Our Team in Lao PDR

Ms. Sara Sekkenes_Photo

Ms. Sara Sekkenes

Resident Coordinator
Sara Sekkenes is the UN Resident Coordinator to Lao PDR since 2019. Prior to this appointment, Sara has worked with the UN for 14 years, serving in duty stations at the headquarters in New York and in Geneva. Sara recently served at UNDP in Geneva as Adviser on Partnerships and Conflict Prevention (2015-2019) and as Team Leader, Conflict Prevention and Recovery (2011-2014), engaging in violence prevention, arms control and mine action work. Before joining the UN, Sara worked with the non-governmental organization Norwegian Peoples Aid as Country Director in Mozambique, managing a 350-staff humanitarian mine action programme (2004-2005), as Policy Adviser at their headquarters in Norway (2001-2004), as Programme Adviser in the Balkans (2001), and as Programme Manager in Angola (1998-2000). A national of Norway, Sara holds a Master’s degree in Human and Physical Geography and additional university degrees in Development Studies and Political Geography.
Dr. Mark Jacobs - Photo

Dr. Mark Jacobs

Mark Jacobs has been the WHO Representative to Lao PDR since November 2018. Dr Jacobs has held a series of senior public health leadership roles. From May to October 2018, Dr Jacobs was Acting Director of Programme Management for WHO in the Western Pacific Region. Previously, he was Director of Communicable Diseases in the Region for 5 years. Before joining WHO, he was New Zealand’s Director of Public Health for 9 years and managed the Public Health Programme at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community for 3 years. He also spent several years in Director of Public Health roles for State health authorities in Australia. Dr Jacobs has qualifications in Medicine, Public Health and Health Services Management.
Dr. Pia Rebello Britto

Dr. Pia Rebello Britto

Pia Rebello Britto, Ph.D., Global Chief and Senior Advisor, Early Childhood Development, UNICEF, is internationally renowned for her expertise in early childhood policy and programmes.

Dr. Britto obtained her doctoral degree in developmental psychology from Columbia University and prior to joining UNICEF she was an Assistant Professor at Yale University’s Child Study Center.

Dr. Britto is known globally for her expertise in early childhood programmes, policies and advocacy. She has worked extensively with partners to advance the ECD agenda globally, and nationally, to give every child a best start to life. The focus of her work has been on strengthening multi-sectoral programmes for young children and families, measuring of results, mobilizing political commitment, creating a global architecture for ECD and setting technical standards of excellence.

Dr. Britto is the recipient of several national and international awards in recognition for her work and has published numerous books, articles, chapters and reports.
Mr. Avi Sarkar - Photo

Mr. Avi Sarkar

Chief Technical Advisor
Avi Sarkar (India) is the Regional Advisor covering South-East Asia for UN-Habitat. Besides representing UN-Habitat in Lao PDR, Dr. Sarkar also heads the Urban Basic Services Programmes in the South-East Asian region. He has earlier worked as the Regional Coordinator for South-East Asian Region for the Norwegian People’s Aid and has also worked in the private sector as analyst in a fund management group. Dr. Sarkar has a PhD in Management and two Master’s degrees in Business Administration and in Environmental Economics. He also has an Honors in Physics.
Mr. Erlend Audunson Falch - Photo

Mr. Erlend Audunson Falch

Programme Manager and Officer in Charge
Erlend Audunson Falch is the Programme Manager for UNODC’s Alternative Development programme in Lao PDR. Erlend has held this position since 2016, before which he worked for UNODC in Myanmar (2014-2016). Prior to joining UNODC in 2014, Erlend spent five years working in Ramboll Management Consulting in Oslo, Norway. Erlend holds a Master’s degree in International Relations and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science.
Jan Delbaere - Photo

Mr. Jan Delbaere

Mr. Jan Delbaere is a Belgian National active in rural development and food security programmes since 1983. He has worked in DRC (Zaïre) (NGO), DR China (FAO), DPR Yemen (FAO), Rwanda (Belgian ODA), Philippines (Belgian ODA) and on short-term assignments in other developing countries. In 2004 he joined WFP and has since then worked as a Deputy Chief of Food Security Analysis Service based in Rome HQ (2008-2010), Deputy Country Director in Rwanda (2010-2014), Deputy Country Director in India (2014-2018), and since 2018 as the Country Director / Representative to Lao PDR. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture, a Master’s degree in Agriculture and a Master’s degree in Agricultural Economics.
Mr. Kaushik Barua

