Cooperation, not confrontation | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 26.06.2012
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Cooperation, not confrontation

Education is the significant "raw material" for the future - more important than other assets in the race for global leadership, says German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle at DW's Global Media Forum.

"Education plays a central role in globalization," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told delegates at the Global Media Forum in Bonn.

"Access to good education determines whether an individual will rise in society, just as the quality of an education system decides on the rise and fall of a society," Westerwelle said Tuesday at the international three-day conference on education in a globalized world.

It is globalization which has led to the importance of education, and that has contributed to the increase of justice in the world, he said. A country's climate or valuable raw material assets are no longer what matters as much as creativity and knowledge, both a result of education and training. Westerwelle said the countries that stand to profit were those currently grappling with a host of problems due to the high percentage of young people in the population. Their vitality and creativity was what these countries must develop.

Education is the key

In his speech, Westerwelle summarized German cultural and education policies abroad, which the government defines as policies directed towards peace. Education, he said, is the key to a tolerant, pluralistic society; it promotes equality and respect and conveys values. From a German point of view, freedom, democracy and rule of law are values of strong appeal, he said - mirrored in Germany's value-oriented foreign policy. Globalization also contributes to communicating values, he said.

School children in Iran

'Education is all a matter of building bridges' (Ralph Ellison)

Germanyis prepared to help consolidate democratic processes within civil society, Westerwelle said. "We actively support democratization processes," the Foreign Minister added. "In Tunisia and Egypt, we've launched an education, culture and media initiative called 'Site for the Future,'" he said. In cooperation with Deutsche Welle, the Berlin Foreign Ministry supports the creation of online media "because free media are a condition for developing opinion and thus the foundation of a civil society."

German history sets an example

Westerwelle pointed to German history as an example of how freedom, democracy, good governance and tolerance need to be learnt. Germany went through "the darkest chapter of its history" before it could develop what amounts to a liberal constitution, the Foreign Minister said, referring to Germany's Nazi period from 1933 to 1945. Today, he told the delegates in Bonn, Germany depends on openness and international networks - and this is a field in which non-governmental exchange is of particular importance. "In two world wars over the past century, France and Germany confronted each other, irreconcilable," he said and pointed out that was less than a lifetime ago.

Hoping to encourage people living in regions with political tensions, the German Foreign Minister said one must patiently focus on "communication and mediation." What was possible in Europe - despite the many difficulties - he said, is possible elsewhere, too.

Another issue close to Westerwelle's heart is the future composition of the UN Security Council. The way the body is set up today doesn't mirror the current international situation, he said; it is "an echo of the past." Westerwelle criticized the fact that neither Latin America nor Africa has a permanent seat on the council and Asia is represented merely by one state, China. He urged that these regions should be accepted as permanent members to allow the Security Council to react more credibly to international conflicts.

Author: Sabine Hartert / db
Editor: Michael Lawton

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