German Development Institute – DIE InWent – Capacity Building ...
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German Development Institute – DIE. InWent – Capacity Building International. Programme Managing Global Governance (MGG) - 6. German Political ...



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      German Development Institute  DIE InWent  Capacity Building International Programme Managing Global Governance (MGG) - 6   German Political Foundations as Actors in International Development Cooperation and their Role in Latin America.    yBBrisa Ceccon Rocha    México City, January 2010
 Table of contents      Introduction………………………………………………………………….……...3 1. German Political Foundations historical context and main characteristics …….4 2. German political foundations as actors of international development cooperation…………………………...................................................................7 2.1. German political foundations´ added values as international cooperation actors..........................................................................................................8 2.2. Foundations as actors of German foreign policy: a “very smart instrument”............................................................................................... 10 3. The relevance of counterparts……………………………………………..…...11 4. How important is the Latin-American region for German Political Foundations?........................................................................................................14 4.1. Foundations´ main concerns about Latin-America……………………...17 5. Limits of the German political foundations work…………………………….. 19 Conclusions…………………………………………………………………….…..21 Bibliography…………………………………………………………………..……25 Annex 1: 2008 General figures of German Political Foundations work and presence in Latin America …………………………..……………………………..…………………………...28 Annex 2: The six German political foundations……………………………………29   2
Introduction “International cooperation is far too important to be left to governments alone”. (Willy Brandt) In a world where globalization process and international relations arena leave very few and not always effective channels of dialogue between civil society and State institutions, German political foundations, also known by the German word “stiftungen”, come to play the very important role of political mediators and dialogue promoters between a diversified range of social and political actors, not only within Germany but in many regions of the world. As defined by Ernst Hillebrand and Owe Optenhöogel, “[Their] networks represent an absolutely unique structure of global socio-political connexions, exceptionally efficient in the mediation of positions and 1interests, of contacts and relations”. Precisely because of this connexions and networks, as will be forward explained, Foundations are also considered an important instrument of the German foreign policy and a strategic German international relations´ actor. Besides being an important international political cooperation actor, as well as promoters of Western democracy values, the six different German political foundations here analyzed also seek to be a reflection of the German political system plurality: all political parties represented with more than 5% in the Bundestag (the German Parliament) have the right to have a foundation, funded by the government, with the purpose of promoting at national and international levels democracy and their own party political values. Specifically in Latin America, where Foundations have been working for more than forty years, their presence in the national political culture of some countries has been very significant. However, in spite of the many years promoting democracy, the construction of democratic societies keep being challenged by the region’s social and economic inequality, corruption, several economic crisis, organized crime and the societies generalized felling of distrust and disrespect about politics and politicians. Having said so, the aim of this research was to make a broad description of how German political foundations perceive themselves as actors of international                                                  1 Ernst Hillebrand and Uwe Optenhögel. „Mediadores en un mundo sin fronteras. Sobre el papel de las fundaciones políticas alemanas en la política exterior” (2001), Nueva Sociedad, no. 176, p. 140.  3 
development cooperation, how they legitimate their political cooperation work, what is the importance of Latin American region, compared to the other regions for the different Foundations and what they perceive as Latin America’s main challenges and opportunities. Our main source of information has been eight in depth interviews: 6 with all the directors for the Latin American departments of the six German political foundations2, and two with experts from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. These interviews, together with some academic papers, Foundations annual reports and WebPages, and some foundations internal documents, are the bases of this effort to better understand the role of German political Stiftungen as actors if international development cooperation, especially in the Latin American context. Finally, this research has been possible thanks to: the programme Managing Global Governance, financed by the BMZ and organized by DIE and InWent; the support of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and its Latin America department, were my ten weeks practice phase took place; and the openness of the directors and people involved in the Latina American department of the other five Stiftungen, who answered all my questions and enriched the contents of this research with their honest points of view during the interviews.  