Covid-19: its consequences in the Ecuadorian Amazonian Region and the right to education

By Paola Minoia, Lecturer in Development Studies

(The original version of this piece can be found on the ECO-CULTURAL PLURALISM IN ECUADORIAN AMAZONIA blog for the “Goal 4+: Including Eco-cultural Pluralism in Quality Education in Ecuadorian Amazonia” project.)

Conversation with Dra. Ruth Arias, Rector of the Universidad Estatal Amazonica.

Paola: How is the situation, Ruth?

Ruth: We have been in quarantine since March 17, when the public emergency was declared. I could sense panic in the population from people’s behaviour, as socioeconomic differences are deepened and plenty of defiances is evident; there also are signs of solidarity and reflection. I think Boaventura de Sousa Santos’s writing, “The vulnerable and discriminated against in the South”, and Silvia Ribeiro from the ETC group, have very good analyzes of the situation many are experiencing.

The issue has overwhelmed us as a country. I cannot imagine why our infection figures are higher than Colombia and Peru, which have a much larger population. It may be that not all the figures are published in all countries. Ecuador is also smaller, has a higher population density, and the origin and fast dispersion were not anticipated.

In many of our provinces, we do not have the necessary health facilities. At Pastaza, at first, we were told the only ventilator was taken to Guayaquil; similarly, rural doctors came from various communities to help in hospitals in Guayaquil. Nevertheless, this week they announced that there are almost a dozen ventilators for the province. However, the Amazonian provinces have experienced less contagion. There are many places where blockages have been instated to prevent strangers from entering the towns, although this also limits the mobility of ambulances and access to health services. I am saddened because I read online that a seriously ill man was ultimately prevented from reaching a hospital in another province to avoid contagion.

I would hope quarantine to be enforced in infected cities, so as not to carry the virus to the communities, but I see that in the long term it will be impossible. In the area, there are no reports of the virus in the communities. Our friends from the indigenous organization, through the programme “La Voz de la Confeniae”, post notifications and preventive advice in the languages ​​of the nationalities, which I think is an important contribution.

P: How has your region been affected? What is the situation at the moment, with the number of cases, and are they from the communities or not? Are the official figures for deaths and contagions for Covid-19 realistic? Are people properly looked after? Do the hospitals respond appropriately?

Ruth: The Ecuadorian Amazon region (in Spanish, región amazónica ecuatoriana; RAE) is the least affected in Ecuador. Of the 22,719 infected nationwide as of April 24, 2020, 235 are in the RAE (1.03%). For several weeks, 3 of the 6 Amazonian provinces even remained without any contagion, which eventually came from Guayas due to commercial relations: Guayaquil is the main national market and the contagions mainly occurred as fruit producers brought Amazonian products to Guayaquil and brought the infection back, or otherwise because of business trips. Guayaquil was infected by people travelling from Spain and Italy, many belonging to the upper classes and having power, mobilization, relationships, and a lack of discipline or humility to stay at home.

Within the RAE, infections have been reported in the major cities and between municipal leaders. There have been no reports in the communities yet. If isolation is maintained, there should be almost no contagion. However, there have been difficulties due to rains and overflows of rivers that have affected the farms and crops in the communities of Pastaza, in the Bobonaza river, in Pakayaku, Sarayaku, Curaray. Civil defense and the risk management system can bring food to communities; I fear that such aid may be prohibited because it’s unsure if there may be contaminated material or people reaching the communities.

One of the main problems is the lack of attempts in the testing of people close to those infected or do not show symptoms, so we do not know how the infection is going.

The panic, the lack of knowledge on how to proceed and (especially) the speculation of the funeral owners in Guayaquil caused that many dead, from COVID19 or otherwise, remain without attention, without being buried, without being collected from their homes or from the hospitals. It was only announced today that masks, gloves, and suitable protective clothing have arrived; health personnel began caring for the sick without being properly protected. There is contagion between health personnel, the police, and the armed forces due to the lack of adequate clothing.

There are official numbers of infected and dead, but it is disputed how accurate the numbers are. One issue is that the hospitals that deal with all issues collapsed with this disease and, for example, dialysis care has decreased, etc.

Our health system is not sufficient. Here in Puyo, the capital of a province, we do not have an adequate system to protect the sick if infections grows without control. Serious cases are taken to Ambato and Quito. Here we have less serious cases, which can stay at home.

By following the news day by day on the radio I have concluded that it is not worth going to the hospital. A telephone system has also been implemented, 171 and 911, where you can report and get advice. In theory, they indicate that if the symptoms are from CONAVID19, the doctor will go to your house for a follow-up. In many cases, in Guayaquil, they say that these systems do not work. Larger cities have more problems, more people in precarious situations and with insufficient health coverage.

