Meet the Team

Director, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub
Director, FAO Office of Sustainable Development Goals

Mr. Stefanos Fotiou is an accomplished expert on sustainable development currently serving as Director, Office of SDGs in FAO; under this capacity he is also serving as Director of the UN Food Systems Coordination Hub. Prior to joining FAO, Stefanos served 16 years in the UN Secretariat, including 6 years as Director in the Environment and Development Division of the UNESCAP as well as 10 years in the UNEP. Before joining the UN, he had worked for the private sector and academia on issues of regional sustainable development. Throughout his career, Stefanos has taken leading roles in serving international UN fora and platforms, has conceptualised and led the development of regional and national strategies on sustainable development and his work has been published and referenced. He holds a PhD in Natural Resource Economics, a Master of Science in Forestry and Natural Environment and a Master of Science in Information Systems.

Stefanos Fotiou
Deputy Director, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Ms Sylvia Lopez-Ekra brings 20 years of experience in development, gender and migration work to the United Nations System. Sylvia first joined the International Organization for Migration (IOM) at its Headquarters in Geneva in 2002, as a project officer working on an initiative striving to mobilize the African diaspora to benefit African development and prosperity. She later led the organization’s gender coordination work for many years, during which she steered the agency’s efforts on gender mainstreaming and protection from sexual exploitation and abuse.  In 2014, she was posted in Accra as the Chief of Mission and Country Representative for the IOM offices in Ghana, Benin and Togo. She also served as the United Nations Resident Coordinator ad interim in Ghana, from December 2018 to May 2020. She was later on appointed UN Resident Coordinator in Morocco by the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, a role she occupied from August 2020 to July 2022. Sylvia, is a binational of Cote d’Ivoire and France and a lawyer by training, holds a master’s degree in International Administration, with honours, from the Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris, France.


National Pathway Manager, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

As the Hub’s National Pathway Manager, Mr Svante Helms leads the Hub’s country assistance and coordination of country support with other food system actors. He is in direct contact with National Convenors and governments; UN agencies, IFIs, CSOs, and other actors at country level; and he is engaging with food system coalitions and networks on how best to provide country assistance. Svante is seconded by the World Food Programme (WFP) and comes from a position as Country Director for WFP in Bhutan, where he led inter-agency food system assistance to the government through close Rome-based agency partnership; food system dialogues, pathway development and translation into national strategy frameworks; connecting the climate and food system agenda and mobilising resources for the government for national pathway implementation. He brings 17 years of experience with the UN, and prior to that, Svante worked with the Red Cross, is also a founder of tech and tourism startups and an author. 


Svante Helms headshot
Romain Houlmann
Associate Professional Officer, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Mr Romain Houlmann works as an Associate Professional Officer from Switzerland with the UN Food Systems Coordination Hub at FAO Headquarters.  Before joining the Hub, he worked for several years as Programme Officer and Project Coordinator for Civil Society Organizations, both in Switzerland and in Latin America, dedicated to the promotion of agroecology, food sovereignty and the human right for food. He also worked for a couple of years at the Region of Latin America and Caribbean (RLC) office of the FAO as an Agroecology Officer.  Romain has a master’s degree in international development and a CAS in sustainable food systems. 

UN Food Systems Specialist, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Mr. Kiran Subedi brings over fourteen years of professional experience in addressing hunger and poverty through food systems transformation, agricultural and rural development, food and nutritional security, building climate resilience, biodiversity conservation, value chain development, connecting MSMEs to international value chains, and enhancing access to finance. He has demonstrated experience working for the local and national government (Bhutan), the UN headquarters (FAO, Italy- UN Food Systems Coordination Hub), and the UN country offices (International Trade Centre in Bhutan, and UN Capital Development Fund in a post-conflict context in Liberia). Currently, in his role as a Food Systems Specialist at the UN Food Systems Coordination Hub, he is managing the catalytic ‘Startup Fund’ in fourteen countries across Latin America, Africa, and Asia Pacific for the operationalization of food systems national pathways that entail direct contact with the government, UN Country Teams and stakeholders. Kiran has excellent project management skills leading multi-million dollar projects. In addition, he brings experience in investment analysis, research, policy development, resource mobilization, and partnership building. Kiran holds an MSc in Agricultural Economics from the University of Hohenheim in Germany and BSc in Agriculture from India. 