1. German Political Foundations historical context and main characteristics 3“Democracy lives on the competition of ideas” The reasons why German political foundations were created are directly related to the German post-war context, the fears after the failure of the Weimar Republic and the risen of the Third Reich, and the need of an instrument to promote democratic values in western German society; as expressed in one of the interviews, Germany suffered a painful learning process where they learned that democracy does not work without democratic citizens, therefore the State needed to educate and train them”4. Even though the first German political foundation, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, was created                                                  2 The only exception was Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, which interview was made with the project coordinator for Central America, Mexico and Cuba. 3 Interview made with Hans-Hartwing Blomeier, Director for Latin America at Konrad Adenauer Stiftung”, November 4th 2009. 4 Ibid.   4
back in 1925, it was not until the 50’s that foundations were established as political education institutions which subsequently, threatened by the communism wave, also pursued the promotion of these democratic values around the globe. The Stiftungen define themselves as independent, nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations that promote democracy, political education and dialogue both in Germany and internationally. For doing so, they play a multidimensional role: as think 5tanks, as education centers, as consulting agencies and as international development cooperation and German foreign policy actors. As political institutions with a specific political ideology, each of the six Foundations analyzed in this project has a special relationship with the political parties and ideologies represented in the Bundestag (the German parliament): despite sharing political values, opinions and points of view with the parties they are close to, they are legal, financial and organizational independent institutions. In addition, although Foundations boards can in fact have a large number of active and former politicians, no executive function in the Foundation can be carried out at the same time as a high executive functions in the party organization. What is more, the independence of the Political Foundations can be reflected in the fact that they define their own political priorities, working programs and set up their budgets with the overall limit that it is given to them by the state6. Most of the Foundations funding comes from the federal budget (95%), mainly from the Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development (BMZ), the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI), and the German Foreign Office (AA), and in a less extent from the Federal Ministry for Education and research (BMBF), from the Federal States, from the European Union, from the German Association for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and from other federal and general funds7. Unlike other international cooperation governmental agencies like the GTZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit or German Technical Cooperation), the ministries they                                                  5 For more information on the role of political foundation as think tanks please refer to the following text: Weilemann, Peter R. "Experiences of a Multidimensional Think Tank: The Konrad Adenauer Stiftung" in McGann, James and Weaver, R. Kent (eds.),“Think Tanks and Civil Societies” (2000), Transaction 6Publishers, New Brunswick, pp. 169-186.  Peter R. Weilemann. Op. cit., p. 175. 7 For more specific information regarding the foundations budget assignation please refer to Konrad Adenauer Stiftung webpage at Accessed November 18th, 2009.   5
get the funds from can not intervene in how they work and who they develop their projects with. All German political Foundations share the goal of promoting democracy, political dialogue and human rights, some giving more emphasis to the social and political rights, others to environmental rights, to individual rights, or just human rights in a broad sense. Even though they also share the same fund’s source and have to act under the same legal framework, what make them different from each other are the parties they are close to in Germany, the counterparts they work with (which will be explained further on) and the political ideologies they promote: From liberalism, social-market economy and Christian-democracy to social-democracy, democratic-socialism 8and green politics; "different but complementary”, all together, as in one of the interviews was mentioned, they can also be described as “German democracy and pluralism investors”9. Interestingly, according to the interviews, there is very little cooperation among foundations but on administrative matters with the ministries; some said that because they share the same democratic conviction and have different counterparts there is no need of doing so, others underlined that the BMZ legal framework and lines of work do not allow foundations to develop projects jointly, neither to share any counterparts. Therefore, it is the BMZ who works as the coordination keeper, ensures that no duplication of work is carried out by foundations and pursues their expenses accountability. Finally, although there are many other political foundations in the world, none of them has the characteristics mentioned previously, nor the same institutional figure and relation with the political parties and government institutions. In fact, German Political Foundations, in the history of international political party aid, are considered to be the pioneers in the work of international promotion of democracy, especially in Southern Europe and Latin America in the 70´s and 80´s. Therefore, despite the fact that other similar institutions were later created in the United States (the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs) and also in                                                  8 Interview made with Hans-Hartwing Blomeier, Op. cit. 9 Interview with Dörte Wollrad, Director for Latin America at Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, November 12th 2009.   6
