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Advisory Council

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The GPFA Advisory Council is a non-governing council comprised of distinguished individuals who are dedicated to the success of GPFA and its work to improve the lives of Afghanistan’s rural poor.

Mariam Atash
General Counsel, Strategic & Business Development Director
AMDI, Inc.

Dr. Clark S. Binkley
Chief Investment Officer, GreenWood Resources
Managing Director, International Forestry Investment Advisors LLC

Marshal T. Case
President Emeritus
American Chestnut Foundation

Ruth B. Cowan
Founding President
Pro Mujer

Dr. Graciana del Castillo
Managing Director
Macroeconomic Advisory Group

Polly D. McTaggart*
Crème de la Terre

Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann
U.S. Ambassador (retired)

Mariam Atash is an attorney and social entrepreneur. She is General Counsel and Strategic & Business Development Director for AMDI Inc., and a Founding Member of the Afghanistan Advocacy Group, which is a national network of Americans who wish to engage in dialogue with policymakers regarding development and security in Afghanistan. She has experience in the legal, diplomatic, business, and civil society sectors. She served as Senior Advisory to the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce and Afghanistan International Chamber of Commerce from 2006-2007. From 2004-2006, she worked at the Embassy of Afghanistan, serving as Commercial & Trade Counsel.

Dr. Clark S. Binkley is the Chief Investment Officer of GreenWood Resources and the Managing Director of International Forestry Investment Advisors, LLC, a firm he founded in 2005 to develop and implement innovative, socially responsible, high-return timberland investment strategies. From 1998-2005, Binkley was Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer of Hancock Timber Resource Group, the timberland investment arm of Toronto-based Manulife Financial Services. Before joining Hancock, Dr. Binkley was Dean of Faculty of Forestry at the University of British Columbia. From 1978-90, he was a faculty member at Yale School of Forestry where, in 1990, he was named Frederick K. Weyerhaeuser Professor of Forest Resource Management. He has published more than 100 books and articles on forest economics and timberland investments. He holds an AB in applied mathematics and an SM in engineering from Harvard University, and received his PhD in Forestry and Environmental Studies from Yale University.

Marshal T. Case, former President & CEO and now President Emeritus of the American Chestnut Foundation, bring a decades-long commitment to conservation, education and nonprofit development. Marshal became TACF’s Executive Director in 1997 and President & CEO in 2003. Previously, he was deputy director and head of education at the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin. Marshal also served as Senior Vice President of Education for the National Audubon Society, where he created Audubon Adventures, a curriculum-based network of nature clubs for school children in the US, Central America, and Russia. Marshal worked on a wide variety of National Audubon’s environmental activities, while also spearheading the creation of 17 new local Audubon chapters throughout the US.S. Marshal graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Wildlife Biology and Science Education.

Ruth B. Cowan has had a career merging college teaching, administration, human rights activism and extensive work in developing countries. She has held senior administrative positions at colleges, advised failing colleges on turnaround processes and chaired a New York City Commission on the Status of Women during two mayoral administrations. Her experience working in developing countries spans more than two decades. She is the Founding President of the Board of Directors of Pro Mujer, a micro finance organization providing services in five Latin American countries and internationally recognized for its excellence. She has advised La Coordinadora, an organization in El Salvador committed to comprehensive and sustainable development in the Lower Baja River region. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Alliance for a Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation. She served on a number of government commissions and on more than a dozen regional, national and international boards of directors. She holds degrees in political science and labor relations from Cornell University, the University of Illinois, and New York University and completed post-doctoral studies in management at Harvard University. In her current position as Scholar-in-Residence at American University’s Women & Politics Institute in the School of Public Affairs, Washington. D.C., her interest is on democracy consolidation in South Africa.

Dr. Graciana del Castillo is an expert in emerging country issues. She has advised governments, international organizations, banks and corporations on issues relating to sovereign risk, foreign direct investment, business climate, public-private partnerships, other financial issues and post-conflict economic reconstruction. Most recently, she was a Founding Partner and Managing Director of Macroeconomic Advisory Group (MAG). From 2000-2002, she was a director for Latin American Sovereign Ratings at Standard & Poor’s, where she participated in committees to decide on sovereign government ratings. At the IMF, she was an economist in the Western Hemisphere Department, where she focused on the analysis and projections of balance of payments as well as policy dialogue with Andean region authorities. She has also worked in a variety of positions at the United Nations. She holds a PhD in Economics from Columbia University and has published extensively on economic issues with respect to emerging countries including several books and journals.

Polly D. McTaggart served as a member of the Board of Directors of GPFA from 2007-2011, contributing greatly to organization’s development and growth. She was founder and owner of a hospital uniform company and herbal skin care company. Ms. McTaggart has served on various state and local boards and is actively involved with Greenwich Hospital. She received a B.A. from Vanderbilt University and an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University.

Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann was formerly the United States Ambassador to Afghanistan (2005-07) and previously served as Ambassador to Bahrain (2001-04) and Algeria (1994-97). He joined the US Dept. of State as a Foreign Service Officer in 1970. After an initial posting in Senegal, he began to specialize in the Middle East, particularly in the Persian Gulf, beginning in 1973 when he served in Tabriz, Iran. He also served in the United Arab Emirates and in 1991, as Director of the Iran Iraq office, was involved in overseeing Kurdish refugees. Mr. Neumann currently serves as the President of the American Academy of Diplomacy, a Washington D.C.-based think tank. In 2009, he authored The Other War: Winning and Losing in Afghanistan. Mr. Neumann speaks Arabic, French and some Persian. He is the son of former Ambassador to Afghanistan Robert G. Neumann.

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