Speaking to Dr Pichamon Yeophantong you could be forgiven for forgetting her exceptional achievements. From working with the UN mapping the risks and challenges facing environmental defenders during COVID-19 to empowering women to engage in water governance in Southeast Asia, Dr Yeophantong is quietly spoken, modest and eloquent in her conversation. Her research and advocacy, on climate change, gender inequality and China’s role in Southeast Asia, is deeply connected with creating change.

"I’ve always wanted to contribute to making communities in developing countries fare better. I want people to be able to attain the life chances they deserve and being an academic, working in a university allows me to do that," Dr Yeophantong said.

An Australian Research Council DECRA recipient and Senior Lecturer in International Relations and Development at UNSW Canberra, Dr Yeophantong research is strongly focused on people solutions to both local and global challenges.

“So often we think about communities facing social and environmental injustices only as the victims. But what we tend to forget is that they are usually the first ones to stand up for their rights and for the rights of nature. They are on the frontline, fighting. Much of my work is engaging with activists and policymakers. Getting them to understand each other’s language. It can often be that the gaps in understanding come from them communicating similar ideas in different ways,” Dr Yeophantong said.

“The fundamental challenge we face is recognising the impact of our choices. A lot of the problems we see in the world today arise from a profound lack of understanding and appreciation of the integrity of the natural systems on which we all depend.”

Dr Yeophantong was recently recognised as a finalist in the 2020 Advance Awards Emerging Leader category. The Advance Awards acknowledge the work of remarkable global Australians and alumni making an extraordinary impact on the global stage.