Saying goodbye to the Institute

After several decades at DIE, Prof. Dr Imme Scholz is leaving the Institute. The Deputy Director looks back and forward in a personal article.

Photo: Imme Scholz, deputy director of the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

Imme Scholz, ©DIE

I came to the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) in 1992 and stayed on. The only comparatively short interruptions brought me to the Brazilian Amazon, first for 16 months for empirical research on my PhD, and then for three years as environmental policy advisor for GTZ. After the birth of my son I came back after only four months – at that time, there was no paid parental leave yet. Thus, DIE has been an important factor of stability in my life. I engaged as enthusiastically in research, policy advice and learning as I contributed to pushing the institute and its policy field beyond its borders – the world has changed so much since 1992!

In the early 2000s, we could see the rise of China but the speed and outreach of this unprecedented development process were and are overwhelming. Now we can discern its consequences for global structures and politics. The other emerging economies could not keep pace with China but with the creation of the G20 they did enter world politics to stay. Still, the G20 and the UN have not been able to counter the risks and crises of globalised economies and communications effectively and systematically; global governance is still a patchy and increasingly weak endeavour.

DIE has seen all these changes and integrated them in its work. It has created new networks; its working language is English due to an increasingly international staff of researchers. In 1992, this was very different: the reference was the German development policy debate and its main actors, BMZ, GTZ, KfW, and of course the World Bank and the IMF. Work focused on economic development, conceived as a catching-up process. Environment was a marginal topic, brought about by the Rio conference on environment and development; democracy and inclusion were just emerging as new themes. At the same time, the institute did research on Asian, Latin American and African countries; this has changed. Today, DIE analyses transformation processes towards sustainable and climate-just societies, it works on country groupings and structural questions, and it has a strong focus on the African continent.

What will matter in future? Europe will have to define and defend its political and economic place in the world, under much more difficult geopolitical conditions. There is no reason to diminish the claim for a democratic and inclusive society and economy that are in peace with nature and their neighbours – on the contrary, there are allies on all continents for such a project, you only have to recognise them. International relations with a real 360° perspective will be essential to achieve this. Development policy and cooperation has a lot to offer, and at the same time a lot to learn and to change in order to continue being effective in the concert of all external relations. At the Heinrich Böll Foundation, I will contribute to establishing this 360° view, to understand it and use it productively. And I am sure that the institute will remain at the forefront and make indispensable contributions for such a way forward!

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