KAAD Annual Convention 2019 “Development”: Concept and Practice
The 33rd Annual Convention of KAAD brought together 206 scholarship holders and 71 guests from 47 countries for an intercultural, interreligious and interdisciplinary dialogue in Bonn from 25th to 28th April 2019. As a continuation and deepening of the anniversary events of the previous year, the focus of this Convention was an analysis of prevailing development discourses, but also of examples of good practice, in the context of a “holistic” development to be striven for.
Does development cooperation bring us closer to “global justice and a common future” (as was the central theme of the KAAD anniversary year 2018)? The term “development” and some of the concepts closely linked to it are by no means clear and consistent in the interpretation of “donors” and “recipients” or partners from different cultural backgrounds. The effectiveness of development projects, in which “western” donors invest around 120 billion euros per year, is assessed ambivalently in scientific studies, especially in relation to their tied interests and (lacking) farsightedness.
But can development as a positive change be quantified adequately for the future, as required by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG, a voluntary commitment of the international community until 2030)? What role do economic growth and its “values” play in this? Isn’t this a unilinear “direction” of the supposed “One world”, which in view of obvious (ecological) borders should rather be readjusted, even reversed? This range of questions was analyzed and discussed by scientists and experts in five forums headed by the following guiding concepts: “Combating the causes of flight”, “Help” (versus “Participation”), “Transformation”, “Sustainability” and, focusing on the personnel of development cooperation, “Change agents” (cf. the program).
A panel and plenary discussion, which brought together the results of the forums, made clear that any form of development aid must focus on long-term participation which should be culturally sensitive and “appropriate”, i.e. which should respect and strengthen the autonomy of the partners. The questions on sustainability and growth limits were met with skepticism towards models of a “green economy”. Social and ecological transformations should proceed in equal measure and at a parallel step. In reference to the confusing political framework conditions for development cooperation, new opportunities for alliances against both particularizing and totalizing ideological and power tendencies were nevertheless seen.
Based on the assumption that the “western” development paradigm comes to an end, the keynote lecture of the social ethicist Prof. Dr. Markus Vogt (LMU Munich) addressed a conflict between ecological and social goals inherent in the SDG and traced back the conceptualization of “holistic development” in Catholic social ethics and the Global Church on the basis of the Papal Encyclicals up to “Laudato si`” (2015), in which growth as a principle was also discussed. Vogt argued in favor of a “transformative science and church” that ought to move out of closed spaces and become part of a “courageous cultural revolution” (Veritatis Gaudium). This would also in particular apply to the work of KAAD and its alumni.
Through the support of personalities and networking in its role as international scholarship organization of German Catholics, KAAD is not only part of the development budget of church and state. “Holistically” oriented support has also proved its worth in the way scholarship holders help shape development processes as “decision-makers”, using and creating leeway in which people can develop.
The most important presentations and lectures of the Convention are published on our website (www.kaad.de/Publications).
Honors, Music and Liturgy: The Annual Convention as a communitarian event and festival
This year’s (8th) prize of the “KAAD Foundation Peter Hünermann” went to the Myanmar alumni association “MyanKAAD” and thus for the first time not to an individual. The association is the fruit of a cooperation started in 2001 between KAAD and the Bishops’ Conference of the country, the Diocese of Regensburg (as main source of funding for the scholarships outside Germany) and the Catholic ABAC University in Bangkok. A delegation of alumni and representatives of the church (among them the Vicar General of Yangoon, Msgr. Saw Francis) had travelled together with the representative of the Diocese of Regensburg, Gregor Tautz, to the Convention and Award Ceremony. The head of KAAD Asia Department, Dr. Heinrich Geiger, who built up and supported the cooperation from the beginning, and the Vicar General honored the association presented by Claudia Api as an important church and civil society actor in a severe minority situation for Catholics and a rapidly changing society afflicted by ethnic-religious conflicts.
The award ceremony was embedded in a festive musical soirée with music contributions from the (Eastern) European tradition as well as a performance with a traditional xylophone from Ghana. On this occasion, the Festschrift “Education and Science in the Context of Interculturality” in celebration of the 60th birthday of Dr. Hermann Weber was presented and handed over to him. It contains interdisciplinary contributions to a deeper understanding of interculturality, which also further reflect the work of KAAD, such as the article of the Honorary President Prof. Dr. Peter Hünermann, whose merits were commemorated several times during the Convention in celebration of his 90th birthday in March.
At the festive celebration of the International Holy Mass the Episcopal Representative for KAAD, Auxiliary Bishop Wilfried Theising (Vechta) emphasized in his sermon the personal side of “development” using the example of the first witnesses of the resurrection, especially Peter. In an “Encounter in Prayer” the day before, prayers and readings from different Christian denominations and the world’s major religions were spoken and sung. The Annual Convention was thus characterized by a high level of participation of scholars at all levels. The musical soirée and liturgical parts were prepared in a workshop by (music) scholarship holders and alumni, especially from Eastern Europe. The international folklore evening showed once again that the event is a “work in progress”: it is only on the days of the Convention itself that the moderation and presentations of the five continental groups are prepared with a great deal of creative and acting potential.
Thus, in the Convention’s resonance chamber the KAAD’s own interdisciplinary richness resounded. The issue that is particularly relevant to a globally oriented (development) policy has already been dealt with by the scholars in our “expert groups” for years. Following the Convention, they met on 28th April to attend their respective internal colloquia.