Sometimes in life, there are events so momentous that they make our joy about accomplished work and productive collaboration fade into the background. The Covid crisis is such a moment, an event beyond compare. Hardly ever before have we been forced to weigh scientific insights against political, social, and economic repercussions in the face of such great uncertainty. As we are living through these world-altering times, we are trying to make sense of them, at home, as well as at our 33 international offices.
We, as so many others, have adapted the way we work and the formats of our educational programs to meet the constraints of our current situation. We rapidly acquired new skills so we could continue to facilitate exchanges between politics, science, business, and society, even amidst a global pandemic. Digital formats that were mere experimentations just months ago became standard within a few weeks. We want to benefit from this digital leap and will use our new insights to strike a healthy balance between analog and digital services in the future.
Our Foundation continues to champion and advocate for democracy and human rights, social and ecological justice, peace, a planet that is worth living on, and a world as free of discrimination as possible. We provide ideas and propose solutions for the present and the future, because our mission is to raise and maintain public awareness of the problems and crises of our times.
Take the climate crisis, for example – it was real, it is real, and it will remain a reality for the foreseeable future. What started as a youth protest in 2018, began to grip an increasingly large section of our society last year: In September 2019, six million people around the world took to the streets to fight for more climate protection. As we grapple with the global economic fallout of the pandemic, we must also maintain this great readiness for change. The dramatic consequences of the global economic crisis are already being felt. In order to counter the climate crisis, we must restructure our economies and make them green and climate-friendly. We want to show that a socio-ecological transformation of our economy and our society is possible – for the benefit of all and without any detriment to political and individual freedoms.
A core focus of our work is strengthening democracy and human rights. Right-wing authoritarian governments are on the rise worldwide, curtailing the work of civil society organizations and activists, or even criminalizing them. Cut-backs of the rule of law and separation of powers, which were already occurring before the pandemic, are being expedited, in some cases also in Europe. Our solidarity and support go out to the many champions of civil society!
The European Union is also facing enormous challenges. On top of the necessary debates about the Green New Deal, democratic principles, and a coherent migration policy, we have an economic recession on our hands. On the bright side, Green parties saw great successes in the 2019 European elections, and this forms a good basis for pressing harder to assert our notions of solidarity, defense of democracy, climate protection, and species conservation in European politics. Our work in 2019 has done much to promote a positive image of Europe in Germany and to give those a voice that should have a rightful say on important EU issues.
Finally, we would like to thank our numerous and long-standing partners at home and abroad for their courageous work and for the many impulses and perspectives they bring to our work.
… and thus we are heading into the future with confidence!
Dr. Ellen Ueberschär and Barbara Unmüßig
Berlin, April 2020
Presidents, Heinrich Böll Foundation