Summer School: Berlin Excursion

by: Tomna Obaid, Samson Ajagbe and Elizabeth Guerra

At the Bundestag

At the BMZ

Our engagement with “good governance in post-conflict countries” continues at the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) office in Berlin. With few days to the end of the summer school, all the participants were present to listen to the presentation on how BMZ operates in post-conflict countries. The “Whys” of BMZ concerned issues of peace and stability, hence 50% of their partners are fragile or conflict prone countries. Whereas 1.5 billion people are currently living in these fragile states, none of them have been able to achieve any of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As a result, promoting peace and development is one of the official goals of the BMZ.

In other to promote peace and development, the ministry uses many strategies. It identifies fragile states as any state that has shortcoming in one or more of statehood precondition (Authority, Capacity and Legitimacy). The BMZ has direct collaboration with the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA) and does its internally consumed classification based on the indicators received from GIGA. The mapping is essential for their internal workers because it guides the approach they use in conducting their work. The BMZ also uses, as part of its mechanism of operation, the “New Deal for Engagement with Fragile States”. The session is rounded up with the questions and answers section.

The Bundestag excursion

The excursion to the Bundestag was a mixture of politics, history and arts. An interesting experience to behold, all the participants were caught in the excitement of the moment with camera lights flashing every now and then. The guide, whose friendliness combined with a display of knowledge of the Bundestag, began by outlining the criteria for becoming a member of the bundestag, delving through the uniqueness of the in-house traditional voting procedures and ending the politics aspects with penalties for absent during proceeding for the members. We were further led through the hall way to see the several Russian graffiti sketched on both sides of the wall, at a particular location in the hall way, after it was captured by the Soviet Russia during the War. A brief insight into the Reichstag´s fire was provided for an understanding of its important for the stabilization of the dictatorship in 1933. We were then led to see the Chancellor’s office (or simply to see the giant blue door to her office), and an explanation of the German coat of arm. The coat of arm, an Eagle, has its tradition traced from the Roman Empire.  Just as we were about to go to the multi-confessional room of silence, but this time not to confess our sins, to round up the highly educative and eye-opening excursion, we were shown the bundestag members post-boxes which numbered in its thousands up to the last count in 1999.

Willy Brandt Forum

Our short journey to Berlin has reached its last day. Starting early after spending an exciting night in Berlin, the participants were very eager to have a deep insight on the life and history of Willy Brandt. A short introduction that followed by a detailed tour inside Willy Brandt Forum was given to the participants. We were able to have an overview on the different phases of life of Willy Brandt, the role he played and his great influence in the German political system as well as the German history. Moreover, we were very interested to see the different contributions that done by Willy Brandt and the rewards that he received, especially the Nobel price that captured our attention. The visit to the forum was concluded by an open session for questions and comments on the life and accomplishments of Willy Brandt, which also has enriched our knowledge and understanding of the German political life and history.

The Tour

After the visit to Willy Brandt Forum we had a bus tour around Berlin to discover further aspects of such an amazing city. The most important lesson we have learned during the tour was not to stamp our passport at Checkpoint Charlie, otherwise the passport will be invalid.  The participant were fascinated by the rich history of Berlin, and as we moved around between the former east and west parts of the city, we were able to have a better understanding on how was life before the unity. Seeing the Berlin wall and knowing the stories of escaping attempts have sized our attentions and opened our imagination on how was life during that dark time.

The clock was approaching 16:00, when the time has come to go back to Erfurt. We said goodbyes to Berlin, and we headed home with a great lesson on how democracy can assist the country in escaping the conflict trap into a new phase of peace and development…. What a great conclusion to our summer school.

Berlin at night

After a great week of activities in Erfurt and a very interesting day in Berlin,  some of the participants of the summer school decided to get together to experience the famous Berlin´s nightlife, although we were all really tired after such an exhausting journey. The city of Berlin itself offers a multicultural and diverse night scene with possibilities for all ages and tastes. One thing that is impossible to miss when in Berlin is to see the old TV tower “Fernsehturm” at night.  We visited a restaurant in Hackescher Markt, a square in central Berlin (Mitte) were we enjoyed a nice time with really tasty food.