Kiran Subedi
Nicole DePaula
Senior SDGs Expert, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Ms Nicole de Paula, PhD, is the Senior SDGs Expert at the UN Food Systems Coordination Hub, leading the work on Thought Leadership and science-policy interface. She is the inaugural Klaus Töpfer Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies for Sustainability in Potsdam, Germany, and founder of Women Leaders for Planetary Health. In 2021, she published the book “Breaking the Silos for Planetary Health: A Roadmap for a Resilient Post-Pandemic World”. She is also an advisor to the World Health Organization- South-East Asia Regional Expert Group on Environment Determinants of Health and Climate Change and one of the Scientific Commissioners of The Lancet Pathfinder Commission on decabornization.


Knowledge Management Officer, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Mr. Thembani Malapela over 15 years of professional experience in Knowledge and Information Management in various institutions. Thembani has been with FAO for almost 13 years, holding knowledge management and digital agriculture related portfolios in the Partnership Office, seconded to Information Technology Division and Office of Innovation. He has extensive experience in knowledge management standards and services, knowledge strategies, communities of practices, various platforms building and management, good practices and knowledge sharing. In the UN Food Systems Coordination Hub, he is leading the Knowledge Management portfolio. Thembani served as the FAO Facilitator for The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) (2019-2023), for Action Line C7: E-Agriculture and sat on the advisory committee for the ICTforAg Conferences (2021-2023). Thembani holds a Master of Philosophy Degree (MPhil) in Library and Information Sciences, with the University of Cape Town, South Africa.



Claudia Scuriatti
Sustainable Development Specialist, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Ms. Claudia Scuriatti joined the Hub in May 20223 where she plays a strategic role in facilitating the discussion and interactions between the Hub and different actors in New York as she is currently based in the FAO Office in New York. Claudia brings with her over 5 years of experience in food systems and a broad range of international development issues including youth employment and blockchain in agriculture spanning across FAO, the private sector, NGOs, and government institutions. She holds a MSc in Development Management from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She first joined FAO as a Value Chain and Agribusiness consultant in 2019 where she provided technical support to different partners on food value chain analysis in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Guatemala. In 2021 she joined the FAOLON as a Sustainable Development Specialist where she has been leading the development and implementation of the office’s analytical tool to track and evaluate FAO’s strategic relevance within the UN, support the HLPF, the SDG Summit and the Summit of the Future. She also serves as the youth engagement focal point in New York. 


Programme Officer, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Ms Cinar Yavuz is the Programme Officer of the Food Systems Coordination Hub, assigned by FAO. She has been with UN FAO for almost 13 years holding different administrative and operations positions within the FAO Subregional Office in Ankara, Turkey and the FAO Country Office in Islamabad, Pakistan. She has extensive experience in programme and project operations, administration and funding agreements’ finalization with different donors such as EU, GCF, GEF, JICA, USAID, FCDO and other different governments’ contributions.  Before joining the UN, she worked for the private sector in market intelligence and research areas. She is responsible for programme and project development, establishing multi trust funds, umbrella programmes, operationalizing Hub projects, finalization of funding agreements with donors and leading other administrative and operations areas of the Hub. She holds a MA and PhD in educational sciences. 


Cinar Yavuz headshot
Meriem Achouri
UN Food Systems Programme Specialist, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Ms. Meriem Achouri has almost a decade of experience in development, research, and civil society. She joined FAO in 2018, initially working in the resource mobilization and private sector division. Later, she shifted to the inclusive rural transformation and gender equity division, where she focused on promoting inclusivity and gender equity in rural communities. Meriem also gained valuable insights into global cooperation efforts through her experience with the south-south and triangular cooperation division . In 2023, she joined the UN Food Systems Coordination Hub, showcasing her dedication to transforming food systems worldwide. Meriem holds a master’s degree in Humanitarian Action from the University of Malta's NOHA program. 


Programme Officer, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Ms Aruna Francesca Maria Gujral is an accomplished, dynamic, innovative and committed ‘thought’ leader with more than 20 years of experience in the public and international development sectors. Aruna spent the past 18 years with FAO working in more than 20 countries and serving in different duty stations - at country, subregional, regional and HQ levels. Recently called upon to provide support and strategic advice to FAO’s Senior Leadership, she previously worked in strategy, planning, partnership and programme development focused roles to advance FAO’s mandate in the field, leading complex programmes and operations on the ground. Educated to master’s level with an impressive portfolio of professional certification, Aruna speaks 5 languages and has a strong cultural sensitivity. Accustomed to federating complex stakeholder networks, including government and partner organizations, Aruna has a profound knowledge in conceiving corporate, regional, and country strategies, an extensive expertise in project and programme management and a remarkable capacity in mobilizing funds, bringing a unique set of skills that helped the organization to improve its business model and to move from scattered projects to a programmatic approach towards greater impact, longer-term solutions and more sustainable transformations.


