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VANCE CENTER STAFF

ALEXANDER PAPACHRISTOU


Alex

Executive Director
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Alexander Papachristou joined the Vance Center as Executive Director in January 2012. He directs the organization's overall operations and focuses on its programmatic and institutional initiatives, as well as fundraising.

Mr. Papachristou previously was president of the Near East Foundation, a participatory, community-based economic and social development organization working in Arab and African countries. For the preceding 18 years, Mr. Papachristou engaged in cross-border corporate finance in advisory and proprietary roles: he served as managing director and general counsel at NCH Capital, Inc, which invests in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; he lived in Russia from 1989 to 1993, where he opened and ran the Moscow office of White & Case. Mr. Papachristou also worked in the law firm of Clifford & Warnke in Washington, DC and was policy assistant to New York Governor Mario C. Cuomo. He served as law clerk to US District Judge Myron H. Thompson in the Middle District of Alabama. Mr. Papachristou is a member of the board of the Media Development Investment Fund, as well as the advisory councils of Princeton University's Near East Studies Program and Bard College's Center for Civic Engagement. In late 2011, The New Press published Blind Goddess: A Race and Justice Reader, which Mr. Papachristou edited.

Mr. Papachristou received an LLM and JD from Harvard Law School and an AB from Princeton University, as well as Arabic language training at the American University in Cairo.

 

MARIE-CLAUDE JEAN-BAPTISTE


 

Marie-Claude

Program Director
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Marie-Claude Jean-Baptiste joined the Vance Center in October 2012. She leads the Human Rights and Access to Justice Program at the Vance Center. In this role, Ms. Jean-Baptiste advises clients on projects related to transitional justice, prevention of mass atrocities, accountability for grave human rights violations, and business and human rights. Ms. Jean-Baptiste works with local and international NGOs and international organizations such as the United Nations, The International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Prior to joining the Vance Center, Ms. Jean-Baptiste worked for four years with the International Senior Lawyers Project (ISLP) in New York where, as the Human Rights Program Officer, she developed and managed ISLP's program in Latin America and the Caribbean. At ISLP, Ms. Jean-Baptiste worked with governments, international organizations, and NGOs worldwide providing legal support on human rights and equitable economic development projects. These projects included, among others, capacity building of local lawyers and government officials, international human rights litigation, human rights monitoring, and legislative reform and advocacy.
Ms. Jean-Baptiste is Co-Chair of the Transitional Justice and Rule of Law Interest Group of the American Society of International Law. Her publications include: The Bashir Debacle: How South Africa Betrayed Itself and the World, Vance Center Bulletin (June 13, 2015) co-authored with Justice Richard Goldstone; and The Unfinished Business of Transitional Justice in Brazil: The Hopes and Promises of the Brazilian National Truth Commission, RE-VISTA Verdade, Justiça e Memória (December 2014).
Ms. Jean-Baptiste earned a law degree from the George Washington University and degrees in International Studies and Political Science from the City College of New York. While in Law School, Ms. Jean-Baptiste worked with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL).
Born and raised in Haiti, Ms. Jean-Baptiste is fluent in Haitian Creole, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

 

SUSAN M. KATH


Susan

Director
Environment Program
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Susan M. Kath became Director of the Environment Program in February 2013. She directs the program in its work with international and regional environmental NGOs to incubate and develop cross-jurisdictional pro bono projects in the areas of land, marine, and biodiversity conservation, climate change adaptation, toxic waste remediation, and sustainable infrastructure development.

Ms. Kath served as the Chief of the New York City Law Department Environmental Law Division from 1997 to 2010 and as Deputy Chief from 1994 to 1997. Ms. Kath managed and directed the division in its representation of the Mayor of the City of New York and its agencies with respect to all federal, state and local environmental laws and served as a senior advisor to the Corporation Counsel, Deputy Mayors and City Agency Commissioners. Ms. Kath managed complex environmental policy and litigation matters in the areas of climate change and climate resilience, environmental sustainability and public health, transportation, energy and wastewater infrastructure projects, and major New York City economic development initiatives. Ms. Kath participated in the creation of the City’s first sustainability plan, PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York and in the design and creation of the City’s long term solid waste management plan. Ms. Kath co-taught a seminar class at Harvard Law School on PlaNYC and the legal issues related to sustainability planning.

