Vandana Shiva to headline ICA Global Conference in Kigali

The physicist and activist is renowned for her campaigns on biodiversity, indigenous knowledge and other ecological and social issues

Environmental activist Dr Vandana Shiva will be one of the keynote speakers at the International Co-operative Alliance’s Global Conference in Kigali, Rwanda (14-17 October).

The Delhi-based academic has written more than 20 books, specialising in agriculture and food, and has also campaigned on issues such as intellectual property rights, biodiversity, biotechnology, bioethics, and genetic engineering.

A physicist by profession, she completed her PhD on the Hidden Variables and Non-locality in Quantum Theory at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.

In 1991 she founded Navdanya (nine seeds), an NGO working to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources – especially native seed – and to promote organic farming and fair trade. So far, over 500,000 farmers have received training through the organisation, learning about sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, Ghandian philosophy and business ethics.

A campaigner for biodiversity and indigenous knowledge, Dr Shiva chairs the Commission on the Future of Food set up by the region of Tuscany, Italy. She is a board member of the International Forum on Globalisation (IGF), and a member of the steering committee of the Indian People’s Campaign Against the WTO.

She is also known for her work on gender equality. Her 1988 book, Staying Alive, explores the link between the violation of nature and the marginalisation of women in the developing world. She founded the gender unit at the International Centre for Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu and initiated Diverse Women for Diversity, an international movement of women working for food and agriculture, launched formally in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Her work attracted a number of accolades, including the Right Livelihood Award in 1993, an honour sometimes referred to as an alternative Nobel Prize.

She was named an environmental hero by Time Magazine and one of the most powerful communicators on the continent by Asia Week. In 2010, Forbes Magazine identified Dr Shiva as one of the seven most powerful women in the world.

She has advised governments worldwide, serving on a number of committees and Prince Charles’s expert group on Sustainable Agriculture. More recently, she has worked with the government of Bhutan to help make the country 100% organic as well as the local authorities of Tuscany and Rome to create better opportunities for young people.

In her speech to the ICA, Dr Shiva will focus on how co-ops can help to achieve a more solidarity-based and participatory society. The Global Conference is expected to bring together over 1,000 delegates from around the world to explore the role of co-operatives in driving the UN’s Sustainable Development agenda.

ICA president Ariel Guarco said: “Our meeting on Rwanda’s soil will show – with humility, pride, and hope – the achievements of the co-operative movement and all its as yet untapped potential in development. This should clearly encourage governments – whether local or national – and international institutions to take full advantage of the experience and expertise that co-operatives make available to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

“We hope that this conference will enable us to make our voices heard on the international scene in favour of a stronger, more united, and more open world. We hope to see you there in large numbers.”