With the formulation of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, the international community emphasized the importance of problem-oriented, interdisciplinary approaches to combating hunger and poverty. By virtue of its experience, competence and structure, the University of Kassel continues to be an institution well-positioned to address such issues as employment opportunities and "decent" work in various areas and habitats (urban, rural) as well as the sustainable structuring of the relationships among them; these issues must be addressed with a special focus on knowledge generation to advise policy makers and decision makers, especially at the interface of ecology and society (natural and social sciences). As the agriculture sector is still the largest employer in many less-developed economies worldwide, there is a need to cooperate in order to improve agricultural commodity chains with the aim of creating decent work opportunities.

Several years ago, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) initiated a competition with the theme of “university excellence in development cooperation”.  Over forty institutions of higher education took part in the competition, including the University of Kassel, which submitted a concept for a decent work competence centre. The University of Kassel was one of five competition winners, and the International Center for Development and Decent Work (ICDD) was founded in July 2009 as a university central academic institution.  Each winner was awarded five million Euro in funds from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

A lot of effort was put into establishing the International Center for Development and Decent Work (ICDD) as a competence centre that crosses the boundaries between faculties in the relevant subjects. The University of Kassel viewed this as an opportunity to concentrate its capacity and competence on the generation, mobilisation and application of academic knowledge in a way that enables transfer to those engaged in development cooperation. The centre is part of a worldwide network of international partners, which facilitates an increase in quality.


University of Kassel wins award for excellence in development cooperation: International Center for Development and Decent Work

Bonn, Kassel. In a competition with the theme "university excellence in development cooperation", the University of Kassel was successful with its concept for a decent work competence centre. From over 40 higher education institutions that took part in the competition initiated by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the University of Kassel was one of five winners, each of which has five million Euro at its disposal from funds provided by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

The University of Kassel International Center for Development and Decent Work (ICDD) intends to contribute to the fight against global hunger and poverty through research and education related to United Nations Millennium Development Goal 1, Target 2: "productive full employment and decent work for all". The unique competence of the
University of Kassel regarding the important topic of "work for sustainable development" was decisive for the international commission of experts in making its decision. Moreover, the committee praised the University of Kassel's concept for its interdisciplinary and international orientation, as well as its innovative knowledge transfer elements.

When the results of the competition were announced, German Federal Minister of Development Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul emphasized that education is a precondition for development. She explained that for this reason, the ministry promotes research for development and the academic networking of higher education institutions in both developing and industrialized countries: "Together they should become centres of excellence for the Millennium Development Goals".  DAAD Secretary General Christian Bode added: "At the centres of excellence, German scientists and students will cooperate on a par with their partners in developing countries in joint teaching and research on the pressing challenges of the future. We are convinced that this will lead to sustained strengthening of the structures in the institutions of higher education in the developing countries as well as the position of development cooperation in German institutions of higher education."
(See the German Academic Exchange Service press release at www.daad.de).

Rural poverty is especially severe. Rural regions in developing countries are home to more than one billion people lacking reliable food supplies and labouring under dangerous and degrading conditions. Therefore, the
School of Social Sciences and the School of Ecological Agricultural Science cooperate within the framework of the ICDD to address three main topics of interest: possibilities for boosting value generation in rural regions, suitable instruments for implementation of decent working conditions, and strategies for facilitating participation in the political process.

Of course ICDD Executive Director Prof. Dr. Christoph Scherrer is particularly happy about this award: "This is a tremendous acknowledgement of our many years of accomplishments up until now in the field of development cooperation, especially at the Witzenhausen site, and the more recent international research and teaching partnerships regarding the social dimensions of globalisation in the School of Social Sciences." ICDD Vice Director Prof. Dr. Andreas Bürkert adds: Our topic ‘creating decent work’ is one of humanity's central challenges today, and can be mastered only jointly in cooperation between north and south. Cooperation between natural sciences and social sciences promises fruitful approaches to solutions."

The selection committee also praised the strong backing given the ICDD by university management and the Hessen Ministry for Science and the Arts. The university provides the infrastructure and the state of Hessen finances a junior professorship in migration and decent work.

University of Kassel President Prof. Dr. Rolf Dieter Postlep, this competitive success is an extremely gratifying confirmation of the university’s commitment to development cooperation. "Topics in development cooperation have played an important role at the University of Kassel for a long time now. The opportunity to address the global issue of decent work conditions now through an internationally diverse network, in the process acting as an interchange between academic training, research and transfer, in accordance with our strategy, is an outstanding recognition for us. As we see it, one of the special strengths of the concept was and remains the interdisciplinary perspective of political science and ecological agricultural science."

The core of the award-winning ICDD competence centre is a course sponsored by seven universities on four continents that trains experts at the Master and PhD level. Partner universities include TISS in Mumbai (
India), UAF in Faisalabad (Pakistan), Unicamp in Campinas (Brazil), UADY in Merida (Mexico), Wits in Johannesburg (South Africa) and Egerton in Kenya. The dean of TISS, Prof. Sharit Bhowmik, PhD, supported the Kassel team at the selection hearing in Berlin: "Decent work is the key to development. The cooperation of all ICDD partners in the north and south will advance the development of sound concepts for decent work."

The ICDD, however, is about more than generating knowledge. For Professor Scherrer, the ICDD holds "the opportunity to develop, together with our international cooperation partners, a sustainable transfer structure in this subject area that is multi-dimensionally effective and planned for an extended term." This ranges from continuing education courses to a decent work internet portal developed in cooperation with the International Labour Organization.

Professors Bürkert and Scherrer are clearly enthusiastic about the recognition that the programme has received, but at the same, their eyes are fixed on the future: "Now we will redouble our efforts to realise the concept, so that the
University of Kassel can make a tangible contribution toward attaining this Millennium Development Goal of ‘decent work for all’".