News 2016-08-10

Los Juegos Olímpicos son una vergüenza para Brasil

Vive en la ciudad que por estos días es sinónimo de juegos olímpicos, la primera sede sudamericana de la tradicional competencia deportiva. Sin embargo, en plena euforia olímpica, Leonardo Boff dejó Río de Janeiro para participar de una serie de conferencias en el país vecino, Argentina. Desde allí, criticó el actual rumbo de Brasil y reivindicó a los grandes ausentes en la ceremonia de apertura.

“Los juegos olímpicos están creando una gran vergüenza para el gobierno de Brasil porque los dos que han propiciado que vinieran los juegos, que fueron Lula da Silva [ex presidente] y Dilma [Rousseff, cuyo mandato se encuentra suspendido mientras transcurre el proceso de ‘impeachment’] ni siquiera han podido participar. Y el actual presidente [Michel Temer], que es el vicepresidente que usurpó la presidencia, estaba ahí presente en la inauguración, pero ignoto. Pidió que ni siquiera citaran su nombre porque preveía el rechazo total de la población, cosa que de hecho ocurrió. Entonces es complicado hacer juegos que significan fraternidad, cooperación, humanidad, dentro de una situación de gran conflictividad como la brasilera”.

Leonardo Boff es doctor en teología, profesor, conferencista y escritor. Es autor de decenas de libros y se cuenta entre los fundadores de la Teología de la Liberación, a la que desde hace décadas le incorpora una profunda mirada ecológica. Ha asesorado a movimientos populares, y colaborado con el Papa Francisco en la encíclica Laudato Si. "Por sus ideas y trabajo para advertir los vínculos entre la espiritualidad humana, la justicia social y el cuidado del ambiente", en 2001 fue galardonado en Suecia con el Right Livelihood Award, conocido también como “Premio Nobel Alternativo”. Tiene 78 años y viaja por el mundo invitado a participar de distintas actividades donde el ambiente, la educación y la justicia social son ejes convocantes.

 Más información en español.

News 2016-07-22

Tackling Zika, Naturally

Frontline response to the virus threatening the Rio Olympics needn’t be costly, says Swiss biological pest control expert and Right Livelihood Award Laureate Dr Hans R. Herren

                              Right Livelihood Award Laureate Dr Hans R. Herren, photo by Peter Lüthi

Several high-profile athletes have pulled out of the Olympic Games due to open in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in just two weeks’ time, citing concerns over Zika virus. How serious is the Zika threat and are there solutions at hand to address it?

Originating from Uganda, Zika was first described in 1947 and has been linked to microcephaly and a range of other dangerous health conditions. The disease has never gained epidemic status in Africa, however it has recently gained prominence in Latin America, particularly in Brazil, and has shown to be as far-reaching as the USA, where a fatal case was registered earlier this month. This shows that no one is immune and that greatest care needs to be taken to avert further spread of this mosquito transmitted disease. 

When we look towards Brazil, it is clear that dealing with the vector — in other words, mosquitoes — should be our first line of defense. Eliminating breeding sites is perhaps the easiest and cheapest way to deal with Zika-carrying mosquitoes, as these sites are well defined, easy to spot and can be either removed or treated using non-toxic products for mammals and humans. It costs little, involves the community and is highly effective.

The problem we have with Zika, just as with the ever-lingering yellow fever, malaria, filariasis, dengue and other vector-borne diseases, is that we fail to take action early, before outbreaks occur — most often in poor neighborhoods and slums, which make perfect conditions for mosquitoes. Instead, we rely on emergency interventions once the situation is already out of hand.

Biocontrol measures also hold great promise in our fight against mosquitoes, such as the use of bacteria Bacillus thurigiensis var. israeliensis (Bti), or Bacillus sphaewricus (Bs). Bti and Bs produce toxins that have proven to be effective in killing various species of mosquitoes, fungus gnats and blackflies, while having almost no effect on other organisms. These products are widely used to control mosquito larvae in industrialised countries.

Unfortunately, the relatively simple solutions are often dismissed in favour of more sophisticated, ‘nice to have’ but costly approaches which only treat the ‘symptoms’ of the disease. In this case, the search for a vaccine and other forms of treatments – which, in the case of a malaria vaccine, has been under development for decades, cost hundreds of millions of dollars and is still years away.

Although some solutions such as a vaccine (preventative) or a drug (curative) may come onto the market in due course, the best way to protect oneself is to avoid getting bitten in the first place.

For this, mosquito repellent and protective clothing are essential. On the repellent side, it is best to go for the many effective and safe plant-based products. One such product is “Mozigone”, a low-cost repellent based on African indigenous plants, which was developed 10 years ago in Kenya through local research by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology and Kenyatta University.

Just like with many other mosquito transmitted diseases, Zika presents a significant danger for local people as well as those visiting outbreak areas. Yet just like with other diseases — from malaria to dengue — effective solutions are not necessarily the costliest or the most technologically advanced. The key to successfully managing Zika and other future outbreaks is to involve communities, learn from nature and tackle the problem efficiently at its source.

News 2016-07-06

Why end world hunger by 2030? We have the moral obligation to end it now: Swami Agnivesh

I’ve never before returned from an international meet as greatly impressed as I did when I came back to India after attending a meeting of the United Nations’ World Food Programme in Rome last month.

The meeting was addressed by Pope Francis, for whom I have great love and respect – he does not mince words when he speaks up for social justice.

There are 795 million – or one in nine – undernourished people in the world today, and poor nutrition causes 45% of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year.


WFP Photo by Giulio d'Adamo

To read the rest of the article, click here



News 2016-06-24

International Day in Support of Victims of Torture: Dignity Comes First


26 June marks the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, a cause to which Dr Inge Genefke, Right Livelihood Award Laureate 1988, has dedicated her life

As Dr Genefke said in her acceptance speech, “That is what scares the torture victims: The blind indifference of the world. They themselves have not shown blind indifference.” Neither has she, forming the first Amnesty International medical group in Denmark in 1973. In those days, treating the physical and psychological effects of torture was still a work for pioneers, which led to the establishment of organisations such as DIGNITY and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, both based in Copenhagen.

As the UN reports: “Recovering from torture requires prompt and specialised programmes. The work of rehabilitation centres and organisations around the world has demonstrated that victims can make the transition from horror to healing.” It is thanks to Dr Genefke’s legacy that torture survivors can now find the assistance and treatments they need.

But the work is not over yet. Together with IRCT, Swedish Red Cross and Kvinna till Kvinna, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation is organising a discussion on the topic of ‘Life After Torture’ during this year’s foremost Swedish political forum known as Almedalen. With unprecedented numbers of people fleeing from violence in recent years, what does Sweden and the world need to do today to support victims of torture?

News 2016-06-17

Music Breaks the Chains

An estimated 168 million children are still in child labour around the world today, according to the International Labour Office (ILO). One of the best ways to break those chains is to empower children, as José Antonio Abreu, 2001 Right Livelihood Award Laureate and founder of El Sistema, has demonstrated.


Since 1975, Venezuela’s National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras and Choirs, called “El Sistema” has used music education as a vehicle for social change. Today, it brings hope, joy and positive social impact to 400,000 children and their families and communities throughout the country, giving lower-income minors and abandoned children a valuable alternative to the slavery of drugs, prostitution and crime. This unprecedented success has inspired hundreds of similar programmes which reach an estimated one million children in at least 60 countries around the world. Abreu is one of the prominent supporters of ILO’s Music Against Child Labour Initiative, which inspires musicians from all over the world to dedicate at least one concert or song to the struggle against child labour.



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