32nd Burundi meeting in Stuttgart

Partnerships on equal terms in development cooperation are an impossibility. This was a key finding of the 32nd Burundi meeting of the SEZ Burundi Center of Excellence.

In her keynote speech, Vera Sompon, Managing Director of Sompon Social Service, addressed the topic of power and thought structures. A topic that Philipp Keil, Managing Director of the SEZ, had previously highlighted in his statement.

In her remarks she went back to 1884 and the so-called Berlin Conference. At this conference, the European colonial powers divided Africa among themselves. This event heralded a new type of relationship between Africa and Europe, said the speaker. Then, in the 1960s, African states became independent from the former colonial powers. “Since then we have been talking about partnerships on equal terms,” said Vera Sompon. “Just the word eye level makes me angry.” Eye level can only exist if both partners have the same position. But this is not the case. She doubted whether we in Germany, in Europe, even want a partnership on equal terms. According to Vera Sompon, the prevailing structures must change if we actually want to speak to one another on equal terms. And she asked: “Are we ready to rethink? When we talk about change processes, we have to be willing to change ourselves. We have to start with ourselves.” This change process is about decision-making power and power, “and we have to talk about that.”

Speaker Teresa Merz also doubted the much-vaunted partnership of equals. “Partnerships on equal terms are a beautiful utopia,” is the conclusion of their studies. She explained that our thought patterns have power over us and determine how we interact and interact with our partners. In her remarks, she advocated questioning one's own perspective and using the scope that exists within existing power structures. This way you can make a partnership a little more collaborative.

Raissa Mpundu, a Burundian scholarship holder and doctoral student at the University of Tübingen and the Université du Burundi, supplemented the previous contributions with a practical example. She presents a project that she developed together with a young Burundian entrepreneur and which focuses on environmental protection in general and especially the protection of Lake Tanganyika. She emphasizes the cultural customs and socio-economic realities of the possible target groups and their importance for project planning and project management.

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