The Arnhold Distinguished Fellowship Program

Investing in leadership and peace

© Jessica Scranton


Legacy of Conservation International Board Emeritus Henry Arnhold

To honor the life-long dedication of Henry Arnhold to peace, human rights and conservation, Conservation International established the Arnhold Distinguished Fellowship Program. This unique fellowship program enlists visionaries and leaders to elevate the climate and conservation dialogue to the highest levels of government and industry, helping to create the political space for diplomacy and bold action on some of the most pressing challenges of our times.


© Jack Hartzman

Among Conservation International’s most dedicated and beloved Board members, Henry Arnhold understood that positive change comes through decisive leadership, action and collaboration. Despite facing formidable odds, and persecution from Nazi rule in his native Germany, Henry never lost faith in humanity. He always looked toward the future, and continually inspired Conservation International to pursue its vision of a peaceful and prosperous society where communities thrive with nature.

It is with this in mind that the Arnhold Distinguished Fellowship Program was developed, paying tribute to a remarkable man and furthering his dreams of a peaceful and balanced world.

About the Arnhold Distinguished Fellowship

At this critical moment in time, when the world is in desperate need of visionary leadership to further peace and protection of the environment, the Arnhold Distinguished Fellowship Program offers select world leaders a platform to instigate and advocate for policies and practices that benefit nations, races and all people with the protection of nature as a common unifier.

Building on a successful Conservation International Fellowship program featuring Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and H.E. Anote Tong, former President of Kiribati, Conservation International officially launched the Arnhold Distinguished Fellowship Program in late 2018. Each Fellow is asked to serve a two-year term.

We invited H.E. Ian Khama, former President of Botswana, and H.E. Ólafur Grimsson, former President of Iceland, as our two first Arnhold Distinguished Fellows to bring forward their prominent voices in support of shared conservation priorities and to pursue new directions for impact. They are joined by former President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos, who has accepted the position as our most recent Arnhold Distinguished Fellow.


Early Impact

© Dave Clift

President Ian Khama

President Khama has made tangible progress on policies related to wildlife protection, sustainable tourism and natural capital accounting. Leveraging his reputation and expertise in both Africa and Europe, in the short time he has served as a fellow, he has expanded the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) — designed to deliver long-term sustainability in one of the poorest, yet resource-rich, areas of the world — to 13 countries including Zimbabwe and Angola. He has also further influenced the leadership in Angola and Namibia to partner with Conservation International on a new Okavango Basin Conservation and Sustainable Tourism Initiative.

Portrait of Ólafur Grímsson, Distinguished Fellow, Oceans & Climate
© Bill Holshevnikoff for Conservation International

President Ólafur Grimsson

Ólafur Grimsson has helped Conservation International make measurable gains in influencing the introduction and adoption of first-in-class sustainable fisheries innovations and policies among key world leaders. At his annual Arctic Assembly Forum, President Grimsson partnered with Conservation International to launch a successful fisheries exchange with Pacific Island leaders and fisheries experts, bringing in key private sector partners resulting in a partnership between Conservation International and the government of Iceland to look at sustainable livelihoods and fisheries for the Pacific. With more than 60 percent of the world’s tuna catch originating from the Pacific Islands, the value and potential for this model is enormous.

© Conservation International

President Juan Manuel Santos

Conservation International’s newest Arnhold Distinguished Fellow is former President Juan Manuel Santos, who will partner with Conservation International to advance our shared priorities in support of natural solutions to climate change, empowering indigenous peoples and peace building. President Santos will build on years of leadership forging peace and reconciliation, driving the international agenda to develop the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and establishing large-scale protected areas and Colombia’s unique national carbon tax. As president of Colombia from 2010 to 2018, he furthered ambitious environmental policies to protect the country’s biodiversity and to fight climate change. In 2016, President Santos was the sole recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in for ending Colombia’s more than 50-year-long civil war.