Respect: the unsung heroes of the Global South

By Joern Fischer

It’s finally done. After sifting through (literally) hundreds of applications, I have selected four new PhD students, due to start in a few months from now, working on our project on identifying synergies between food security and biodiversity conservation. While I am excited to work with the people we ultimately selected, I am also truly sad for all those who did their very best, and yet missed out. For so many of the applicants from the Global South — so called “developing countries” — getting an opportunity to do their PhD in Europe is a really big deal, but invariably, there are many more people with this dream than PhD places (or supervisory capacity).

Having interviewed many people over the last few weeks, and having learned about the motivations of what drives so many to pursue a PhD, I felt the need to somehow express my tremendous respect to these good people. I heard countless times of people feeling they wanted to contribute to their country’s development; to the livelihoods of the rural poor; or simply to halting the demise of the many non-human creatures we share our planet with. Add to this the many hurdles that scholars in poor countries often have to go through, just to get a decent education… and it makes achievements of scholars in wealthy settings — including my own — seem quite minute.

So: I take my hat off to all you good people out there, who work hard to do good and even more so, I take my hat off to those of you who do so despite difficult circumstances. You’re the true heroes of sustainable development!


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