Category Archives: Campus – News

Stay up to date on all activities of the global RLC Campus network here!

RLC PhD student Willis Okumu presented paper at conference in Morocco

RLC Bonn PhD student Willis Okumu participated at the Human and Environmental Security Conference organised by the Environment and Human Security Program (EHSP), North-South Center for Social Sciences (NRCS) in Agadir, Morocco, in November 25th-27th 2015. Together with Dr. Papa Sow, Senior Researcher at ZEF Bonn, Willis Okumu presented a paper on “Linking Pastoralists Conflicts and Environmental Security: The Case of Turkana and Samburu communities in Northern Kenya”.



Helen Mack Chang visits the Campus Austral in Valdivia, Chile

From the 8th to 12th November 2015 the RLC CAMPUS VALDIVIA had the pleasure to host the 1992-RLA-Laureate from Guatemala, Helen Mack, with whom we realized a lot of activities that we would like to share with you.
Helen Mack is an activist, famous for her ongoing fight to defend human rights. She was given the RLA for her perseverance in the search of Justice after the brutal killing of her sister Myrna Mack in 1990 who was a social anthropologist and conducting a research on the displacement due to the war in Guatemala. Results of this investigation where, as we can imagine, not in the interests of the dictatorship, which led to the brutal killing of Myrna Mack as a direct consequence.

1) Talk with pre- and post-grad studentsIMG_0186

On Monday afternoon, in an ambiance of closeness and trust, Helen shared her experience what it was and still is like to be an activist in Guatemala, her ongoing struggles to fight for human IMG_0253rights, her winnings and failings, her motivation and her fears and her role in the Foundation Myrna Mack, founded by Helen Mack.

Next to students from the Master’s Program in Development on a Human Scale and Ecological Economics and “SPRING” (Urban and Rural Planning), there were also numerous law students and professors attending the talk with Helen Mack, being interested in the history and the lessons from someone who’s activism successfully change the juridical system of a country.








2) Open Conference


At full house, Helen presented her story to university authorities, teachers, students and people from the civil society and organizations of human rights of Valdivia. In this instance, she shared her experience of 25 years of struggle against the impunity following the murder of her sister, showing the savagery which involved policies taken by the State and which devastated more than 23 indigenous communities in Guatemala, over 85% of those affected in their human rights. Therefore, Helen has been known for being the only Guatemalan to denounce it publicly without fear, despite death threats and strategies of intimidation that she has received during her fight. Helen called on us young people to be irreverent, rebels and to fight so that we as a society can overcome once and for all the culture of impunity, which have been lived by our precursor generations with so much pain and suffering.

3) Visiting the House of Memory (La casa de la Memoria) in Valdivia

During this activity, Helen was received by social leaders of human rights organizations; the Association of detainees, disappeared people and former political prisoners of Valdivia. She was given a tour of the House and listened to those who are witnesses and survivors of the atrocities that occurred during the time of the dictatorship in Chile.


“We share our experience of life during the oppression, as a way to keep alive the unofficial stories which not have been told so that in the future these atrocities will never be repeated.”


4) Dinner with the Rector of the Universidad Austral of Chile


The authorities of the University Austral de Chile hosted a dinner where they thanked Helen for her presence Valdivia and projected potential joint action to strengthen closer networks and strategies between the winners of the “Alternative Nobel Prize”, the Academy, the local community, the students in order to development and facilitate future research with multidisciplinary approaches.

5) Getting to know the city of Valdivia and the Region and getting to know us on a personal level

20151111_164338The opportunity to have Helen at the UACh was not “wasted” and we took some time to show Helen our reality, our city, the market, museums, IMG_0167the river and the Pacific Ocean… We made sure that she now knows Valdivia and its culinary flavors. A group of students also accompanied her to the lake Llanquihue, to see the Puyehue, Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes in Puerto Varas.

All this time we shared, we talked about our lives and realities, about the studies and the thesis, our research
and we were happy to receive her advice and vision. Helen left us with one impression humanity and closeness. We could share ideas on the different perspectives of rural areas in Guatemala, in Colombia, and Chile, we could also discuss the controversial topic of GMOs from a systemic and critical perspective, the joint in geopolitical terms and the territorialization hiding Gigantism through the trans-nationalization and privatization in the use of this type of technologies that threaten the socio-cultural heritage in rural southern Chile agriculture.