some European countries like France, Netehrlands, Great Britan, Portugal, Spain and Sweden10, German Stiftungen can still be considered an unique and experienced actor of international cooperation for development, especially in the field of democracy promotion, which model has inspired many other similar institutions around the world.  2. German political foundations as actors of international development cooperation “International cooperation is always political, the difference is that we are clear and transparent about it”11 Besides being an important political actor in Germany as civic education, research and political parties´ consultation institutions, German political foundations also play a significant role as international development cooperation actors, especially in the field of democracy development and international dialogue promotion. The resources destined to the international cooperation activities vary from foundation to foundation, but they all invest around 50 % of their annual budget in activities and projects worldwide, as well as in Europe12. Although counterparts, political values and aims are different among Foundations, their instruments and means can be very similar: They give political education and consultation, facilitate information and experts exchange, carry out research projects and publications, provide scholarships, organize conferences, seminars and workshops, but most of all, foundations promote dialogue between actors, both at national and international level, that otherwise “would never sit in the same table”13. 41Therefore, being "moderators and catalysts of dialogue processes”, is for foundations one of the most important characteristics of their international cooperation work.                                                  10 Thomas Carothers. “Confronting the Weakest Link” (2006). Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, p. 13. 11 Interview with Dörte Wollrad, Op. cit. 12 Please refer to Annex 1. 13 Interview with Annette von Scönfeld Director for Latin America at Heinrich Böll Stiftung, November 20th 2009. 14 Interview made with Hans-Hartwing Blomeier, Op. cit.  7 
Finally, in some of the interviews it was stressed that Foundations are not donors but cooperation actors with clear political offers, which are reflected in the selection of their projects and counterparts, as will be further explained. 2.1. German political foundations´ added values as international cooperation actors  51"There are many advantages in diversity” German political foundations are not governmental organizations, although this is where their funds come from; they are not fully think tanks although they carry out many research and publication activities; they are neither fully considered civil society organizations because of their institutional structure and proximity to political parties. Being somewhere in between this international cooperation actors, plus having their own specific features and legal framework, give German political foundations a set of diverse “added values” that were highlighted during the interviews as the characteristics that make them a very unique international cooperation actor, especially in comparison to NGO´s or government international cooperation institutions and ministries. Next, we will present some of the most important “added values” mentioned during the interviews: 1. German political foundations are seen as a positive reflection for the world of the German pluralistic political thought, as well as of the competitiveness needed in democratic systems. They also define themselves as trustful and reliable actors since their work and relationship with counterparts are based on the clear political position each foundation has. 2. Foundations were also defined as bridges between different actors in Germany and in the countries they work with. It was said that they bring together different levels of experts, political and social actors, who can meet the need for dialog and knowledge on certain topics and issues that can not be acquire in other academic or political institutions. 3. As will be explained further on, the long term and close relation with their counterparts is also a very important foundations´ added value: A) Because they                                                  15 Interview with Ernest Kerbusch, former Friedrich Ebert Foundation worker and expert, November 9th, 2009.  8 
have a direct and deep dialogue with them, confidence and values bases are generated, making the counterparts fell that they can be advised; B) they allow Foundations to have direct access to functional elites in each foundation’s ideological sphere and to have a more direct incidence in political and social processes in the countries the work in; C) this proximity, together with having access to Europeans political elites, give them the possibility of representing “the voice from the south” and promoting the north-south dialogue in the European and German spheres. 