Germany in the Eyes of the World: Assumption of leadership role is a clear wish

GIZ publishes the results of the third global survey

Eschborn/Bonn, 14 May 2018. In the current international political situation, demands on Germany are greater than ever before – including the call to take on a clear leadership role. This is the key finding of the third Germany study, published today by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. In contrast to the two previous studies in 2012 and 2015, the call for Germany to assume a leadership role is no longer just a cautious recommendation – in view of the turbulent world situation, it is now clearly desired. This is even more important given Germany’s perceived role as a counterweight to the USA, Russia and China, as an advocate of Europe and as a mediator in international conflicts. People would like to see Germany be more decisive than it has before, but to cooperate with other countries, particularly in Europe. It is a question of defending Western liberal values. ‘In areas where the US goes too far, Germany doesn’t go far enough. Getting involved in other countries, for example,’ was a comment from an interviewee in Ghana. ‘Germany must take a leading role in championing an open and transparent society,’ said an interviewee in Brazil. A total of 154 people from the fields of politics, business, science and research, and civil society in 24 countries were interviewed for the study to find out how they perceive Germany.

‘From our first survey in 2012 to the current study, it is increasingly clear that Germany is being earmarked for and entrusted with a multitude of tasks at an international level. From environmental protection and crisis mediation, transferring new technologies and protecting human rights, saving the EU and supporting the United Nations – in people’s minds, there is little that Germany cannot be tasked and entrusted with,’ says Vice-Chair of the GIZ Management Board Christoph Beier, summarising the findings of the qualitative survey.  

Germany has received a lot of praise for its treatment of refugees since 2015. This has softened the image of industrious, efficient Germans and added a human aspect. ‘What Germany did is a model for others to follow,’ was a comment from an interviewee in Iran. Touching on the refugee crisis, an interviewee in Viet Nam said, ‘A million migrants – the way I see it, if you go about it the right way, that makes a million potential new partners in your network to support your future business.’ While in Poland, the tone was more critical: ‘After the enthusiastic welcome, there was no real debate about the problems of integrating people from such radically different backgrounds.’  

Another important finding to come out of the study is that, while Germany continues to be seen as an outstanding hub for business, many of those interviewed wonder whether Germany is missing the boat when it comes to digitalisation. ‘If you are too used to enjoying past successes in engineering and car-making, there is a risk that you might fail to spot promising new developments in ICT‘, was a comment from Jordan. Interviewees thought that more needed to be done in Germany to encourage people to try out new things and deal with setbacks. They felt that this was the only way to ensure that Germany is still among the top economic nations in two decades’ time. 

There was also a wide range of feedback from abroad relating to how Germany is perceived when it comes to education, values and society and the ability (which people outside Germany perceive to be limited) to promote German culture. ‘The findings give us many pointers for our work in international development,’ says Beier.  ‘With this study, we also want to pass on relevant statements to our partners and commissioning parties.  These are perceptions rather than facts: the narrative is in the eye of the beholder.’

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is a federal enterprise with worldwide operations. We support the German Government in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development. We are also engaged in international education activities around the globe. Through our work, we assist people and societies in shaping their own future and improving living conditions.

The complete study is available to download at