Éliane Ubalijoro, PhD is Chief Executive Officer of the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF) and Director General of ICRAF. An accomplished leader with a background in agriculture and molecular genetics, she serves on several boards and has been recognized for outstanding contributions to innovation, gender equity and sustainable prosperity creation.
Born in Rwanda and raised on three continents, Dr Ubalijoro knew from a young age that she wanted a career in service to the world. She earned a bachelor’s degree in general agriculture and a master’s and a doctorate in molecular genetics from McGill University, where she studied improving productivity in agriculture. With a career spanning academia, the private sector and the non-profit and international development sectors, she started as a scientific director in the biotechnology sector working in molecular diagnostics, later pivoting to focus on sustainable development as well as improving the lives of women and smallholder farmers in emerging countries.
Dr Ubalijoro has been a Professor of Practice for public-private sector partnerships at McGill University since 2008. From 2021 to March 2023, she was the Executive Director of Sustainability in the Digital Age and the Canada Hub Director for Future Earth. She is a member of Rwanda’s National Science and Technology Council and Presidential Advisory Council, the Impact Advisory Board of the Global Alliance for a Sustainable Planet, the Science for Africa Foundation, the Capitals Coalition Supervisory Board, the External Advisory Committee to the Chief Statistician of Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada on Canada’s first Census of Environment, Digital Green and Genome Canada, among others. She is also a fellow of the International Science Council.
Prior to returning to academia, she was a scientific director in a Montreal-based biotechnology company in charge of molecular diagnostic and bioinformatics discovery programs. This work led Dr Ubalijoro to undertake consulting work in Haiti and in Africa related to sustainable climate-resilient economic growth.
Recognized for her work in leadership and gender equity, Dr Ubalijoro is a recipient of the International Leadership Association‘s 2022 awards in women and leadership for outstanding practice with broad impact and is part of a cohort of appointed International Science Council fellows in recognition for outstanding contributions to promoting science as a global public good. She has facilitated the UNAIDS Leadership Programme for Women at the United Nations System Staff College. Dr Ubalijoro was a member of FemStep, a research network highlighting rural girls’ and women’s perspectives for engendering poverty reduction strategies in Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, DR Congo and Ethiopia using arts-based methodologies. In 2018, She co-facilitated the second Global Women in Science Leadership Workshop in Rwanda with support from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Her career path was featured in Forbes in celebration of International Women’s Day 2019.
Previously, Dr Ubalijoro founded C.L.E.A.R. International Development Inc., a consulting group harnessing global networks for sustainable systems development. She was the Deputy Executive Director for Programs at Global Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) from 2019 to 2021 and was a member of WWF International’s Board of Trustees and the Crop Trust’s Executive Board. She is a co-editor of the 2021 book Building Resilient African Food Systems after COVID-19 and has served as a member of the Expert Consultation Group on the Post COVID-19 Implications on Collaborative Governance of Genomics Research, Innovation and Genetic Diversity, as well as the African Development Bank’s Expert Global Community of Practice on COVID-19 Response Strategies in Africa. She has also served as a member of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED) Special Policy Study on Post 2020: Global Biodiversity Conservation.