Ilona Szabó de Carvalho

Ilona Szabó de Carvalho  is a drug policy and public security specialist with experience from Brazil and around the world. She founded and directs the Igarapé Institute, a think­ and ­do ­tank based in Rio de Janeiro. The Institute has pioneered research and policy on security, justice and development challenges. Ilona is also the head of the Latin American office of the Global Commission on Drug Policy as of May, 2016. From 2011 to April 2016 she was the executive-coordinator of the secretariat of the Global Commission on Drug Policy and  has previously served on the secretariat of its predecessor, the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy.

In 2015, Ilona was nominated a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and a Responsible Leader by the BMW Foundation.

Ilona has contributed practically to promoting safety and security on the ground. In the mid­2000s while working for a major NGO, she coordinated one of the world’s largest disarmament campaigns together with a national referendum to ban the sale of handguns to Brazilian citizens. She also coordinated programs that generated research and advocacy related to the problems facing children involved in the drug trade, gun control, and police reform in Latin America. Between 2008 and 2011, Ilona was the civil society liaise to the international process Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development.

Much of Ilona’s work is grounded in theory and real life experience. She earned a Master’s Degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Uppsala in Sweden and a specialist degree in International Development, from the Oslo University. She has traveled extensively – from Colombia and Latvia to Nepal to Switzerland – which has played a formative role in shaping her worldview and engagement with social challenges. She is a regular contributor to news outlets such as the Huffington Post, NYT, and Globo and has spoken at TED in 2014.

Over the past decade, Ilona has also engaged in new media to trigger debate on progressive approaches to preventing violence and dealing with drugs. For example, she produced a short film – Faces of Violence– which was featured at the UN General Assembly and in conferences and seminars around the world. She was also the co­script writer and principle researcher for the award-winning documentary Breaking the Taboo, which has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people.

© 2016 The Global Commission on Drug Policy