The Department of Environment and Development (DED) at the Unversity for Peace focuses on efforts to reconcile poverty alleviation with environmental protection in a manner that contributes to peaceful conflict resolution. We emphasize sustained critical analysis in order to formulate solutions that do not just deal with surface issues but address the root causes of environmental problems and underdevelopment. Our approach is grounded in political ecology, an interdisciplinary perspective that highlights the importance of political economic structures and inequality in access to resources as key drivers in environmental conflict and global environmental change. Our teaching, based in principles of peace education, promotes student-centered learning and active participation through collaborative discussion. We take full advantage of our unique location in Costa Rica by including within all of our courses case studies and field visits to explore the many innovative sustainable development projects occurring throughout the country.


Alancay is a brunka indigenous person. He has worked and specialized on issues related to indigenous peoples’ human rights and development. He is the Global Advocacy Coordinator for Indigenous Peoples Rights International. His experience also includes advocating before international institutions such as the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the World Bank; and working on the ground with indigenous peoples in the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Greenland.

 Alonso Muñoz is Instructor in the Department of Environment and Development at the University for Peace, where he coordinates the Master of Arts (MA) degree in Responsible Management and Sustainable Economic Development (RMSED). He holds a BSc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Costa Rica and a Msc. in Business Administration. He has worked in the private sector as a consultant and as an entrepreneur and has volunteered on various national and international projects regarding peace education, migration, environmental impact of systems and Social Enterprises. His most recent work revolves around Circular Economy, a field that he feels passionate about, and for which he has high expectations.


André Nijhof (1969) has a masters degree in Business Administration from the University of Twente. He started his working life as a researcher of organisational change in multinational companies like Akzo Nobel, Asito, Shell Pernis, Stegeman Sara Lee and Vredestein. Based on his research he finished his PhD at the University of Twente just before the turn of the century (1999). Next he became a senior consultant at Q-Consult, where he specialized in corporate social responsibility and the implementation of management systems. Andre is former chairman of the Dutch Network on Business Ethics. Since 2007 he has been associate professor at the European Institute for Business Ethics, part of Nyenrode Business Universiteit. 

Andrea San Gil is an Environmental Engineer, with a Masters in Sustainability, Planning and Environmental Policy. She is passionate about reducing social vulnerability and increasing quality of life through city design and sustainable solutions. She founded the Center for Urban Sustainability in Costa Rica (CPSU) in 2014 and directed it until 2018. She has worked as a policy advisor to different ministries, local governments and the First Lady of Costa Rica in projects related to sustainable development, transport, and planning.

Bipasha Baruah is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Global Women’s Issues at Western University. Professor Baruah earned a PhD in environmental studies from York University, Toronto. She specializes in interdisciplinary research at the intersections of gender, economy, environment, and development. Most of her current research aims to understand how to ensure that a global low-carbon economy will be more gender equitable and socially just than its fossil-fuel based predecessor. Author of a book and more than 100 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and other works, Professor Baruah serves frequently as an expert reviewer and advisor to Canadian and intergovernmental environmental protection and international development organizations. 

Dr. Corinne Schuster-Wallace has broad experience at the water-health nexus including linkages with gender, climate change, and sustainable development. She is a water-health researcher within Global Water Futures program, member of the Global Institute for Water Security and Centre for Hydrology, and faculty member in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Saskatchewan. She currently holds adjunct faculty status at McMaster University, Queen’s University, and the University of Waterloo in Canada. Previous positions include Senior Research Fellow (water-health) in the Water and Human Development Programme at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), Research Associate in the School of Engineering at the University of Guelph (Canada), and a water-environment specialist for the Public Health Agency of Canada.

 Dr. Bednar is committed to fighting climate change by interweaving academic research on residential energy injustices in a way that engenders community engagement and co-development of innovative and impactful solutions.He is a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society and School of Sustainability and a Fulbrighter in Chile. His research examines the institutional barriers of energy poverty recognition and response in the United States and explores the spatial, racial/ethnic, and socioeconomic patterns of residential energy affordability, consumption, and efficiency. He completed his Ph.D. in Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability, concentrating on Energy Justice.


Dr Eli Enns internationally recognized expert in bio-cultural heritage conservation and Indigenous economic development. He is a nation builder and Canadian political scientist focused on Constitutional law, geopolitics, and ecological governance. Eli is a member of the board of directors for the Canadian Committee for IUCN. Co-founder of the Ha’uukmin Tribal Park in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve on Vancouver Island, Eli was Co-Chair for The Indigenous Circle of Experts for The Pathway to Canada Target 1 (Aichi Target 11), is the lead for the University of Toronto's Reconciliation Through Engineering Initiative and serves as the Regional Coordinator North America for the Indigenous Peoples and Community Conserved Territories and Areas (ICCA) Consortium.


Dr. Jan Breitling (Germany) is an Associated Professor in the Department of Environment and Development at University for Peace. Originally trained as a Forest Engineer in the Technological Institute of Costa Rica, he holds a MSc. in Environmental Sciences from Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands, and a PhD from the University for Peace. His research interests include the political ecology of forest cover change, climate change, and conservation. 

