Our Team in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam


Karima El Korri

Resident Coordinator
Ms. Karima El Korri was appointed Resident Coordinator in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam in August 2021. She has more than 20 years of international development experience within the United Nations and externally.

Within the Organization, she most recently led the 2030 Agenda division at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), a role she assumed after managing the population and development portfolio and pioneering the work of the Commission on international migration, population ageing, and youth empowerment. Before that, she served as a regional advisor on governance and project coordinator at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Prior to joining the United Nations, Ms. El Korri worked in Morocco as a lecturer at the Al-Akhawayn University as well as with a think-tank engaging with government, civil society, the private sector, academia, youth, and international organizations on development issues in the country.

She holds a master’s degree in applied linguistics from Teachers College, Columbia University in New York, USA and a bachelor’s degree in English from Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco.
UN women

Alia El-Yassir

UN Women
Regional Director
Alia El-Yassir was appointed as the new Regional Director for UN Women Asia and the Pacific as well as UN Women Representative to the Kingdom of Thailand in September 2023. Previously, she served as UN Women Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia and UN Women Representative to the Republic of Türkiye (2018-2023).

She has been working on gender equality and women’s empowerment within the United Nations system since the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. She has extensive experience of working as a UN Women Representative at the country level managing normative, coordination, and operational work within complex contexts that span the development, humanitarian, and political continuum. She has also served at HQ level supporting UN Women’s global programmatic work. In her country, regional, and global roles, she has built strong partnerships with and among diverse groups of stakeholders to advance the rights of women and girls.

Before joining the UN system, Ms. El-Yassir worked as a teacher and developed educational media for children, in addition to volunteering with a number of women’s and human rights non-governmental organizations.

Alia El-Yassir holds a BSc degree in Biology (with a specialization in Ecology) from McGill University and an MSc degree in Desert Studies (with a specialization in Gender Studies) from Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

Asa Torkelsson

Country Representative Malaysia and Country Director Thailand
Dr. Asa Torkelsson was appointed the UNFPA Country Representative in Malaysia and Country Director for Thailand on 1 November 2021.

Previously, she was the UNFPA Representative in Bangladesh, where she led and grown one of UNFPA’s largest operations and teams through significant changes, humanitarian and natural disasters, the Rohingya refugee,- and COVID crises.

Dr. Torkelsson’s career spans 20+ years, leading increasingly complex endeavours at country, - regional, and HQ, in UN (FAO, IFAD, UN Women, WB), academia, Government, NGO, private sector, relentlessly pursuing gender equality and the M/SDGs, and expanding spaces for women.

Cynthia Veliko

Regional Representative
Ms. Cynthia Veliko has worked across the UN system since 1999. She has served with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) since March 2006 as Human Rights Advisor in three countries – Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and was appointed in August 2017 as Regional Representative to OHCHR Regional Office for South-East Asia.

Prior to joining OHCHR, Ms. Veliko worked for five years at WHO for the Polio Eradication Initiative, supporting the global polio partners and governments and UNCTs in South Asia and Africa.

Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe

Representative to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore
Dr Rabi Abeyasinghe is the WHO Representative to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore. Prior to that, he was the WHO Representative to the Philippines. He was acting Director Health Security and Emergencies at the World Health Organizations Regional Office for the Western Pacific (WPRO) based in Manila, Philippines from 30th April 2020 to 21st June 2020, supporting the regional response to COVID-19.

He was Coordinator, Malaria Other Vectorborne and Parasitic Diseases at WPRO from 2015 – 2019 and has served WHO since 2011 in various capacities including acting Director Communicable Diseases WPRO (May to October 2018, May to July 2019), Regional Entomologist WPRO and Technical Officer Malaria in Papua New Guinea.

Rabi is a Medical Specialist MD (Community Medicine) from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Additionally, he has a MSc in Biology & Control of Disease Vectors from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and a Diploma in Tropical Medicine & Hygiene from the Royal College of Physicians, London. Earlier he held several senior positions in the Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka including Director National Malaria Control Programme and Project Director, GFATM Projects.

