During the Annual Conference, projects initiated by students complemented the theoretical framework generated by the guest lectures and the seminars offered by ECLA professors.
Such a project, initiated by ECLA student Cholpon Degenbaeva (Kyrgyzstan), under the guidance of the ECLA professor Rafael Ziegler, had as its goal research and proposals which would go into the creation of the ‘water fund’, which would support projects by people from regions of the world where water scarcity is a day-to-day issue. The idea was prompted by the WasserStiftung, a non-profit organization in Germany, which is dedicated to providing people with clean water. The organization has already implemented projects in countries across the world, including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Palestine, Afghanistan and Chile. The findings of the water fund project would be presented to the WasserStiftung, which might then implement the project.
Throughout the Annual Conference, the challenge for students (with the help of guest lecturers) was to write the charter and proposals for the water fund, consisting of a mission statement, objectives and the selection criteria for projects to be supported. The project was a thread of continuity throughout the week. Every day the guest lecturer joined students in discussion about the creation of the water fund. All bringing different disciplines to bear, guest speakers Maude Barlow, David Blackbourn, Tony Allan and Michal Kravcík, helped to shed light on the project’s mission, according to their expertise, respectively in human rights activism, historical thought, global economics and hydrology.
As a conclusion to the Annual Conference on Friday 9 May, Cholpon Degenbaeva gave a presentation of the water fund as it had become, shaped by a week of discussions and consultation with guest speakers, students and faculty members. After the presentation we asked Cholpon to explain how the Water Fund came about.
Q. Cholpon, how did your interest for this project, and your collaboration with WasserStiftung, start?
A. The WasserStiftung had shared the idea of creating such a fund with our professor, Rafael Ziegler. As a result, ECLA students together with Rafael decided to develop the idea further. This project is a collaborative effort towards a meaningful contribution to a solution to the real world’s problems. As for my interest in the project, it is based on my personal belief that everyone can make a difference in such matters.
Q. How did you feel about the presence and the contribution of the guest lecturers in the seminars which were dedicated every day to this project? Did they have an extensive influence on the final form of the charter?
A. The guest lectures were, indeed, the stars of the Annual Conference. Each speaker brought new and valuable insights for the project. Their participation in seminars helped us move forward.
Q. What was the outcome of the several discussions at the end of the Annual Conference? Where is the Water Fund going, now that Annual Conference is concluded?
A. The Annual Conference ended, but the work on our project is still going on. Currently, the project has three proposals to present to the WasserStiftung. These proposals are aimed at different areas, but they are all connected with the issue of water justice and a human right to water. We are hoping that these proposals will be useful and that in future we could continue working with the WasserStiftung.
by Livia Marinescu (’08, Romania)