The Development and Peace Foundation was founded in 1986 on the initiative of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Willy Brandt. As a partner, he won the then Minister-President Johannes Rau, who assured the support of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. Other founding members were Kurt H. Biedenkopf, Ralf Dahrendorf, Friedhelm Farthmann, Uwe Holtz, Klaus Dieter Leister, Dieter Senghaas and Carola Stern.
They all shared a desire to build an independent forum to discuss global issues and constructively link East-West and North-South themes.
"Development, in the broadest sense, is another word for peace."
Willy Brandt, founding chairman of the Development and Peace Foundation
Willy Brandt became chairman of the Executive Committee and remained so until his death in 1992. Johannes Rau became chairman of the Board of Trustees. Peace researcher Dieter Senghaas became chairman of the Advisory Board.
The founding Executive Committee described the objective of the sef: as follows:
"We are united by the vision of a world without borders and without prejudice, without hunger or fear of destruction. We know that this vision will not become a reality today or tomorrow. But we wish to commit ourselves to making our way, step by step, towards that goal. The future of humankind depends on regarding ourselves as world citizens and on our acting with a sense of global responsibility."
In 1991, the Land of Berlin joined the Foundation. On 1 July 1993, the SEF – previously a registered association – became a non-profit-making incorporated foundation under civil law. In addition to North Rhine-Westphalia, Berlin, Brandenburg, and Saxony were now also donor states.
"Development and peace are bound by indissoluble links. To seek these out by academic enquiry, to expose them to public view, and to open them up for public debate, is the purpose of this Foundation."
Johannes Rau 1986
Following the end of the Cold War and the East-West confrontation in 1989/90, Willy Brandt saw a historic opportunity for a more peaceful and equitable world. He won Ingvar Carlsson and Shridath Ramphal as chairpersons of the Commission on Global Governance, which in 1995 presented their report, "Our Global Neighborhood." Since then, the report has formed the normative basis of the Foundation's work. Together with the Institute for Development and Peace (INEF) at the University of Duisburg-Essen, the sef: in the 1990s shaped the debate on global governance in Germany. To this day, the challenges of global governance are at the center of the Foundation's work.
On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of sef: in 2016, renowned personalities from politics, science and civil society commented on the achievements and future challenges of the Foundation.
“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides us with both inspiration and concrete targets on the path to security, sustainable development and peace, defining us all as global citizens with a shared responsibility for the world. The founding idea of the Development and Peace Foundation is thus as valid today as it was 30 years ago. Let us work together, in Germany and in the world, to put this idea into practice each and every day.”
Peter Altmaier, MP, Federal Minister, Head of the Federal Chancellery, Berlin
“As a Christian, I firmly believe that every individual, Christian and non-Christian alike, is endowed with equal dignity. So I do not merely attempt to be a citizen of the world myself, but positively rejoice in every encounter with world citizens from the southern hemisphere of our globe. Creating these opportunities is as important as ever, which is why, even after 30 years, the Development and Peace Foundation continues to play such an important role.”
Professor Wolfgang Huber, retired Bishop, former Chairperson of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD)
“The sef: has been over the last 30 years an advocate for promoting more global justice. I have no doubt that those pinning hopes on the SDGs will continue to have a reliable partner in the Foundation.”
Dr. Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Addis Ababa
“Today, we are well on the way towards ONE world. However, we are experiencing the end of feel-good globalisation and face immense challenges: wars without borders, displaced people, the climate crisis and global inequality. Time and again, they show us how our actions here and now affect people elsewhere – and tomorrow’s generations. Now more than ever before, our efforts to bring about change and build global cohesion must begin at home.”
Claudia Roth, MP, Vice-President of the German Bundestag, Berlin
“When the Development and Peace Foundation was established on the initiative of Willy Brandt and Johannes Rau, the Cold War still had the world in its grip. Safeguarding peace and strengthening North-South justice was imperative. And that still applies today, 30 years on, as we face the additional challenges of climate change and sustainable development. The sef: is still needed.”
Professor Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Co-President of the Club of Rome; member of the International Resource Panel, UNEP, Emmendingen