Working Group

A Working Group initiated by Right Livelihood campus Bangkok

Initial CONCEPT NOTE (short version, 9 October 2020)

Earth Trusteeship Working Group

We are experiencing a number of impacts to the natural environment, arising from human activity, which are wiping out entire species and threatening to collapse planetary eco-systems. These eco-systems – encompassing lands, oceans and the atmosphere – are vital to the survival of human civilisation and to future generations.

This damaging activity is founded predominantly on a relationship of ownership that humanity, in general, has claimed and exercised towards the natural environment. Our legal, political, economic and social activities are based on a human-constructed notion that land and natural ‘resources’ can be owned, and that ownership grants extensive rights to manage and use these ‘resources’ (often exclusively and without restrictions).

This construct has provided considerable economic benefits, especially to those who ‘own’ land or control territory. But it has also given rise to conflicts and wars over land/resource ownership and territorial control. These conflicts and the methods to fight them have reached a tipping point (point of no return) which threatens not only those involved in the conflicts – but human civilisation itself, whether by nuclear war, use of biological weapons, other weapons of mass destruction or emerging weapons like cyber warfare and killer robots.

This construct has also led to severe abuse and depletion of natural ‘resources’ in order to gain maximum, short-medium term, economic benefit. This environmental abuse and resource depletion are also reaching tipping points for many eco-systems, including the climate, oceans, land fertility, biodiversity, threatening human and ecological survival. As such we are on a planetary trajectory towards disaster.

Ownership should not be the primary or only type of relationship humanity has with the natural environment. There are many cultures, especially indigenous cultures, that place a higher value on the concept of trusteeship (guardianship, stewardship), and embody this concept more deeply in their legal, social, political and economic traditions. This is a relationship which still provides rights (mandates) to use natural resources, but places greatest emphasis on the responsibilities to ensure sustainability – in its true sense of care and regeneration – of the natural environment for current and future generations. Trusteeship implies responsibility to benefit others, including future generations and thus the common good. Also Rights of Nature are increasingly recognized as a fundamental element of transformation to a future worldview based on genuine sustainability.

Modern applications of trusteeship are now emerging in the corporate world, in co-management of food systems, intellectual property, protection of eco-systems as well as in the frameworks of national and, ultimately, global governance. From this perspective we can speak of Earth Trusteeship.

Earth Trusteeship legally safeguards the community of life and as such should be an overarching principle of a binding Global Compact for the Environment.

This working group will develop the concepts of trusteeship and Earth Trusteeship; how to expand their applications in national and international legal systems, economic activity,  political discourse and decision-making in order to help reverse the current planetary trajectory, and re-set humanity on a course toward peace, sustainability and social justice for future generations.

Mission (draft)

Contemplation, conceptualization and co-design of Earth Trusteeship as an overarching principle of ethics, local and global governance as well as property, and its possible contribution to the constitution of a new development paradigm conducive to sustainability and the wellbeing of future generations.

Objectives (draft)

  • Clarification, articulation and communication of Earth Trusteeship in the frameworks of global/local governance and (international) environmental law, in the context of current political, economic and social systems, and the consequent transformation of these systems.
    • research, academic and civil society exchanges;
    • reflection on changing conceptual frameworks and consequent paradigm shift;
    • action research / learning by doing / experimentation on Earth Trusteeship at all levels.
  • Learning from the application of trusteeship approaches, and Earth Trusteeship, by Right Livelihood Laureates and supporting these as examples.
  • Identifying and promoting effective policies which embrace and apply  trusteeship models and Earth Trusteeship;
  • Innovation of a multi-stakeholder “commons” for Earth Trusteeship co-design and collaboration in various areas, such as:
    • Ecosystem restoration, support for indigenous (traditional and contemporary) worldviews and livelihood practices; with special concern for landless farmers and their plights for land rights; exploring new perspectives on landscape cultivation and consequent land ownership challenges, addressing climate emergency;
    • Sustainable food-system development, including regenerative agriculture, and related ownership challenges;
    • New impulses for participatory Global Governance towards sustainable development and International Environmental Law (IEL) from the perspective of Earth Trusteeship innovation; including governance of all natural environment: land, sea, air and energy;
    • In the ultimate framework of Peace and Justice for all.
  • Advocacy by means of dialogue on policy dilemmas as well as support for non-violent activism towards social justice and cultural integrity as far as Earth Trusteeship is an element of it.
  • Co-design of curricula for Right Livelihood Studies and Education for Earth Trusteeship.