He is a Fellow of the College of Community Physicians of Sri Lanka and a past President of the College of Community Physicians of Sri Lanka.

Firas Mihyar

Security Adviser
Mr. Firas Mihyar has been with UNDSS in Malaysia since Oct 2018. Firas has been working with the United Nations since 1997 and prior to that with Ministry of Internal and Foreign Affairs of Jordan. He is a security expert, having served in several positions with United nations in most demanding humanitarian emergency and civil unrest UN missions Angola, Congo, Lesotho, Maseru, Zimbabwe, Angola, Algeria, Sudan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Kurdistan Iraq.

Firas holds master’s in international law, Diplomacy and International Relations, a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Law and a Diploma in Law Enforcement / Police Science College Jordan. While an Arabic native speaker, Firas is fluent in both English and Portuguese.

J. Kendra Rinas

Chief of Mission
Ms. Rinas was appointed by the Director-General as Head of Office representing the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from May 2018. Her service includes seven years in IOM with postings as Head of Office, Damak, Nepal, and Head of Refugee Resettlement for South Asia, also based in Nepal. Prior to joining IOM she was with the Resettlement Support Center, Africa for six years, based in Nairobi, Kenya as Operations Coordinator, the Country Coordinator in N’djamena, Chad, and Processing Supervisor in Accra, Ghana.

Ms. Rinas holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Quinnipiac University, School of Business, and a B.A. in Political Science and Religion from Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN, U.S.A.

Joan Sawe

Director of Administration
Joan Sawe joined the UNU as Director of Administration in October 2014. She brings extensive administrative and managerial experience from her prior positions, notably, she served as the Director of Administrative Services at UNFCCC in Bonn, Germany; Director of Corporate Services at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) in Stockholm, Sweden; Director of Finance and Operations at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya; as well as International Head of Financial Performance and Standards at ActionAid International in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Joan holds a MSc in Forensic Accounting from Sheffield Hallam University in the UK, an MBA with honors from Tel-Aviv International School of Management (TISOM) in Israel and a BBA with honors from Acadia University in Canada. She also is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

Kamala Ernest

Programme Management Officer
Ms. Kamala Ernest is a Programme Management Officer at UNEP Asia and the Pacific Office. Ms. Ernest is the Coordinator of the SEA circular project, which aims to reduce plastic waste in the South-east Asia region. She leads engagements with governments, businesses and other partners in the region to enhance the management of the plastic value chain to reduce land-based plastic leakage into the marine environment. She has 20 years of progressive experience working with the private sector, governments, and the UN on sustainable development. She started her work career in Malaysia and has since worked in Africa, Asia, Middle East and Europe. Ms. Ernest, a Malaysian national, is currently based in Bangkok

Kishore Babu G.S.C Yerraballa

Area Representative for Southeast Asia and Head of ITU office for Southeast Asia and Timor-Leste
Mr. Kishore Babu is a telecommunications professional with over 30 years of dedicated experience in various leadership positions in Telecommunications Policy; Development programs and projects; International Relations; Stakeholder engagement with National and International entities; Public Sector Functions

Maki Katsuno-Hayashikawa

Director of UNESCO Multisectoral Regional Office in Jakarta, and UNESCO Representative to Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Timor Leste
Ms Maki Katsuno-Hayashikawa brings extensive experiences of nearly 30 years with UNESCO, UNICEF and JICA, at global, regional, and country levels. She assumed her role as the Director of UNESCO Multisectoral Regional Office in Jakarta, and UNESCO Representative to Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Timor Leste in July 2023.

Prior to her current assignment, she served as the Director of the Division for Education 2030 at UNESCO Headquarters overseeing UNESCO’s global programmes on Gender and Inclusive Education, Higher Education, Education in Emergencies and led the global SDG4 coordination mechanism. In addition, during 2022, she served as the Executive Secretary of the Secretariat for the Transforming Education Summit convened by the UN Secretary-General in September 2022. Ms. Katsuno-Hayashikawa has spent much of her time in the Asia-Pacific region, operating out of Beijing and Bangkok, managing regional and country programmes on inclusive education, gender and education, ECCE, learning assessment to teacher education.

