The Board

The Board of Ara Pacis Initiatives for Peace is composed of personalities with great experience in the field of mediation, education, dignity and peace. It plays an essential role in the overview and strategic leadership of the organization, accompanying it towards the achievement of its goals and ensuring their sustainability.


Maria Nicoletta Gaida, an Italian and US binational, has extensive experience working in the international arena, where she has combined her unique artistic, cultural and professional background with creative approaches to today’s most pressing global issues.
For over 30 years, Gaida, who speaks 4 languages fluently and 2 at conversation level, has designed and implemented more than 150 projects involving victims of conflict, survivors of war, rape, and sexual violence, warring factions, grass roots organizations, and leading personalities from the realms of politics, religion, business, culture, and the arts. She has also established and managed non-profit associations, cultural centers and foundations.

Gaida is the founder and President of the Ara Pacis Initiatives for Peace. In 2010, she invited 120 peacemakers from all conflict regions of the world to Rome’s Ara Pacis (Altar to Peace) and established Ara Pacis Initiatives – a global not for profit organization dedicated to the human dimension of peace.
Since 2011, for Ara Pacis, she has created programs and designed mediation platforms to address issues of acknowledgement, healing, justice, security, development, health, education and reconciliation in Libya, Mali, Chad, Niger, South Sudan, Sudan and Syria, with the support of the Italian Government, the EU and private donors.
Since October 2015, with Ara Pacis, Gaida has advocated nationally and internationally for an integrated approach with regards to conflict and instability -reconciliation, security and development - in the Libyan south and in the Sahara-Sahel region. Among agreements facilitated by Gaida, are the 2017 and 2018 Fezzan Tebu Awlad- Suleiman Reconciliation Agreements, the 2019 Tebu and Aheli Murzuq Declaration of Good Intentions, the 2020 Council of Fezzan establishment Agreement, the 2021 Co-existence and Social Harmony Agreement for Fezzan, the Northern Mali 2021 CMA – Plateforme Rome Declaration and the 2022 Rome Agreement of Principles between the armed mouvements of the4 North and the government of Mali.
In April 2022, Gaida, along with Luiss University and ENI, established the Pax Humana Foundation, which aims to contribute to stability and peace through the business angle.

Donna Hicks

Donna Hicks is an Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, where she chairs the Herbert C. Kelman Seminar on International Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Dr. Hicks has spent nearly two decades in the field of international conflict resolution, facilitating dialogue between communities in conflict in the Middle East, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Cuba, and Northern Ireland. She was a consultant to the BBC, where she co-facilitated Facing the Truth, with Archbishop Desmond Tutu – a three-part television series which brought victims and perpetrators of the Northern Ireland conflict together to find resolution. Donna is the author of the bestselling book, Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict, published by Yale University Press. She is a founding member and vice president of the Ara Pacis Initiative.

Donna Hicks is a member of the Ara Pacis Initiative’s Council for Dignity, Forgiveness, Justice and Reconciliation.

Leonel Narvaez Gomez

Leonel Narvaez is from Colombia. He is a catholic priest and a sociologist, educated in Turin and Rome with postgraduate studies in Cambridge University and Harvard University. He worked for 10 years with the Nomads of desert East Africa (Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia) and another 10 years in the Amazon Forest of Colombia. During this period, he participated in several negotiation processes with the leftist guerrilla groups and developed several successful peace programs in the area. He was awarded with the Bogotá City Council Great Cross of the Civil Merit for his contribution to peace in the City. In 2007 he received in Paris, the UNESCO PRIZE FOR PEACE EDUCATION. In 2008, the Congress of the Republic of Colombia honored him with the ORDER OF DEMOCRACY. He is the Founder and current President of the Fundación para la Reconciliación, based in Bogota, Colombia and now present in 18 countries of the Continent. He is the author of the books: La Revolución del Perdón and the book Political Culture of forgiveness and Reconciliation.

Prof. Garrett Thomson

Garrett Thomson is the chief executive officer of the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace and he teaches philosophy at the College of Wooster, where he holds the Compton Chair. He has a D.Phil from Oxford University, England. He has taught in Universities in the USA, Colombia and England and has facilitated workshops in education and peace in Vietnam, Indonesia, Rwanda, Lebanon, Colombia, Mexico, as well as the UK and the USA. He has worked for several international NGOs in both director and trustee roles.

He is the author/co-author/co-editor of 26 books. He has co-authored several books on education including Human-Centred Education (2017), which pioneers a human-centered approach in secondary schools. He has also written about peace and well-being: Happiness, Flourishing and the Good Life (2020); Understanding Peace Holistically (2019); Needs (1987) and On the Meaning of Life (2002). He is the author of several works on academic philosophy including: A History of 20th Century Western Philosophy (2022), Bacon to Kant (2022), Thales to Sextus (2016), and Una Introducción a la Práctica de la Filosofía, (2002). He is the coeditor of the Longman Standard History of Philosophy (2007).

Geraldine Smyth

Geraldine Smyth is a theologian and educator in Ecumenics, working with others across academic, civic and church settings. and in constructing a theology and politics of forgiveness and peace. She was formerly Director of the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin, where she is now an adjunct Associate Professor Her research interests include ecumenical reconciliation, conflict transformation, and the significance of women in peace-making. She has collaborated in global research initiatives, e.g., linked to the UN’s research addressing the impact of trauma on children in conflict zones and the promotion of “Peaceful Childhoods", and with scholars from Korea on the constructive role of memory in civic healing. She is on the Board of Directors of Healing Through Remembering, www.healingthroughremembering.org engaging the transition out of the recent conflict in and about Northern Ireland. She has published, lectured widely on the interrelated themes of religious and political and broadcast on reconciliation and liberation. Cf., The Documentary Podcast, Sisters of the Troubles – BBC https://www.bbc.co.uk › ... › The Documentary Podcast, 25 Mar 2018 — The untold story of the role of Catholic nuns during Northern Ireland's troubles).

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