Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Gummersbach Experience

The participants to the 2012 Human and Civil Rights Seminar 
in Gummersbach, Germany.
Photo by the International Academy for Leadership.

In 2012, I had the opportunity of participating in the Human and Civil Rights seminar conducted by the International Academy for Leadership (IAF) of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) in Gummersbach, Germany. But prior to getting to Germany, I and more or less 80 participants around the globe engaged in the online phase of the seminar. For two months, we read articles on liberalism and human rights as well as various international conventions, wrote essays, exchanged ideas in the online forum, answered an online quiz and made an artwork.

After the online phase, we were trimmed down to twenty-three who were given the chance to take part in the seminar in Gummersbach. During our briefing at the FNF Philippines office, we were told that a majority of those who made it to the top ten were Filipinos. However, in order for Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, the Latin America and the Mediterranean countries to be represented, there were only five of us from the Philippines but we were still the biggest delegation.

Welcome to the Akademie!
The welcome at The Akademie.

Philippines represent with John Castillo, Sol Victorioso, Ron de Vera, Sarah Cruz and Damcelle Torres
Philippines represent.
With John Castillo, Ron de Vera, Sarah Cruz and Damcelle Torres.

Since we already had an introduction on human rights, liberalism and freedom in the online phase, this time our discussion focused more on the functions of rule of law, the Pussy Riot and the Spear of the Nation (both of which became our hashtags for the duration of the seminar), universality of human rights vis-a-vis cultural specificity, discrimination issues, ethical dilemmas, right to privacy and the threats of terrorism, the importance of property rights in a spectrum where highlight is on civil and political rights, food security, education and a whole lot more of issues which affects a human being.

Our learning went beyond our usual session room. We went on field trips outside of Gummersbach, took part in a joint world cafe session together with participants in a parallel seminar and engaged in conversations with our co-participants on the situation happening in our respective countries. We listen to the real accounts of people who have experienced the strife and all that we see on the news and read in the papers.

The small groups, presentations at the plenary and joint world cafe sessions.

Our group presentations. See how high tech we can get? Writing on that wall screen.
And the tools of the seminar were just sleek. We had all that we need (markers, metacards, pair of scissors, etc.) in a thingamobob that collapses into a sort of a suitcase.

Our speakers during the two-week seminar.
The speakers that we had during our seminar.

Our first field trip: Cologne

A visit to the concentration camp in Buchenwald.

Staying in Dresden for the weekend.

The Parliament in Dresden
The Parliament in Dresden.

At the Stasi Office
Our visit to the Stasi Office in Dresden,
the state security service of the German Democratic Republic.

Participants to the 2012 Human and Civil Rights Seminar
The participants.

Guten Appetit
Our autumn-inspired farewell dinner.

Apart from all the learnings, meeting new faces and making new friends, it has been an enriching seminar. The participants may have different takes on various issues presented to us but in the end, we all come to an agreement or at the very least, respect each other's views. It has also made me appreciate the freedom and rights that I am enjoying as a Filipino which at times we often take for granted.

To know more about FNF and its programs, you may visit their website at

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