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Leading lights tackling major challenges
Leading lights tackling major challenges

International Advisory Council

In 2009, as Prime Minister, Herman Van Rompuy was the head of the Belgian Government. He then became the first permanent president of the European Council. Herman applied his expertise to forge solid bonds between the state leaders of Europe. Just like his wife Geertrui Windels, Herman Van Rompuy has been an active advocate for Trias for many years. Together, they have visited our projects in Peru, Uganda and Tanzania.

Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs is one of the world’s leading experts on economic development, global macroeconomics, and the fight against poverty. He is a world-renowned professor of economics and a leader in sustainable development. In 2015, he was awarded the 2015 Blue Planet Prize, the top global prize for environmental leadership.
Jeffrey is also a special advisor to the United Nations Secretary General on the Sustainable Development Goals and for over thirty years, he has advised dozens of heads of state and governments on economic strategy. He has twice been named among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential world leaders and he was called by the New York Times, 'probably the most important economist in the world'.
Azaratou Sondo believes that cooperative ideas are a powerful lever in the fight against poverty. She herself climbed step by step into the ranks of the national federation that groups savings banks in Burkina Faso. Since June 2019 she has been general manager of the FCPB, the Federation of Caisses Populaires du Burkina.
Azaratou is the first woman who has grown into this position. I simply put myself at the service of our members and their communities, she expresses this in very modest terms.
Over the years, the savings banks in Burkina Faso have diversified their products and services, tailored to, among others, female entrepreneurs. When it comes to gender inequality, Azaratou likes to quote Simone de Beauvoir: you are not born a woman, you are made a woman.

In Belgium Karel Van Eetvelt is an exemplar of self-employed entrepreneurship. Convinced of the role of entrepreneurship as the driving force in society, early in his career he joined BOUWUNIE, the Flemish federation for SMEs in the construction industry. In 2004 he made the move to Unizo, an organisation that represents the interests of 80,000 self-employed business people. Karel visited the Trias projects in the Philippines.

Johan Swinnen worked for the United Nations in New York and was later its ambassador in The Hague, Madrid, Kigali and Kinshasa. He was also the Belgian Government’s spokesman for Foreign Affairs and a diplomatic advisor to the Prime Minister. Johan remains very active as a member of several think tanks with a focus on international relations. He recently published various articles and has given lectures on development in the African Great Lakes region.

Mila Mercado Bunker led Ahon sa Hirap Inc. for 22 years. This organisation, whose members are predominantly disadvantaged women, was the first to apply the Grameen Bank development model in the Philippines.  Mila was also one of the original members of the Microfinance Council of the Philippines. As President and Director of this Philippine networking organisation, she was a driving force behind the development of microfinance, both in the Philippines and internationally.

Piet Vanthemsche gained extensive experience in the representation of family farmers and  horticulturists. He was the head of the Farmers’ Union in Belgium from 2008 to 2015. Piet is also the Vice President of the World Farmers’ Organisation and President of AgriCord, the worldwide network of agri-agencies of which Trias is also a member. In past years, Piet has visited Trias projects in the Philippines, Congo and Uganda.

Jennie Vanlerberghe has built up a strong reputation as a journalist, author and particularly as a defender of women’s rights. In 1991 Jennie co-founded the Belgian branch of Mothers for Peace. As its president, she visits conflict areas across the globe, speaking out against war crimes and other wrongs affecting women and girls. In Belgium Jennie was voted Woman of the Year and King Philippe granted her the noble title of Baroness.

Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, the Archbishop of Kinshasa, is one of the leading Catholic figures on the African continent. In 2010, he was named a cardinal. Monsengwo had previously played a key political role in the transitional phase that Congo went through following the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko. Monsengwo was praised both inside and outside of Congo for his contributions to peace, dialogue and human rights.