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Grusswort zur Right Livelihood Lecture 2023 (in Englisch)

7. Dezember 2023

Dear Dr. Caroline Abu Sa’da
Dear Sima Samar
Dear representatives of the Right Livelihood Foundation
Ladies and gentlemen

I extend a warm welcome to all of you gathered here today for this truly prestigious occasion – the 16th Right Livelihood Lecture at the University of Zurich. It is with great admiration and respect that we come together to honor this year’s award-winning organization SOS MEDITERRANEE, and to delve into its courageous humanitarian engagement.

Dear Dr. Caroline Abu Sa’da, on behalf of the Executive Board, I warmly welcome you to the University of Zurich and thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts with us. I shall not say more about your admirable commitment, as there will be a laudatory speech by another guest of honor, Sima Samar, the recipient of the Right Livelihood Award in 2012. Dear Mrs. Samar, welcome to the University of Zurich, we are delighted to have you here!

Perhaps you have also come across it: In a recent report, a media psychologist from the University of Zurich has pointed out that in the view of the flood of negative headlines that we read every day, many people are reaching their mental limits. We are inundated with distressing news and horrifying images of conflicts, wars, and crises around the world, especially via social media, and we have to process this information somehow. Many people feel the need to protect themselves and, at times, even avoid the consumption of news altogether. In this context, experts warn against doomscrolling and advise developing one’s own media literacy in order to seek information in a targeted manner. Proper personal information retrieval and selection has emerged to be a key trait of our own behavior. Unbiased information processing will remain crucial for shaping our opinions and, ultimately, for maintaining our democracies.

Universities not only play a key role in providing a variety of facts, allowing to generate factual information, but we also share a common responsibility. As a publicly funded university, it is our duty to address the societal impact and consequences of crises in our work. However – as Didier Fassin puts it: “We live in a world in which the language of crisis has become the most common way of representing a series of situations we face. We have global economic crises, eurozone crises, refugee crises in Europe and the Middle East, leadership crises in the United States and Venezuela, institutional crises in Hungary and Poland, nuclear crises in North Korea and Iran, humanitarian crises in Yemen and Congo, food crises in South Sudan and the Horn of Africa, environmental crises in the Arctic and the Amazonia, as well as identity crises, legitimation crises, solidarity crises, security crises, gender crises ... and even crises in the social sciences.»

This somehow inflationary use of the word crisis shall not make us forget to continuously differentiate between a subjectively experienced notion of crisis from an objectively identifyable crisis. The name SOS MEDITERRANEE reminds us loudly: no one shall drown in the mediterranean sea. Everything else is a crisis.

At the University of Zurich, we regularly host public lectures, like tonight’s, to facilitate discussions on current hot topics and promising initiatives that positively impact society. I am personally very proud that the annual Right Livelihood Lecture has become an integral part of the University of Zurich’s dialogue with the public. And I am grateful that the Right Livelihood Award honors organizations and individuals who promote justice and peace and serve as role models for all members of our university community. SOS MEDITERANEE is a very justified award winner and Dr. Caroline Abu Sa’da the best person to speak on this particular occasion.

I would like to close by thanking everyone involved in the organization of this event. I would especially like to express my gratitude to the Right Livelihood Foundation for the support and fruitful cooperation and to the Right Livelihood Centre at the University of Zurich. The Center makes the Laureates’ work accessible through teaching, continuing education, and public relations.

I wish you all a pleasant and inspiring evening at our university and I am happy to pass on the word to the General Manager of the Right Livelihood Centre of the University of Zurich, Dr. Aline Steinbrecher.