Staff

Diya Nijhowne

Director, Research

Diya Nijhowne oversees management of all the Coalition’s research operations and program implementation. She has over a decade of experience working on children’s rights and protection issues, including in emergency contexts. Diya served as a Child Protection Worker in Canada investigating child abuse allegations. As a Program Officer with Global Rights, an international non-governmental organization, she built the capacity of local organizations to protect human rights, designing and implementing programming for women and minorities in Afghanistan and Nepal. In 2008, following the post-election violence in Kenya, she served as a Child Protection Officer with UNICEF, developing protection strategies for internally displaced children. In 2011, she held a similar position with UNHCR in Ethiopia, managing a camp for Somali refugees and developing registration and tracing procedures for unaccompanied children. Diya also worked at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as a Children’s Rights Consultant, and developed advocacy strategies to promote the women, peace, and security agenda within the UN. Diya has a Master of Social Work degree and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Toronto.

Contact information:

Phone: 1.212.377.9413 
Email: gcpea@protectingeducation.org

Cristal Downing

Program Officer

Cristal Downing coordinates the Higher Education Working Group on principles of state responsibility to protect higher education from attack and is a researcher for Education under Attack 2018. Prior to joining GCPEA, Cristal spent almost three years as Analyst in the Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration Program at the International Organisation for Migration in Bogotá, Colombia. She has also worked with local civil society organisations in both the US and abroad, focusing on education and development in fragile contexts. Cristal has published academic articles and made conference presentations on IDP education, child recruitment, and other peacebuilding topics. She has a BA in Hispanic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA in Latin American Studies from New York University, and an MSc in Political Science from the Universidad de los Andes (Colombia). 

Contact information:

Phone: 1.212.377.7470 
Email: gcpea@protectingeducation.org

Andrea Mazzarino

Program Officer

Andrea Mazzarino coordinates research for GCPEA’s Education under Attack report. She has spent over 15 years teaching and conducting research in the social sciences, in areas ranging from healthcare policy to women’s rights and the human consequences of military expansion. During this time, Andrea has served in various capacities in nongovernmental organizations. Most recently, she co-directed the Costs of War Project at Brown University. In this capacity, she convened a group of social scientists, activists, and physicians to publicize the human and economic tolls of the post-9/11 wars. Andrea also worked for two and a half years as a research fellow for Human Rights Watch, where she researched and authored three reports on rights violations against children and adults with disabilities living in Russia. She received her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology and population studies from Brown University in 2010. Andrea is based in Washington, DC.

Contact information:

Phone: 1.401.525.8858
Email: gcpea@protectingeducation.org

Filipa Schmitz Guinote

Coordinator, Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict

Filipa Schmitz Guinote coordinates civil society mobilization and advocacy for the adoption and implementation of the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, at the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack. She previously served with the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, where she provided technical support to a network of over 20 civil society organizations in Africa, Asia, and South America, in documenting and responding to child rights violations during armed conflict. Ms. Schmitz Guinote also lived and worked in Afghanistan and in Sudan, where she coordinated regional and cross-regional initiatives in the areas of access to justice and post-conflict stabilization, with UNDP and the German development agency, GIZ. Ms. Schmitz Guinote holds a degree in international affairs from Sciences Po-Paris (France), an M.A in human rights from the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation (Italy), and a Graduate Diploma in Law from BPP Law School (UK).

Contact information:

Phone: +41 (0)22 919 6210 
Email: gcpea@protectingeducation.org

Christopher Sfetsios

Administration Officer

Chris Sfetsios provides operational and programmatic support to GCPEA, managing day to day coalition activities. He received a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the American College of Thessaloniki in Greece, and is working toward a master’s in International Security Policy and Conflict Resolution at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Prior to joining GCPEA, Chris held positions with several organizations working in international peacebuilding and human rights, including Columbia’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, WITNESS, UNDP, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and the United States Institute of Peace. 

Contact information:

Phone: 1.212.377.9446
Email: gcpea@protectingeducation.org