The Challenges Forum International Secretariat

The Challenges Forum International Secretariat (CFIS) is the executive body of the Challenges Forum and acts on the behalf of the whole Challenges Forum Partnerhip. Since 2003, the CFIS is hosted at the Folke Bernadotte Academy – Swedish Agency for Peace and Security, and located in Stockholm, Sweden.

CFIS leads, plans and coordinates the daily work of the Challenges Forum Partnership. CFIS is responsible for developing the agenda and proposals for the Challenges Forum and for supporting the Partnership in reaching the strategic objectives decided by the Partners’ Meeting. The Director leads CFIS’ work and reports to the Partners’ Meeting.

Lisa Orrenius,
Acting Director

Lisa Orrenius is the Deputy Director for the Department for Peace Operations at Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA) in Sweden and is supporting the Challenges Forum as the Acting Director. Before joining FBA, she was the Director of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in New York between 2014-2018. Prior to this position, Lisa worked at the United Nations for more than a decade, primarily with UNDP and UN-DOCO, but also with UN Women and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, with a special focus on a broad spectrum of UN reform issues in the areas of development and peacebuilding. Ms. Orrenius has extensive experience both from UN headquarters in New York and Brussels as well as from the developing countries, mainly Zimbabwe and Guatemala. She holds a Master of Law from University of Lund. 

Sharon Wiharta, Senior Policy Adviser on Peace Operations

Sharon Wiharta has extensive experience in the practice, policy and theory of peacekeeping and peacebuilding. Most recently, she served in the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in 2016-2018 as the Policy and Best Practices Officer and latterly as Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff.  Until she joined the Challenges Forum in 2012, she headed the project on Multilateral Peace Operations at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) where she focused on issues such as the geopolitics of peacekeeping, and enhancing local ownership in rule-of-law transitions. She also served as a consultant for Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) in 2012 on strengthening civilian capacities in peace operations. Sharon has published widely, including Peace Operations: Trends Progress and Prospects (eds. 2010, Georgetown University Press). She holds a M.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies from Uppsala University, Sweden.

Benoît Pylyser, Senior Strategic Adviser

Benoît Pylyser has for the past 15 years worked in various UN positions with peace and security, humanitarian coordination and sustainable development. Most recently he served as Political Advisor to the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region supporting the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF) to address root causes of conflict and facilitate political solutions, inter alia, to protracted displacement in the region. Prior to this Mr. Pylyser served as Humanitarian Advisor to the Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) providing liaison between the humanitarian community and the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) in view of optimizing humanitarian access and strengthening the humanitarian-peace-development nexus.  Mr. Pylyser also served as Desk Officer for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in New York and as Humanitarian Affairs Officer in Madagascar, Zimbabwe, and the Regional Office for Southern Africa in Johannesburg. He started his career with the UN Development Program (UNDP) Rwanda as Associate Program Analyst on Access to Justice. Mr. Pylyser holds a Master’s Degree in European Public Administration from the University of Leuven and a License in International Relations from the University of Ghent. He speaks French, English, Dutch and Swedish.

Susanna Ahlfors, Senior Event & Communication Specialist

Susanna Ahlfors has more than 20 years’ experience of working with Communication, and she has a broad knowledge of global development cooperation and aid. Before joining Challenges Forum, she worked as a communications officer at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). Her role involved working with strategic communications as well as the role of project leader, writer, editor and moderator. In addition, she was the program administrator to the UNDP’s office in Sweden, administrating the funding for their communication projects. Prior to working for Sida, Ms. Ahlfors worked at a communication agency, carrying out various assignments for eg. the Swedish Governments offices, UNU-Wider, WHO, Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society, Sida, Olof Palme International Center and the Public Health Agency. Susanna holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Gothenburg University, Sweden. She speaks English, French, Spanish and Swedish.

Fanny Wellén, Officer

Fanny Wellén holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science with a specialization in International Relations and Conflict Resolution from Copenhagen University and a Bachelor Degree in Peace and Conflict from Malmö University. She has previously interned at the Swedish Embassy in Bogota, Colombia. During her internship she participated in and supported the work of both the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) as well as the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). During her internship she mainly focused on the peace process, the Swedish feminist foreign policy and the regional context of Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador. Previous her studies Ms. Wellén worked as a Financial Language Editor at an international financial company in Argentina. She speaks Swedish, English and Spanish and is supporting CFIS as consultant.

David Creelman,
Associate Officer

David Creelman is currently pursuing a Bachelor Degree in Peace and Development Studies at Uppsala University. Prior to his studies David has enjoyed a background in the Swedish Armed Forces. Mr. Creelman was deployed as a peacekeeper in Mali on two occasions and once in Afghanistan as part of the NATO mission. He speaks Swedish, English and Finnish.