Young Leaders´ Forums
The UK Meets Germany
Report of Day 1
An Introduction: Cultural Diplomacy in GermanyThe inaugural ICD forum The UK Meets Germany: A Forum for Young Leaders began on Tuesday, October 21st at the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ICD Director and Founder Mark Donfried welcomed the group with an introduction on the history and meaning of Cultural Diplomacy. The 25 participants then had the opportunity to present themselves to the group. The young leaders came from a wide array of academic and professional backgrounds ranging from political and social sciences, law, linguistics and history to business and management studies. Throughout the week, this diversity ensured a constructive exchange of ideas and opinions on discussions relating to the UK-Germany relationship and cultural diplomacy. Successful professionals, PhD students as well as young and promising undergraduates all seized the opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue that encompassed cultural, political as well as economic elements.
Following the introductions the forum moved on to more serious ground with a presentation and question and answer session with Bjorn Gehmann. Mr. Gehrmann works in the Policy Planning Unit for European Affairs and International Economics at the Ministry, and his presentation looked at the structure and responsibilities of the organisation. He gave the participants an overview of the different branches of the Foreign Ministry, the relationship between activity in Germany and the Embassies around the world, and the responsibilities of the staff within the different departments. The following question and answer session gave the young leaders an opportunity to challenge Mr. Gehrmann, and looked at how the UK's attitude towards the European Union was viewed in Germany, and how Germany considered the term "terrorism". Mr. Gehrmann's relaxed charm won the group over, and left them with plenty to think about.
The group were then kindly hosted by the Head of the Goethe Institute in Berlin, Barbara Frankel-Thonet, at their offices in East Berlin. The presentation by Mrs. Frankel-Thonet demonstrated how the German language was considered integral to creating cultural bridges between Germany and other nations, and how the Goethe Institute also organised projects using art and film, in particular with the younger generation. A recent example of the Institute's activity included an exchange programme that brought Doctors from Libya to Berlin, and provided them with training at the city's famous hospital, the Charité. The question and answer session that followed highlighted the reality that interest in the German language was difficult to raise and strengthen in areas with no historical links to Germany.
A busy and tiring day was brought to a close at a café in East Berlin where the group spent the evening getting to know each other better, teaming up to take part in the UKMG pub quiz, and listening to live music. The day set the tone for strong relations between the participants, and also introduced issues that were to reappear over the following days, including the respective attitudes of the countries towards Europe, and the independence of State-sponsored Cultural Diplomacy organisations from the respective governments.
Report of Day 2
Music and Transatlantic RelationsThe second day of the UKMG Forum kicked off with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra entertaining the participants, who were treated to exclusive access to a rehearsal at the historical, pentagon-shaped Philharmonic Hall. Following the rehearsal the group met with Ms. Larissa Israel from the education department. Ms Israel explained how the British Conductor Sir Simon Rattle had revolutionised their approach to community work since arriving, following the example of the British orchestras. She then provided examples of the work that the musicians did in the local community, from prisons to schools, and highlighted how the writing, practicing and performing of music brought people together. The commitment of the Philharmonic to work in the community was impressive and though-provoking, and as influential and moving as the rehearsal itself.
During the afternoon the forum took a more academic direction with a visit to the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). The DGAP is Germany's national foreign policy network - an independent organisation that works to inform and accompany the foreign policy decision-making process in Germany. Here the group met with Jan Techau, Director of the Alfred von Oppenheim Centre for European Studies and an expert in the field of European policy and transatlantic relations, to explore the history of Germany's relationship with the US. The DGAP does not have a political affiliation with the government or a political party, and the Young Leaders therefore had the chance to enjoy a candid account of current affairs.
Mr. Techau began his presentation by challenging the assumption that Germany is fully and entirely a Western state. Based on its historic heritage and its geopolitical situation, Mr. Techau pointed out that it is not natural for Germany to be part of the Western World. Konrad Adenauer's decision to link West Germany with the rest of the Western countries through his process of Westbildung was the starting point for Germany's modern identity as a Western nation. Mr. Techau also explained that whilst during the Cold War Germany had been the object of other countries foreign policy, it now found itself to be a major player abroad – a 'subject' in foreign policy. This shift, he highlighted, was a long process that had not been fully completed.