Víctor Bonilla, one of the first scholars of the Right Livelihood College and compatriot of Helen, mentioned during the talk: “… Helen, without a doubt, having you here to present, to dedicate your time patiently, to learn from your courage and bravery, reminded me of my land, our accent and lead me to share with my classmates symbols and meanings of the Mayan culture and ideas about different discipline. Talking a common language between a German ecologist, a Colombian industrial engineer, a Peruvian journalist, two anthropologists; a Chilean and an Argentine, a Chilean lawyer and two Colombian economists, learning along with fellows of law in undergraduate studies, was for me with my training in agricultural sciences, an excitingly beautiful experience that I simply ran out of words to express it…”

We thank the Robert Bosch Foundation, which financed the trip to Valdivia, UACh and made it possible for Helen to visit us. Special thanks to Helen, who dedicated us these days, thank you for your simplicity human quality, its strength and courage that has been for us an example and inspiration! Helen encouraged us and challenged to build a better future, to look critically and alternative world in which we live… It was without a doubt an enriching experience. Thank you Helen!



Juan Pablo Orrego visits the Right Livelihood College in Valdivia

Juan Pablo Orrego / Grupo de Acción por el Biobío (Chile)

“…for his personal courage, self-sacrifice and perseverance in working for sustainable development in Chile.”

This Monday, the 2nd of November 2015, we, the Right Livelihood College the the University Austral de Chile, Valdivia, Chile, were happy to receive Juan Pablo Orrego. During two extensive sessions, one in the morning exclusive for the students and one open to the public in the afternoon, we learned about his life, his goals in life and about his important and influencing pro activism in Chile.

Juan Pablo Orrego, laureate in 1998,  was born in 1949, and has a Master in Environmental Studies (1986). At a younger age he was a composer and singer in a popular urban folklore group. In 1991 he helped to establish and was also elected to be general coordinator of the Grupo de Acción por el Biobío (GABB) to attempt to stop the construction of six dams in the Biobío River in southern Chile, one of South America’s most spectacular rivers and one of great ecological significance. Its watershed is also home to the Pehuenche indigenous people, numbering about 10,000.  In Chile the Biobío has become a symbol of the environmental and social struggle, which is still going on in the country. According to authorities and analysts the Biobío campaign has had a significant influence on the story of hydro development in Chile … for the better.

Today,  Juan Pablo Orrego is known for his ongoing activism with his ONG “Ecosistema” in Santiago, aimed at the protection of rivers and indigenous communities from hydro power plant schemes and their effects.


During a 3 hour session in the morning with 26 students from 7 countries and 3 Masters Programs (Urban and Regional Planning, Development on a human scale and ecological economics and Rural Development),  Juan Pablo Orrego allowed us a deep insight in his earlier life, his spirituality and his reasons and motivations that led him to be the activist he is  today.

DSC_5798In the afternoon, in a presentation open to the public, he talked about the current and recent situation in Chile regarding the politics of water, energy and indigenous right. He emphasized in the lessons we, as a community, have to take from the current estate of arts, the ecological crisis and the loss of empathy between humans, and between humans and nature. “I am sure, that we as a human community, can solve the ecological crisis if we work together. The problem is, that we have to start today, because I am not sure, how much time we have left!”


Thank you, Juan Pablo Orrego, for this amazing and insightful day!
The Right Livelihood College from Valdivia!


RLC workshop on human rights and the empowerment of the marginalized

From September 26 until October 1, 2015, 18 young researchers from ten different countries worked together with representatives of two awarded human rights organisations at the Right Livelihood College Campus in Bonn. The workshop focused on research and education on human rights in Asia and Africa as well as on practical concepts and approaches to empower marginalized social groups. Case studies of participatory empirical research were presented, discussed and analyzed in a cohesive trans-disciplinary way by building on each participant’s expertise and experience.

Next to that, Sakina Qasimi of the Gawharshad Institute of Higher Education in Kabul (Afghanistan) and Ovais Sultan Khan, working for the Lokayan Network based in New Delhi (India), were invited as experts to participate in the public talk in the historic Old City Hall in Bonn.

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Public Talk with Representatives of Right Livelihood Award Organisations in Bonn

Sakina Qasimi of the Gawharshad Institute of Higher Education in Kabul (Afghanistan) and Ovais Sultan Khan, working for the Lokayan Network based in New Delhi (India), are both representing human rights organisations which have been honoured with the Right Livelihood Award, the “Alternative Nobel Prize”. At a public talk in the Old City Hall of the City of Bonn, they spoke about the human rights situation in Afghanistan and India, as well as their work and life in this context.


Workshop about the fundamental human needs!

What are your fundamental human needs?
How does your comunity help to satisfy this special fundamental human needs?
And how are the ways to satisfy the needs of the people diffenrent in other communities?

