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Municipal development cooperation

Act locally – think globally

by Sabine Balk

In brief

Young Germans learn about farming in Tanzania.

Young Germans learn about farming in Tanzania.

In Germany, local governments have been involved in international development for decades, whether through twinning with towns abroad or through one-world and fair-trade initiatives. In June, local-level activists met in Lübeck for the 14th Federal Conference for Municipal Development Cooperation. Engagement Global coordinated the meeting on behalf of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

The “Fair Mosque” project was initiated in Solingen by Redounan Aoulad-Ali from the Forum for Social Innovation. It is active at several levels. The idea is to encourage mosque congregations – and Islamic organisations in Germany in general – to take steps towards sustainability, by contributing to environmental protection and promoting responsible consumption, for example. The Koran offers many important principles that pertain to sustainability. One such principle is to use water and other resources sparingly. Aoulad-Ali explains: “It is not made explicit, but there are passages that implicitly convey these messages.”

Calling on the Koran helps to persuade his target groups to get involved. The Fair Mosque’s most recent success was an event called “sustainable breaking of the fast” in Cologne. Participants enjoyed fair-trade coffee and recycable dishes were used.

There is a lot of awareness-raising to be done, according to Aoulad-Ali. He admits that he often faces initial scepticism. Typical arguments include that there are “more pressing problems” or “if there is a fair mosque, that implies that others are unfair”. Aoulad-Ali empathises with people who react like this. “We have to remember that Germany has only been an immigration country for a short time, and that Islam has only recently been understood to be an integral part of Germany.” Once he has won a Muslim congregation over, he says, they join in with enthusiasm and generate lots of ideas.

According to Aoulad-Ali, one reason Muslim migrants are an important target group is that they often volunteer for – or donate to – local-level development initiatives in the countries they came from. Such contacts mean that they can spread ideas concerning environmental protection and sustainability. So far, the Fair Mosque initiative has kicked off projects in four cities: Solingen, Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mann-heim. It plans to expand to other places.

There is a whole range of creative approaches to getting immigrants and refugees involved in municipal projects. Their knowledge can be instrumental in awareness raising, for example. Engagement Global (EG) is currently funding pilot projects in six towns, reports Jennifer Ichikawa from the EG’s Service Agency Communities in One World (SKEW). She emphasises the relevance of choosing participatory formats and involving grassroots organisations and other suitable partners. Inclusiveness is the road to success, Ichikawa says: “All the pilot projects have been individually tailored to the community and are now being rolled out.”

The smallest municipality involved in the test phase is Aidlingen near Stuttgart, home to 9,000 people. Local leaders were invited to workshops that prepared them to pass their knowledge on to the wider community. In the rural district of Giessen, young people are taking part in a “potato project”: a migrant from Tanzania is teaching them about farming in East Africa. “Participants will get an idea of the global context and international interrelatedness”. Hopefully, they will then become politically engaged accordingly.

After weighing the options and long discussions, the city of Hofheim am Taunus near Frankfurt decided to try out a BarCamp. This term is used for series of loosely structured workshops that give more scope for personal interaction than formalised conferences do. Participants discuss issues and generate content for awareness raising which is then further and further refined.

“FairCamp Hofheim” is scheduled for September 21 and 22 and will address “sustainable, fair and social action”. The results will be documented in photos and video clips which will be spread via social media.


Links

Fair Mosque (only in German):
http://www.fairemoschee.de/

FairCamp Hofheim (only in German):
https://www.hofheim.de/leben/Faircamp-Hofheim.php#toc

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