Work programme for 2015 – 2020

© Stockfoto/lightwise

The end of history has not yet arrived. On the contrary, the world is changing ever more rapidly. Transnational problems are increasing, and many of the potential solutions and cooperative structures which looked promising only a few years ago are failing to produce results. Changed power relations are bringing new actors with different interests into play. This has a direct impact on the normative bases of global governance. The rules established by the Western powers are being rejected or at least challenged, but no consensus on new rules has emerged. The content, scope and universality of human rights are as controversial as the concept of national sovereignty, and even the – hitherto widely accepted – norms of international law are coming under pressure.

In parallel, the forums in which such questions were traditionally discussed, and which in most cases reflect the former dominance of Western actors, are being called into question. In their stead, a multitude of new and often informal forums, coalitions and groupings has formed. As a result, there is very little agreement among the world’s countries about the topics that should be addressed and the objectives that should be achieved, or indeed about the arenas in which these discussions should take place.

What’s more, non-state actors are steadily gaining in importance in many fields of relevance to global public goods. The logical imperatives guiding these players’ actions and cooperation are highly diverse, further increasing the complexity of, and creating fundamental challenges for, global governance.
Through its work, the Foundation explores and addresses these crises and challenges. The Foundation also stands for visionary thinking, prompting it to analyse the extent to which current global political changes offer new opportunities and how they can be utilised.

The African continent has been a regional focus of the Foundation’s interest for many years, and this will continue in future. A stated aim of the Potsdam Spring Dialogues is to follow African regional initiatives, and the Foundation therefore attaches great importance to dialogue with African experts in its other projects and programmes as well, wherever this is compatible with its thematic agenda.

The Foundation’s work focuses on three programme areas. The first deals primarily with the normative issues outlined above, while the other two have a thematic focus:

  1. Normative Challenges in Global Governance
  2. Universal Development Goals – Regional and Local Implementation
  3. International Responsibility in Crises and Conflicts

UN Treaty on business and human rights 


The United Nations started negotiating a possible legally binding treaty on business and human rights in 2014.The last session of the UN working group in October 2017 discussed, for the first time, elements of a possible treaty.  In the current edition of our Global Governance Spotlight series, Carlos López analyses the state of the negotiations and crucial challenges. 

:further info here

sef: Bonn Symposium 2017

Local partnerships to implement Agenda 2030 worldwide


In December 2017, sef: hosted, together with the Service Agency Communities in One World (SKEW) of Engagement Global gGmbH, the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and other supporters, its annual Bonn Symposium. More than 120 experts discussed good examples of partnerships within and between municipalities worldwide. Read the conference report and have a look at the speakers’ presentations.

:further info here

sef: insights 7-9|2017


On the sidelines of the Bonn Symposium 2017 we had the chance to interview three international experts on local SDG implementation.

Mariam Yunusa, former Director of the World Urban Forum, speaks about why it is so important to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through local partnerships. Tasneem Essop elaborates on her motivation for the founding of the Energy Democracy Initiative in South Africa. And Abdihakim Ainte explains how he plans to equip young Somalis with better prospects for their future by conveying the SDGs. 

Read the interviews here!

:further info here