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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.

 

BRENDA KOMBO 


Brenda Kombo Black and white

Africa Program Manager
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Brenda Kombo joined the Vance Center in the newly-created position of Africa Program Officer in August 2016. She is responsible for expanding current programs and building new ones to strengthen the Vance Center’s engagement in certain countries and key issues in Africa. In this role, she manages the African Legal Fellows Program, liaises with the directors of the pro bono representation program and the pro bono partnerships program in identifying pro bono clients and lawyers in respective African countries, and supports the Africa Program Sub-Committee of the Vance Center Committee as well as pursuing funding opportunities and managing grants for the program. 

Prior to joining the Vance Center, Brenda received her J.D. with a concentration in International Law and Human Rights from Northeastern University School of Law where she was a Public Interest Law Scholar. Before law school, she worked as a research assistant and consultant on the Due Diligence Project and a research project on the International Criminal Court. As senior program officer and later a consultant for Equality Now’s Africa office in Nairobi, Kenya, Brenda managed the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights coalition campaign and supported Equality Now’s Discrimination in Law program. Brenda has also worked as a research fellow for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Brenda received her doctorate in anthropology from Yale University. Her research focused on intimate partnership violence in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and involved fieldwork in Yaoundé as well as archival research while based at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris as a Fox International Fellow. She received her B.A. from Hampshire College. 

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.

 

 

MARIA ANTONIA TIGRE


Maria

Attorney, Environment Program
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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.