At a Senate reception at Hamburg City Hall, the Free and Hanseatic City celebrated GIGA’s fiftieth anniversary. Speakers included First Mayor Olaf Scholz, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and NDR Editor-in-Chief Andreas Cichowicz.
© Julia Kneuse
Hamburg’s first mayor, Olaf Scholz, has recognised the GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies as an "academic institute of outstanding importance for Hamburg." At a Senate reception at Hamburg City Hall to mark the institute’s fiftieth anniversary, Scholz said on Thursday that because of the GIGA, comparative area studies has a solid foundation in Hamburg, after 50 years and periods of great change. "And we’re grateful that we form this foundation together with the Federal Foreign Ministry, the political linchpin for foreign affairs."
Scholz thanked all the institutes that work with the GIGA – in Hamburg, Germany, Europe and the rest of the world. "The GIGA’s achievements and this anniversary wouldn’t be possible without them." Roughly 150 guests from academic, economic and political circles attended the ceremony at Hamburg City Hall at the first mayor’s invitation.
Virtually no other institution in Hamburg is so closely tied to the city’s understanding of itself as the gateway to the world as the GIGA is. Founded in 1964 as the Deutsches Übersee-Institut (German Overseas Institute), the GIGA is now an international institute delivering world-class social science research.
In a video message, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier thanked the GIGA for 50 years of excellent research and political consulting. "Globalisation demands in-depth knowledge of all the countries we work with as partners," said Steinmeier, who is currently visiting Asia. "Alexander von Humboldt said the most dangerous view of the world is that of those who have never looked at the world. Keep helping us to make our view of the world more complete over the next 50 years."
Dozens of highly qualified researchers set out each year from Neuer Jungfernstieg for the four world regions of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. They analyse the causes of crises and conflicts, the social impacts of globalisation and climate change, and the influence of authoritarian regimes or power shifts at the international level. The GIGA experts study, warn and explain – as they did recently during the Arab Spring or in the debate about the German Army’s missions in Africa.
The GIGA’s acting president, Detlef Nolte, pointed in his speech to Europe’s loss of significance. "Even without a crystal ball, I dare to predict that the regions of the world that GIGA studies will gain in importance within international politics, while Europe’s importance will continue to decline," said Nolte. Globalisation has made the world more interconnected but also more prone to conflict, he said. Regional powers, regional organisations and regional conflicts already influence international politics today. "We don’t know if the world will become more peaceful or more conflict-ridden. That’s why we still need to know more about the regions that the GIGA studies."
As a member of the Leibniz Association, the GIGA is part of a research network that stands for academic excellence. At the Senate reception, Karl-Ulrich Mayer, the president of the Leibniz Association, emphasised the GIGA’s relevance as a superb ambassador for German science. "The GIGA’s work strengthens our understanding of other cultural groups and thus eases international relationships at the political, economic, and academic levels," he said.
Within the social sciences, the GIGA focuses on innovative research approaches. This is why it’s a leader in so-called comparative area studies. The idea: No more research on one world region in isolation, but rather comparative analysis of important problems and their solutions. The social sciences should no longer measure, evaluate, and explain the world according to European standards and using theories based primarily on European experiences and history. As part of the anniversary celebrations, the GIGA is hosting an international conference on this topic in Hamburg today and tomorrow and will present the inaugural Comparative Area Studies Award for the best academic article in the discipline.
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The GIGA In Brief
Establishment: Founded in 1964 as the Deutsches Übersee-Institut (German Overseas Institute) and the umbrella organization for the Institute of Asian Affairs, the German Orient Institute, the Institute of Latin American Affairs, and the Institute of African Affairs.
Reform: The GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies emerged out of the restructuring of the German Overseas Institute in 2006. It is jointly funded by the German Federal Foreign Office, the Hamburg Ministry of Science and Research, and the other German states.
New Research Agenda: As part of the reorientation, issues with a global reach have been incorporated more extensively into the agenda: political systems, violence and security, development and globalization, and international relations.
Fourteen up-and-coming researchers were honoured for successfully completing the GIGA Doctoral Programme. In a festive graduation ceremony on 5 October they passed the baton to a new cohort of doctoral students at the institute.
As of 1 October, Prof. Dr. Matthias Basedau is the new Director of the GIGA Institute of African Affairs. In addition, the long-standing directors of the GIGA Institutes of Latin American and of Middle East Studies, Prof. Dr. Detlef Nolte and Prof. Dr. Henner Fürtig, respectively, have both duly retired in recent months.
GIGA researchers will present their work on democracy at the 2018 annual meeting of the German Political Science Association (GPSA).