 Karen Araya Varela is an Environmental Engineer, with a Master’s Degree in Energy Management from the Costa Rican Institute of Technology. Currently, she collaborates as a Project Manager at the Costa Rican USA Foundation for Cooperation, and has ten years of experience in leading the implementation of pioneering projects on sustainable development and climate change in organizations such as the United Nations Development Programme, Fundecoperacion for Sustainable Development and the Center for Urban Sustainability. Her experience has been shaped by working in an interdisciplinary and multisectoral environment, along with national authorities, academia, private sector, subnational governments and civil society.   

Dr. Kifah Sasa is Sustainable Development Program Officer for the United Nations Development Programme in Costa Rica. Since 2009 he works as senior advisor for the Green Commodities Programme, Kifah has worked for social development and the environment for 17 years in different roles. From setting up and leading NGOs to support community organizations on a voluntary basis; to advising Central American Ministers of Social Integration, Housing and Health on the management of regional projects, as part of the Central American Integration System. He has worked for the United Nations Development Programme, managing projects related to biodiversity conservation, marine protected areas, environmental economics, sustainable production of agricultural commodities and democratic dialogue.   

Dr. Koen Voorend .Sc. in International Economics Studies from the Maastricht University, The Netherlands, and a Master’s degree in Development Studies with a specialization in Economics of Development from the Institute of Social Studies (ISS). He has experience in the study of trade and its social and economic impact in developing countries, specifically in Southern Africa and in Central America.He holds experience in urban development studies, particularly focusing on informal settlement development, and labour market studies, specifically paid domestic work.Currently, in his position as a researcher at the Institute of Social Research of the University of Costa Rica.


Luis E. Vargas Castro is a tropical biologist whose current research combines ecology and conservation technology. He has ample experience in field ecology, wildlife monitoring and bioacoustics. Luis has worked on various research projects since 2008 and has a keen interest in data analysis, making science more accessible for all and developing projects with meaningful impacts on biodiversity conservation. Luis graduated from the University of Costa Rica with a B.Sc. in Biology and a Licenciatura (Specialty) degree in Zoology. He later obtained a Ph.D. in Biology at the University of Miami, FL. Also,. He currently works as a Researcher at Universidad Estatal a Distancia (UNED) and does consultancy work for ecology, wildlife monitoring and conservation research projects. 


Maria Rita Manzano Borba has over 15 years of diverse professional and academic experience. During this period, her interests and work have focused on the intersection of development, natural resources, and conflict. Maria Rita has worked across geographies and developed solid multi-cultural communication skills to engage and liaise with the public and private sectors, local communities and international organizations in dynamic and complex environments. She has worked for consulting companies, think tanks, extractive industries, and international organizations such as the UNHCR and IFC. Maria Rita holds two Master degrees, in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, and in Human Geography from the University of Sao Paulo. A Brazilian national.

Marjolein Baghuis is a driven sustainability professional with a diverse international background. After an extensive career in both corporate and NGO leadership positions, in 2013, she became a sustainability consultant. She now consults companies, NGOs and various Dutch Ministries on sustainable business practices. She supports these organizations with strategic advice, reporting services and multi-stakeholder process management. Next to her work as a consultant, Marjolein serves on various (supervisory) boards and teaches sustainability-related topics to different audiences, ranging from students at UPEACE and Nyenrode Business University to supervisory board members.


Nika Salvetti, She owns a Msc in Post-war reconstruction, graduated with distinction in 1999, University of York (UK). Bsc in Economics, graduated Cum Laude, 1992, University La Sapienza of Rome (Italy). Technical Diploma in accounting and foreign Languages, graduated in 1986, (Italy). She has been working since 18 years in developing countries and war-torn societies heading and managing emergency, rehabilitation and development projects for the European Commission (several years), SNV-Dutch Cooperation (1999-2001), CARE Nederland (2001-2008), MOVIMONDO (Consortium of Italian NGOs- 1995-1998).  She was also research fellow of the Institute of Nutrition for Central America and Panama (INCAP); University of York (UK) for research projects in Indonesia/Aceh and Lebanon/Beiruth; and of the University of Rome.  


Olivia Sylvester, Ph.D., is the Head of the Environment, Development and Peace Department, and assistant professor at the University for Peace. She is also an adjunct professor for Long Island University and teaches in their Global Studies programme. In the last decade, Olivia’s research program has focused on food security, sustainable agriculture, climate change, environmental justice, and gender. Specifically, she works with Indigenous people, women, small-scale farmers, and youth on these topics. Her research is driven by social and environmental justice and she uses relevant methodologies (e.g., Indigenous, feminist) to achieve these goals. Olivia is also member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the International Society of Ethnobiology, and the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage Project. Being active within these networks allows her to work at the interface of policy and practice.

Sofía Cortés Mesén is a lawyer graduated from the University of Costa Rica with an emphasis on environmental law. From the early beginning of her career, she has focused on management of marine resources as well as ocean policy, while also diving in human rights through a Professional Visit to the Interamerican Court of Human Rights. She has worked as a consultant on marine issues with several NGOs like the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), MarViva Foundation, Conservation International (CI-Costa Rica) and has also served as an adviser to the Viceminister for Water and the Ocean at the Ministry of Environment and Energy. Currently, she is Conservation Manager at CI-Costa Rica overviewing marine governance and ocean policy efforts in the country. She has a master’s degree in Environment, Development and Peace with specialization in Climate Change Policy from the University for Peace, and she has recently finished her second master’s degree in Integrated Management of Tropical Coastal Areas from the University of Costa Rica.