“An institution says goodbye”

Klaus Weingärtner said goodbye to his retirement at an event at the BW-Bank Stuttgart in front of around 170 guests at the end of September. “With him an institution within an institution is leaving,” says Philipp Keil, Managing Director of the SEZ. For three decades, Klaus Weingärtner played a key role in shaping the face and work of the SEZ. Initially, the focus of the work was on building a network and professionalizing the full-time and voluntary One World actors.

Klaus Weingärtner was a man from the very beginning. He started working at the SEZ just a few months after it was founded in January 1991. “It was exactly the position I imagined back then,” says Weingärtner. He previously worked as a development worker in Niger, West Africa, for four years, “and I saw that it was necessary to make people here in Baden-Württemberg aware of the challenges and conditions in the countries of the global south and of the possibilities of how to do it can do differently.”

Valère Hiobi, CEO of MyAfrica e. V. and Steffen Weber, managing director of the Weltladen umbrella association and board member of the Fair Trade Forum, represented the two main topics that Klaus Weingärtner is particularly committed to: partnership with countries in the Global South and fair trade. The world shops and fair trade were always particularly close to Weingärtner’s heart. His active commitment led to the first nationwide fair trade fair being held at the Haus der Wirtschaft in 2005. The Fair Trade trade fair developed from these beginnings.

On the occasion of the farewell ceremony, the former Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg Erwin Teufel praised the work of Klaus Weingärtner and his commitment to fair trade with the words: “With the Fair Trade trade fair you have gained an excellent public and many supporters. He said: “I have gained a lot of respect for him. He has campaigned for justice worldwide. For him, the focus was never on the I, but always on the We. He has great expertise, competence, persuasiveness and a sense of responsibility.”

To the press release

 

Interview with Klaus Weingärtner

We spoke to Klaus Weingärtner about his time at the SEZ.

How did you come to SEZ?

I saw the job advertisement in the newspaper and applied for it; it was exactly the position I had in mind. It was about doing educational work in Baden-Württemberg. I had previously worked as a development worker for four years and saw that it was necessary to make people aware of the problems and conditions in the countries of the global south and of ways in which things could be done differently.

You have been at the SEZ for three decades now. What motivated you?

I was able to implement what I considered necessary and what I enjoyed working for in my professional life. That has been my motivation for the last 30 years.

The SEZ was set up in January 1991 and they started in May. What were the challenges at first?

There was an office, but no secretariat and no technical equipment, and the letters inviting the board of trustees to open the office had to be written urgently. I then typed out every single letter with my portable typewriter - you can imagine how much Tipp-Ex I used.

What did the first steps in the content work look like?

We were aware that we cannot change development cooperation in Baden-Württemberg on our own. That's why we met with many volunteers and full-time employees in the early years and asked them where the problem was. So that we know where we can apply the lever. We held the first seminars, for example on project funding or press work, and we also started world shop consulting in 1991.

What were the reactions to the SEZ and its work?

I was surprised at how the need for such an institution was seen by the representatives of the non-governmental organizations. We had the feeling they were just waiting for us. It has developed very dynamically because those involved in One World have seen that the foundation offers good offers and good work. It was always important to us to think outside the box. For example, we brought in speakers from the retail association for the world store training in order to bring the economic sector more into this. But we have also put together offers to continue the political orientation of the active groups.

What word could be used to describe the first ten years of the SEZ?

The first ten years were development work. We had no funds to make ourselves known. We had to look for allies and of course we also wanted to find new comrades-in-arms. We have held events together with associations such as the IHK, the Sparkasse Association and the Cooperative Association in order to get their clients on board and interest them in this topic. And I would say we succeeded.

Let's go into the second decade, the years 2001 to 2011. What term can be used to describe them?

That was the phase of consolidation, of codifying the program that we had at the time. A lot has evolved from the seminars we offered in the early years. The Fair Trade trade fair is one such example. The idea came from the employees of Weltladen who approached me and said that we would just like to see what fair trade actually offers. I then said, okay, let’s try a trade fair like this. And in 2005 we launched the first nationwide fair trade fair with around 30 exhibitors at the Haus der Wirtschaft in Stuttgart.

Other events such as the Stuttgart Forum for Development or the nationwide initiative Meine. Your. One World. The foundation has also further developed and established itself in this second decade from its existing beginnings. The One World Prize, with which the SEZ honors the development policy commitment of the many volunteers, was also launched during this time.

And where does the path lead in the third decade? Where is the SEZ today?

We have become a large network in Baden-Württemberg. We are a recognized organization and are perceived as such in many circles. Be it in politics or business, but also among those active in the area of ​​development cooperation. Development cooperation is not an easy topic. We are approached by schools, by municipalities, by world shops - be it for personnel support, for financial support or for the arrangement of speakers, exhibitions and educational material. We are now a sought-after institution, and I think that's nice.

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