Curated #2: Introducing Right Livelihood perspectives on human rights preparedness: Inspiring change in times of multiple crises

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Curated #2: Introducing Right Livelihood perspectives on human rights preparedness: Inspiring change in times of multiple crises

This contribution sets the scene for a curated section related to the work of Right Livelihood Laureates. Writing on a diverse range of topics, Right Livelihood Laureates challenge us to ‘be prepared’ in ourselves to change outdated systems perpetuating crises.

In the vision of the cooperation between the Global Campus of Human Rights (GC) and the Right Livelihood Foundation we recognise that ‘many conventional systems do not protect a rights-based and sustainable existence for future generations’. As such, we seek to stimulate a ‘network in action’ committed to driving forward a ‘new human rights wave’ that highlights the ‘urgent need to address the major crises affecting the lives of people and especially children’. The cooperation identifies itself as a ‘network in action’ that via education, research and advocacy seeks to stimulate a growing consensus that prevailing socio-economic, socio-political and educational systems worldwide are in need of serious revision so as to be able to respond effectively to the needs of people in crises.

Many crises seem to come suddenly and unexpectedly, which suggests a certain level of inevitable unpreparedness. Yet, it is these moments that highlight whether our institutions are able to respond proactively or reactively to the challenges rolled out in front of us. The current COVID-19 pandemic illustrates that, as things stand, all societies lack proactive capabilities that are able to protect the multitude of rights set out in the various international standards developed since the end of the Second World War. In 2020, a health crisis quickly turned into a mega-crisis consisting of several serious emergencies rolled up into an overwhelming onslaught on the rights of people. It put a spotlight on how the multiple crises of our time are interconnected. After decades of neoliberal policies eroded public spending on health care, social welfare and other public services, our institutions and infrastructures lack capacity to ensure that human rights are respected. Resilience is further weakened by exceeding planetary boundaries leading to the loss of biodiversity and global heating--all of which worsen conditions to prevent and address a pandemic that in turn claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands worldwide. It also revealed severe inequalities in our education systems leaving countless children unable to access effective learning platforms during lockdown procedures either due to their geographical isolation or economic status.

Physical distancing additionally highlighted housing conditions that left many vulnerable and unable to comply with state measures. Violence against women and children increased significantly, while street children who are generally overlooked in their suffering, faced increased arrests and incarceration for being unable to stay at home due to a lack of one. A food crisis was born as people were forced to queue for food packages because they were either suddenly unemployed or food did not reach them any longer. Additionally, the world is increasingly experiencing systematic resistance to democratic principles as the COVID-19 situation provides opportunity for authoritarian leaders to infringe on personal liberty with impunity, while the poor remain isolated from the social services required to withstand the crisis.

In an interview, Right Livelihood Laureate Sima Samar from Afghanistan notably stressed that ‘preparedness’ includes not allowing impunity to exist, ‘particularly impunity on corruption in the context of a crisis response—as seen in some of the countries during the COVID-19 pandemic’. According to Samar, being prepared for future crises requires the development of ‘people-centred social services‘ that ‘ensure equal distribution of resources without discrimination’. From development to relief programmes, Samar notes, a human rights-based approach to crisis is imperative, ‘which includes equal access to quality health care and distribution of resources to all members of the society’.

Over a year and a half into the COVID-19 health crisis, this lack of equal access to services has revealed how apathetic our societies are towards the plight and suffering of many people around the world—be they a migrant family, an unemployed father, a homeless child, a battered woman, an ignored minority or an excluded student. Human rights preparedness therefore does not only entail developing methods that ‘prepare’ ourselves to handle such global emergencies better in future; it also demands that as global citizens we should ‘be prepared’ in ourselves to change outdated institutions and infrastructures that perpetuate social, political and economic inequalities. This includes being prepared to reassess our understanding of human rights as exclusively linked to human beings as opposed to all things living—including fauna, flora and the earth itself.

This curated section will address a number of aspects related to this need to reassess humans’ place and role in the world. Its contributions will be structured as a series of brief reflection pieces inspired by the work of Right Livelihood Laureates active in the field of human rights and advocacy.

To start with, Reina-Marie Loader and Imke Steimann will reflect on webinar conversations between Right Livelihood Laureates, which were produced by the Right Livelihood College at the beginning of the pandemic (entitled ‘Inspiring Change in Times of Crisis: Conversations that Matter’). Loader will begin by adding to a discussion on movement building and the democratic space initiated by Laureates Frances Moore-Lappé, the Albert Einstein Institute (represented by Jamila Raqib) and Vesna Teršelič. Steimann will then continue with a reflection on major challenges facing women according to Laureates Sima Samar, Kvinna till Kvinna (represented by Eva Zillén) and Monika Hauser.

Next, Right Livelihood Laureate Vandana Shiva invites us to bring about a complete system change by including the rights of the earth as an intrinsic part of human rights preparedness. Right Livelihood Laureate Raúl Montenegro additionally challenges the international community to establish three new UN conventions on ‘emergencies’, ‘ecodiversity’ and ‘lifestyles and human behaviour’ so as to enable states to deal with future global emergencies faster and with equity. Finally, this GC-Right Livelihood curated section is closed with a poem by Nnimmo Bassey written in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These contributions will be rolled out systematically during the coming weeks, in the hope to offer some food for thought in the face of a world caught unprepared, unaware and (at times) unconcerned with the plight of others.

Written by Reina-Marie Loader and Alexander Repenning



Reina-Marie Loader

Reina-Marie Loader

Dr Reina-Marie Loader is the children’s rights project manager at the Global Campus. Her background is in practice-as-research, a form of critical enquiry using art as a research methodology. Specialising in non-traditional storytelling, she lectured on the socio-political dimensions of film, while producing practice-led research about human rights and conservation.



Alexander Repenning

Alexander Repenning

Alexander Repenning is Education Manager at the Right Livelihood Foundation. In his work, he builds bridges between Right Livelihood Laureates, civil society and educational institutions inside and outside the academic world. He supports the network of the Right Livelihood College and coordinates the cooperation with the Global Campus.


Cite as: Loader, Reina-Marie; Repenning, Alexander. "Curated #2: Introducing Right Livelihood perspectives on human rights preparedness: Inspiring change in times of multiple crises", GC Human Rights Preparedness, 7 June 2021,


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