My Europe Is a Part of This World

Traditional parade, Spotlight Europe
Open-mindedness and curiosity for other cultures: “We want our volunteers to understand, not to judge. We want them not only to understand structures, but people.” (Flickr: Marc Sardon/licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Some time ago I had the pleasure to read Alessia Tavarone’s post on her visit to the former concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. 70 years after its liberation, Alessia reflects on the patterns that made segregation, persecution and subsequently Auschwitz possible. Her reflections come with a warning: Do not trick yourself into thinking that this is something 70 years and a world away. Until today people are made victims because of their descent, their beliefs or their sexual identity. If we want to live in open and peaceful societies we have to create and recreate them—one day at a time. Or to put it in Alessia’s words: “Change the world. Promote respect, promote peace.“

“We need more than mere political and economic ties between societies in Europe”

It is no coincidence that UNESCO was established in the same year the camps and Europe were liberated. The United Nations and UNESCO themselves are reactions to the Second World War. Their major task is what Alessia just described: to promote respect and to promote peace. Therefore we need more than mere political and economic ties between societies in Europe and around the world. We also need a deeper understanding of each other and a more intense cooperation with each other in the fields of education, science and culture. This firm belief is expressed in the preamble to UNESCO’s constitution: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”

As German Commission for UNESCO we want and we have to add to this vast goal. And we understand ourselves as part of a global neighborhood—including Europe but not excluding the rest of the world. To me global thinking is a necessity in a globalized world. When UNESCO and its National Commissions promoted the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, they called for a broad change in educational policies worldwide. If we want e.g. slow climate change it is not enough to change the mindset of only a few people. Since everybody on this planet is affected by its impacts we have to rethink as humankind. If we want to consume responsibly and sustainably—to give others the chance to lead the lives and future they want for themselves—we have to understand global production chains and how interwoven they are: between Germany and Greece, but likewise between Europe and South East Asia.

“Learn what it really means to be a stranger”

But we also have to have less abstract knowledge about our global neighbors. Our Commission does not solely aim at strengthening the bonds to fellow National Commission for UNESCO, but between people from around the globe as well. With our youth voluntary service kulturweit we offer people aged 18 to 26 the chance to work in German cultural and educational institutions abroad: in countries of the Global South, in Eastern Europe and the CIS. During their service all our volunteers share the same experience. They learn what it really means to be a stranger and that structures in daily life may differ from the ones known to them. In this situation we want our volunteers to do one thing: trying to understand, not to judge. And we want them not only to understand structures, but people. Therefore our pedagogical program follows a transcultural approach. We try to convey a complex model of cultural identity: One where identity is to be understood as an individual mosaic of attitudes shaped by personal experience. This way we can learn to perceive our global neighbors for what they really are: individuals with diverse backgrounds rather than Germans, Greeks or Argentinians.

“Europe must no longer think of itself as an island.”

And in the very same way Europe must no longer think of itself as an island. It is more than that. The European states and their Union are connected to regions around the globe. What Europe needs is a more open approach towards itself and towards others. Promoting respect and peace starts with practicing it—notwithstanding economic and political interests. In the famous film “Cabaret” the famous song goes: “If you could see her with my eyes….”.

About the author:
Dr. Verena Metze-Mangold, Spotlight Europe
Dr. Verena Metze-Mangold (Original Picture by UNESCO)

Dr. Verena Metze-Mangold is President of the German Commission for UNESCO. Being a political scientist and journalist she is a Commission member since 1982. More

About the voluntary service kulturweit:
kulturweit is the international youth voluntary service of the German Commission for UNESCO. From April 1 to May 5, 2015 people aged 18 to 26 living in Germany can apply online for a voluntary service in educational and cultural institutions around the world. For further information go to

How the chemicals industry is combatting world hunger

According to the 2013 Global Hunger Index, around 842 million people in the world are starving. The figure may have declined by approximately 160 million since the early 1990s, but one person in eight still goes hungry. Every year, more people die of starvation than of AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis put together.

In the face of such dramatic evidence, every single one of us has a responsibility to do what we can. The reasons for hunger are as diverse as the solutions need to be. The chemical industry, for example, can help reconcile the conflict that sometimes exists between food and bio-fuel production, and better protect food in transit by developing smart packaging and shipment solutions. Specialty chemicals can play a key role in minimizing crop loss and maximizing crop yield. Let me highlight a few examples.
Lost crops present a very real threat to world food supplies. Did you know that without pesticides, just 32 percent of harvested produce would be viable? But with the help of crop-protection products, this rises to 68 percent? On the flip side, however, these chemicals impact our environment – so we need to deploy them as efficiently as possible. Specialty chemicals can help. For example, our highly-effective, sustainable adjuvant Synergen® OS, made from renewable resources, is biodegradable and highly eco-friendly. It is extremely effective at combatting drift, even when used in low dosages. As a result, less of the pesticide reaches the surrounding area, and the distance to neighboring fields and bodies of water can be significantly reduced, improving land utilization. Moreover, the product’s active penetrates leaves faster, meaning less pesticide is required. So farmers can conserve actives, water and energy, and also reduce effort.

A further example is food transportation. To help people at risk of starvation, large quantities of food must reach their destination intact. In 2011 alone, more than 5.3 million tons of grain were distributed to 76 developing countries. Typically, these commodities are shipped in containers by sea, rail and road, and take several weeks to arrive. During the long journey, the goods are often subjected to extreme environmental conditions. Condensation forms easily in the steel containers, rendering contents susceptible to mold, decay and decomposition. According to the Save Food Initiative, up to 40 percent of the total volume of food produced in the world is rendered inedible during transportation and distribution in developing countries. Our product Container DRI® II provides a solution. This granulated desiccant is highly absorbent, and can be effectively deployed at all temperatures and humidity levels. It can absorb three times its weight in moisture from ambient air, and ensures foodstuffs arrive undamaged where they are so urgently needed.

No discussion of world hunger would be complete without mentioning fertilizers – which brings me to my final example. Of all the plant nutrients, nitrogen is the most effective, and is considered to be a real driver of growth. Annual global demand for fertilizers is around 180 million tons. By 2008, around half of the world’s population was eating produce grown using nitrogen-based mineral fertilizers. Ammonia is an essential component of nitrogen production – in fact, 80 percent of industrially produced ammonia is destined for nitrogen fertilizers. For the past 100 years, the key large-scale production process for ammonia has been the Haber-Bosch method. Its downside is that it is extremely energy-intensive. In fact, this process is responsible for almost two percent of global energy consumption. To save energy and improve the efficiency of the process, we developed AmoMax®-10, a highly reactive catalyst. Its unique design is based on the mineral wustite, which contains iron oxide, and enhanced promoters meaning it increases efficiency by 40 percent compared to magnetite-based catalysts. Thanks to faster activation times and higher efficiency at lower temperature and pressure, AmoMax®-10 delivers significant energy savings and simplifies ammonia production.

These examples underline the key role of the chemical industry in combatting world hunger. Of course, this is not the only problem facing humanity, and in social discourse, we have defined a multitude of megatrends currently affecting the planet. I am absolutely certain that without the chemical industry, mankind would not be able to even scratch the surface of these challenges.

About the author:

Flims Event CLARIANT 2012Dr. Hariolf Kottmann is Chief Executive Officer of the Swiss speciality chemicals company Clariant International Ltd. and a member of EC and Board at the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) since 2012. more…


PS: Dr Kottmann will gladly answer all questions you might have. However, due to time constraints, he cannot do so regularly. We will collect your questions and comments that have been submitted until and including October 27, 2014, and will pass them on to him. For all questions submitted after that, we cannot guarantee an answer.