P: How do you organize teaching and other activities now that the university is closed?

Ruth: We will start classes in May, not April as we had planned before the epidemic. The pandemic arrived during the academic break. All work is carried out by work email, zoom, skype, phone, WhatsApp. For the classes, we will use Moodle and we will prepare in TEAMS, which will be the official platform. Laboratory practices should be done by searching for resources online, and if the teacher considers that this is impossible, then the practice will be postponed and will be done before the student concludes their studies. We have instructions to establish all the necessary flexibility in trying to maintain quality.

P: How do you reach students who don’t have internet access?

Ruth: Through socioeconomic files and by collecting information through phone, acquaintances, the Internet, and different contacts, we evaluated that many students do not have access. We are talking with a mobile operator about the possibility that they install coverage and the university can pay for consumption. Perhaps the university can purchase devices for satellite internet that are loaned for classes and returned by students at the end of the semester. We could also make agreements with local governments that have ICT centers for students to go to the ones closest to their home to access the internet and follow classes. We do not have local TV available and have not yet evaluated the possibilities of using the radio; we just launched a communications degree, and will still start with basic communication methods.

(Radio Selva has broadcasted a communication from Ruth to the university students).

P: What could the university contribute, in this situation?

Ruth: In this time of the crisis, students should stay at home as it is the best way to protect themselves, but they must maintain the right to education and the university’s educational system must identify realistic possibilities for there to be access to that right, so to not increase the inequality gap. We also evaluated that right now we need disinfectants, tests for the infected, materials to make a disinfectant gel, to use our natural products in antiviral creams, and sprays to disinfect people or cars entering the university. We do not offer medical degrees so we cannot do much, and although we have the laboratories, teachers, and technicians, the truth is that we could not obtain the materials needed, of which supply has been exhausted. I have been left with the question, rather than an answer, of how the university can best help its territory.

One of our responses could be to investigate diets in how they reinforce the immune response, considering viruses have that immune activity as their main response and this response is influenced by diet.

My understanding is that the problem is concentrated in the cities and that rural territories, with dispersion and small-scale agricultural activity, are more protected; these alternative characteristics for communities, based on ideals of solidarity and reciprocity, should be valued more. The world of concentrated capital is prevailing, but unrealistic.

P.: How are the streets of Puyo, the markets, and public buses, and do you still see people walking in groups?

Ruth: There is a “curfew” between 2pm and 5am the next day. There is a lot of silence in those hours. In general, the curfew is respected in Puyo and in small towns. It looks like they have begun to respect the curfew in Guayaquil and Quito because there are fines of $ 100 the first time they do not respect the curfew, a basic salary (396 USD) the second time, and on the third time a judicial proceeding is issued for after the crisis has passed.

There is supply in the markets. All stores that selling food and groceries and pharmacies (but not restaurants) are open, although take-away meals from restaurants are allowed. Public local or interprovincial buses are not operating. Many people leave between 5am and 14pm for the market or the bank, so you see a lot of people, but the standard now is to walk with a mask, rubber gloves, and keeping at least a meter’s distance from others.

Again, it is poverty that makes a difference, right? For two months, I have seen large groups of people in Guayaquil outside banks hoping to receive their monthly wage of 60 USD that the government gives to poor households and many street vendors, many of which are in the markets. This may be due to lack of knowledge, due to lack of awareness or due to defiance, but it might also be due to poverty and the need for resources. It is like Boaventura de Sousa Santos explains.

P.: can you divulge on the state of emergency (what time you can be on the streets, etc.), and are the military forces rigidly enforcing it?

Ruth: The state of emergency prevents mass meetings and free movement without a sufficient reason. Between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., you must stay in the house. However, health personnel, the army, the police, those who provide food, security personnel, those who distribute food or belong to cantonal, provincial or national systems of the Emergency Operations Committee (in Spanish, Comité de Operaciones de Emergencia; COE), can circulate. People in need can get a letter of safe-conduct, which is a permit to move outside the house. In general, it is respected.

In the university and in our research centre CIPCA (Centro de Investigación, Posgrado y Conservación Amazónica) we need to take care of the animals, so we have a pass to go there and return.

It was reported on TV that many people took a permit without an appropriate reason and they will be fined $ 100 the first time.

P.: What are the biggest difficulties that the university experiences? And what about the people of the communities?

Ruth: There is a lot of fear in the communities. Many communities blocked their roads to prevent access by outsiders, however, the virus does not need motorized transportation. The main danger is the lack of immune defenses. It reminds me of when the conquistadors brought the flu. On the radio yesterday, the representative of a community reported that the assigned doctor from the health system left the community because he had no medicine. The communities have no health personnel. Many communities here are accessible by plane through which the virus can spread.

