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Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) starts up a new project with the Universidad Católica Boliviana “San Paulo” (UCB) in La Paz. During the ten year cooperation professors from Flanders and Bolivia, together with the local population, will carry out research to improve the quality of life in fragile rural and urban regions in Bolivia. They will focus on contemporary Bolivian challenges such as street youth, water pollution and shortage, and indigenous people’s rights. The development project will be officially launched at a kick-off event in U-residence on the VUB campus on March 28th, from 14:00 to 17:00.
The project is funded by VLIR-UOS, the Flemish actor in charge of university development programs. On the Flemish side the role of coordinator will be taken up by Gerrit Loots, professor of clinical psychology at VUB. In Bolivia this position will be filled by professor Melina Balderrama Durán.
Over the course of the past decades Bolivia has known a rapid economic growth with numerous legal, social, climatological and ecological changes. These developments have had an impact on the availability of resources (e.g. water), agricultural production, food supplies, social development and safety. As a result, the urban and rural Bolivian communities have come under increasing pressure. At the same time, the quality of life of families and social groups (particularly women, children and adolescents) was reduced and is under constant threat.
This program hopes to contribute to the development of Bolivian society by fortifying the research and training capacity of the UCB, with its 4 regional campuses (La Paz, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba en Tarija). So called Transdisciplinary Learning Communities will be created. This way the knowledge of local communities can be strengthened, providing them with practical applications to counter the effects of the ever-changing social developments.