Ms. Kath is a member of the Executive Committee of the New York Committee for Human Rights Watch, a member of the Advisory Committee for Health and Human Rights at Human Rights Watch, and a member of the Board of Directors of Prospect Park Alliance. She is a graduate of Fordham Law School and Northwestern University.

 

ADRIANA OSPINA


Adriana Black and white

Director of Pro Bono Partnerships
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Adriana Ospina joined the Vance Center in May 2015 as Director of Pro Bono Partnerships. She is responsible for developing and managing relationships with law firms and other legal institutions that collaborate on pro bono legal representation with Vance Center lawyers. She also manages the Center’s relationship with our pro bono clearinghouse organizations, which are part of the Pro Bono Network of the Americas, to promote pro bono practice in Latin America and elsewhere.

Ms. Ospina also manages our Women in the Profession (WIP) program that aims to strengthen the role of women in the legal profession in Latin America. With the cooperation of a Steering Committee composed of female senior partners in law firms representing more than ten countries, our WIP program sponsors conferences across Latin America that have brought together women leaders and younger professionals in the legal profession to discuss gender issues in the workplace. These conferences have sparked several successful gender initiatives in the region.

Ms. Ospina is also active in her community and volunteers for a non-for-profit organization that serves children and adults with disabilities. She is responsible for planning and teaching a bi-annual course on special needs law to low-income, Hispanic parents of children with special needs.

Prior to joining the Vance Center, Ms. Ospina served as a member of the Greenwich Board of Education in Greenwich, CT and was a strong advocate of initiatives to narrow the achievement gap between minority students and their non-minority counterparts in the fifteen Greenwich public schools.

Ms. Ospina received a JD from Harvard Law School and an AB in German Studies from Harvard University. After receiving her JD, Ms. Ospina worked as an associate with the law firm Shearman & Sterling in their New York office and subsequently as Of Counsel while living in Brazil and then Colombia. During her time at Shearman & Sterling, Ms. Ospina worked on general corporate and banking finance transactions.

Ms. Ospina is a dual citizen of Colombia and the U.S. She was born in Bogotá and has lived in the United States, Austria and Brazil. She speaks Spanish, English, Portuguese, French and German.

 

 

KARINA BENZAQUEN


Karina

Communications and Development Associate
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Karina Benzaquen Joined the Vance Center in November 2015 as the Communications and Development Assistant.

Ms. Benzaquen holds a Master degree in International Business from Hult International Business School in Boston. She also holds a BA in International Relations, with a concentration in Global Business from Roanoke College in Virginia.

Ms. Benzaquen was born in Peru and has lived in Germany, Greece, and the United States. She is bi-lingual in English and Spanish and also speaks Russian.

 

LEIRE LARRACOECHEA SAN SEBASTIAN


Leire

Senior Fellow in Pro Bono Practice
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Leire Larracoechea, a Spanish lawyer, joined the Vance Center in June 2015. At the Vance Center’s Pro Bono Partnerships Program, Leire is responsible for evaluating, staffing, and monitoring the progress of pro bono legal projects placed at international law firms and other legal institutions active worldwide. She is in charge of building and maintaining relationships with law firms, clearinghouses, and other legal institutions that collaborate with the Vance Center to give pro bono legal advice and support to nonprofit organizations. Leire also manages the Vance Center’s responsibilities in relation to the Pro Bono Network of the Americas, facilitating collaboration among clearinghouses throughout Latin America to develop and institutionalize pro bono practice in the region. In the Good Governance Program, Leire works to pursue openness, honesty, and accountability in government, supporting civil society and independent journalism.

