Helga Thorolfsdottir graduated with a degree in Social Work from the University of Lund in 1981, after which she worked in childcare in Reykjavik until commencing her career with the Red Cross Movement in 1991.
Helga has extensive experience as a humanitarian aid professional. Her first field assignment was with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Somalia in 1993, after which she worked in Liberia, Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tajikistan, Uganda, India, and Afghanistan. In 2001, she became Director of the International Department of the Icelandic Red Cross.
As a Rotary Peace Scholar (2003–2005), Helga earned her Masters of Conflict Resolution and MPhil in Peace Studies from the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom. From 2010 to 2015, she taught gender and security at the University of Iceland, as well as conflict and peace studies at the University of Bifrost in Iceland. At the same time, she served as an independent consultant for the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs specialised in civil–military cooperation and gender equality. As a visiting scholar at the Centre for Resolution of International Conflicts at the University of Copenhagen in 2014, she worked on her doctoral thesis in Anthropology (University of Iceland), tentatively titled At War for Peace. Since 2015, Helga has been a Cooperation Coordinator for the ICRC, first in Iraq in 2015 and, in Iran 2016. Helga is currently ICRC Regional Cooperation Coordinator for EurAsia.
Professor Lena Dominelli holds a Chair in Applied Social Sciences in the School of Applied Social Sciences and a member of the Institute of Hazards, Risk and Resilience Research at Durham University. She headed a Major ESRC funded project entitled ‘Internationalising Institutional and Professional Practices’; and worked as CI on a significant EPSRC funded project entitled, ‘Climate Change, the Built Infrastructure and Health and Social Care Provisions for Older People’; and on a major NERC funded project, ‘Earthquake Without Frontiers’, and a Wellcome Trust/DfID funded project on Health Risks during Volcanic Eruptions (HIVE). Alongside the wealth of experience she has had as a university educator and researcher, she has worked in social services, probation and community development. She has published widely in social work, social policy and sociology. Several of these are classics and have been translated into many languages. Her most recent single authored book is Green Social Work (Polity Press, 2012). She is recognised as a leading figure in social work education globally. Professor Dominelli was elected President of the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) from 1996 to 2004, and currently chairs the IASSW Committee on Disaster Interventions and Climate Change and is representing the social work profession at the United Nations discussions on climate change. She has also been the recipient of various honours including a Medal in 2002 for her contribution to social work given by the Social Affairs Committee of the French Senate, an honorary doctorate in 2008 from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, an honorary professorship from East China University of Science and Technology in 2011, and the Katherine A Kendall Award from the International Association of Schools of Social Work in 2012.