Questions like this and many more we asked ourself and a group of 35 persons from different communities in the region of los Rios, Chile, using the matrix of developed by Manfred Max-Neef about the 9 fundamental human needs.
The result of this workshop you can see in this short video!

Valdivia starts blogging

Hello everybody,

with a warm greeting to everybody, now, the Right Livelihood-Campus in Valdivia, Chile, will start to blog for the first time!

Here, on the other end of the world, very down south, we work closely together with Manfred Max-Neef. We now are the third generation of the Masters´s Program “Development on a human scale and environmental economics”, and the first generation of RLC-scolar students. Me, Victor and Viola, are very happy about the opportunity!
Our first semester was a wild rolercoaster ride, and now our second semester has started. So far it´s great.
Next to our clases in “Development on a human scale” and “environmental economics” we chose different clases like “the economical valoration of ecosystems”, “public policies for a sustainable development” or “the sociology of climate change”.
We are looking forward to keep the rest of the RLC comunity updated about our workshops and activities, hoping to build a strong RLC-comunity.

Lots of Regards, Viola and Victor, from Valdivia!

CURLS: Neoliberalism and the food System

„You hum something, a tone or a sound and the rest of the group is following you!“

A sound is coming from one corner, gradually the rest of the group adopts this sound. It becomes louder and louder, like a swarm of busy bees flying towards you. The sound stops and after a while also the last imitator fell silent. A new tone is hummed, everyone listens carefully, searches for the right tone and joins in.

In the end we were even able to hum/ sing songs and melodies by simply following the improvised tune of the person who is leading the song.

This morning we spend an hour that we only dedicated to our voice. Where does our voice come from, how does it feel like, can we follow a sound from another person, how can we modulate our voice. Not only was this a perfect start into the day, it is also something very important when you are an activist who wants to promote change. Alok Ulfat, who is a trainer for theatre, expression, voice and appearance from India holds one hour of “mind & body movement”- workshops every morning. He is convinced that there is a voice in every person that has the right need to be heard and especially for a group of changemakers it is of utter importance to bring the message across to other people, to speak out loud and to use emotional and convincing body language.

After this very active start in the day we dived into the matter of political economy, the concept of neo-liberalism and the impacts of the agenda on South East Asia. The short lecture, followed by a lively discussion, was held by Surat Horachaikul who is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University. After a journey starting from A. Smith and J. Locke, via role of the state in neoliberalism and a discussion on populism, we ended up talking about possible paths out of the neoliberal agenda. What´s the role of the individual in this process? What´s the role of companies? Maybe this system is too adaptive and powerful that there won´t ever be any change? No, says Surat Horachaikul. There is hope! The small steps towards Right Livelihood each of us goes every day, from buying organic food, to campaigning have an impact on the system that is not to be underestimated. And as long as we live in a system that is shaped by supply and demand, we can have an impact on that “demand” side. But can we really change a company that is already deeply embedded in the current system, thinking about increasing the profit margin rather than mother earth? The discussion reached long into the break…

The break was followed by a presentation by Ong Kung Wai, board member of IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) who focussed more on the economical, systemic and technical arguments in favour of a shift toward organic agriculture.

The afternoon was all about food systems and supply chains where we used the method “World Café” to find out more about what food means to us, why we think the current food system is not sustainable and how we can work towards a more sustainable way of producing and consuming food.

A brief summary of the discussions and outcomes is soon to follow but one thing can already be said: for every participant producing, cooking and consuming food is something precious and the current system disconnects us from the roots of the food system. Fast Food, Take Away, far distance between production and consumption and the destruction of soil (and many more of course) are all aspects of the food system that create an imbalance and disharmony. We need to find ways to appreciate food again, to take time to cook properly, we need to support local markets and to see food not only as a means to appease one´s hunger but as a gift and our basis of life. If we keep on destroying traditional knowledge of farming, if we keep on spraying chemicals on our vegetables and if we keep on putting profit over people and the environment we will eventually not only harm humankind but damage the whole environment.

A first glimpse of the Right Livelihood Summer School in Bangkok

A first glimpse of CURLS

I open the windows to let in some fresh air and get hit by a wall. I immediately decide to shut the windows again. Air conditioning? Really? I turn it on and it´s a relief. I still need to adjust to the completely new climate, everything smells different, looks different and is organized in a different way. Speaking of differences, since today I also know that in Thailand you should avoid pinpointing or stepping with your foot at or on something, as the foot is regarded something unclean and dirty (in fact my feet were quite dirty..). So when I wanted to show another participant something on a poster that was lying on the floor and I used my foot to point towards the issue, I raised some indignant looks. First cultural brick dropped.


