Alongside classical diplomacy and foreign economic policy, foreign cultural relations and education policy (FCEP) form the third pillar of German foreign policy. Its key objectives include laying the foundations for genuine foreign policy between societies by means of exchanges and cooperation in the fields of culture, education, and scholarship, enabling dialogue between peoples and civil societies. The foreign cultural policy thus paves the way for mutual understanding, a central element for policies committed to the peaceful settlement of differences.
Other tasks of FCEP include promoting the German language around the world, showcasing Germany as a country with a successful and diverse cultural scene, and through exchange developing joint perspectives. Current initiatives include, for example, promoting a variety of cultural programmes, such as exhibitions, cooperation projects by German theatres, supporting literature and films as well as various education programmes such as the partner schools initiative “Schools: Partners for the Future (PASCH)”, not to mention projects in dialogue with the Islamic world as well as kulturweit, a scheme that enables young people from Germany to spend a year doing voluntary service abroad.
Focussing on the socio-political dimension to culture
The Federal Foreign Office entrusts above all intermediary organisations active as entities under private law and each with its own special focus with realizing the FCEP. They include the Goethe-Institut, Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the German Commission for UNESCO, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
The work of the cultural intermediaries is defined in agreements on goals, but they are largely free to structure the programmes and projects themselves. The Goethe-Institut has a total of 157 institutes in 98 different countries. It promotes a knowledge of the German language abroad and nurtures international cultural cooperation. The ifa dedicates itself mainly to cultural dialogue – in the form of exhibitions and conferences. The current trends in cultural dialogue: digital cultural and intermediary services and the new opportunities for interactive participation. In all the projects, FCEP has emphasised a holistic concept of culture that focuses on the socio-political impact of culture.
This includes, for example, the significance of cultural heritages for societies. The preservation of cultural heritage programme supports upholding important historical cultural assets worldwide and thus helps foster cultural identities. For example, this involves the preservation of the Timbuktu manuscripts in Mali, the creation of a digital registry of cultural assets for Syria, the digitisation of traditional music in Cameroon, and the restoration of Borobudur Temple in Indonesia.