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Fostering Openness

Facing an aging demographic, Germany is reliant on immigration. If the country wishes to attract skilled workers and see its immigrants contribute more fully to society as fellow citizens, Germany must be an attractive destination for migrants.



Germany must therefore foster openness toward immigration and promote a Willkommenskultur or “welcoming culture.” Leveraging the benefits of migration requires both widespread acceptance among the domestic population and the willingness to integrate among migrants. Whether native to Germany or an immigrant, in order to ensure social cohesion, everyone living in Germany must demonstrate their commitment to the normative principles of an open society that are anchored in Germany’s constitution, the Basic Law. An open German society involves a demonstrated willingness to treat immigrants as equals and the removal of barriers to social inclusion. Ensuring broad-based acceptance of diversity in Germany is a must.

What's the state of Germany's "welcoming culture"?

Germany is Europe’s top immigration country. Thousands come in the hope of work, a better life or safety. However, immigrants stay and contribute to a society and its prosperity over time only if they feel welcome. What do Germans currently think about immigrants and immigration? Kantar Emnid regularly conducts surveys on behalf of the Bertelsmann Stiftung that answer these questions. Here are the available surveys for 20122015, 2017 as well as an additional study from 2018 on what people think the idea of a good citizen stands for in the immigration society (in German). The results of the current survey of 2019 can be found here (in German).

Antidiscrimination – an important topic for a diverse country

The whole subject of antidiscrimination in regard of ethnicity and religion is in Germany a rather new topic. As German society becomes more and more diverse, issues of antidiscrimination measures will become more important. The Bertelsmann Stiftung aims to support the development of German antidiscrimination policies by providing groundwork facts: 2015 we published an analysis of the antidiscrimination laws in Germany including recommendations for improvement (in German). At the end of 2018 we released the third edition of “Fact Library Discrimination” that provides an overview of all relevant studies of the last ten years in this field in order to showcase the phenomenon of existing discrimination in Germany (in German). In addition, we plan to conduct a larger study in the future about the public perception of antidiscrimination measures.

Action Fund for an Inclusive and Plural Society

In 2018-2019 the Bertelsmann Stiftung, together with Citizens for Europe e.V., has carried out the project “Action Fund for an Inclusive and Plural Society” in Germany. The project was designed to provide material and non-material support to activists and their grassroots organizations working locally to promote an open society and which represent the positive effects of cultural and ethnic diversity. By bringing these actors together, the action fund aimed to improve cooperation among them while supporting the development and implementation of collective projects.

The Action Fund for an Inclusive and Plural Society is different from similar instruments as it not only provided funding (in form of micro-grants) to selected grassroot groups but also project supervision by the NGO Citizens for Europe which can look back to a long history of experience in civil society activities. After a call for proposals in summer 2018 ten local projects were selected for funding and supervision. The supervision provided by Citizens for Europe included on-site visits, technical podcasts, webinars, expert inputs and continuous feedback and Q&A opportunities.

Further information about the Action Fund, the supported projects and the supervision can be found here (https://aktionsfonds-viral.de/).

Diversity Monitor

In an effort to better understand how state institutions deal with diversity, the Bertelsmann Stiftung joined forces with the European Forum for Migration Studies to develop the Diversity Monitor which was published in 2017. By developing key indicators designed to capture the state and handling of diversity – such as the acceptance of immigrants, naturalization and anti-discrimination practices, as well as the extent to which immigrant voices are represented in society and politics – the Diversity Monitor aims to provide insight to scientists and policy makers alike. Read more (in German)

The Open Society Initiative

The Bertelsmann Stiftung – together with other members of the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (Sachverständigenrat deutscher Stiftungen für Integration und Migration; SVR) – helped the Open Society (Offene Gesellschaft) initiative in 2016-2017 get off the ground by supporting it financially. The Open Society initiative originally emerged out of the German civil society in 2016. As a non-partisan civic measure, the initiative takes a stand for the body politic as defined in the Basic Law. The idea behind it is simple. “Rather than succumbing to the politics of fear, we should be defending our open society,” so the initiators of the Open Society, who are working to bring people together and pool the activities of organizations, alliances and individuals in the service of this goal. You can find more information on the Open Society initiative here (in German)