Aroha in brief
We were founded in October 2017 at Geneva, Switzerland, our main base of operation
We aim to enhance solidarity with, and protection and resilience of, the world's most vulnerable people and ecosystems
We are an independent organization under the authority of our Governing Board
The word “Aroha” signifies compassion, concern, empathy and love in te reo Maori, a reflection of our founders' Pacific roots
We are an international non-profit dedicated to public benefit causes as an association under Swiss law
We combine a Pacific approach with global expertise to leverage change in collaboration with our partners worldwide
Who we are
The symbol incorporated into our logo is the “Taniwha”, literally signifying “shark” in a number Polynesian languages native to the Pacific, but often representing a water-dwelling being of mythical nature. Taniwha are thought to have followed the vessels of Pacific explorers in many an island to island migration, at once a menace and a guardian. We found the two-fold character of this interaction point of people and nature an apt symbolic analogy to global challenges facing the world today.
Chair of the Governing Board
At the head of Aroha's Governing Board, Ross Mountain leads oversight of the development of the organization.
Ross has worked in the UN system for over four decades during which he has held senior United Nations positions managing complex humanitarian, reconstruction, development and peacekeeping operations in Africa (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Sudan, Angola), Asia (Afghanistan), the Middle East (Lebanon, Iraq/Jordan, Palestine), the Pacific ( Fiji, PICs) and the Caribbean (Haiti, Barbados, Eastern Caribbean States). As the UN Assistant Emergency Relief Coordinator and Director of the Geneva Office of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, he also served as the special humanitarian envoy of the Secretary-General for floods in Mozambique and the birth of East Timor as an independent nation. His most recent assignments were at the Assistant Secretary General level as UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, UNDP Resident Representative and Deputy Special Coordinator in Lebanon and in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General in New York as Senior Advisor on Cholera in Haiti. He has also served in Myanmar as UN Senior Advisor.
The overall work of Aroha is led and managed by Matthew McKinnon.
Matthew has over 20 years’ experience addressing global challenges within the United Nations, public and non-profit sectors. He established the secretariat of the Climate Vulnerable Forum and V20, a 48-member cooperation group of nations highly vulnerable to climate change, and is the body's lead advisor. He led a campaign for a 1.5 degrees Celsius limit in the Paris Agreement on climate change and has edited several global reports on climate vulnerability and low-carbon development, including the Climate Vulnerability Monitor and Low Carbon Monitor. He has also acted as an advisor on the Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, and Philippines delegations to the UN climate change convention negotiations (UNFCCC). Previously, Matthew has worked at the United Nations secretariat, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UNICEF. Prior to the UN, Matthew worked at the New Zealand Cabinet Office and was Programme Manager of the Global Humantarian Forum convened by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan between 2007-2010.
Vice Chair of the Governing Board
Robert Watkins served as United Nations Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Lebanon and Afghanistan at the level of Assistant Secretary-General, as well as UN Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Representative in Bangladesh, Djibouti, and Georgia. Robert also worked for the European Commission, as head of the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) Regional Office for the Middle East based in Jordan, and for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Geneva, Iraq, and Turkey. Currently, Robert is Assistant Director and Head of the Middle East and North Africa Division of the Geneva Center for Security Sector Governance (DCAF), a Research Associate at the Centre for Conflict, Development, and Peacebuilding at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, and Senior Fellow at the American University of Beirut.
Javier Diaz has served as Costa Rican Ambassador for Climate Change and Global Environmental Affairs and as Ambassador of Costa Rica to Guatemala. He has also served as Director General for Foreign Policy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica and as Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office at Geneva and to UNESCO in Paris.