With reference to the forthcoming US elections, Mr. Techau pointed out that whilst Germany was not an anti-American country there was a possibility that attitudes towards America may again become negative, as happened to an extent during the Iraq war. He illustrated that with a new president the style of the US foreign policy would inevitably change and so would Germany's perception of the US. "We're in for a situation where there will be substantial change. Europe will have to decide what role it will take on once the new American president is in power." He argued that the function the US has assumed as an anchor nation in the world would remain, but that in the long run Germany, Europe, and America would have to deal with dwindling influence on international affairs. Describing himself as a moral pessimist, Mr. Techau explained that he was hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
Moving on to more European-centred issues, Mr. Techau spoke in detail about the current challenges faced by the EU, in particular the problem of lack of accountability and the democratic deficit. He explained that, from a German perspective, the relationship with the UK was undervalued, especially when compared with the Germany-France relationship. He expressed an element of admiration for the UK's pragmatic approach to the European Union, and contrasted this with Germany's more emotional connection, and he felt this was one area in which Germany could learn from the UK. When asked whether he felt that the UK's decision to support America's invasion of Iraq had significantly damaged public opinion towards the UK, he answered that he felt it had not. He also pointed out that on this particular occasion some German citizens viewed the UK as trying to bridge Europe and America, and therefore playing an important role.
The session with Mr. Techau ended with a look at the role Cultural Diplomacy can play in international relations. Here he admitted that the role of a 'civilian power', as is often assigned to Germany, holds more potential than he had initially thought. Mr. Techau pointed out that he had only recently considered the influence of cultural diplomacy. "If you don't understand where you've come from you can't understand the current tendencies and patterns." He pointed out that the biggest challenge facing cultural diplomacy was to be able to prove its influence and measure its success, which was a difficult task given the nature of the field.
Mr. Techau's unconventional yet highly professional opinions were received with the utmost appreciation and respect. His ability to explain complicated concepts to the group and to tackle controversial issues head-on made for a popular and successful session.
Day 2 finished with the group attending a public event in Berlin's Amerika Haus as part of the series "Wie Waehlt Amerika". Charles Kupchan, Professor of International Relations at Georgetown University, spoke openly about the future of America's foreign policy after Bush, and the accompanying discussion provided an interesting follow-up to the session held at the DGAP.
(Left to Right): Mark Donfried: Director and Founder of 'The Institute of Cultural Diplomacy'. Cornelius Adebahr: Program Officer at the Deutschen Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik DGAP and an Entrepreneur. Peter Craven: Political correspondent and moderator for Deutsche Welle TV. Ulrich Brückner: Jean Monnet Professor of European Studies for Stanford University. Hugh Mortimer: Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Berlin.
Report of Day 3
Sports, group discussions, and the European UnionThursday's timetable included a seminar, two workshops, and a public panel discussion, all of which took place in Berlin's city hall. With two days of activity behind them the Young Leaders arrived a little sleepy, but were energized by an excellent presentation from Mike Geddes, Director of Media and Communications at Streetfootballworld. Mike spoke about the work of Streetfootballworld, his previous position in the UK, and the potential of sport as a tool for development and cultural diplomacy. Mike used to work as a football reporter for BBC, a position which showed him the potential for sport to influence society in a positive way. He subsequently developed and worked with the Your Game program, a partnership between the BBC and number of football foundations that was targeted at helping young people from under-developed regions get involved in sports. This project organised a number of events across England and was a huge success, involving more than 350 clubs and 3000 youths. It was this experience that led Mike to his current position with Streetfootballworld, whose main activity is to coordinate the activities of other smaller organisations that support and promote sport as a tool for social development.
Streetfootballworld, we learned, is becoming an increasingly important global player, whose focus since 2002 has shifted from Germany to Europe to the World, and is now particularly concentrated on the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The organisation has recently entered a strategic alliance with FIFA and developed their initiative "Football for Hope", which has been created to bring children and young people together and support social and human development programs. These projects are designed to combat alienation, racism and discrimination, as well as promoting education and social integration. Mike pointed out that sport can also be used in bringing together different cultural groups, highlighting the example of the Peres Centre for Peace, which works to bring together Isreali's and Palestinians together through football projects. Sport is a universal language and enables people of different cultures to communicate and develop relationships with each other that they would not normally be allowed to do. The Peres Centre also organises high profile matches between teams from Israel and Palestine to raise money and awareness for their work. The same idea can be applied throughout the world. Streetfootballworld encounters different challenges and obstacles depending on the region. In Africa, for example, the priority is to encourage young people to contribute to social life and through that to give them hope for a better future, whilst in the Middle East the main problem is female participation in sport, due to the pre-determined role of woman in these societies. The Young Leaders were interested to hear what Mr. Geddes had to say and took an active part in the seminar, asking many questions with regard to his experience and future ideas.
