Strengthening freedom!

30.04.2018 - Article

Article by Minister of State Michelle Müntefering for the magazine “Politik & Kultur” (March 2018 Edition)

Minister of State Michelle Müntefering
Minister of State Michelle Müntefering© Jorinde Gersina

In 2020, the Federal Foreign Office’s Cultural Directorate-General will be one hundred years old, while the office of the Minister of State for International Cultural Policy will be just two! Bringing together young and old, tradition and modernity, as well as shaping a changing society – this is our central task today, a task we are tackling in the midst of a changing world.

The coordinates are shifting ever more in this world, autocracy and nationalism are on the rise, and populism has probably not yet reached its zenith. In such a world, international cultural policy is “all about hope” – that is how Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier put it. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has carried on this tradition and through his work at the Federal Foreign Office he has demonstrated special skill in promoting a foreign policy which focuses on a lively exchange among civil societies.

International cultural policy is aimed at cooperation which transcends borders, at more openness, dialogue and joint creative processes rather than isolationism and nationalism. International cultural policy is not about exporting culture but about encounters with others – and the protection of those spaces which facilitate critical debate. The task of international cultural policy is to strengthen this freedom.

  • We will therefore continue and further expand programmes for persecuted artists, academics and journalists.
  • We will help young people to gain active access to our culture of remembrance and to heighten historical awareness.
  • We will step up our work on the African continent in order to give people prospects for the future, to give women a voice and to make it possible to participate in education. How we deal with our colonial legacy will also be part of our work with this diverse continent.
  • We will expand our worldwide network of intermediary organisations in the cultural and educational sphere, making it digitally fit and working together flexibly in a spirit of cooperation with European and international partners – also with a view to consolidating the idea of cohesion in Europe and European integration. For example, European culture institutions are to work together to a greater extent than hitherto, starting with ten joint institutes run by the Goethe-Institut and Institut français.

Culture transcends borders. It is critical and free. It feeds into the debate with others. It has long since been global and combines the familiar with the unfamiliar through exchange. Our cultural legacy, the power of cultures can help to provide people with orientation once more. An orientation which France’s President Emmanuel Macron described as following: “The answer is not authoritarian democracy, but the authority of democracy.”


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