The university must face this reality and continue working. Some teachers even do not have all the resources for remote working. Many employees do not have a computer or the internet so to do tasks through virtual means. I don’t know what will happen. We normally receive our wages in the last week of the month but this time last month’s payment was delayed for three weeks. What circumstance must we face in the near future? How can we better support our people? How can we reactivate the local economy? How can we encourage entrepreneurship with our graduates?

The universities undergo academic assessments on the basis of, for example, the number of publications in high impact journals. Although, I ask myself if this could remain the priority in a time like this. These efforts and raised standards are of significance for universities, so they may better respond to the needs of our communities that inhabit this Amazon territory. The most important thing is to move forwards, to not be stuck in sorrow, and to make sure our lower-income students are not discriminated against by the system and that the promotion of equality (at least in access to education) is invested in.

(Thanks to Margherita Carlon for the English translation)

Thanks again to Paola Minoia for letting us repost this.

About the project:

Goal 4+: Including Eco-cultural Pluralism in Quality Education in Ecuadorian Amazonia

Access to schooling and higher education are considered primary means to empower marginalized groups and enhance sustainable development in the Global South. In Ecuador, the intercultural bilingual education programme that affirmed the fundamental importance of integrating diverse local languages, knowledges and pedagogical practices in education was established already in 1993 and later amended based on the community-centric, ecologically-balanced and culturally-sensitive philosophy of sumak kawsay (buen vivir). However, the programme is still only partially applied and thus education typically follows homogenized standards and fails to include specific cultural realities, which places indigenous nations in a disadvantaged position compared to the majority mestizo population.

Our project expands the Sustainable Development Goal 4, which aims to ensure quality education for all, through an attempt to promote recognition of eco-cultural pluralism and inclusion of indigenous pedagogies and knowledges as part of quality education in Ecuadorian Amazonia. Inclusion of ecological aspects is important because Amazonian indigenous groups have strong connections to land and natural resources that are currently threatened by illegal logging, oil extraction, hydropower projects and climate change. Defending eco-cultural pluralism means protecting both the delicate natural environment of the Amazonia as well as the indigenous peoples from poverty and cultural disappearance. The project is divided into four work packages that aim at:

1) assessing indigenous young people’s spatio-temporal accessibility to upper secondary schools and tertiary education,

2) understanding how eco-cultural pluralism and sumak kawsay principles are respected and realized in education and university programmes,

3) studying indigenous students’ transition to tertiary education or working life from upper secondary schools, and

4) analyzing politics of intercultural education and establishing a research network for indigenous and intercultural education.

All work packages pay attention to gender-specific challenges in intercultural education. The data consists of educational material and documents, interviews, observations, photography, videos, drawings and GPS points collected and analysed using mainly qualitative and participatory approaches.

The 4-year (2018-2022) project is funded by the Academy of Finland and carried out in close collaboration with Ecuadorian researchers who have established connections with indigenous communities.


Upcoming Event: Development Studies in Finland: Reflections on the past five decades and the future ahead

Wednesday 26th February 2020, 13:00-15:30

Think Corner (Tiedekulma), Yliopistonkatu 4, Think Lounge, 2nd floor

Development Studies has come a long way since it 50 years ago emerged in Finland. Born from a student movement supporting Third World decolonisation processes Development Studies has become a fully-fledged multidisciplinary academic institution addressing global challenges. The scope of our work has expanded and emphases of research have varied but much of the early impetus has retained. Development Studies still recognizes itself as a multidisciplinary endeavor strongly committed to examining pressing global challenges and deep inequalities reigning in our contemporary world. Through research and activism, we are probing just and sustainable alternatives to counteract them.

Development Studies at the University of Helsinki will organize a public event at Think Corner (Tiedekulma) to commemorate its past 50 years and on the strength of it to seek perspectives on its future coming 50 years. The event will consist of one panel, short speeches and a public discussion based on them. The panel will critically assess the experiences of the past 50 years. How did Development Studies grow from activity of committed students with support from a handful of sympathetic teachers to an established academic discipline? What has been its academic achievements and what do we know about its social impact? After that, a set of short speeches will map the current and future parameters of Development Studies. It asks where Development Studies is now and ponders upon possible scenarios for the next 50 years.