The second session, a workshop, presented an opportunity for inter-group discussions lead by the UKMG team. Program Coordinator Duncan Jones began by presenting Hofstede's Culutual Dimensions to the group - a set of five indicators designed to enable comparisons between cultures within countries. Dutch sociologist Geert Hofstede conducted research in the 60s and 70s based on employees of the company IBM around the world. He found that there were significant differences between cultures with regard to their mindsets, behaviors, beliefs and expectations. The five indicators used to measure these differences can be identified as follows: power-distance index (extent to which power distribution is tolerated), individualism Vs. collectivism (is society focused on the individual or groups), masculinity Vs. femininity (does the society display stereotypical gender traits), uncertainty index (is risk and uncertainty tolerated), and long term Vs. short term orientation.
The participants were then split into groups along nationality lines and asked to evaluate society in Germany and the UK according to the five criteria. The ensuing discussions raised a number of controversial and important issues, but also highlighted many similarities between the two countries, and between the groups of participants. In the ratings for power-distance, gender traits, and time orientation, the two countries were either identical or similar in their results. Scores in the second index, however, highlighted German society as having more focus on the collective, and a more long-term orientation. The seminar gave its participants a great insight into cultural differences and understanding that social mindsets are to some extent determined by cultural environment.
The second workshop was devoted to the issue of stereotypes between the two countries. The extent to which preconceived ideas affect our lives and interaction with other people is significant. What makes this influence even more difficult is the reality that this influence is in most cases subconscious, difficult to measure, and equally difficult to prevent. Stereotypes between the UK and Germany are particularly based on historical and cultural factors. During the course of a 90 minute seminar lead by UKMG Program Coordinator Jessica Cottee, the Young Leaders were given a chance to identify and analyse stereotypes that exist concerning each other, and the extent to which they play a significant role in the bilateral relationship. Participants were divided into British and German groups and asked to think about the stereotypes they have of their counterparts and how they think they themselves might be perceived by them. The answers were in some cases surprising but, as in the first session, highlighted the awareness of the participants of each other's cultures. The workshop then moved to consider the role played by the media in propagating these images, and it was pointed out that the media is, in all but a few cases, controlled by the private sector and is therefore targeted with creating publicity and selling its product, which can encourage the use of negative stereotypes.
Panel discussion Event
The European Union, "Common Ground or Battle Ground? British and German Perspectives on the European Union"The evening ended with a public panel discussion on the European Union, "Common Ground or Battle Ground? British and German Perspectives on the European Union" provided an opportunity for the general public to take part in the program, and drew a strong panel of speakers: Cornelius Adebahr (German Council on Foreign Relations), Prof. Dr. Uli Brückner (Jean Monnet Professor of European Studies, Stanford University), Peter Craven (Political Correspondent & Moderator, Deutsche Welle), and Hugh Mortimer (Deputy Head of Mission, the British Embassy in Berlin).
The main focus of the panel was to compare British and German attitudes towards the European Union. Mr. Adebahr was asked what the EU meant to him, and responded that for him the EU had always been there, and he had therefore inherited a belief in European economical and political integration. Mr. Mortimer subsequently clarified the UK's view on the role of the European Union.
He highlighted the historical links between the UK and the USA and hinted at the fact that although United Kingdom was among the winners, the success came at enormous expense and lead to a British government suspicious of European cooperation. Strong transatlantic relations have historically made the UK less inclined to strengthen its contacts with France or Germany. Germany is naturally a stronger supporter of the EU, as it was crucial in supporting the reunification of East and West Germany.
The panelists then discussed how Germany and the UK felt about handing over state power to the European Commission in Brussels. Once again it became clear that Germany was much more favorable to this than the UK. Mr. Mortimer pointed out that the political machinery of the European Union was more palatable to Germany, because it mirrored their national political structure – strong individual units with a comparatively weak centre.
In other words, Germany had more experience of the delegation of powers and decentralisation. The UK, in contrast, has a strong "spine" but comparatively weak local authorities with little decision making power. The UK is therefore reluctant to delegate power, especially to international bodies such as the European Commission.
The discussion broadened the Young Leaders' understanding of the European Union, and whilst differences emerged it also highlighted a surprising level of agreement between the UK and Germany. The event ended with a reflection on the future of the European Union. Mr. Mortimer highlighted that anyone who supported Europe must also support European enlargement, and there was a general consensus that the EU was a work in progress, which, as Mr. Craven concluded, was always going to be the case.
