18 June 2021

Position Paper - German Funding Framework



An adjustment of the German legal framework for funding projects abroad is urgently needed to enable more effective and efficient cooperation with civil societies in foreign policy. Such a reform must be initiated and shaped from within the German Bundestag, in particular through cooperation between the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Budget Committee and with the involvement of the Subcommittee on Civilian Crisis Prevention, Conflict Management and Integrated Action. We therefore turn to you, the members of these committees, and ask you not only to recognise the problem, but to dedicate yourselves to the challenging task of finally adapting a legal funding framework specifically for foreign projects, and particularly for conflict and transition regions.

As civil society organisations, we see ourselves in a complementary role to state foreign policy, which we fulfil with a high degree of innovation and commitment. We have proven in the past that we can implement effective projects, even in areas where state actors can hardly make progress or get access. However, the legal framework of our work, which is federal funding law and its application by the Federal Foreign Office, presents us with substantial challenges.

German federal funding law was not developed for funding measures abroad on principle. In its current form and interpretation, it is not suitable for funding abroad, especially in conflict and transition regions, not effective and is often an obstacle in achieving the best possible outcome.

German and international actors are increasingly pointing out the discrepancy between, on the one hand, the formulated foreign policy requirements and principles (including contributions to ‘Germany’s role in the world’, various guidelines and inter-ministerial strategies) and, on the other, the need to create the appropriate framework conditions for more effective measures abroad.

In the past, the problems and deficits of funding law were partially compensated for by an interpretation adapted to the circumstances and the use of discretionary powers. In recent years, however, we have observed a narrower interpretation. Not least because of this, the framework conditions for the recipients of funds have successively deteriorated in recent years. In particular, the administrative specifications and risks for funding recipients have increased significantly. The continued predominance of calendar-year funding in foreign policy project funding also runs counter to the character and needs of processes in conflict and transition regions.

At the same time, the demands for documentation of project progress and proof of effects have also increased. We are convinced that there is a need for careful scrutiny of the allocation of public funds and their use by civil society organisations. However, the Federal Foreign Office’s framework conditions for foreign projects and the increasingly narrow interpretations of these have caused the conditions to move further and further away from the principle of economic efficiency (Section 7 of the Federal Budget Code) and have substantially impaired the intended effect abroad.

The following steps are urgently needed:

A) Improvements within the framework of the already existing budgetary possibilities will be implemented in the short to medium term, inter alia but not exclusively:

  1. Reporting and documentation should not be limited to small-scale activity reports, but – in accordance with the Federal Budget Code (BHO) – should focus primarily on effects in order to enable the appropriate and relevant factual accountability.

2. Funding over several years should be covered by sufficient commitment appropriations to enable multi-year approvals and thus reliable project implementation.

3. The fund allocation deadline should be adapted to local conditions by generally introducing a 4-month deadline for countries outside the SEPA area (instead of the current six weeks rule).

4. The high costs incurred by the supporting organisations due to elaborate project planning, partner management, etc. should be co-financed through a flat rate for administrative expenses of 8-15%.

5. Funding for pre- and post-processing such as exploratory studies and project and programme evaluations should be regularly planned for.

6. All expenses necessary for the implementation of projects should be recognised, especially costs for security measures, insurance, and psychosocial support for all project participants.

B) The legal funding framework for foreign projects as a whole is being put to the test by the legislator. This testing must be based on a detailed analysis that includes both the principles of budget law and the contexts and needs of project work abroad, especially in conflict and transition regions. The aim should be to overcome the weaknesses of the existing system through change.

Not only we funding recipients, but also many people and departments in the Federal Foreign Office are convinced that legal frameworks adapted to the special context of conflict and transition 1areas can increase both economic efficiency and outcome at the same time.

In principle, further development away from too-rigid guidelines and controls and towards a mutual exchange of experiences and learning between donors and implementers is desirable, which would focus on peace dividends instead of interest repayments. When allocating funds, efforts should generally be made to ensure that measures are adapted to the specific context and that coordination and exchange take place between implementers and donors.

We also work with and for foreign ministries of other countries that have already created more effective framework conditions and an explicit spirit of cooperation in project funding abroad. Germany can and must improve its position in this area as part of the new legislature beginning in 2021.

