Barbara Unmüßig was born in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, in 1956. She studied political science at Freie Universität Berlin.
Barbara Unmüßig’s professional commitment for international justice and global environmental and climate protection began in 1983 as an editor of “Blätter des iz3w”, a periodical devoted to North-South policy. Further she worked as a research assistant for the NGO “Aktion Dritte Welt” (Information Centre Third World) in Freiburg.
From 1985 onwards Barbara Unmüßig extended her network and international knowledge by working as a research assistant for the Members of Parliament Uschi Eid (1985 to 1987) and Ludger Volmer (1987 to 1990) of the Green Party in the German Bundestag. During that time, she focused primarily on the international debt crisis, on World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies and on global environmental issues.
In the nineties, Barbara Unmüßig worked exclusively for and with national and international non-governmental organizations. During the year 1992, when the UN conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) was held in Rio de Janeiro, she was the project director of the German environmental and development organizations. In 1992, Barbara Unmüßig was a founding member – and until 2002 spokesperson – of the Forum on Environment and Development, a German NGO. During this period she initiated numerous international networks and participated in many global forums and conferences (UNCED, World Trade Organisation (WTO), IMF and World Bank). Barbara Unmüßig cofounded the World Economy, Ecology, & Development (WEED) organization in 1992 and worked until 2002 as executive chairperson. Until today she is co-editor of its newsletter World Economy & Development.
In 2000, Barbara Unmüßig co-founded the German Institute for Human Rights (Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte, DIMR), a human rights organization, and has been on its Board of Trustees since 2001. In 2009 she became deputy chairperson of the Board of Trustees.
From early on, Barbara Unmüßig has been involved in establishing the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung. From 1996 to 2001, she chaired its Supervisory Board. From May 2002 to March 2022, Barbara Unmüßig was elected president of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung. Here, Barbara was responsible for its international work in Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and for North Africa. The emphases of the foundation, e.g. globalization, human and women’s rights, international climate resource and agrarian policy and democracy support were at the core of her work and engagement.
Barbara served as board lead for the common task of gender democracy and for the Gunda Werner Institute for Feminism and Gender Democracy.
Since 2009, she has been a juror for the Helene-Weber-Preis, an award for young female municipal politicians initiated by the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth.
She was the jury chair of the Anne-Klein-Frauenpreis until 2022, which the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung awards annually since 2012. With this women’s prize the-Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung supports women that are characterized by outstanding commitment, courage and moral courage for the achievement of gender democracy, rights and self-determination of lesbian, gay, trans and intersex people.
Since 2013 Barbara Unmüßig is member of the Board of Trustees of Forum for Sustainable Development, a magazine that is committed to shaping a sustainable future.
Barbara Unmüßig actively and regularly contributes to the debate concerning strategy and program of the German Green party Bündnis 90/Die Grünen in fields such as for example on issues of global justice, environmental and climate policy, gender policy and development policy.
Barbara has published numerous contributions to periodicals and books.