She holds Master’s degrees in Educational Planning from the Institute of Education, University College London, and in Early Childhood Education from the South Australia University; and a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Marco Toscano-Rivalta

Chief of the UN Disaster Risk Reduction office of Asia-Pacific
For over 20 years, Mr Marco worked with the United Nations and other international organizations at the Headquarters and in the field in the areas of humanitarian relief, refugee protection, promotion and protection of human rights, justice administration, sustainable development and disaster risk management. He holds a degree from the University of Bologna, Italy.

Masood Karimipour

Regional Representative 
Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
Masood Karimipour is the Regional Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for Southeast Asia and the Pacific leading United Nations diplomatic engagements, policy dialogue, strategic partnerships, and operations in justice and security matters under UNODC mandates across a vast region stretching from Myanmar to the Pacific states, covering 34 countries that are home to more than 700 million people.

Karimipour leads a 300-person strong team of UNODC professionals delivering programmes of expert support totaling $US 45 million per year across the region in a wide range of critical areas, including rule of law responses to organized crime, illicit trafficking of drugs, corruption, illicit financial flows, money laundering, cybercrime, human trafficking, smuggling of migrants, environmental crimes, violent extremism, and terrorism.

Karimipour also leads UNODC’s collaboration with prominent regional organizations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS).

Niloy Banerjee

Niloy is a development economist with specialization in effective institutions and capacity development. He previously led the UN System Affairs Group in UNDP, based in New York. In this position he led UNDP’s interface with UN agencies, funds and programmes, and with Member States in the arena of intergovernmental affairs. He has also led UNDP’s engagement in the round of UN reforms.

Niloy has a Masters in Economics from New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University and is a Fellow of the City University of New York.

Panudda Boonpala

Regional Director
Ms Panudda Boonpala is appointed Deputy Regional Director of the ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, with effect from 1 January 2018. Prior to that, Ms Boonpala has held the position of Director of the ILO Decent Work Team for South Asia and Country Office for India. Ms. Boonpala has been with the ILO since 1995, serving the ILO in Geneva, Bangkok, Dhaka and New Delhi.

Ms Boonpala holds an MA in Labour Administration and Management from the Thammasat University, Bangkok, Thailand.

Patricia Ongpin

Country Director
Patricia Ongpin is the UNAIDS Country Director of the multi-country office covering Cambodia, Lao PDR and Malaysia since June 2022.

Ms Ongpin is an international development and public health specialist with over 15 years of experience spanning across Asia, Africa, and Europe. As a strong advocate for equality and leaving no one behind, she has a rich background in coordinating evidence-based decentralized programmes that focus on inclusiveness, partnership, and sustainability.

Ms Ongpin was most recently the Regional Fast Track Advisor for the UNAIDS Regional Support Team in Asia and the Pacific. Prior to this, Ms Ongpin served in UNAIDS in different positions in Namibia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and headquarters.

Ms Ongpin is a national of Canada. She holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations, and Bachelor’s Degrees in Economics and International Relations.

Rajat Khosla

Director of UNU-IIGH
Mr. Rajat Khosla has two decades of expertise working at the intersection of global health, equity, and human rights, and has contributed to the Institute as a Principal Visiting Fellow. Prior to his appointment at UNU-IIGH, he served as Senior Director for Research, Advocacy, and Policy at Amnesty International.

Previously (2014‒2020), Mr Khosla served as Human Rights Adviser with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. In that role, he led on research and normative work for implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and human rights, in particular on women’s rights and issues related to sexual and reproductive health; guided countries and WHO regional offices on human rights, policy and legal analysis; represented WHO in high-level negotiations and processes related to human rights; and led policy work on the integration of women’s rights in humanitarian emergencies.