Conditions for realization of the objectives (draft)

  • Formation of a Working Group and Coordination Team.
  • Forging financial partnerships with supporting funding agencies, impact investors and initiatives and related social entrepreneurship.

Membership EARTH TRUSTEESHIP Working Group (initial core group)

Right Livelihood Award (RLA) Laureates who support the WG:

  • Sulak Sivaraksa, Thailand (RLA 1995) – Honorary Patron, RLC campus Bangkok
  • Vandana Shiva, India (RLA 1993)
  • Anwar Fazal, Malaysia (RLA 1982)
  • Nnimmo Bassey, Nigeria (RLA 2010)
  • Raùl Montenegro, Argentina (2004)

Alyn Ware, New Zealand, (RLA 2009) – Coordinating Right Livelihood Award Laureate; The Peace Foundation; Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament; World Future Council

Neshan Gunasekera, Sri Lanka, Working Group Co-Chair, legacy holder Judge C.G. Weeramantry, Sri Lanka,(RLA 2007), former Vice President, International Court of Justice, The Hague; World Future Council

Dasho Karma Ura, Bhutan, Working Group Co-Chair, President,Centre for Bhutan & GNH Studies, Thimphu, Bhutan; former Member, Constitution Drafting Committee

Klaus Bosselmann, New Zealand,Academic Supervisor of the Working Group;  with Prue Taylor, New Zealand, University of Auckland, New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law;New Zealand Centre of Global Studies Programme (NZCGS) (in process of formation: Right Livelihood College campus Auckland)

Paulo Magalhães, Portugal, General Director, Common Home of Humanity (to be confirmed)

Narumon Arunotai, Thailand, Director, CU Social Research Institute (CUSRI), Chulalongkoern University (CU), Bangkok, Thailand

Mike Hayes, Thailand / Australia, Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies / Global Campus of Human Rights, Asia-Pacific branch, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand

Justin Sobion, Trinidad & Tobago, PhD candidate,Faculty of Law, University of Auckland,  Working Group Coordinator

Alexander Repenning, Germany / Switzerland, Education Manager, Right Livelihood Foundation, office Geneva, Switzerland

Hans & Wallapa van Willenswaard, Thailand / the Netherlands,Founders/Advisors, School for Wellbeing Studies and Research, Right Livelihood College, campus Bangkok Thailand

Narumon Paiboonsittikun, Thailand, Towards Organic Asia (TOA) Coordinator

Connecting the Commons team (project with Heinrich Böll Foundation Southeast Asia) and alumni Chulalongkorn University Right Livelihood Summerschool (CURLS), in collaboration with:

  • Chulalongkorn University (CU), Bangkok, Thailand
  • Royal University of Bhutan
  • Right Livelihood College, Stockholm – Bonn – Geneva,
  • Sathirakoses Nagapradipa Foundation, Thailand



Committed signatories of the Declaration on Education for Earth Trusteeship, Wongsanit Ashram, Thailand, 22 February 2020.

Monika Griefahn, Germany, Vice Chair, Right Livelihood Foundation; Mona Abouleish and Andreas Lenzen, SEKEM, Egypt (RLA 2003); Rosana Fernandes, MST Landless Workers’ Movement, Brazil (RLA 1991) and Claudia Jardimm (journalist / translator Bangkok); Ryoko Shimizu, Seikatsu Consumers Cooperative (SCCC), Japan (RLA 1989); Dr. Caitlin Stronell, Citizen’s Nuclear Information Centre, Japan (Jinzaro Takagi, RLA 1997); Anwar Fazal, Malaysia, Founder Right Livelihood College represented by Dr. Victor Karunan; Sulak Sivaraksa, Thailand, represented by Wallapa and Hans van Willenswaard; Ellen Christoforatu, Germany Center for Teacher Education, University of Kassel; David Shaw and Chris Benner, RLC Working Group Agroecology, USA, RLC campus Santa Cruz; Manu Krishan Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, Global Campus of Human Rights, Italy; CURLS alumni.