Khaled El Taweel headshot
Program Coordinator, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub
Regional Coordinator, FAO Office of the Director-General
Mr Khaled El Taweel has more than twenty years of professional experience in Development and International Law at the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Currently, he also serves as Regional Coordinator at the Office of the Director-General of FAO. Khaled served as Chair of the FAO Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP) from 2016-2018 and Chair of the Committee on Food Security (CFS) Working Group on Nutrition 2015-2018. He co-led the implementation of the CFS evaluation. He was elected vice president of the Group of G77 and China in Rome in 2017 and the UNIDROIT General Assembly in 2016. He holds a PhD in International Law from the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and a Master of International Business Administration from ESLSCA Business school in Paris. He authored several academic books and articles and is a visiting lecturer of International Law.


UN Food Systems Specialist, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Juana Giraldo, a UN Food Systems Specialist, plays a pivotal role in supporting the hub's coordination efforts. She actively engages and provides assistance to various stakeholders, undertakes comprehensive analysis of technical data, facilitates the collection of national reports, and develops relevant materials to support advocacy for food system transformation. A veterinary physician specializing in Environmental Management and Disaster Prevention, Juana has over eight years of experience in the humanitarian sector. In her former role as the UN Interagency Food Systems Task Force Facilitator for Latin America and the Caribbean at WFP, Juana coordinated the efforts to support food systems transformations in the region. Prior to this, working with FAO Colombia, Juana supported field teams implementing projects for the restoration of food production, enhanced resilience, and fostering peace in affected communities. She also coordinated the Food Security and Nutrition Cluster within the Humanitarian Country Team. Throughout her career Juana has collaborated with international NGOs such as IFRC, local organizations, public-private entities, and UN agencies. She holds a NOHA Joint Master's Degree in International Humanitarian Action.

Michelle Seck
UN Food Systems Specialist, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Born and raised in a coastal city in Borneo, Malaysia, Michelle's passion for agriculture and food security stems from the challenges that her country and community faced in these areas. As part of the hub, she supports the overall organization of the Stocktaking Moment and engagement with Member States and Stakeholders in support of food systems transformation. Prior to joining the Hub, she worked as a Partner and Liaison Specialist in the FAO Brussels office, supporting the engagement with Non-State Actors, technical bodies of the EU and OACPS; and later joined the World Food Forum team, leading the work of the Youth Action track – advocating for youth engagement and building capacities of youth to engage in policy processes. Michelle holds a Master's in Nutrition and Rural Development, specializing in public health, and a Bachelor's in Clinical Nutrition.


Communications and Advocacy Expert, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Ms Kennedy Baruta has worked in food and agriculture for the past five years, supporting integrated communications planning and execution for several international organisations. Leveraging a wide range of traditional and digital information channels, Kennedy is passionate about using storytelling to transform how the world produces, consumes and thinks about food. She is currently managing communications and advocacy for the UN Food Systems Coordination Hub to help drive bold new actions for SDGs-based food systems transformations at national, regional and global levels. In this role, she intends to elevate the voices and experiences of countries, stakeholders and other food systems actors to support a holistic understanding of food systems transformations. Prior to joining the Hub, Kennedy worked in the private sector at Nutrien, leading the communications workstreams for their diversity and inclusion and community relations teams. Kennedy has also worked with several non-profits in the areas of youth education and health. Kennedy holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications Studies from the University of Calgary.



Kennedy Baruta
Junior Professional Officer, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Mr Giovanni Pilato serves as a Junior Professional Officer from Italy in the UN Food Systems Coordination Hub. He supports the strategic and policy work of the Hub, with a focus on the nexus between food systems, food security, environment and climate change, human rights and gender issues.  Previously, he worked with FAO in Viet Nam as Program Associate on Governance, Social Inclusion and One UN Coordination. He was also a Program Coordinator at the International Development Law Organization in Rome, working on food security and rule of law projects. Giovanni holds an MSc in Climate Change and Environmental Policy and a bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations. 




Office Assistant, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Ms Francesca Nardiello serves as the Office Assistant at the UN Food Systems Coordination Hub, assigned by FAO. She is responsible for providing administrative services and office support work to the office, digging into data, graphs and tables to find new solutions to increase operational efficiency. Prior to her current assignment in the UN, she had worked for the private sector, supervising and coordinating office operations and, previously, she had the opportunity to undertake an internship at the Embassy of Costa Rica in Italy. She holds a Master’s degree in Languages for International Communications and Cooperation.