Report of Day 4
The British Council, the Bundestag and Daimler AGFriday was the busiest day of the week for the UKMG participants with visits to the British Council, the Bundestag, and Daimler AG followed by a group dinner. The day started well with an excellent reception from the British Council, who hosted the group at their new offices on Alexanderplatz.
Dr. Herbert Grieshop (Head of the Competitive Europe Program) and Julia Rawlins (Head of the Global Europe Program) spoke to the group at length about the organisation and their work. Responsible for representing British culture abroad, the British Council proved to be an interesting example of Cultural Diplomacy in Germany.
The participants were informed about the strategic shift of the organisation away from a strict focus on the UK-Germany bilateral relationship, and toward a more multi-lateral, network-oriented organisation. Mr. Grieshopp and Miss Rawlins introduced them to the wide range of schemes currently being organised focusing on science, art, and the environment, that also targeted the Young Leaders group. The presentation proved to be an informative and interesting comparison to the earlier session at the Goethe Institute.
The group then moved on to the Bundestag where they were generously hosted by Birgit Otto of the CDU/CSU party. Miss Otto gave the group a detailed overview of the current political climate in Germany, in particular the problems facing the grand coalition as they prepare for the elections next year. She also spoke in detail about the day-to-day operation of the Bundestag, and gave the participants an insight in to what exactly takes place, when, and why.
The subsequent question and answer session brought up the issue of how German parties in coalition can function with differing aims and ideas, and how the party works with members who are seen as somewhat maverick within their own party. After the talk the participants were treated to a guided tour of the Reichstag by Ms. Otto, finishing with a walk around the roof, with spectacular views over Berlin and blue sky providing the backdrop.
Following their session at the Bundestag the group walked together past the historical Brandenburg Gate, the new American Embassy, and the Jewish memorial, on their way to the Daimler AG headquarters at Potsdamer Platz.
Here they were welcomed by the Head of Legal and Social Policy at Daimler AG, Jörn Holtmeier. Mr. Holtmeier gave the participants an overview of the structure of the company, and spoke in detail about the value Daimler places on having a culturally diverse workforce, and the steps Daimler takes to ensure this: He also went into detail about the measures Daimler are taking to increase the proportion of women working for the firm, and how crucial this was to their success.
He highlighted the existence of an international call centre based in Maastricht - an information and support service which aims to provide each customer with assistance in his or her own language. Finally, when asked, Mr. Holtmeier spoke about a Socially Responsible project the company had supported in South Africa, but stressed that Daimler AG was wary of publicising such work and therefore leaving themselves open to criticisms that it was conducted for marketing purposes.
Following a long but informative day, the group were able to unwind at a Tunisian restaurant in West Berlin, where they reflected on four days of intensive workshops and seminars, and were able to discuss the topics raised in a more informal environment.
Report of Day 5
The Future of UKMGThe week finished with a morning session at Berlin's Amerika Haus. This provided an opportunity for the group to air their thoughts on the future of the UKMG and discuss potential follow-up initiatives.
The UKMG participants were very keen to share and develop their ideas for future projects, which ranged from organising cultural activities to encouraging political dialogue. Although the ideas are in their early stages, one creative suggestion, perhaps born out of the need to look beyond stereotypical images of the UK and Germany, involved the distribution of disposable cameras to a range of citizens in the respective countries, who would then take a series of 'snap shots' during their days, creating a collection of images from everyday life.
The images could then be gathered together and displayed in a travelling exhibition. Other ideas included literary meetings comprised of authors, playwrights and poets who's work focuses on representing particular areas of Berlin and London, under the heading of, for example 'Kreuzberg meets Brick Lane'.
A group of participants were keen to promote Germany and the German language to school children by organising a scheme whereby German university students on exchange programmes spend time in local primary and secondary schools talking about aspects of German culture or conducting activities using the German language. There was also discussion of an exchange programme between young politicians representing the different political parties in the UK and Germany.
Another group of participants were keen that the opportunities that had been made available to them through the Erasmus scheme might also be extended to students who do not study modern languages and even to young people who are not at university. The suggestion was to create an internet platform specifically for UK and Germany-based companies to advertise internships and to aid young people to find work-experience that suits them, including a section where they can leave honest reports about their internship.
The UKMG team was very impressed by the participants' plans and is sure that, with such an enthusiastic group, they will make great headway in turning these ideas into reality. The Forum finished full of optimism and we hope that together, the ICD and the Young Leaders can achieve much for the future.