A seamless transition: ASF welcomes its new Executive Director

27 November 2017

Brussels, 27 November 2017 – This week, Francesca Boniotti, Executive Director of Avocats Sans Frontières for nearly ten years, comes to the end of her mandate within our organisation and leaves to embark on new professional and personal adventures. She is succeeded by our long-time colleague, Chantal van Cutsem.

Francesca Boniotti (on the right in the photo) began her career at ASF in 2003 as Head of Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; later, she joined the Brussels headquarters of the NGO, where she occupied several positions before taking on its management in June 2008. This pen portrait, by a Congolese colleague from her early years with ASF, perfectly sums up her personality and her entire career within the organisation: “Despite her frail appearance, Francesca is in charge of things. She is like a fish in water in Kinshasa, where everyone calls her by her first name. She has a very good rapport with her team, and operates in a democratic way, with natural authority.”

Francesca, who had always been active in promoting human rights, approached the various aspects of her post with energy and enthusiasm. She was able to guide ASF through successive stages of its evolution, developing strategies for continuously increasing the impact of our activities, supporting her colleagues in difficult times, and bringing together a broad network around issues relating to access to justice. She was always very close to our teams on the ground, whose safety was one of her primary concerns. We are sincerely grateful for the work she accomplished over all these years, and wish her the best of luck in the future.

Chantal van Cutsem (on the left in the photo) will take on the post of Executive Director on Wednesday. This will be a seamless transition, as Chantal, a former lawyer, has been working with ASF for a long time. Over the past ten years, she has clearly demonstrated her qualities, coordinating our activities in the African Great Lakes Region and overseeing the development of new projects and approaches in the Middle East and North Africa, among other duties. Chantal will be able to use her skills, passion, and vision to assist ASF in the pursuit of its goal of guaranteeing accessible justice for all.

There are many challenges, as she herself explains: “The world of development cooperation is evolving, as are our ways of working. We want to build a more flexible structure and develop communities of practice that involve actors from diverse backgrounds in our discussions and activities. We would also like the members of our general assembly to play a more active role within the organisation.” ASF wants to increase its presence within European civil society, in order to defend human rights in Europe, says Chantal van Cutsem: “We are experiencing a toughening of laws. Under the pretext of guaranteeing the security of citizens, more and more repressive laws are coming into effect. Issues relating to migration are also of great concern to us. How can we promote better coordination between migrants’ countries of origin, the countries where they are in transit, and their destination countries, in order to ensure that their rights are respected at every stage of their journey? Thanks to the experience acquired over the past 25 years and the ability of the organisation to learn constantly, there is no doubt that we will be able to make an effective contribution towards tackling these major issues.”

We wish the best of luck in the future to Francesca, and a good start to Chantal!

Cover picture © ASF/S. Degée

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