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Appointment of New WBU Chief Executive Officer

Message from WBU President Fredric K. Schroeder...

As President of the WBU, I am very pleased to announce to you the appointment of Mr. José Maria Viera as our new WBU Chief Executive Officer effective February 1, 2018.  As you know, José will be only WBU’s second CEO, following the retirement of our current CEO Penny Hartin in early 2018, and who has served in this role since the WBU office opened in Toronto in November 2006.  The selection committee reviewed applications from many qualified individuals representing all regions of the world, and we wish to thank all those who expressed their interest in serving the WBU in this important role.  We were delighted to have excellent candidates among whom to choose.

José is well known to all of us at the WBU, currently working for us in the role of Human Right Policy Advisor since February of 2016.  José has a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and a Masters degree in Management of Development. Prior to joining the WBU, José worked as Latin America Coordinator for Disability Rights Promotion International and did consulting work for the UNCRPD Committee Secretariat. For the past ten years he has also worked part-time as Associate Professor of the International Relations Department at the Siglo 21 University, in Cordoba Argentina.

José has also been very active personally within the WBU as President of the National Federation of the Blind in Argentina and as a past member of the Executive in ULAC.  Since joining the WBU, he has been working very closely with our members around the world to familiarize them with UN instruments and assist them with country reporting.  José is fluent in English, Spanish and French; we feel it is a tremendous advantage for him to be able to communicate with our members in our three working languages.

The WBU office Will remain in Toronto Canada where all of our legal and administrative systems are well in place and where we receive excellent support from our host, The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).  It is expected that José will begin his new role in Toronto on February 1st or as soon thereafter as the necessary paperwork with the Canadian government can be finalized.  José will also be joined by his wife Rosanna and his infant daughter Helena, who was born just a few Weeks ago on September 30th.   Penny has also agreed to make her services available on a part-time basis for several months to assist José as he transitions to this very complex role.

Please join me in welcoming José to his new role within the WBU.

Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder, President, WBU


An Interview with WBU's incoming CEO Mr. Jose Maria Viera

1. What inspires your commitment to the WBU mission? 

I believe in the key role World Blind Union plays both nationally and internationally to ensure that our voice is heard. My personal commitment is to ensure that all blind and partially sighted people live the life we choose irrespective of our social, political, economic, cultural, backgrounds. I believe the WBU is the perfect channel that allows us to speak on our behalf. We are strong, well organized and with our own unique agenda and that is definitely an asset in our daily work. My commitment is to contribute to the WBU agenda and represent as many blind and partially sighted people as possible globally.

2. What will be your priorities when you join WBU? 

To continue what has been done in the right direction and to try to improve what I think is needed. Overall, WBU has come a long way in advocating for improving the lives of blind and partially sighted people. I think now is the time to take the organisation one step up and work in collaboration with our members; to explore new areas and to develop new partnerships that will enable us to perform better and more efficiently. We need to pay more attention to what our regions need and spread the WBU mission widely.

3. What would you like to achieve in the next few years? 

A more representative organization that can simultaneously deal with issues from diverse geographical areas of the world. A WBU that can represent those who do not have Jobs and to advocate for a more inclusive technology.

4. What are some of the challenges you have confronted in serving the human rights cause? 

Often, our members see that the WBU is far a way from their needs therefore, they do not see the benefits of being part of our organization. I think we need to transform this perspective to a scenario where we all understand that WBU exists because our members exist and contribute to a bigger and more inclusive organization. We should no longer wait to see what WBU can do for us but what we can do for the WBU. This will evolve WBU into a bigger and stronger organization and our needs will be better handled, and new solutions will be achieved.

5. What drives you to this cause? 

The deep conviction that we are responsible to improve our lives and the lives of people like us. We own our future thus we need to construct our future.

6. What was your childhood ambition? 

Since I was a child I really wanted to devote my life to create a better world for all. I always saw enormous mistakes and discriminations. I wanted to create a better place to live. A place where we respect each other.

7. Who was or still is your mentor? 

Fortunately, I have a long list of mentors from whom I have learnt different things. My mother taught me the most important lesson I have ever learnt: When you want something, you need to do everything needed to achieve it. Also one of my elementary school teacher gave me the tools I need to interact well with my colleagues and that is still something that I remember and I use to-date. In general, people with whom I have shared different Jobs with have given me the tools that I still use; to learn to listen to people, to be flexible and available when needed, etc. Rather than having one or two mentors, I like to learn from everyone I come across in my life because I believe we all have something to learn and to teach.

8. What is your greatest achievement(s)? 

It is hard to identify specific achievements. I think they are collective achievements which are more important than those which are individual. For example, to have a more inclusive election process in my home town is something that I think was one of my most relevant recent achievement. Many people may be asking why? But where I live the elections were never accessible before our intervention. We strongly advocated for an inclusive system and after long and sometime frustrating discussions, we finally got it. At last we can fully participate in our political life.

9. What message(s) would you like to convey to the WBU members 

We have such a powerful organisation. We now need to take the World Blind Union to the next step and that is making it greater and more representative. To achieve this, we all need to work collaboratively and be convinced that we are responsible for our future. We have the ability to change our future. We just need to do it.


Mr. Viera, from Córdoba, Argentina, has been appointed by the World Blind Union Officers as the incoming CEO following the retirement of our current CEO Dr. Penny Hartin. He will take up his position sometime in April. 

Mr. Viera has solid experience in human rights, inclusive development and management of disability organizations. Before he was appointed CEO, he has been serving as the Human Rights Policy Advisor for the WBU since February 2016. Previously, he was the Regional Coordinator for Latin America Disability Rights Promotion International, York University, Canada. He has also worked as a Consultant for the UNCRPD Committee, a Program coordinator of the Disability Office, Social Development Agency in Cordoba, Argentina, an associate Professor of the International Relations Department at the Siglo 21 University, Argentina and as a program officer at the Siglo 21 University.

In addition, Mr. Viera served as an affiliate or volunteer in the following positions: President of the National Federation of the Blind in Argentina; Secretary for Vocational Training and Employment for Latin-America Blind Union, and Secretary General of the National Federation of the Blind, Argentina.

Mr. Viera has a Masters degree in Management of Development from Torino University, Italy and a Bachelor of International Relations from Siglo 21 University, Argentina. He was also an international Student at Roehampton University, London and has International Baccalaureate from Lester B. Pearson College, Canada.