Mr. Kaushik Barua

Country Director
Kaushik Barua, a citizen of India, is currently the Country Director for Cambodia and Lao PDR, for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
In this capacity, he leads the development of the country strategies, design of new projects, supervision of on-going investments, partnership-building and policy development in the countries.
In IFAD, he has worked across multiple regions, including West and Central Africa, the Middle East and now South-East Asia. He was part of the team that developed the IFAD Fragile Situations Strategy, a key component of the IFAD business model. He has also worked on the development of IFAD’s results management systems and self-evaluation of the global portfolio. He has worked in the development sector since the early 2000s.
With the World Bank, Kaushik conducted research on sustainable pathways out of poverty. With the International Finance Corporation (the private sector arm of the World Bank), he designed and supervised private public partnership based investments in social enterprises. He has also worked with the Government of India’s National Knowledge Commission, drafting policy recommendations in the education sector.
Kaushik is a graduate of Delhi University and the London School of Economics, from where he graduated with distinction. His writings on social and development issues have been featured in The Guardian, Open Democracy and other publications. He also won an award from India’s Sahitya Akademi (the National Academy of Letters) for his writing.
Mr. Nasar Hayat - Photo

Mr. Nasar Hayat

Nasar Hayat has over 25 years of progressive professional experience. Prior to his present assignment as FAO Representative to Lao PDR, he worked as Assistant FAO Representative (Programme) at FAO Pakistan since 2013. He started his career as a Civil Engineer in 1993 and subsequently joined the Pakistani Civil Service. He worked in Pakistan's diplomatic service both in Pakistan and abroad and served as the Deputy High Commissioner in Pakistan's mission at Maldives for four years. Nasar joined UNDP in 2006 on Governance related projects, and has also worked with USAID as an Economic Growth Specialist and with Asian Development Bank as a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist in Pakistan. He re-joined UNDP to manage a high profile project that supports Election Commission of Pakistan. Intermittently he has worked as consultant with various agencies including AusAID, UN-Women and Norwegian Embassy's Development Sector. Nasar holds a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering and a Master of Law and Development degree.
Mr. Nicola Pontara - Photo

Mr. Nicola Pontara

World Bank
Country Manager
Mr. Pontara, an Italian national, holds a PhD in Economics. He joined the Bank in 2000 as a Young Professional. He has since held various positions as Economist, Sector Leader and Program Leader in the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management group and Social Protection and Labor group in both the Africa and Middle-East and North Africa regions. Prior to Lao PDR, Mr. Pontara's previous appointment was as the Country Manager for Bolivia (2015-2018). Prior to joining the World Bank, Mr. Pontara was an Overseas Development Institute (ODI) Fellow at the Ministry of Planning and Finance in Maputo, Mozambique.
Mr. Paul Martin - Photo

Mr. Paul Martin

Regional Technical Advisor
Paul A Martin is a graduate professional working over the last 10 years within the ASEAN Member States with specific emphasis on the Greater Mekong Sub region. As the UNCDF Senior Regional Technical Advisor, he has a corporate responsibility for UNCDF country portfolios for local economic development finance in all ASEAN Member States and three more countries and the Pacific Islands. Paul has worked in various global locations that include East Africa, South East Asia, including China, South Asia, Balkans, Eastern Europe (former Soviet Union), and the Middle East. Throughout his international career he has worked for international agencies and private sector companies.
Mr. Sommai Faming

Mr. Sommai Faming

UNIDO Country Representative
Sommai Faming (Lao PDR) is currently the UNIDO Country Representative after having joined UNIDO in Lao PDR as the Head of Operations in 2012. He has many years of experiences in various areas such as poverty reduction through value chain sustainable development and private sector participatory, financial auditor, banking and finance, and commerce. He holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration, Bachelo’s degree in Business, Banking and Finance, and a Bachelor’s degree in Art-Linqistics.
Mr. Thongdeng Silakoune

Mr. Thongdeng Silakoune

Country Manager
Mr. Thongdeng Silakoune has worked as the UNAIDS Country Manager since April 2015. Before joining UNAIDS, he has 2 years of experience as a government employee, 20 years with UNICEF and 2 years with World Vision. In UNICEF he worked in various fields from communications and education to health with 15 years of experience in the area of HIV/AIDS, managing the prevention and care and support component of the HIV/AIDS program. In World Vision, he was in charge of the Public Engagement Department which supervised three areas of work - in Communication, Government Relations and Advocacy. Mr. Silakoune has a Bachelor’s degree in Education and a Master’s degree in Public Health.
Ms. Khemphone Phaokhamkeo - Photo

