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Dialogue forum on development politics at the WCGE

"To do - or not to do? Development politics between values and interests" - This was the motto of a dialogue forum with 50 participants from development politics, companies, NGOs and the academia, taking place in Wittenberg on 7th and 8 May, 2012.

The forum was organized by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Germany Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the Wittenberg Center for Global Ethics (WCGE), supported by the Chamber of Industry and Trade Halle-Dessau. Next to representatives of the BMZ, the Federal Foreign Ministry and government agencies, participants from multinational corporations such as adidas, BASF, Celesio, Daimler, Otto Group, Siemens, but also several small and middle sized enterprises took part. Trade associations, scientific institution, NGOs and political associations such as the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation and the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation were represented too.

The focus of the forum was on how state development policy and private business companies can cooperate in developing countries in a better way in order to jointly support aims of sustainable development. It is obvious that the UN Millennium Development Goals can only be reached with an additional commitment of private corporations, serving the common good in developing countries. Therefore the forum focused on the opportunities, incentives and conditions of responsible business in those areas. In most developing countries there are huge challenges for private companies who want to invest and engage, e.g. as regards bad governance, corruption, lack of regulations and rule of law. Moreover lots of problems are caused by harsh profit seeking companies, which do not care for the society and the people.

To tackle such issues, three workshops on anti-corruption, advancing responsible exploitation of resources and working on framework for investments were organized during the forum.

One of the central outcomes of the forum was that responsible action and good leadership in politics, business and society is necessary to tackle specific challenges. Acc. to the approach of the Wittenberg Center, which was introduced to the audience during the forum, this can be structured in three dimensions: On the level of the -Moves within the game- individual actions, strategies and projects applied by companies to combine essential development objectives and profit, like for example CSR-projects, are important. In companies awareness must be raised for integrity, reliability, sustainable and long term relations as well as the moral concerns of development cooperation. On the level of the "Rules of the game" the target is to reach equal conditions and reliable planning for each participant by measures that help to improve the institutional framework conditions in the destination country but also for the very own acting conditions of each stakeholder - for example by fostering Good Governance and Rule of law in the field of state development cooperation. In companies this can be organized by compliance systems, Due Dilligence, Codes of Conduct and corporate culture. However, incentive compatibility, implementation and the opportunity to sanction must be guaranteed. In this context, the arising of new actors in emerging nations questioning established standards is a particular challenge. Eventually on the third level, which is the "Understanding of the game", the awareness of the problem has to be sharpened and a common base for solutions has to be developed. The third level of a "shared understanding of the game" is quite important for the dialogue between development politics and business. Prejudices have to be eliminated and trust between each participant has to be established - being the basis principle of cooperation - especially in the partner states. In the light of huge global challenges it is essential that politics and business enhance their cooperation in developing countries.

On the basis of this approach, Prof. Arnis Vilks and Prof. Andreas Suchanek, both members of the board of the Wittenberg Center, stressed the significance of trust and mutual reliability: "Incentives and profit opportunities have to be designed that way that third parties will not get harmed and that everybody could obtain advantage out of it", highlighted Prof. Suchanek.

Hans-Jürgen Beerfeltz, Secretary of State at the BMZ, mentioned: "Only if you deserve respect, you may profit." Beerfeltz made clear that good development cooperation has to be subject both to rationality and ethics, and that private business has to be integrated stronger into German development politics. Sustainable development needs commitment and investment from private business.

Danuta Sacher, Chairman of "Terre des Hommes" Germany, stressed that NGOs are basically open to cooperate with business to achieve the development targets, adding that a compelling condition is ensuring human rights. This was also emphasized by Prof. Christa Randzio-Plath, Deputy Chairman of the Association of Development NGOs in Germany (VENRO).

As representative from the business side, Dr. Andreas Blüthner from BASF SE, stressed that only long-term cooperation between politics, private business and civil society is capable to achieve an efficient and sustainable level of development cooperation.

In the workshops on the issues corruption, resources and framework conditions for investments it has become clear that companies need a stimulus in form of likely future profits to show commitment to development politics. Besides it has to be obvious that own interest and values do not stand in opposite to each other. Therefore, participants of the forum stressed several times that efficient development cooperation has to be based on decent norms as well as on trust and mutual reliability.

The dialogue forum in Wittenberg did have exactly this aim - Promoting a common understanding of the game and establishing a conscience of responsible actions in development cooperation and trust between the four target groups. At the forum, representatives of business, development politics, NGOs and economy entered into a dialogue and learned more about the particular options of acting and restrictions of the other parties. This might be considered an important milestone to reach cooperation in the practical work of business and development politics to achieve better results for each participant.

Veranstaltungsbericht - EZ zwischen Werten und Interessen