Francesca Nardiello
Paola Conti
Office Assistant, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Ms. Paola Conti works with the UN Food System Coordination Hub as an Office Assistant, providing administrative and logistical support to the office and its members. After completing her degree in Modern Languages and Cultures, she received a Master’s degree in Interpreting and Translation focused on English and Arabic languages. Before joining the Hub, she worked as an administrative-linguistic assistant at the Central Directorate for Immigration of the Italian Ministry of Interior and as a freelance translator. Passionate about the Arabic language, migration issues and migrants’ rights, she attended short academic courses on international protection and asylum systems and spent some time in Tunisia and Jordan where she worked as a volunteer with refugee children. She hopes to use her personal and work skills to concretely contribute to improving lives of disadvantage people. 



Liaison and Coordination Support Consultant, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Ms Sofia Mauceri is a recent Global Studies graduate. Before joining the UN Food Systems Coordination Hub, she worked at the International Fund of Agricultural Development (IFAD) where she collaborated with the UN Food Systems Coordination Hub on Means of Implementation Finance, supporting the development of the food finance narrative. Previously, she worked at the Italian Consulate General in Los Angeles and the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg. She is passionate about global affairs and international development and hopes to apply her knowledge and interests to be a meaningful advocate in the food systems transformation.

Sofia Mauceri
UN Food Systems Specialist, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Ms Ludovica Nesbitt is a junior consultant with a master's degree in International Relations and global studies. She is committed to collaborating with a wide range of stakeholders within the food systems domain, a dedication that has been cultivated through her extensive international encounters. Moreover, Ludovica had the opportunity to undertake an internship at the Council of Europe and later on, with the UN Food Systems Coordination Hub itself, which allowed her to experience closely how international actors get to work together. With her academic background, international and practical experiences, Ludovica is poised to make a significant impact on the world stage in addressing the challenges of global food systems.


Intern, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Ms Virginia Pignata joined the Hub with enthusiasm and willingness to contribute to a just and sustainable transformation of food systems. Prior to the Hub she worked for the environmental NGO Védegylet and the World Fair Trade Organization where she gained experience in advocacy and civil society engagement to upscale agroecology. She holds a BA in Social Sciences for Globalisation from the University of Milan and a MA in Global and Local Development from the University of Bologna. During her studies she conducted research on power concentration and lock-ins to policy change in agricultural policies.


Ludovica Nesbitt headshot
Lynn Elhadjali
Intern, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Ms Lynn Elhadjali is currently pursuing her master's in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action at SciencesPo, with specializations in Project Management and International Law in Action. Growing up in Liberia and witnessing the multifaceted barriers faced by many in accessing their basic human rights, instilled in her a profound commitment for human rights activism, promoting inclusiveness to historically marginalized rural citizens and addressing sustainable food systems. Prior to joining the Hub, Lynn has engaged in humanitarian work with victims of domestic violence in an NGO in Monrovia, Liberia, closely worked alongside Syrian and Palestinian refugee communities in Lebanon and conducted extensive research on the intersectionality of contemporary environmental issues and human displacement, particularly in the Middle East. Her time consulting for a startup platform for healthy African foods and ingredients has also equipped her with a holistic understanding of the complexities within food systems and inspired her to bridge the gap between humanitarian action and sustainable food systems.

Intern, UN Food Systems Coordination Hub

Ms. Nozheen Murad, coming from a Kurdish background, has witnessed firsthand the vulnerabilities of food systems in fragile contexts. She is deeply dedicated to creating meaningful and impactful change. Prior to the Hub, she devoted substantial effort in the humanitarian sector, working with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), bolstering resilience of both Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees against the impacts of food insecurity. Her commitment extends to leveraging a multi-stakeholder pledge, ensuring that food assistance, food systems, and agriculture are utilized optimally to sustainably meet the immediate needs of vulnerable populations. She played a pivotal role in an inter-agency finance program, significantly enhancing agriculture productivity in towns with vulnerable populations. Her efforts resulted in the effective implementation of policies that markedly boosted rural development productivity. She also worked for CDO, a non-profit organization in Iraq focusing on empowering marginalized and abused women in the agriculture sector. Her dedication lies in empowering vulnerable communities and increasing their food production, epitomizing her mission to effect change within the realm of food system transformation. She holds a M.Sc. International Security Studies program at The Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies & University of Trento. 

Nozheen Murad