Commission on Global Governance for Health. He is a Principal Investigator of the Whitehall II Studies of British Civil Servants, investigating explanations for the striking inverse social gradient in morbidity and mortality. He leads the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and is engaged in several international research efforts on the social determinants of health. He served as President of the British Medical Association (BMA) in 2010-2011, and is the new President of the British Lung Foundation. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, an Honorary Fellow of the British Academy, and an Honorary Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health of the Royal College of Physicians. He was a member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution for six years and in 2000 he was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen, for services to epidemiology and the understanding of health inequalities.

Internationally acclaimed, Professor Marmot is a Foreign Associate Member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), and a former Vice President of the Academia Europaea. He won the Balzan Prize for Epidemiology in 2004, gave the Harveian Oration in 2006, and won the William B. Graham Prize for Health Services Research in 2008. Professor Marmot has been awarded a Harvard Lowns Professorship for 2014-2017 and will serve as President of the World Medical Association for 2015-16.

Watch an interview with Professor Marmot, on "Conversations with history".

Professor Thandika Mkandawire

content“During the last decade there have been signs of change in the economic and political landscape. Quite a number of countries in Africa have enjoyed positive rates of growth. It has been claimed that this is evidence that structural adjustment is finally working. I have my doubts. We were not told in 1981 that the time lag of the reforms would be 20 years. My own suspicion is that improved political conditions, improved terms of trade, technology-driven investment in telecommunications and debt relief explain some of the recovery, and to the extent that some of these are one-off improvements, the recovery is still on weak grounds as it is not based on improvements in human resources.”

- Inaugural lecture at LSE as Professor of African Development.

Professor Thandika Mkandawire is the former Director of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development and the first person to take on the new position of Chair in African Development at the London School of Economics (LSE). Prof. Mkandawire was formerly Director of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Development Research in Copenhagen and has taught at the Universities of Stockholm and Zimbabwe.

He currently holds the Olof Palme Professor for Peace with the Institute for Future Studies in Stockholm.

His research interest are mostly in development theory, economic policy and development and social policy in developing countries and political economy of development in Africa. Watch an interview with Professor Mkandawire on The Politics of Regional Integration

George Monbiot

(read message from George Monbiot)

contentAbout George : ‘Here are some of the things I try to fight: undemocratic power, corruption, deception of the public, environmental destruction, injustice, inequality and the misallocation of resources, waste, denial, the libertarianism which grants freedom to the powerful at the expense of the powerless, undisclosed interests, complacency.

‘Here is what I fear: other people’s cowardice.’

George Monboit read Zoology at Oxford University and began his career at the BBC Natural History Unit, before leaving his role as a producer to travel to Indonesia, Brazil and East Africa as an investigative journalist, writing a series of books about his experiences including 'Poisoned Arrows' and 'Amazon Watershed'. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in Indonesia in absentia, and pronounced clinically dead after contracting cerebral malaria in north-western Kenya.

Monbiot has been involved in a variety of environmental direct action groups, including The Land is Ours, which has occupied areas of land as part of a campaign for more open access to land and resources. In January 2010, he founded the Arrest Blair website in protest at the former Prime Minister's role in the Iraq war. He attempted a citizen's arrest of John R Bolton at the Hay Festival in 2008.

Monbiot is patron of the UK student campaign network People & Planet, and has held visiting fellowships or professorships at the universities of Oxford (environmental policy), Bristol (philosophy), Keele (politics), Oxford Brookes (planning) and East London (environmental science). His father Raymond was deputy chairman of the Conservative party and his mother is the eldest daughter of former Conservative MP Roger Gresham Cooke.

In November 2007 Monbiot's book 'Heat' was awarded the Premio Mazotti, an Italian book prize. Monbiot was presented the United Nations Global 500 Award for outstanding environmental achievement by Nelson Mandela in 1995. He has been presented with the OneWorld National Press Award. Most recently, Monbiot has been nominated as an environment commentator of the year as part of the Editorial Intelligence Commentariat of the Year award.

Watch a public lecture by George Monbiot “The Pricing of Everything”.

