Germany

German cities and communities are faced with enormous challenges nowadays. Social, structural und demographic change as well as immigration are having a great impact on the way of life. This can lead to conflicts and social tensions. Since 2006, the forumZFD has been counselling German communities on how to deal with such challenges.

German cities and communities are faced with enormous challenges nowadays. Social, structural und demographic change as well as immigration are having a great impact on the way of life. This can lead to conflicts and social tensions. Since 2006, the forumZFD has been counselling German communities on how to deal with such challenges.

Our strategy

Our specially qualified advisors assess the local situation, develop action plans in a participatory process and monitor their implementation. How these experts’ counselling ability is used, depends upon immediate needs and resources. There may be projects to prevent conflicts before they even break out, to deal with an escalation or to stabilise the situation after a conflict has died down. The activities always involve existing local institutions like community workers, suburban bodies, councils for conflict prevention and integration etc.

At present, peace experts from the forumZFD are deployed in four German cities: Hamburg, the southern university town of Tübingen, Osterholz-Scharmbeck north of Bremen and Quakenbrück southeast of Bremen. With a professional outsider perspective, these experts can get a neutral view of local conflicts and contribute to conflict analysis and management. Most at stake are integration, inter-cultural communication and mutual understanding. Like with all other programmes of the forumZFD, sustainability is of the utmost importance. The long-term goal is for local communities to manage their social problems themselves and in a conflict-sensitive manner.

HAMBURG-BERGEDORF

One example is the Hamburg district of Bergedorf. Many of its citizens are immigrants from various parts of the world, their percentage is as high as 53 per cent in some areas. A few years ago, the violent behaviour of young male immigrants was the focus of public attention. This has subsided lately, so now there is much debate about social and structural integration, especially in the educational sector. Schools in Bergedorf find it a great challenge to make contact with the parents of immigrant children and youths. Therefore, the forumZFD has developed a set of strategies to intensify the communication process between schools and parents. These methods are now being implemented in cooperation with secondary, primary and nursery schools in the most critical areas.

QUAKENBRÜCK

In the small town of Quakenbrück, the forumZFD is focused on integration and inter-cultural mediation as well. The town is deeply divided between long-term residents and various groups of immigrants. Their separate living areas are a clear reflection of the gulf and alienation between them.

TÜBINGEN

Communal conflicts are not always caused by problems concerning social integration. In the south German university town of Tübingen, excessive noise and vandalism caused a lot of friction in the city centre. A study carried out by the forumZFD revealed that the perpetrators were not young immigrants. Rather, there was a general conflict between the needs and aspirations of older and younger citizens. This was independent of the cultural background of local youths.

OSTERHOLZ-SCHARMBECK

The situation in Osterholz-Scharmbeck is different yet again. Local authorities are very much concerned about a certain street called “Drosselstraße”. It became a residential area in the late 1970s when American soldiers were stationed in the vicinity. When the military base was dissolved in 1992, the social structure of the population changed – many refugees from Turkey, Lebanon and Syria moved into the vacated houses. Since about 2003, “Drosselstraße” has been classed as a social hotspot. Violence and drug related crimes have increased significantly. Various residents’ groups clash with the police and local authorities as well as amongst each other. This, at times, creates massive conflicts.

Our programme

The programme of the Civil Peace Service in Germany deals with varying conflicts which yet show a lot of similarity. The projects of the forumZFD aim at counselling local authorities and developing a set of methods to manage conflicts between rivalling groups and individuals. Thus, the project in Hamburg-Bergedorf is focused on a conflict-sensitive approach to immigrant parents and on setting up round tables and other community bodies. The goal is to overcome prejudice, ease communication and give a voice to all parties involved.

The project in Tübingen is focused on dialogue as well, as the counsellor of the forumZFD, Sylvia Lustig, explains: “We don’t want to develop recommendations for action and integration in isolation. We want to do this together with the people who will have to implement such methods.”

Local authorities are important partners of the forumZFD. Our peace experts are in permanent contact with council employees and thus become a focal point for the authorities and other groups. They function as advisors whenever operational concepts are being developed and implemented.

In Quakenbrück, the action plan suggested by the forumZFD team in 2009 was unanimously adopted by the city council. The peace experts are now assisting the authorities in the implementation process. The aim is to integrate immigrant workers from various parts of the world as well as ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe.

In Osterholz-Scharmbeck, peace expert Hagen Berndt is focused on advising the local administration. Together with the so-called Preventative Council of this northern town, the forumZFD has developed a concept to assess and improve the situation in “Drosselstraße”. The town has thus acquired a strategic manual for medium- and long-term integration efforts by the local authorities and other institutions.