Since Friday a group of young adults is gathering at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. They are all participants of the Chulalongkorn Right Livelihood Summer School (CURLS), a joint event of the Right Livelihood Colleges (RLC), the Chulalongkorn University, the Wellbeing Studies Programme and several other organisations which is taking place in and around Bangkok for the next two weeks. The aim of the summer school is to get familiar with the concepts of Right Livelihood, Participatory Action Research and link this to current urban and rural food challenges. The participants´ backgrounds and interests are diverse and range from work with single women in India to Ecotourism in Vietnam to environmental education with Buddhist values in Thailand. We have representatives from the Royal University of Bhutan and PhD students from the States. I am representing the Youth Future Project, the youth association of the RLAF and I will mainly be responsible for feeding this blog.

After a rather official first day with introductory key note speeches, we got into a familiar working atmosphere today. The main focus was on introducing the concept of participatory action research and to listen to some greetings from Right Livelihood Award Laureates. With interactive and creative methods the participants were then asked to first get to know each other and then present their own field of study/ work and their visionary initiative for right livelihood action that will set the base line for the next days. At the end of this summer school we will come back to these initiatives and ideas and see how we can turn them into action. The first attempt of visionary work lay an inspiring and hopefully fruitful foundation for the participants of the summer school.

During the next week we will try and make as many voices from the Summer School get heard as possible. Through interviews or articles by participants we hope to let everyone become a part of this amazing process full of inspiration and hope, participation and action, reflection and solution seeking.


A question on impact and travelling across the globe

It is the first time I travel outside of Europe, the first time I set foot on another continent. So far I have been active on a rather local or at least national or European level, where travelling by plane wasn´t necessary. When I received the invitation for the Summer School, one of the first questions that came to my mind was the question on how I could justify such a long and climate damaging flight to attend such a meeting and I still haven´t solved the question.

It feels ambivalent that there is a group of young changemakers already active in their home countries, conscious about the environment, aware of climate change and its consequences, who nevertheless easily put up with something like flying to attend a two week long gathering in Bangkok. If an event is happening in South Asia, do we need participants from Europe to attend and in return accept flying?


I can only ask this question for myself as I guess each individual has to make their own choices and decisions, but I will personally follow this question very closely during the next weeks. Can you countervail the damage of flying with the positive impact this gathering of changemakers will have on each individual or the world? How can you measure impact and can you measure it at all? Can you argue the plane would have flown anyway?

Take Bill McKibben as an example (laureate of the Right Livelihood Award 2014) who decides to rather send video messages than actually flying to a conference! In a world with increasing possibilities of technology this is no longer a problem. Will he miss out on something or was his impact as intense as those of the lecturers who personally attend the Summer School?

I personally already see the possibilities and chances deriving out of such an intercultural group, how we learn from each other, take other views into account, different ways of living, seeing and dealing with problems. I cannot deny that. But is being aware of your impact, thinking about it and appreciating this unique experience enough? tbc


Soil Not Oil: Right Livelihood Laureate Vandana Shiva to speak in Port Harcourt, Bori, Erema and Abuja

On July 23, to mark the UN International Year of the Soil and the decades long struggle against oil extraction in the Niger Delta, 1993 Right Livelihood Award Laureate, Vandana Shiva, gave a lecture at the Right Livelihood College in Port Harcourt. The event was organized in collaboration with Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) and 2010 Right Livelihood Award Laureate, Nnimmo Bassey.

The UN has chosen 2015 as the International Year of the Soil with the aim of raising awareness about the importance of soil for human life, food security, climate change adaptation and sustainable development. In the Niger Delta, oil extraction has severely contaminated the soil. A 2011 the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Report assessing the environment of Ogoni found that, in over 40 locations tested, the soil is polluted with hydrocarbons up to a depth of 5 metres and that all the water bodies in Ogoni land are polluted.

“With oil spills occurring with a disturbing frequency of almost one a day, the soil and waters of the Niger Delta are being severely degraded, thus raising challenges for production of wholesome food,” said Nnimmo Bassey, Director of HOMEF. “Vandana Shiva’s visit is timely and she raised critical issues on the need to preserve our soils, seeds and food systems, rather than allowing them to be destroyed by the irresponsible activities of oil companies in their bid to extract resources of diminishing value.

Vandana Shiva, a physicist, philosopher, feminist, activist and author, has dedicated her life to defending small farmers’ rights and the rights of people to forests, biodiversity, water, seeds and land. Her organization, Navdanya, which means “nine seeds,” has been actively involved in rejuvenating indigenous culture and knowledge, and setting up seed banks across India, training farmers in sustainable agriculture and seed sovereignty. Dr. Vandana Shiva is a world-renowned environmentalist.