The undersigned organisations and individuals from Germany and abroad work with funding, including from the Federal Foreign Office, endorse the basic ideas and demands of this position paper and are happy to contribute to a process to improve the legal funding framework.
43 verified
  1. Andreas Muckenfuß, Director, CRISP, Berlin
  2. Annegret Wulff, Geschäftsführerin, MitOst, Berlin
  3. Cornelius Ochmann, Politikwissenschaftler, Stiftung für deutsch-polnische Zusammenarbeit, Berlin
  4. Dr. Inga Luther, Geschäftsführung, OWEN e.V., Berlin
  5. Larissa Kunze, Programmleitung, AMCHA Deutschland, Berlin
  6. Hannah Reich, Professor, FHWS, Würzburg
  7. Lisa Mends, Research assistant, University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt, Würzburg
  8. Helga Tempel, teacher, ForumZFD, 22926 Ahrensburg
  9. Gudrun Haas, München
  10. Irene Thiede, Head of Finance and Administration, civity Management Consultants, Berlin
  11. Amin Louden, Mediator, Facilitator, Berlin
  12. Simone Ceresa, Programme Manager CSSP, CSSP, Milano
  13. Johnny West, Director, OpenOil UG, Berlin
  14. Anikó Bakonyi & Nikola Mokrović, Co-Chairs of the Board, EU-Russia Civil Society Forum e.V., Berlin
  15. Stefan Melle, Ex. Director, DRA e.V., Berlin
  16. matthias jochmann, n-ost, berlin
  17. Stefanie Schiffer, Geschäftsführerin, Europäischer Austausch gGmbH, Berlin
  18. Werner Eggert, Director, Interlink Academy for International Dialog and Journalism, Hamburg
  19. Wolfram Frommlet, journalist, author, Ravensburg
  20. Jasmin Falk, Artist, München
  21. Jérôme William Bationo, Media consultant, MICT, Osnabrück
  22. Dr.Herbert Bronnenmayer, Physician, MiakWadang - Verein zur Entwicklungsförderung, Micheldorf i.Oberösterreich
  23. Manfred Ewel, Cultural manager, ex Goethe Institut, freelance writer, Weingarten
  24. Dominik Lehnert, Founder & Senior Advisor, Xchange Perspectives e.V., Bingen, Hitzkofen
  25. Frank Domhan, Founding Director, WELTFILME, Berlin
  26. Alexander Pfeuffer, Founding Director, WELTFILME, Berlin
  27. Dr. Birgit Laubach, executive board, elbarlament e.V., Berlin
  28. Sebastian Bloching, Managing Director, elbarlament GmbH, Berlin
  29. David Quin, Managing Director, Thomson Media, Berlin
  30. Tiemo Ehmke, board member, icebauhaus e.V., Weimar
  31. Ulrich Ludat, artist, uli.l (arts) group, Saarbrücken
  32. Laura Meyer, Director of Finance, Democracy Reporting International gGmbH, Berlin
  33. Hanno Gundert, Managing Director, n-ost, Berlin
  34. Stephen Kovats, Co-Director, r0g_agency for open culture and critical transformation gGmbH, Berlin
  35. Klaas Glenewinkel, Director, MiCT - Media in Cooperation and Transition, Berlin
  36. Torge Kübler, Senior Adviser, Conducive Space for Peace, Tel Aviv
  37. Jan Lucas, Project Manager, CRISP, Berlin
  38. Dirk Splinter, Dircetor, inmedio peace consult ggmbh, Berlin
  39. Manuela Mangold, Member of Board of Directors, CSSP - Berlin Center for Integrative Mediation e.V., Berlin
  40. Christoph Lüttmann, Managing Director, CSSP Berlin Center for Integrative Mediation, Berlin
  41. Michael Gleich, Managing Director, Culture Counts Foundation gGmbH, Berlin
  42. Prof. Dr. Christian Schwarz-Schilling, Bundesminister a. D., Hoher Repräsentant für Bosnien-Herzegowina a.D., Berlin
  43. Florian Dunkel, Director, CRISP, Berlin
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