4. Foundations have direct access to a diverse list of political and social actors that other German institutions and organizations do not have directly access to: To politicians and decision takers that NGO´s normally have difficulties to access; to social and political actors that the diplomatic structure can not be close to; and depending on the case, to the political parties and governments oppositions both in Germany and in the countries they work. 5. In some of the interviews the benefits that Foundations can bring to the German interests were highlighted. Some said that foundations work is not only about aid and solidarity, but also about defending German interests; others highlighted that when Foundations support and promote human rights, social justice and for instance, peace, they are actually protecting German interests, and that developing these countries economies and supporting their stability can also be beneficial for the German economy. Others also pointed out that foundations safeguard not only their close parties’ interests, but whole Germany ones. Furthermore, it was mentioned that Foundations are a fundamental element of the German international relations, not only because of what and how they do things, but because they are sometimes more efficient bringing benefits to Germany. 6. Foundations represent a very important source of information and contacts for German politicians and civil society: They make research, publish, organize seminar and conferences, and they have direct contact, through their offices and counterparts, to first hand information. 7. Finally, it was remarked the fact that Foundations do not see only the technical part of cooperation (comparing themselves to GTZ) but also pay attention to the political side of development, therefore, they can give German international development cooperation a more comprehensive vision and complement the work made by other German institutions and organizations.   9
2.2. Foundations as actors of German foreign policy: a “very smart instrument” “We do not make German policy abroad, we support and promote politics in other countries”16 For many years after the first Foundations were created in the 50´s and 60´s, they played a very important role as German international relations and political actors, in such a degree that they were even considered sometimes, and still do, a parallel structure to the German embassies. These role was emphasized due to the historical taboo of acting upon “German interests” that Foundations avoided by representing only political parties and ideologies. In fact, it was mentioned that the open participation of Germany in international relations conflicts, sending troops to Afghanistan for example, is something relatively recent and new for the German foreign policy. Even though being considered a parallel instrument of the German foreign policy, foundations do not see themselves as representatives of the German government, especially if they are close to an opposition party; it was also said that they promote German international relations, not only German foreign policy, as well as the interests of the German Civil society. In other words, more than German foreign policy actors, they conceive themselves as representatives of their own political ideology as well of the plurality of the German political system. As “non official foreign policy actors”, Foundations were also defined as a very smart instrument of the German foreign policy: They are not tied to diplomatic rules reason why they can be more flexible; they have a direct contact with diverse groups, tendencies, political points of view, as well as with political and relevant actors; they can work with critical topics and in places where the government’s official foreign policy could not work or intervene; and when there are conflicts in some regions and the embassies have to leave, foundations can stay, like happened in Chile with Pinochet coup d’état in the 70´s. That is to say, sometimes Foundations can carry out the role of international dialogue promoters further and deeper than the government and official institutions do.                                                  61 Interview made with Hans-Hartwing Blomeier, Op. cit..    01
Like mentioned before, Foundations are an important communication channel and information source, especially because they have a more direct contact with the people and the countries´ realities. This is why, unlike the embassies; they can have a better understanding of what happens in these countries and about sectors that are not represented by their governments. Thus, they can better advise German politicians and society by giving them a more realistic opinion, even though it is known that it can be framed with the diverse foundations´ political points of view. Finally, it was said that because Germany is part of a globalized world, they need to work as an international actor, and in order to do so, Foundations complement the international cooperation and politics work of German governmental and non governmental actors. Thus, as expressed by the ex President of the Republic, Dr. Roman Herzog (1994-1999): “The foundations [are] among the most effective and reliable instruments of German foreign policy  always assuming that the meaning of this term goes beyond the traditional methods and skills of the Foreign Service. The foundations are helping to ensure that the characteristic profile of our foreign policy is derived not from power in the traditional nineteenth-century sense but from what might be termed ´soft power´ or, in other words, the power of argument. It is not by chance, therefore, that other leading nations envy us our institution of political foundations”17.  3. The relevance of counterparts 81“Germany needs allies in the globalization’s configuration” Stable and long-term relationships with the counterparts are a very important aspect of the International cooperation work of German political foundations: they are the ones who most of the time implement foundations projects, they represent the “direct connection” they look for with the countries´ different actors, but mainly, they are a legitimacy guarantor for avoiding accusations of interventionism. Therefore, because Foundations do not and can not politically act directly in the countries they 1 7                                                 Peter R. Weilemann. Op. cit., p. 186. 18 Interview with Dörte Wollrad, Op. cit.   11