Germany's Foreign Cultural and Educational Policy: Review of 2018

16 July 2019

The German Federal Foreign Office has just published the 22nd Annual Report on its foreign cultural and educational policy, the “AKBP”. Germany has a unique history in having had a strong and continuing commitment to cultural relations as the “third pillar” of its foreign policy for many years. The policy stresses the roles of many “arms length” or intermediary actors, reflecting the federal and devolved structure of German governance and civil society. There are lessons to be learned from the German approach for other countries, particularly the way the strategy explicitly address foreign policy goals of peace promotion through free exchange between civil society actors.

The German Federal Foreign Office has published its annual report on the “AKBP”, its foreign cultural and educational policy for 2018. As the report says:

“In addition to political and economic relations, foreign cultural and educational policy (AKBP) forms the "third pillar" of German foreign policy. It is one of its most sustainable and visible instruments. Cultural and educational opportunities reach the people in Germany's partner countries directly, thus laying a stable foundation for international relations based on partnership and friendship.”

Germany’s AKBP is a genuinely strategic policy of international cultural relations. It is notable how the creation of a cultural and educational policy within the framework of foreign policy allows for a coherent approach in which integration and coordination are key.

The report (the 22nd) covers the objectives, priorities and projects of international cultural and educational work, research and academic relations policy and strategic communication of German foreign policy at home and abroad in 2018.

So, what are the highlights?

Within its coalition agreement, the Federal Government has given both a higher overall priority to the AKBP, and within it, has identified new priorities.

These recognise what the German Government sees as the “worldwide shrinking scope of civil society, nationalism and isolation, and a competition of narratives in which fact-based information and communication are sometimes openly questioned”.

The German Government therefore sees the AKBP as making a contribution to peace and stability: “As part of European integration, the AKBP conveys our values, creates and protects access to culture and education across geographical, social and cultural borders and defends the freedom of art, science and opinion”. The Bundestag accordingly gave the AKBP a new political steer and additional financial support.

The report highlights a number of main priorities and activitie4s:

1. To work for the freedom of art and science worldwide:

The Philipp Schwartz Initiative for Endangered Researchers was further expanded in 2018 and the Martin Roth Initiative for Endangered Artists was founded in memory of the deceased former director of the Dresden State Art Collection. The German-Colombian Peace Institute (CAPAZ) at the Universidad Nacional Bogotá has started its activities and supports the peace process in Colombia. After the great fire at the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, the Federal Republic of Germany provided immediate financial aid of 1 million euros from the Federal Foreign Office and, together with other German actors, is making its expertise available.

2. Cooperation with civil society:

Cooperation with civil society in the Eastern Partnership countries and Russia was increased to 17 million euros in 2018 and was able to support 238 projects - more than ever before. In addition, the programme was opened for Franco-German cooperation projects for the first time.

3. Youth exchanges:

Initiatives included commemorations of the end of WW1, and the development of new bilateral exchange programmes.

4. Strategic communication

The development of capabilities to deal with disinformation has been promoted, among other things, by closer networking at national level within the Federal Government and by strengthening cooperation in the European Union, including the adoption of the Action Plan against Disinformation.

5. Strengthening Europe:

The German Government considers that “Europe is also a cultural project”. Preparatory work for the establishment of the joint Franco-German cultural institutes was completed, so that they could be anchored in the Aachen Agreement including the planned locations on January 22, 2019. Numerous public discussion events were held throughout Germany.

6. Support for the creative industries and digital initiatives (especially in Africa):

Thanks to the support of the German Bundestag, the international dimension of the creative industry was further expanded during the reporting period, especially in the area of gaming. Examples of this are the Goethe-Institut's Enter Africa project and the establishment of support for young talent together with the Institut Français. In the music and digital industries, too, numerous projects were implemented with the support of the online platform Music in Africa together with the Siemens Foundation, the joint projects of re:publica, and Reeperbahn Festival as part of the German Year in the USA, and re:publica in Ghana.

7. Education:

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the initiative "Schools: Partners for the Future" (PASCH), which links around 1,800 schools worldwide with a strong German as a foreign language profile and a German connection, 68 new schools were admitted to the network. Support for the 140 German schools abroad was continued.

The Federal Government advanced international cooperation in the field of vocational education and training. Among other things, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research's "Training Worldwide" programme was launched, which supports companies in Germany in enabling their prospective specialists and managers to spend time abroad.

The internationalisation of the German higher education system has made considerable progress, thanks in part to DAAD scholarships and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation's funding programmes. German universities have around 36,000 cooperation agreements with over 5,600 partner universities in 157 countries (as of June 2018).

8. Commitment to the transatlantic relationship

In June 2018, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier inaugurated the Thomas Mann House in Los Angeles, which had been acquired by the Federal Foreign Office with the support of the German Bundestag.

In order to reflect the depth of the transatlantic relationship and the strength of the joint partnership, the Germany Year USA will take place in 2018/2019 under the patronage of the Federal President under the motto "Wunderbar together".