13:00-13:05 Welcome and introduction: Eija Ranta, University Lecturer

13:05-13:15 Opening comments: Jari Niemelä, Rector of the University of Helsinki

13:15-14:15 History panel

Marja-Liisa Swantz, Professor, first Director of the Institute of Development Studies
Märta Salokoski, Researcher
Juhani Koponen, Emeritus Professor
Mariko Sato, Managing Director of the Physicians for Social Responsibility – Finland
Marikki Stocchetti, Secretary General of the Development Policy Committee

Public discussion

14:15-15:00 Future speeches (max. 5 min. each)

Barry Gills, Professor
Jara Kollei, Society and Change Student
Tiina Kontinen, Associate Professor, University of Jyväskylä
Anja Nygren, Professor
Anna Salmivaara, PhD Researcher
Gutu Wayessa, University Lecturer

Public discussion

15:00-15:30 Sparkling wine reception

The event is moderated by Eija Ranta. Inquiries:, 0503460251.

The event formulates part of the celebration in 2020 of 75 years of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki.

Event: Financing for Sustainable Development in Africa

Time: Fri 1st November 2019 at 9 a.m. – 11.00 a.m. (coffee will be served before the event)
Venue: Think Corner (Stage), University of Helsinki (Yliopistonkatu 4, Helsinki)
Organisers: Finnish Society for Development Research, FINGO, Development Studies (University of Helsinki), UniPID, and the Finnish Development Policy Committee
Streamed online:

Africa’s prominence as the main development partner of Finland and the European Union is becoming ever more evident. Within the past five months, both the Government of Finland and the new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, have announced that they will start drafting respective new Africa strategies. With the importance of Africa and financing for sustainable development on the rise, we want to ask: Is there a shared vision between the EU, Finland and Africa on development financing? Where is the geographic and sectoral added value of Finland’s and EU’s development financing in Africa? How can we ensure that the financing strengthens democratic principles and respects human rights? Where private sector financing can and should be leveraged? What is the role of civil society organizations in this puzzle? How to effectively bridge development research and the new policy initiatives?

The event invites academics, policy and decision makers and civil society representatives to debate how the future relations between Africa and Finland and the EU should evolve.


09:00 Welcoming words

09:05 Africa on the rise in Finnish Foreign Policy
Johanna Sumuvuori, State Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs

09:20 The EU-Africa Puzzle: Reflections from the Africa Platform
Paul Okumu, Head of the Secretariat, Africa Platform

09:45 Financing for Sustainable Development and Partnerships in Africa – Panel discussion

  • Saara-Sofia Sirén, Member of Parliament and Vice-Chair of the Development Policy Committee
  • Gutu Wayessa, University lecturer, Development Studies, University of Helsinki
  • Leena Vastapuu, Visiting researcher, Tampere Peace Research Institute
  • Jannika Ranta, Senior Adviser, Confederation of Finnish Industries
  • Katja Ahlfors, Director, Unit for Development Policy, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland
  • with comments from Johanna Sumuvuori and Paul Okumu

The panel discussion is moderated by journalist Reetta Räty. The seminar will be held in English.

You can find the speakers’ bionotes from the FB-event details (

Registrations by 29th October:

Views from the field: Pachamama is crying – Climate Change in the Peruvian highlands

by Anna Heikkinen

(The following is a repost from Anna’s blog; the original post can be found here)


Children sitting in front of the glacier Huaytapallana in the Natural Reserve of Junín, in the Central Andes of Peru.

By July, the Mantaro River Valley had turned all yellow. The transition had happened slowly. One morning I was standing on the terrace of my appartment in Huancayo, looking at the surrounding mountains. All that had been covered with different shades of green when I had arrived few months ago, had now transformed into dry, lifeless colors of yellow.

It had not rained for weeks. Last time it rained, it came down as a furious thunderstorm. In the mountains, the thunderstorm feels so powerful. It seems to be born behind the mountains, crawling slowly on the top of the mountain peaks and then spreading its anger down by the slopes to cover all the valley. The sound of the thunder runs through your bones. The concentrated energy in the air makes your body shake. At the peak of the thriller – the sky breaks down and bursts out an outrageous rain that can last for hours.

The thunder scenery is magical and scary at the same time. You feel so tightly connected to the power of nature and realize that at the end, it will always be superior to you.

In the Andean cultures, it is believed that humans, animals and nature are all one and that there are no divisions between these Earth Beings. If Pachamama, the Mother Earth is hurt, all the beings will go through its suffering. When you go walking to the highlands, before taking off you make a short ceremony for Apus, the mountain God. It is considered as a kind gesture to ask Apus for its permission to visit its mountains and for its protection for your journey. Nature, with its all different Earth Beings are valued and treated with respect.

In the Andean cultures, it is believed that humans, animals and nature are all one and that there are no divisions between these Earth Beings. If Pachamama, the Mother Earth is hurt, all the beings will go through its suffering.