Ms Navanethem Pillay

(read message from Navanethem Pillay)

content“People belonging to ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities and indigenous groups, as well as disabled people, are often poorly integrated into national education systems. Their levels of access to adequate education services are well below national averages. Minorities and indigenous peoples all over the world face serious barriers in accessing education equally, including a lack of mother-tongue education; poor provision of schools and qualified teachers in the regions where they live; prohibitive costs of school fees that disproportionately affect them as the poorest groups; and curricula that do not reflect community priorities for learning, as well as discrimination by teachers and other pupils. Their problems are often compounded if they are female.

Tackling these issues, produces benefits for society at large as well as for the concerned groups and individuals: respect for diversity fosters social cohesion and accommodation of different views and experiences, thereby preventing communal strife.”

- Interview, Leaders for Education Series

Ms Navanetham Pillay, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, holds a Master’s of Law and a Doctorate of Juridical Science from Harvard University. She is the first woman to start a law practice in her home province of Natal in 1967. Over the next few years, she acted as a defence attorney for anti-apartheid activists, exposing torture, and helping establish key rights for prisoners on Robben Island.

Ms Pillay also worked as a lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and was later appointed Vice-President of the Council of the University of Durban Westville. In 1995, after the end of apartheid, Ms Pillay was appointed as acting judge on the South African High Court, and in the same year was elected by the UN General Assembly to be a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal (ICTR) for Rwanda, where she served a total of eight years, the last four (1999-2003) as President. She played a critical role in the ICTR's ground-breaking jurisprudence on rape as genocide, as well as on issues of freedom of speech and hate propaganda. In 2003, she was appointed as a judge on the International Criminal Court in the Hague, where she served on the Appeals Chamber until August 2008.

In South Africa, as a member of the Women's National Coalition, she contributed to the inclusion of the equality clause in the country’s Constitution that prohibits discrimination on grounds of race, gender, religion and sexual orientation. She co-founded Equality Now, an international women's rights organization, and has been involved with other organizations working on issues relating to children, detainees, victims of torture and of domestic violence, and a range of economic, social and cultural rights. Watch an interview with Ms Pillay.

Professor Pierre Sané

(read message from Professor Pierre Sané)

content“Africans value the marching ahead of the human rights revolution because an international human rights regime is the key to restoring human dignity locally and internationally. Human rights in Africa means the difference between life and death. The right to food, the right to health, the right to education, freedom to association, freedom to expression, the right to security and the right to collective sovereignty are not abstract constructions. They are entitlements that today sustain the optimism of the African people despite their adverse living conditions. The youth of a growing population combined with abundant natural resources have convinced many Africans that the future would be brighter than the past provided that the human rights resolution does not go astray.”

– Paper delivered at the Bar-Ilan University on Human Rights Organizations and the Media.

Professor Pierre Sané was born in Dakar, Senegal, in 1948. For fifteen years prior to joining Amnesty International, he worked in the field of international development, serving successively as Regional Controller, International Director of Policy and Budget, and Regional Director (West and Central Africa) of the International Development Research Centre in Canada. He studied for a doctorate in Political Science at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, and holds an M.Sc. in Public Administration and Public Policy from the London School of Economics, as well as being a qualified chartered accountant with an MBA from the École Supérieure de Commerce et d'Administration des Entreprises of Bordeaux, France. He has published extensively on development and human rights issues. He was a founding member of the Pan-African Foundation (PANAF), a non-governmental organization spanning worldwide to promote African unification; a trustee and founding member of Frontline (Dublin).

  • Imagine Africa: Founder and President, a think tank dedicated to the strengthening of research policy linkages in Africa and on Africa to improve the quality of public policies.
  • United Nations Global Compact: Member of the board and Chair of the Human Rights Working Group
  • United Nations University: Member of the Advisory Committee of UNU CRIS
  • West Africa Institute: Founder and Member of the Board (Praia, Cape Verde)
  • Daimler-(Mercedes-Benz) Member of the Adviser Board on Integrity and Corporate Responsabilty

He joined UNESCO in Paris as Assistant Director General (2001 - 2010). After retiring from the UN he taught at University of Kyoto (Japan) and University of Seoul(South Korea). He founded Imagine Africa Institute in 2011.