- Seeks to address “the underlying root causes” of conflicts “that emerge from decades of violence and humiliation”
The Berlin-based Berghof Foundation for Conflict Studies (BFCS) was established in 1971 by the chemist, peace activist, environmentalist, and philanthropist Georg Zundel (1931-2007), as a private limited company with charitable tax-exempt status under German law. BFCS also maintains a branch office in Tübingen, located in southern Germany, as well as project offices in Lebanon and Thailand.
Dedicated to “supporting conflict stakeholders and actors in their efforts to achieve sustainable peace through peacebuilding and conflict transformation,” BFCS contends that success in such endeavors requires not only good intentions and “political will,” but also specialized “knowledge” and “skills,” as well as a certain amount of money. Most notably, the Foundation emphasizes the importance of “addressing the underlying root causes” of conflicts “that emerge from decades of violence and humiliation,” rather than merely focusing on the “proxy” causes of conflict.
BFCS’s activities fall broadly under four major categories:
* Peace Support: Using its expertise in “facilitating dialogues, negotiation and mediation processes,” the Foundation aims “to enable stakeholders to effectively transform the dynamics and structures of violent conflict, so that they can interact constructively and can build lasting and just peace in their societies, through non-violent means.” Current activities focus mainly on South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Caucasus Region, the Middle East, and parts of Africa.
* Conflict Research: This program analyzes “the causes, forms and dynamics of violent social conflicts, especially those of a protracted character and with ethnopolitical dimensions.” BFCS’s flagship publication is the Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation, which offers an online platform where academics and practitioners alike can exchange ideas and discuss their respective experiences.
* Peace Education: “In order to be effective,” says BFCS, a peace-education curriculum should first be introduced to students in pre-school and should be continued thereafter throughout the course of their years in the classroom. To facilitate this process, the Foundation has created a peace Internet portal geared specifically for children.
* Grantmaking: Awarding grants “to support state-of-the-art conflict transformation projects that complement its operational activities in various synergistic ways,” BFCS maintains three distinct grant-making programs:
- Strategic Partnering Initiative: This program “provides funding for projects that are implemented in direct partnership between grantees and the Berghof Foundation … generating benefits that last beyond the completion of the project.”
- Innovation in Conflict Transformation: Open to organizations and individuals alike, this program provides grants of up to 30,000 Euro per year to fund projects that “tackle issues … of current relevance to the field of conflict transformation.”
- Georg Zundel Scholarship: Named in honor of BFCS’s founder, this two-year scholarship of 15,000 Euro per year is awarded to PhD students “who demonstrate a capacity for excellence in the field of conflict transformation.” Each recipient is integrated into one of the research-project teams that work at the Foundation’s main office in Berlin.
BFCS is a member of the Peace and Security Funders Group, an association of foundations, charitable trusts, and individual philanthropists who “make grants or expenditures that contribute to peace and global security.”
The chairman of BFCS’s board of trustees is Dr. Horst Fischer, who also has served as academic director of the Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict in Germany; professor of International Humanitarian Law at Leiden University in the Netherlands; adjunct professor at Columbia University in New York; president of the European Interuniversity Centre for Human Rights and Democratization (in Venice); advisor on international affairs for both the German Red Cross and the Netherlands Red Cross; and consultant for a variety of national ministries, international organizations, and NGOs, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and Amnesty International.
BFCS identifies the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs as its “long-term strategic partner.” Other past and present partners of the Foundation include numerous agencies in France, Austria, Germany, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, South Africa, Georgia, Bolivia, Lebanon, and the Netherlands (most notably IKV Pax Christi).
Among the many funders that have given financial support to BFCS are the European Union, the Swedish International Development Agency, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and the United Nations Development Program. The Foundation has also received funding from numerous non-governmental organizations, many of them based in Germany.
To view a list of additional noteworthy supporters of the Berghof Foundation for Conflict Studies, click here.
For additional information on BFCS, click here.