The Challenges Forum International Secretariat

The Challenges Forum International Secretariat (CFIS) is the executive body of the Challenges Forum and acts on the behalf of the whole Challenges Forum Partnerhip. Since 2003, the CFIS is hosted at the Folke Bernadotte Academy – Swedish Agency for Peace and Security, and located in Stockholm, Sweden.

CFIS leads, plans and coordinates the daily work of the Challenges Forum Partnership. CFIS is responsible for developing the agenda and proposals for the Challenges Forum and for supporting the Partnership in reaching the strategic objectives decided by the Partners’ Meeting. The Director leads CFIS’ work and reports to the Partners’ Meeting.

Pernilla Rydén,

Pernilla Rydén has extensive experience working with peace and security over the last 20 years. She has served in numerous United Nations (UN) peace operations, both large multidimensional missions as well as special political missions and offices. Most recently Ms. Rydén held the position as Chief of Staff of the UN Mission to support the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA) in Yemen, delivering on the relevant parts of the Stockholm Agreement (2018). Previous she served as Head of the Regional and Multilateral Section of the Political Affairs Department in United Nations Stabilisation Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) where she led the mission’s work on strategic guidance on developments in the African Great Lakes region, as well as on the DRC international relations. Ms. Rydén has also served in the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), the Secretary-Generals Panel for the Referenda in Sudan, and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). She has further held positions within the European External Action Services (EEAS) and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), as well as worked at the Swedish Embassy in Serbia and for the Swedish Armed Forces. Ms. Rydén holds a Master degree in Political Science and Economics from the University of Lund, Sweden. She speaks Swedish, English and French.

Jonas Alberoth,
Principal Senior

Jonas Alberoth has served in several international positions for the UN, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Swedish Armed Forces. He has more than twenty years of overall experience worked on issues relating to politics, leadership, cooperation, conflict resolution and statebuilding. In addition, Mr. Alberoth has a long withstanding engagement with the Challenges Forum and its partners since the onset of the platform.

Sharon Wiharta, Senior Policy Adviser on Peace Operations

Sharon Wiharta has extensive experience in the practice, policy and theory of peacekeeping and peacebuilding. Most recently, she served in the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in 2016-2018 as the Policy and Best Practices Officer and latterly as Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff.  Until she joined the Challenges Forum in 2012, she headed the project on Multilateral Peace Operations at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) where she focused on issues such as the geopolitics of peacekeeping, and enhancing local ownership in rule-of-law transitions. She also served as a consultant for Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) in 2012 on strengthening civilian capacities in peace operations. Ms. Wiharta has published widely, including Peace Operations: Trends Progress and Prospects (eds. 2010, Georgetown University Press). She holds a M.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies from Uppsala University, Sweden.

Benoît Pylyser, Senior Strategic Adviser

Benoît Pylyser has for the past 15 years worked in various UN positions with peace and security, humanitarian coordination and sustainable development. Most recently he served as Political Advisor to the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region supporting the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF) to address root causes of conflict and facilitate political solutions, inter alia, to protracted displacement in the region. Prior to this Mr. Pylyser served as Humanitarian Advisor to the Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) providing liaison between the humanitarian community and the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) in view of optimizing humanitarian access and strengthening the humanitarian-peace-development nexus.  Mr. Pylyser also served as Desk Officer for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in New York and as Humanitarian Affairs Officer in Madagascar, Zimbabwe, and the Regional Office for Southern Africa in Johannesburg. He started his career with the UN Development Program (UNDP) Rwanda as Associate Program Analyst on Access to Justice. Mr. Pylyser holds a Master’s Degree in European Public Administration from the University of Leuven and a License in International Relations from the University of Ghent. He speaks French, English, Dutch and Swedish.

Susanna Ahlfors, Senior Event & Communication Specialist

Susanna Ahlfors has more than 20 years’ experience of working with Communication, and she has a broad knowledge of global development cooperation and aid. Before joining Challenges Forum, she worked as a communications officer at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). Her role involved working with strategic communications as well as the role of project leader, writer, editor and moderator. In addition, she was the program administrator to the UNDP’s office in Sweden, administrating the funding for their communication projects. Prior to working for Sida, Ms. Ahlfors worked at a communication agency, carrying out various assignments for eg. the Swedish Governments offices, UNU-Wider, WHO, Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society, Sida, Olof Palme International Center and the Public Health Agency. Ms. Ahlfors holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Gothenburg University, Sweden. She speaks English, French, Spanish and Swedish.

Fanny Wellén, Officer

Fanny Wellén holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science with a specialization in International Relations and Conflict Resolution from Copenhagen University and a Bachelor Degree in Peace and Conflict from Malmö University. She has previously interned at the Swedish Embassy in Bogota, Colombia. During her internship she participated in and supported the work of both the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) as well as the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). During her internship she mainly focused on the peace process, the Swedish feminist foreign policy and the regional context of Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador. Previous her studies Ms. Wellén worked as a Financial Language Editor at an international financial company in Argentina. She speaks Swedish, English and Spanish and is supporting CFIS as consultant.

Jennifer Schmidt,
Senior Policy Adviser

Jennifer Schmidt is a lawyer by training with years of experience in peace and security and development. She has worked extensively with UN integration, leadership and civil-military cooperation. She has been stationed as Legal Adviser in Kosovo, Pakistan, Jordan and on the West Bank and has undertaken numerous assessment and evaluation missions to countries like the DRC, Sudan, Liberia, Guinea, Haiti, Myanmar, Ukraine, Ethiopia etc. Most recently, Ms. Schmidt worked at UNHQ with the UN Global Focal Point for Rule of Law that brings together UN DPO/DPPA, UNDP, EOSG, OHCHR, UNODC, UN Women, UNHCR and others. Ms. Schmidt has an LL.M. from the University of Lund in Sweden and a Maîtrise en Droit from Université Panthéon-Assas in Paris, France. She speaks Swedish, English and French. 

Sanni Laine
Sanni Laine, Associate Officer

Sanni Laine is currently studying a Master’s Degree in Politics, Security, and Peace with a specialization in War Studies at the Swedish Defence University. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations from Stockholm University. Ms. Laine has diverse experience from working with communication, service, and administration in both the public and private sectors. Her latest employment was at the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan). Ms. Laine speaks English, Swedish, and Finnish.