Mr Khosla holds a Master of Laws (LLM) degree in International Human Rights Law from the University of Essex as well as a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree and a Bachelor’s degree in commerce from Delhi University.

Robert Gass

Representative, UNICEF Malaysia and Special Representative, Brunei Darussalam
A national of the United States of America, Robert Gass is the UNICEF Representative to Malaysia and Special Representative to Brunei Darussalam. He has held previous leadership roles with UNICEF in Indonesia (Deputy Representative, Programme), Brazil (Chief of Semiarid Territory), Thailand (Chief of HIV/AIDS), and UNICEF Headquarters in New York (Paediatric HIV Treatment Focal Point). Prior to joining UNICEF, Robert had previous work experience with the New York State Department of Health in performance measurement and quality improvement, and the United States Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa.

Mr. Gass was born and raised in India, and then pursued a university degree in International Studies at Macalester College, a Master’s degree in International Development from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, and a subsequent Master’s degree from the Columbia University School of Public Health.

Srinivasa Popuri

Chief, UN-Habitat Multi Country Programme Office, Bangkok
A development professional by profession, Srinivasa Popuri has worked over 28 years in the field of human settlements advancing Habitat agenda. Of these, over 22 years with United Nations in several countries in Asia and the Pacific after his service over for 5 years with Government of India and International Organisations.

Since September 2012, he has been assigned as Senior Human Settlements Officer based in Fukuoka, Japan in overseeing programmes of UN-Habitat in Asia and the Pacific countries such as Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, India, Iran and Thailand.

Sumalee Sterup-Hansen

Ms. Sumalee Sterup-Hansen was appointed by the World Food Programme (WFP) to head the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Malaysia from August 2021. Before joining WFP, she worked in the private sector as a professional in shipping and chartering.

She started working for the World Food Programme in 1999, holding positions at headquarter, country offices, and regional bureau. She has led Shipping, Logistics, Disaster & Risk Reduction and Supply Chain Management team in Middle East, Asia and Central- East- West Africa region. In her various positions and capacities, she has been supporting country programme and various level 3 emergencies operations.


Sylvain St-Pierre

UNDP Global Shared Services Centre (GSSC)

Sylvie Betemps

Chief, Office for Asia and The Pacific
Sylvie Betemps has worked for ITC for 19 year. She possesses experience in multi-country technical assistance for developing countries, including strong knowledge of external relations management with governments, country officials, private sector organizations, donors, enterprises, NGOs and aid agencies. She is specialized in project management and coordination, client relationship management, project development and design, trade-related technical assistance and private sector development.

Thomas Albrecht

Representative in Kuala Lumpur
Mr. Thomas Albrecht took up his assignment as Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kuala Lumpur in early 2019. Mr. Albrecht previously served as Regional Representative in Canberra from 2014 to 2018, with geographical responsibility for the region.

Mr. Albrecht joined UNHCR in 1987 and worked in refugee situations in the East and Horn of Africa, Southern Africa, West Africa, the Americas as well as Eastern and Central Europe.


Yann Kervinio

Director Global Service Centre
With more than 20 years of experience in support services functions, Mr. Yann Kervinio was appointed as Director of WHO Global Service Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in April 2022. The Global Service Centre provides administrative services to WHO and its partner entities in the area of Finance, Payroll, Human Resources, Procurement & Logistics as well as Information Management and Technology.

He started his career in the private food sector where he occupied several procurement related positions in Germany and France. In 2011, he joined the UN Secretariat Procurement Division in New York, USA to support peacekeeping operations, after which he joined field operations in Entebbe, Uganda as well as in Bamako, Mali (to prepare the MINUSMA mission start up). In 2014, Mr. Kervinio joined UNOG in Geneva, Switzerland as Chief Procurement and was then promoted in 2018 to UNRWA in Amman, Jordan as Chief Central Support Services in charge of support functions for the Agency with field offices in Gaza, West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.