On a one crispy Saturday morning in July – an expedition crew consisting of me, Dr. Armando Guevara Gil and our friends Don Cirilo and Don “Chalaca” from a nearby local community of Santa Rosa de Ocopa – was heading to explore highland lakes feeding the Achamayo River.

The red shades of sun were rising behind the mountains as our car was slowly climbing uphill on a rocky serpentine road. As we got higher, we could see the grass covered with white sheet of frost and feel in our lungs how the air had become freezer to breath.

A clear sun light was shining on our path as we began our walk surrounded by the sceneries of endless puna. The frozen grass was shuffling under our feet and the small mountain flowers growing tightened to the ground were waking up. We could hear echoes of dogs barking somewhere far away. Cirilo told that they came from the alpaca-herds’ camps.


Expedition crew in the highland punas of the Achamayo River Valley.


By the lake Taptapa with Don Cirilo and Don Chalaca. Photo: Armando Guevara Gil.

We had sat down by the lake Chaluacocha to have some snacks when suddenly the sky turned all grey and a snappy gust of snow began to whip the ground. Our local friends said teasingly that Pachamama had gotten angry because we had been so eager to head to the punas that we had forgotten to make the payment to Pachamama.

In the middle of the snowstorm, we decided to make a short ceremony, sharing some of our fruits and bread with Pachamama. Don Cirilo gave a short speech to ask for good weather and thank Pachamama to permit us to visit its lands, lakes and mountains.

Ten minutes later the sky started to brighten and the snow was gone.  We were joking that our presents had managed to calm down the anger of Pachamama.

“Rationally thinking” our little ceremony probably did not have the power to change the weather. But it forces you to reflect upon, how we tend to forget that after all, we are all just shortly passing visitors in our common home – the Earth. And the least we should do is to show respect and gratitude to our host.


Having a rest in between walking with Don Cirilo. Photo: Armando Guevara Gil.

Drastic changes in weather is not something uncommon in the highland punas, located in the altitude of 5,000 m above sea level. In the highlands, the flow of air is influenced by the mountains. This can cause rapid changes at micro scale. Though, Don Cirilo and Don Chalaco told us that it was quite rare that it would rain or snow at this time of the year.

In the Peruvian Andes, there have typically been very marked shifts between rainy and dry periods. Usually it rains regularly between December and April whereas from May onwards until November the rain remains almost absent.

For centuries, the farmers in this region have been used to live, sow and harvest according to these shifts. Now the regular climate patterns are changing. The highland farmers that  interviewed, told me that they didn’t know anymore when they should sow or harvest. In recent years, their yields had often been destroyed due to lack or excess of rain. Last year in many parts of Mantaro River Valley, the farmers had lost their entire harvest due to harsh night frosts. As one farmer put it: “farming in the highlands has become a risky business.”

The way people in the highlands describe their environments and farming practices is often almost poetic. They would often tell me how “my little corn is suffering from the burning sun” or “our poor river is dying”. When I was asking, what does water mean for the communities, a very common answer was as the following one: “without water we cannot live, neither our cows, without water everything dies.”

A farmer and the cattle in the community of San Jose de Quero.


The Cunas River flowing through the community of Usibamba.

These conversations reveal the relationship the highland communities have with the nature. Natural resources bring literally bread to their table. But nature for them is more than just a livelihood. It is a way of living and a way of being in a coexistence with and by the rules of the nature.

Last year in many parts of Mantaro River Valley, the farmers had lost their entire harvest due to harsh night frosts. As one farmer put it: “farming in the highlands has become a risky business.”

Unlike us – sipping our cappuccinos comfortably in a cozy café and speculating the latest scientific findings about rising temperatures or melting glaciers somewhere far away – for the Andean farmers, climate change has become an everyday reality. They feel the burning sun on their faces while working the whole day in their chacras, sowing corn, potato or quinoa. They wait desperately for the rain for their plants to grow. And hope that the unexpected rains won’t burst to ruin their harvests left on the fields to dry.

Besides the changing climate narratives of the local people, physical studies show that the climate in the Mantaro River Valley has changed in the last decades. Just as people told me about “plants burned by frosts or sun” or “the insane rains” – the climate studies indicate clear evidence of declining rain, rising temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events.

Scientists have also found that climate change is deepening the inequalities between the poor and wealthy nations. Countries in the so-called global south, that have contributed least in global warming are the ones who are now suffering the biggest economic losses caused by it. At individual level, the poor are often the most vulnerable to climate change due to lack of resources or living in ecologically and politically fragile regions.

It is paradoxical, that those who least exploit the nature are the ones that must bear the heaviest consequences. In the worst case, the farmers have no other options than leave their homes. In his book Environmental Refugees: Climate Change and Forced Migration ,Professor Teófilo Altamirano writes that the number of current climate migrants around the world is approximately 50 million and by 2050 the number is estimated to rise up to 150 million.

