The Many Faces of Political and Social Commitment

A report on the first day of the Fifth International Diplomats Programme in Berlin

14 April 2013
Event location
Berlin, Germany
Invitation type
Invitation only


On March 14, meeting for their first day in Berlin were 14 young diplomats from Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Iraq, Pakistan, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, and Australia. A two-hour discussion with five members of the German Bundestag offered insights into political Berlin as well as an overview of the spectrum of political parties in Germany. The discussion touched on domestic as well as foreign policy issues, among them the question of why Germany is not accepting more refugees from the Syrian civil war. All five MP participants – each representing one of the five parties currently in the German parliament – agreed that Germany should become more active on this point. Other topics, such as the controversial export of tanks to Saudi Arabia and the question of German participation in military missions abroad, led to more intense debate.

The participants were also interested in domestic issues, such as the role of the Pirate Party or the particular German way of forming stable government coalitions. One of the participants was impressed by the relative youth of the MPs present at the meeting. “In my country, those who are between forty and fifty are referred to as ‘junior politicians,’” he remarked only half-jokingly. Discussion of the opportunities for political participation in the participants’ own countries as well as about current political and societal developments there continued over lunch with former Ambassador Paul Freiherr von Maltzahn, Executive Vice President of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), at the Federal Foreign Office’s International Club.

That afternoon the program continued at Germany’s biggest science and technology park, the WISTA Adlershof, where a large number of research institutes and innovative enterprises have established themselves in the past years. Hardy Rudolf Schmitz, chief executive officer of WISTA-Management GmbH, gave an overview of the site’s history and its recent transformation into one of Europe’s leading technology parks. “Incubation” and “networking” are the key benefits of a site like Adlershof, Schmitz pointed out. At the “incubation center,” young researchers and entrepreneurs receive support for implementing their ideas and establishing their own companies. Adlershof’s special focus is on companies working in the fields of photonics and optical technologies, materials and microsystems, information and media technology, and photovoltaics and renewable energy. Later, at a visit to the Leibniz Institute for Crystal Growth, participants were able to see first-hand a specific example of high-level applied research.

The importance of networks and innovative ideas was again stressed at the day’s final meeting, held at the headquarters of the BMW Stiftung Herbert Quandt. Markus Hipp, the foundation’s executive director and Ilsabe von Campenhausen, head of the Young Leaders Forums, presented their work and discussed more generally the role of foundations in German society. The participants were especially impressed by the concept of the Young Leaders Forums. These forums aim to involve successful leaders and decision-makers in philanthropic work and to connect them with innovative civil society projects. As one of the participants remarked afterward, “venture philanthropy is a totally new concept to me – and a good one.”

The International Diplomats Programme is an initiative of the Federal Foreign Office and the BMW Stiftung Herbert Quandt and is supported by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). Every year, up to 14 young diplomats from the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia are invited to view German life and institutions from a variety of angles. The year-long program is held in English. For further information please contact Senta Höfer,, 030 1817-4838 or Gregor Darmer,, 030 1817-1086.

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