top of page


Committed to Inclusivity, Respect, and Excellence

All Avanzar principals and associates have a background in international development and international business, providing them with insight into the interests and goals of both the private sector and the communities in which it operates. We have worked extensively on assessing and advising extractive companies on their relationships with surrounding communities, with particular expertise in conflict situations, and developing countries.


Christina Sabater, Principal and Founder

Christina has extensive experience working with the extractive industry on assessing and addressing risks related to security-related human rights, community engagement, and water rights. Christina has conducted over 40 assessments of human rights risk exposure when implementing the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPs) and also advised on how to implement the VPs and provide human rights and VPs training.  Recently, Christina spoke at the 2019 UN Business and Human Rights Forum on child rights and security. She participated in a multi-stakeholder initiative to produce the UNICEF Child Rights and Security Checklist, a tool for governments and companies to address child rights impacts in their public and private security arrangements. To address human rights and social risks stemming from conflict due to water rights, Christina has led four participatory, community water monitoring programs in Panama, Guatemala, and Mexico.

Christina formerly worked as a Manager at Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), a business association that focuses on ethics, environmental and social issues.  She helped agricultural, extractive and information technology companies in Latin America develop their sustainable development and corporate social responsibility strategies and programs. While at BSR, Christina co-authored the “Minera El Desquite Report: Esquel, Argentina". Christina’s work with the social sector began over twenty years ago while managing a grassroots economic development non-profit in Puerto Rico. She is a bilingual Spanish speaker, fluent in French, and holds an MBA from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina and an economics degree from Yale University.

Melissa Whellams, Principal

Based in Calgary, Melissa is a Principal at Avanzar with expertise in the extractive industries, particularly in developing countries. She has worked on numerous projects with international oil and gas and mining companies such as AngloGold Ashanti, Barrick Gold, IAM Gold, Rio Tinto, AngloAmerican, Agnico Eagle, Bankers Petroleum, Goldcorp, Eldorado Gold, Teck, Cameco, New Gold, Kinross, Newmont Mining, Pacific Rubiales, and Sherritt International in the areas of stakeholder engagement, social risk assessment, multi-­sector partnerships in community development, community based water monitoring, community relations, stakeholder mapping and analysis, human rights and security, human rights impact assessment, grievance mechanisms, sustainability, and human rights training for employees, social management systems and CSR performance measurement and reporting. Melissa has assisted a number of extractive companies to develop Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies, strategies and programs in Canada, Latin America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Eastern Europe. 

In addition to her work with the oil and gas and mining industries, Melissa has conducted social and environmental supply chain audits for food and manufacturing companies such as McDonalds, Costco and Amazon. She has experience with various international standards and frameworks relating to corporate sustainability including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Global Reporting Initiative, the IFC Performance Standards, the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the Mining Association of Canada’s Towards Sustainable Mining framework. Melissa is fluent in English, French, and Spanish and holds a B. Comm. in International Business from the University of Calgary and an M.A. in International Development Studies from Saint Mary’s University.

bottom of page