Countries in the global south, that have contributed least in global warming are the ones who are now suffering the biggest economic losses caused by it. At individual level, the poor are often the most vulnerable to climate change due to lack of resources or living in ecologically and politically fragile regions.

Altamirano reminds that most of migration due to climate is not voluntary. For example, in the rural Andean societies, there often exists a spiritual and emotional bound to the living environment and the community. The land, the animals, the fields and the surrounding nature have a strong religious and cultural value. When climatic conditions force one to leave, these cultural, symbolic and spiritual dimensions of life must be left behind. In the cities, the migrants often face discrimination due to their rural or ethnic backgrounds – making the vulnerable populations even worse off.


Don Cirilo telling Dr. Armando about “the untouchable pond”. One of the community members had seen a dream that a bad spirit lives in the waters. Ever since water of the pond have not been used for any purpose. “There are waters that simply cannot be touched”, Don Cirilo explains.

The past week was an official Climate Week. The young and ambitious climate activist, Greta Thunberg, has given emotional yet serious speeches in New York, urging politicians around the world to act upon climate emergency. Thousands of people around the world, from Helsinki to Sydney, were marching on the streets to express their concern on the miserable state of our Planet and the insufficient rehabilitation actions.

It is empowering to see, how the global community requiring for a change in status quo is expanding. Most importantly, these people are giving a voice for the most vulnerable populations in front of climate change – the ones who bear most of the climate weight but who are seldom heard.

Editorial: Global Climate Emergency: after COP24, climate science, urgency, and the threat to humanity

Development Studies Professor Barry Gills and Leeds Beckett University Sociology Professor Jamie Morgan have published an urgent editorial about the global climate crisis in the journal Globalizations.

The abstract is below, and the full article is free to read, here:

Global Climate Emergency: after COP24, climate science, urgency, and the threat to humanity

by Barry Gills & Jamie Morgan

This Special Editorial on the Climate Emergency makes the case that although we are living in the time of Global Climate Emergency we are not yet acting as if we are in an imminent crisis. The authors review key aspects of the institutional response and climate science over the past several decades and the role of the economic system in perpetuating inertia on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Humanity is now the primary influence on the planet, and events in and around COP24 are the latest reminder that we live in a pathological system. A political economy has rendered the UNFCCC process as yet a successful failure. Fundamental change is urgently required. The conclusions contain recommendations and a call to action now.

Environmental Emergency: Demanding for Urgent, Radical Transformations

Environmental Emergency: Demanding for Urgent, Radical Transformations

“Here at the University, we take part in multidisciplinary research relating to the environment and the multiple crises currently happening within it, and we want to use our platform and expertise as researchers to take and demand for urgent action.

We are living in a time of environmental emergency created by human actions. It is clear that out ways of life, especially here in the Global North, are not aligned with the carrying capacity of our common home planet, the Earth. Solving the environmental crises should be today’s political priority. What is at stake is life itself, both human and non-human. As important as individual choices can be, the changes that are needed are far bigger in scale, and must be enacted through the political system. We need structural, wide-ranging transformations in order to tackle the climate crisis in a socially just way, and we need them now.”

With these words, Development Studies PhD candidate Sanna Komi opened a silent vigil for the environmental emergency on Friday. The event was arranged by Development Studies in cooperation with Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science HELSUS, The University of Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies (HCAS), The Student Union’s Environmental Committee and the Elokapina initiative as a part of the Global Climate Strike week. After the opening speech, a silent moment of 11 minutes was held to mark the 11 years that we have according to last year’s Intergovernmental Planetary Climate Committee’s (IPCC) report to tackle climate change before it’s impacts become irreversible and truly catastrophic. The silent moment was followed by the sound of a bell as a call for action, and short speeches from representatives of the different organisers as well as University of Helsinki students.

Professor of World Politics Teivo Teivainen reading University of Helsinki rector’s letter of support for the event (pictures courtesy of Saana Hokkanen)

This action is accompanied by an open letter to the Prime Minister of Finland and the Mayor of Helsinki, in which we demand for radical and urgent policy initiatives to tackle this emergency.

You can sign the letter here:

Associate professor of Development Studies Markus Kröger urging for sanctions on Brazilian goods due to the ongoing burning of the Amazon and other Brazilian rainforests. (pictures courtesy of Saana Hokkanen)

We would like to thank everyone who came to show their support, and encourage everyone to take action during this climate strike week, which will culminate in climate marches in different Finnish cities on Friday 27.9.

