In 2017, we had a special reason to celebrate: Our partner ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The accolade recognized the organization as the driving force behind a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons that was adopted by the majority of UN member states on July 7. While the nuclear powers were not among the signatories, it was a great achievement that brought movement into the disarmament debate.
2017 was also a year of exciting elections: The European public looked to France and Germany, the two countries that are often regarded as the heart of the European Union. The relief was great when Europeminded Emmanuel Macron won the French elections. In Germany, a right-wing populist party – the Alternative für Deutschland – entered the Bundestag for the first time. Germany has changed: The threat to democracy from right-wing populism has arrived at the federal level and is influencing political discourse from there as well.
The major upheavals brought about by globalization, digital technology, climate change and migration are also becoming more tangible in Germany. However, such a prosperous country can draw on different economic and social resources to address these challenges than many of the countries in which the Foundation operates. Ultimately, this raises the question of global justice.
In the face of resource destruction and climate change, the ecological transformation of our economy and our lives continues to be one of our key priorities. The shift from fossil and nuclear power generation to renewables, together with ecological farming, marine conservation and the preservation of biodiversity are all objectives that we are advancing with our partners at home and abroad.
Nationalism, authoritarianism and the massive repression of civil society actors in many societies around the world make it necessary for us to stand up for human rights and gender democracy. Values and mindset are essential to political education, the core mission of the Heinrich Böll Foundation. We stand for liberality, pluralism and cosmopolitanism – and this is reflected in a wide range of dialog forums, digital formats and publications.
A highlight of the past year was the 100th anniversary of Heinrich Böll’s birth. The number of events and exhibitions held in his honor and in memory of his extensive work was vast and underscored his popularity and topicality time and again. Readings in Thailand, film screenings in Mexico and Frankfurt, seminars in Heinrich Böll schools, René Böll’s conversations with contemporary witnesses – the overall effect was impressive.
A big thank you goes to our employees and partners in Germany and abroad. Without them our work would not be possible. They deserve our appreciation for their responsible and dedicated efforts in many parts of the world, in some cases under difficult conditions. Our heartfelt thanks also go to the many people who volunteer their time in the Foundation’s committees. We are looking forward to continuing our shared work in the new Executive Board team.
Berlin, April 2018
Dr. Ellen Ueberschär and Barbara Unmüßig
Presidents, Heinrich Böll Foundation