Ms. Khemphone Phaokhamkeo

National Coordinator
Khemphone Phaokhamkeo (Lao) has been appointed as the first UN ILO’s National Coordinator in Lao PDR since 2011. She supports the Country Office for Thailand, Cambodia and Lao PDR and the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in implementing the Decent Work Country Programme in Lao PDR. Prior to joining ILO, Ms. Khemphone was working with UNDP Country Office (2008 - 2011) as the Programme Officer in charge of national capacity development. Previously, she has worked for CARE International in Lao PDR as Senior Programme Liaison Officer (2007 - 2008), and at the Institute of Foreign Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1999 – 2007) as Research Coordinator. She holds a Master’s degree in International Studies and Post Graduate Diploma in Interpretation and Translation as well as a BA from National University of Lao PDR.
Ms. Manithda Sithimolada

Ms. Manithda Sithimolada

Country Coordinator
Manithda Sithimolada is a Country Coordinator for the UNV Programme in Lao PDR since 2020. She has many years of work experience in a wide range of sectors including international organizations, local NGOs, and private sector. She spent over 10 years (2003 – 2015) working for then Australian Agency for International Development (now Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) in the area of basic and higher education and in managing human resource development program. She worked as a Communications Consultant for the World Bank in 2017 – 2019. She became Vice President of Children’s Home Foundation in 2018 while also taking on a role of General Manager in a private sector. She graduated in International Relations under Australia Award Scholarship and in Human Resource Development under Fulbright scholarship.
Ms. Mariam Khan - Photo

Ms. Mariam Khan

Ms. Khan has over 20 years of diverse experience in leading and managing development programmes, humanitarian response and change management initiatives in various locations including UNFPA HQs, Sub Saharan Africa and Asia. She was appointed UNFPA Representative to Lao PDR in 2018. Previous assignments include UNFPA Representative in Algeria (2015-2018), leading the UNFPA office in Tanzania and as Deputy Representative working in UNFPA China also covering DPRK. She supported the 2004 Tsunami response for UNFPA in Indonesia and led the 2008 Wenchuan, China earthquake response as UNFPA Representative a.i. She is a human rights-based approach facilitator for the UN Staff College. Prior to working with UNFPA, Mariam has experience with the First Women's Bank in Pakistan and in research institutes in China. She holds two Masters degrees: Sociology and Population Studies and speaks English, French, Urdu and basic Mandarin.
Ms. Ricarda Rieger - Photo

Ms. Ricarda Rieger

Ms. Ricarda Rieger has been serving as UNDP Resident Representative in Lao PDR since 2019. Ms. Rieger has worked with the United Nations Development Programme for more than 30 years, serving in Country Offices as well as Headquarter duty stations. Most recently she served as Programme Advisor/Team Leader for Afghanistan, East Asia and the Pacific in UNDP's Bangkok Regional Hub (2014 - 2019). She started her career with UNDP as Junior Professional Officer in DPR Korea (1989 - 1991), and continued with increasing responsibilities in Thailand as Assistant Resident Representative (1991 - 1995), Policy and Programme Officer in New York (1995 - 1997), Capacity Building Officer, Capacity 21/UNOPS, Mediterranean Environment Technical Assistance Programme in Egypt (1997 - 1999), Deputy Resident Representative for Programme and Operations in UNDP Philippines (1999 - 2003), Deputy Resident Representative/Deputy Country Director – Operations in UNDP Cambodia (2004 - 2009), and as Country Director in UNDP Ukraine (2009 – 2014). She has a degree in Economics.
Ms. Shareen Tuladhar

Ms. Shareen Tuladhar

Chief of Mission
Shareen Tuladhar was designated as the IOM Chief of Mission in Lao PDR in June 2020. Ms. Tuladhar has been working with IOM in different capacities since 2015, serving as a Program Manager at IOM Maldives and as Head of the Migrant Protection and Assistance Unit at IOM Azerbaijan. Prior to taking on this posting in Lao PDR, she worked as a national expert on a mid-term evaluation for a USAID funded trafficking in persons project. She was also actively engaged in research on labour migration and trafficking in persons in Nepal. From 2010 to 2015, she was a program manager at The Asia Foundation’s Nepal Office with a diverse portfolio of managing trafficking in persons and safe migration projects funded by USAID. Prior to this, she worked for a research firm in Nepal focusing on public health. Ms. Tuladhar holds a Master’s degree in International Business with an emphasis on Economics.