Throughout the week, Elokapina is arranging focused demonstrations and workshops:

Monday 23.9.: The Red List Reading, where the entire list of 2700 endangered species in Finland is read 4 times during the day:

Monday 23.9.: Nonviolent direct action training:

Tuesday 24.9.: Climate anxiety workshop with Panu Pihkala:

Friday 27.9.: Climate Strike March




Event: Brown Bag Lunch Seminar with Katy Machoa

Plurinacionalidad: Mujeres Amazónicas de Pastaza y Nankints – Plurinationality: Amazonian Women from Pastaza and Nankints

(the presentation will be in Spanish; written translation in English)

Date: Thursday, August 15th
Time: 12:00-13:00
Venue: Unioninkatu 35, 3rd floor, room 344

ABSTRACT: A través de la experiencia organizativa en el que irrumpen las mujeres amazónicas de Pastaza y Nankints en un escenario adverso en donde el estado moderno/colonia/capitalista se encuentra legitimado expongo tanto las estrategias resistencia como las de dominación que son ejercidos sobre estos procesos organizativos para el debilitamiento del autogobierno y autonomía territorial. En este escenario políticamente desfavorable para la lucha social, las mujeres amazónicas con su pedagogía trazan el camino de la defensa territorial. En este contexto, sostengo que la plurinacionalidad tiene un doble carácter. Por un lado en la Constitución en el que aparece lejana, inalcanzable, inclusive como sin vida, y por el otro es dinámica y vital cuando es tomada, interpretada, codificada, apropiada y reapropiada por las experiencias de la defensa del territorio.

Through the organizational experience in which Amazonian women from Pastaza and Nankints break into an adverse scenario where the modern / colonial / capitalist state is legitimized, I expose resistance and domination strategies that are exercised in organizational processes for self-government and territorial autonomy. In a politically unfavorable scenario of social struggle, Amazonian women use their pedagogy toi trace the path of territorial defense.
In this context, I argue that plurinacionality has a double character. On the one hand, in the Constitution it appears distant, unattainable, and lifeless, and on the other it is dynamic and vital when it is interpreted, codified, specifically and re-appropriated by the experiences of the territorial defense.


Katy Machoa, de la nacionalidad kichwa amazónica de Shamato, como ex-dirigente de la Mujer de la CONAIE (2014-2017), lideró la defensa de los derechos humanos y colectivos a través de la campaña Resistir es mi derecho, por la defensa del territorio a nivel nacional e internacional. Dentro de sus esfuerzos se incluye la defensa del sistema intercultural bilingüe SEIB y el libre acceso a la educación superior para la juventud de los pueblos y nacionalidades del Ecuador. Katy ha terminado su Maestría en estudios Latinoamericanos en la UASB y actualmente colabora en el proyecto de investigación de la Academia de Finlandia Goal 4+: Including Eco-cultural Pluralism in Quality Education in Ecuadorian Amazonia (2018-2022).

Katy Machoa is part of the Kichwa Community of Shamato. As a former leader of the Women of the CONAIE (2014-2017), she led the defense of human and collective rights through the campaign Resistir es mi derecho [Resist is my right], participating in the struggle of indigenous women for the defense of the territory nationally and internationally. She is active for the defense of the intercultural bilingual education system and the free access to higher education for the youth of the peoples and nationalities of Ecuador. Katy holds a Master’s Degree in Latin American Studies at the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Quito, and currently works in the research project of the Academy of Finland Goal 4+: Including Eco-cultural Pluralism in Quality Education in Ecuadorian Amazonia (2018-2022).

Views from the field: Mondanna blog

One of the best parts of Development Studies is the opportunity to live and work with people in different types of communities all over the world. Anna Heikkinen, University of Helsinki Development Studies PhD Researcher, invites you to follow her experience and insights from her field work in the Andes mountains researching water governance in Peru. Her field diary provides fascinating and eloquently written insights into living and researching in the Central Andes of Peru.

Read more here: Field study diaries from the Peruvian Andes

Event: Mining and Indigenous Peoples in the Arctic – Panel Discussion

Date: Tuesday, May 28th
Time: 17:00-19:00
Venue: Think Lounge (upstairs in the Think Corner, Yliopistonkatu 4, 00100 Helsinki

Event description:

The collision between mining and indigenous lifeways is heating up in the Nordic region. Permits are currently pending to expand mineral extraction in Sápmi, the Artic region spanning four national governments (Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden), which is home to indigenous Sami peoples. Mining has already increased in the Barents region of Sápmi, and likely to soon be in issue also in Finland. How this collision is managed over the next decades may well be decisive for the future of indigenous lifeways in the Artic.

