New Co-Chairs of SPICEH appointed, Rodrigo de la Cruz & Kristen Walker

07 December 2011 | Article

CEESP and CEL have appointed two Co-Chairs to lead the newly formed joint Commission Specialist Group on Indigenous Peoples, Customary & Environmental Laws and Human Rights (SPICEH). Kristen Walker Painemilla (USA) and Rodrigo de la Cruz (Ecuador). 

Kristen Walker Painemilla is Vice President at Conservation International and of CI’s Social Policy and Practice Department (SPP). This department draws on the accomplishments and talents of the previous Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Program and performs a broad set of responsibilities, including rights-based approaches to conservation, partnerships, social responsibility, gender, engagement with development organizations and other critical social components of conservation.

Over the past two years, Ms. Painemilla had led efforts on behalf of CI to form the Conservation Initiative on Human Rights (CIHR), a consortium of international conservation NGOs that seek to improve the practice of conservation by promoting integration of human rights in conservation policy and practice. She published the book Indigenous Peoples and Conservation: From Rights to Resource Management in October 2010, drawing on 15 years of experience working with indigenous peoples and conservation.

Prior to her current position, Ms. Painemilla was the Senior Director of Program Strategy in the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS) at CI from 1999 through 2003, and was integral in its development, spearheading the strategic direction of the Center’s activities and development of new programs. Ms. Painemilla led several initiatives within CABS such as Defying Nature’s End, CABS Bushmeat Initiative and scientific communications.

Ms. Painemilla holds her degree in Latin American Studies and Anthropology from George Washington University. She was a Cotlow Scholar in 1996, a U.S. Fulbright Scholar 1997-1998 and is a Senior Fellow with the Environmental Leadership Program. Ms. Painemilla serves on several boards including the Equator Initiative and the Chol-Chol Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose principal aim is to provide integral education for the women of indigenous rural communities with limited resources. She resides in Silver Spring, Maryland with her husband Fabian, a Mapuche Indian from Chile and her 2 children.


Rodrigo de la Cruz is Kichwa from Ecuador. He previously served as the Assessor for oil, biodiversity, traditional knowledge and intellectual property policies of the Coordinating Body of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA). He is currently the Director of the Traditional Knowledge and Genetic Resources unit at the Ecuadorian Institute of Intellectual Property.

Rodrigo has served on many official international delegations including as:

  • an international observer from Ecuador in the United Nations Mission for Guatemala (MINUGUA) for the Agreement on the Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • an expert indigenous delegate from Ecuador to the meetings of the Panel of Experts on Access and Benefit Sharing, in San Jose, Costa Rica and Montreal, Canada;
  • an indigenous observer at the 3rd, 4th and 5th Conferences of the Parties to the Conventional on Biological Diversity (CBD)and its Working Groups on Access and Benefit Sharing and Traditional Knowledge Article 8j;
  • an expert observer at the 6th, 7th, 13th sessions of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Rodrigo was also appointed by the United Nations as an indigenous expert to discuss Methodologies regarding Free Prior and Informed Consent, a useful decision-making tool guiding discussions at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in activities relating to indigenous peoples.

Within the Andean Integration System (Andean Community), he was Regional Coordinator for Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. As member of the Indigenous Expert Group on Traditional Knowledge, Rodrigo participated in the draft of a document for the Andean Decision for the Protection of Indigenous Peoples' Traditional Knowledge.

Rodrigo worked as a national consultant for the Ministry of the Environment in the Republic of Ecuador and the ECOLEX Foundation – Environmental Management and Law Corporation. There he was involved in the formulation of the Regulations for the Preservation and Utilization of Mountain Ecosystems.

Rodrigo co-authored the book Biodiversity, Collective Rights and Sui Generis Management in Intellectual Property. He is a member of technical working groups on the Elaboration of a National Strategy on Biodiversity in Ecuador and the Regional Strategy on Biodiversity in the Andean Community of Nations (CAN).

Rodrigo holds a Masters in Public Science and Law.