Federico Borello has served as CIVIC’s Executive Director since 2014. He will step down later this year. Credit: CIVIC/ Hajer Naili

The Hague, 24 May 2023 – The Executive Director of Center for Civilians in Conflict, Federico Borello, has announced he will be stepping down from his position after leading the organization for nearly a decade. Borello has been instrumental in shaping the organization’s growth and global influence since joining in 2014. 

“I am proud of what we achieved together during the last decade. When I joined, CIVIC was a small but mighty organization doing groundbreaking work on civilian protection. Together, we envisioned a CIVIC with greater reach and more capacity around the world. Now there are 120 passionate staff members in a dozen countries focused on populations in conflict. I am confident that CIVIC will continue to play an essential role in helping prevent and minimize harm done to civilians. The most difficult part of leaving will be not working any longer with my talented and dedicated colleagues, but I will continue to support them and the organization from afar,” Borello said.

An incredible achievement is the organization’s expansion under Borello’s visionary leadership, which saw CIVIC’s operations extend to newly conflict-affected regions and countries to include places such as Nigeria, Yemen, the Sahel and Ukraine. CIVIC’s increased global presence allowed the organization to reach several thousands of people impacted by conflict and engage with dozens of governments and their militaries to reduce civilian harm. In line with its growth strategy, CIVIC’s headquarters, originally located in Washington, D.C., expanded its reach with the opening of a second headquarters in The Hague, The Netherlands, in 2021.

CIVIC saw many notable achievements over the last decade. These include CIVIC’s presence and growth in Nigeria, which started with a modest research grant aimed at piloting an innovative approach and policy, establishing further CIVIC on the African continent. Additionally, CIVIC played an influential role in the shaping of landmark documents on the protection of civilians, including the executive order on the protection of civilians signed by former US President Barack Obama in 2016. More recently, last year the U.S. released a comprehensive and groundbreaking action plan known as the Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan, which outlines a detailed strategy to revolutionize how the U.S. prevents and responds to civilian harm. Later in 2022, a political declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas (EWIPA) was signed by over 80 states. This momentous agreement marks a crucial advancement in the protection of civilians, especially since many of today’s conflicts are waged in densely populated cities. 

Borello’s momentous address at the UN General Assembly in 2018, alongside esteemed counterparts such as the President of the ICRC and the Secretary General of the United Nations, stands as a testament to CIVIC’s vital contributions to the protection of civilians in conflict. These remarkable efforts paved the way for substantial recognition and support, propelling CIVIC’s mission to protect and advocate for civilians in conflict onto the global stage. 

“Federico’s unwavering commitment and vision have served CIVIC well for nearly a decade,” said Susan Osnos, Chair of CIVIC’s Board of Directors. “He has garnered widespread support for our mission, enabling us to make a lasting impact on the lives of countless civilians affected by conflict.” 

Borello’s dedication was characterized by a resolute commitment to establishing a sustainable and localized approach, leaving an enduring positive impact over the lives of civilians in conflict. Emphasizing the philosophy of localization and sustainability, the methodology ensured that security forces and communities were equipped with the necessary tools to advocate for their own protection long after CIVIC’s departure from the country. A prominent example of this sustainability lies in the development of CIVIC’s innovative Community Based Protection (CBP) approach. This methodology has not only been instrumental in saving numerous civilian lives but has also provided them with the tools to advocate for their own protection needs. This is currently the case in several of our locations including northeast Nigeria, Yemen, and Ukraine. Another example can be found in the country where CIVIC’s mission originates, Iraq, with the institutionalization of tools and methods developed by our experts and their integration into the curriculum of the Iraqi national forces.   

The decision to remain in Ukraine, where CIVIC’s presence started in 2016 during a period when the conflict was perceived as frozen in the eastern regions, was proven vital when Russian forces invaded the country in February 2022. CIVIC’s presence in the country allowed for the collaboration with the government and local communities on civilian protection, which, today, can mean life or death.  

“When Federico took the helm of CIVIC in 2014, I had not imagined that he would successfully expand the organization’s footprint so significantly and so rapidly. He exceeded my expectations,” said Aryeh Neier, CIVIC’s board member and President Emeritus of the Open Society Foundations. “Federico has turned CIVIC into a beacon of hope for people caught in conflict and a global leading organization for the protection of civilians.” 

Borello’s last day as Executive Director will be September 15. “After nearly a decade with CIVIC and seeing many elements of the ambitious vision I had when joining the organization in 2014 realized, it is time for me to pass the torch and allow new leadership to guide CIVIC into its next phase,” said Borello. “I am immensely proud of the accomplishments we have achieved together and grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with many talented and passionate individuals as well as our donors, supporters and friends.” 

CIVIC will conduct an open search for Borello’s successor. In the interim, Udo Jude Ilo, the current Senior Director of Advocacy, will assume the role of CIVIC’s Interim Executive Director. 


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