The year 2018 was marked by new political developments that presented a formidable challenge to the liberal, multilateral order: the isolationism of the United States under Donald Trump, a shift to the right in Latin America that intensified with the election of Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil, the continued rise of China, and the suppression of the liberal-democratic spirit in numerous European countries by right-wing populist forces. All of this underscores the fact that the international order is changing, and the resulting shifts in power are shaking old certainties.
Those certainties include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose first article states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” 2018 marked the 70th anniversary of its adoption – a good reason for us to focus our work in the past year on topics such as gender policy and the protection of minorities. With the publication of our online dossier “Human Rights: Universal and Indivisible”, we took the anniversary as an opportunity to present our human rights work as a core task of the Foundation and thus a reflection of our positions and values.
Over the past year, climate protection – a key priority of ours – took center stage in mainstream society. Young people around the world have taken to protesting for climate protection every Friday, demanding compliance with the Paris Agreement. The upshot here is that we are seeing the emergence of a new environmental movement. The social and ecological transformation of our economy and society will require structural change in many areas of life and business. This change must be driven by social, cultural, economic and technological innovation. The digital transformation is inextricably linked with this. As an organization shaping this change and a mediator between society, business, science and politics, we are committing to tackling these questions of the future.
The Green movement is inseparably linked to the 1968 protest movement – just as Heinrich Böll himself was directly linked to it. In our essay Heinrich Bölls ’68: Eine Annäherung in sechs Lektionen (Heinrich Böll’s '68: An Exploration in Six Lessons), we pay tribute to his impact as a political role model and public figure associated with the events of 1968. We took the 50th anniversary of the protest movement as an opportunity to study this era from different perspectives and to let contemporary witnesses – also from central and eastern Europe – have their say.
We work continuously to ensure that our broad range of media products and other forms of public outreach are engaging, up-to-date and appealing to diverse target groups. By developing new and digital formats, we strive as an institution of civic education to inspire young people to join the causes of democracy, human rights and climate protection.
Behind all of our activities and everything we publish, discuss and organize, there are many people with the spirit and commitment to stand up for our values and goals every day. We thank our colleagues as well as our numerous and long-standing partners at home and abroad for their valuable work. Not a day goes by in which we are not delighted by the courage and enthusiasm that each and every one of them brings to the Foundation. Furthermore, we want to express our gratitude to all those people who volunteer their time on the Foundation’s committees. We are also very grateful to René Böll, who traveled a great deal last year to report on the work of Heinrich Böll in 1968.
We are forging ahead with determination and joy.
Barbara Unmüssig and Dr. Ellen Ueberschär
Berlin, April 2019
Presidents, Heinrich Böll Foundation