Meanwhile, similar collisions, with similar stakes, are raging also elsewhere in the Arctic (and across the globe). The localized responses of indigenous peoples around the world to the pressures of mining are widely diverse, and take place in hugely complex configurations. This public event will bring together and engage representatives from various stakeholder groups and sectors, including the mining industry, indigenous peoples, government, and civil society organizations – with experiences and examples shared also from other regions in the Arctic (Canada, Sweden, Norway, Greenland). What can we in Finland learn from experiences elsewhere in the Arctic, so as not to repeat the same mistakes? How does Finland’s mining law meet these and other challenges? What would be the impact of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) (between the EU and Canada) on Europe’s only indigenous people, based on experiences elsewhere? Who has the final rights and power to veto or approve a mining claim on Sámi territory?

With this panel discussion, we hope to evoke the complexity and messiness of real-world processes, whilst finding conflict-free ways forward. The aim of the event is to give space to reflection on the experiences and accomplishments of evolving political strategies from a comparative perspective.

17.00-17.05 – Welcome and Opening Words – Jeremy Gould, Professor Emeritus in Anthropology, University of Helsinki

17.05-17.15 – What does research have to say about the legal rights, processes and impacts of new mining ventures on indigenous territory? A brief overview summarizing findings and discourse in the scientific literature – Mark Nuttall,

Professor and Henry Marshall Tory Chair of Anthropology, University of Alberta, Canada

17.15-18.00 – PANEL DISCUSSION

Moderator: Aili Pyhälä, Adjunct Professor, Lecturer in Development Studies, University of Helsinki


Mark Nuttall – Professor of Anthropology, University of Alberta, Canada

Anne Nuorgam – University of Lapland; Member of Saami Parliament (Finland)

Terho Liikamaa – Director of TUKES Mining Centre

Heta Heiskanen – PhD, Tampere University, ALL-YOUTH STN project

Päivi A. Karvinen –Finnish Ministry of the Environment

18-00-19.00 – Q&A – from the floor

Event: Brown Bag Lunch Seminar with Charles Gore

Brown Bag Seminar on Reading and Writing UNCTAD’s Least Developed Countries Report
Tuesday 11th June
Unioninkatu 35, 3rd floor, room 344

ABSTRACT: Global reports written in international organizations, such as UNCTAD, UNIDO, UNDESA and ILO, offer a useful and often neglected source of information, research and policy analysis on developing countries and the international system.

Based on my experience as lead author and director of UNCTAD’s Least Developed Countries Report from 2000 to 2012, this seminar will provide an inside look at how these reports are written and also how to read them.

Some of the key findings in the sequence of LDC Reports from 2000 to 2010 will be used as examples. These covered issues such as: capital flows to LDCs; poverty trends in LDCs; PRSPs; the relationship between trade and poverty; the HIPC initiative; STI and knowledge for development; aid effectiveness and the problem of ownership; development governance; progress towards MDGs; and the effectiveness of international support measures for least developed countries.

BIOGRAPHY: Charles Gore is a Visiting Scholar in Development Studies in the University of Helsinki from January to June 2019. He is an Honorary Professor in Economics at the University of Glasgow, a Research Associate in Global Studies at the University of Sussex, a Non-Resident Senior Research Fellow at UNU-WIDER and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (UK). Between 1999 and 2008, he was team leader and principal author of UNCTAD’s Least Developed Countries Report, and from 2008 until 2012 he was Special Coordinator for Cross-Sectoral Issues, directing research on Africa and on least developed countries in UNCTAD.

Originally trained in economic geography, he has a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree from the University of Cambridge and a Ph.D., based on two years fieldwork in Ghana, from Pennsylvania State University. He was a Lecturer in Development Studies at the University of Wales from 1976 to 1991, and during that time he wrote Regions in Question (Methuen 1984, re-issued 2011 in Routledge Revivals), and worked as a consultant for UNCTAD on why landlockedness is a development problem and what to do about it. In the 1990s he worked more closely with UN agencies in Geneva, writing chapters for UNCTAD’s Trade and Development Report (1994, 1997, 1998), and managing two multi-country research projects – one (in UNCTAD) on lessons of East Asian development for Africa, and another (in the International Institute for Labour Studies, ILO) on the global applicability of the concept of social exclusion.

His academic publications examine the nature of the explanations, normative judgements and discursive narratives which underpin international development practice. Topics addressed include: how geographic space is linked to development in explanations of regional development; methodological nationalism and the misunderstanding of East Asian development; the nature of the Washington Consensus; Amartya Sen’s concepts of entitlement and capability; and the romantic violence of the MDGs. He is currently working on a history of how the idea of poverty went global in the 1970s, which is part of a broader examination of the concept of global goals.