Previously, Ms. Larracoechea worked at Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira, a leading Spanish law firm in its Pro-International Advocacy Program, reserved for highly promising associate attorneys based on their academic records and commitment to international study. During this three-year rotation program, she participated in major Spanish and cross-border transactions and litigation within the areas of corporate-M&A, international arbitration, taxation and labor law. She also was active in the firm’s Pro Bono Program, working with NGOs and foundations dealing with labor, corporate, and tax issues.

Ms. Larracoechea received an LL.M. from Harvard Law School. She was awarded a Fulbright Postgraduate Scholarship to study the ingredients for developing pro bono service in Spain both at Harvard and at the Vance Center. She received bachelor’s degrees in law and journalism from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.

Ms. Larracoechea speaks Spanish, French, and English.

 

INDIRA MURILLO


Indira

Human Rights Fellow
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Indira Murillo, a Colombian attorney, joined the Vance Center as a human rights fellow in September 2015. She researches and analyzes a wide range of international and regional human rights treaties and laws and their interaction with domestic legislation. She also supports the Human Rights and Access to Justice Program by organizing events and communicating with clients in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States.

Prior to joining the Vance Center, Ms. Murillo completed an LL.M. in International Legal Studies with a specialization in International Human Rights and Gender at American University - Washington College of Law. While there, she worked as the Dean’s Fellow at the War Crimes Research Office, where she analyzed and reported on judgments from international criminal tribunals and human rights tribunals in the Gender Jurisprudence Collections database involving sexual and gender based crimes. Previously in Colombia, she worked as a legal advisor for the National Division of Promotion and Dissemination of Human Rights at the Ombudsman Office of Colombia. She, designed and conducted trainings on promoting legal awareness and access to justice for women living in extreme poverty and victims of internal armed conflict with a special emphasis on prevention and punishment of domestic and other forms of gender-based violence. She served as a legal advisor in Colombia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on a collaborative project with the Bogota City Hall and International Organization for Migration; working with Colombian returnees on visa and naturalization procedures, migrant workers’ rights, circular labor migration programs, deportation proceedings, international child abduction, and international child support cases, among others. She also was a law professor at Universidad Santo Tomás and Universidad Católica de Colombia, where she taught public international law. She received her law degree from Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia and LL.M. from Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg- Germany.

She speaks Spanish, English and German.

 

MARIA ANTONIA TIGRE


Maria

Environmental Law Fellow
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Maria Antonia Tigre is an environmental lawyer from Brazil. She has worked as an environmental legal advisor for eight years, having worked for law firms, corporations, international organizations and nonprofits. She began her career in Rio de Janeiro, where she assisted infrastructure clients in environmental impact assessments, environmental permitting procedures and legal due diligences. In addition to working for law firms, she was seconded to an infrastructure holding company, where she assisted the sustainability board, and an energy subsidiary with projects in Brazil and Chile.

After relocating to the United States, she interned at the United Nations Mission of Saint Kitts and Nevis working with climate change issues, especially sea level rise. She was a fellow at the World Resources Institute, having helped the organization prepare a toolkit for urban governance in developing world cities through a comparative analysis of best practices worldwide. She is currently an environmental law fellow at the Cyrus R. Vance Center, working on environmental issues in multiple countries.
Maria Antonia holds a bachelor degree from the Law School of Pontifícia Universidade Católica of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and a double LL.M. in Environmental Law and Comparative Legal Studies from Pace Law School, from where she graduated magna cum laude. Her research primarily focuses on comparative issues in environmental law, especially in Latin America. She is writing a book on the cooperation between the countries that share the Amazon rainforest, through an analysis of their national forest law and the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization. She is a member of the Climate Adaptation Committee and the Committee on International Environmental Law at the New York City Bar Association, and was a visiting scholar at Widener Law School. Maria Antonia is fluent in Portuguese, English and German, with basic understanding of French and Spanish.