STUBE-WEEKEND SEMINAR 2017’ IN GOSLAR
by Dipta Majumder, Bangladesh (PPRE 2016/18)
Sustainable development goals (SDGs) from the United Nations (UN) deal with seventeen most important issues of our world to transform it for better. Out of the seventeen, SDG 10 is to reduce inequality within and among countries. Keeping this 2030 agenda in mind, Stube-Niedersachsen (Germany) arranged a two-days seminar on 17-19 November, 2017 which is more known as weekend seminars for students from Africa, Asia, Latin America and eastern Europe. Stube is a student program by church development service or ‘Kirchlichen Entwicklungsdienst’ (KED)  in Germany.
Along with students from different countries (16 nationalities to be precise) and backgrounds, I also got the opportunity to attend the seminar. Expectedly, I was the only one staying in Goslar and happily became the local guide for the wonderful participants. On 17th November, we got to know each other briefly over an introductory session with delicious dinner. Few of the interested participants even explored the old city center which is one of the main attractions of the Goslar town (an UNESCO world heritage site).
The main seminar started on the next morning with an energizer session. The first session dealt with fundamental questions like why some countries are poor while some are rich. Although there was no clear-cut answer to that question, the participants got the understanding of different factors contributing to the increasing inequality. Theoretical works suggest that geography, culture, institutions and luck/”by chance” are the dominant factors. It could be result of one or more factors. An appropriate example was Haiti and Dominican Republic between which there is no significant geographical difference. However, GDP per capita in Dominican Republic is 6722.2 USD which is nine times greater than GDP/capita in Haiti (739.6 USD) . Personally, I was delighted to hear insightful discussions over topics like colonialism, democracy, human capital, capitalism in the context of inequality.
Afternoon session was more on an initiative which is working towards reducing the gap. The approach is known as ‘Fairtrade’ and works on the producer-consumer relationship such that the producers at the start of the chain gets fair price for their products. In most cases, the raw material producers don’t get their fair share of price compared to the finished product producers. ‘Fairtrade’ is more about a reaction to this situation. It works on nine principles, of which I found transparency & accountability, payment of a fair price, ensuring good working conditions, no child/forced labor to be the most relatable ones. The implementation of this concept on a large scale may sound utopian, but personally I believe few issues can be addressed locally in the developing countries without any need for building large infrastructure.
The last session of day one was perhaps the most interesting one for me. A fellow participant and student from South Africa (studying in University of Göttingen, Germany) presented on the high inequality in the Republic of South Africa. Most of the people are familiar with Nelson Mandela and the ‘Apartheid’. But how the situations changed after the abolishment of the apartheid? Well, the inequalities are still prevalent and seems to have their roots in the history of the country. Policies like land reformation, black economic empowerment, education reform are in place to reduce the gap. Only time will tell the effectiveness of such measures.
The first day ended on a high with an enjoyable social evening at the end of the day long presentations. I had an excellent time with the fellow participants in the social evening from playing ‘Mafia’ to dancing my heart out!
Next morning, the participants did a recap on ‘what happened so far’ in the seminar. A short group work was given on several topics after that. I chose ‘inequality in Germany’ which I found quite interesting. A common misconception is that there are only rich people living in EU or Germany. Surprisingly, the poverty rate of Germany is 15.7% (2015) which is on the rise since 2005 . On the other hand, the inequality in wealth distribution is very high (Gini Coefficient of 0.76 in 2014) . Astonishingly, only 10% of the population have 60% of the total wealth ! There is a lot of debate on the inequality issue in Germany, possibly the most important one after the refugee issue. The key message here is that inequality isn’t a problem found only in the developing or underdeveloped countries.
With this group task, the seminar came to an end. Friends from different nationalities started to say good bye. A bunch of young graduate students from different parts of the world coming together and discussing on such an important issue is something to be admired of. Personally, I felt lucky to meet these brilliant minds, unfortunately for a short period of time. I tried my best to show them around the town. My friend Kshitij Goyal (India, fellow PPRE) also came to attend the workshop and it was a great reunion for us too!
In short, it was a unique opportunity for me to enrich my experience and broaden my outlook on the social issues. As I work in the rural development area (through electrification), I believe it is essential for me to understand the socially relevant issues before developing any technological solutions for the underprivileged. I would like to thank the participants and my friends for coming here in Goslar and sharing their knowledge. The organizers were well structured (exactly what you would expect in Germany!). A big ‘Thank you’ to Stube-Niedersachsen for arraning the seminar.
STUBE-Niedersachsen, "STUBE Niedersachsen," [Online]. Available: www.ked.landeskirche-hannovers.de/projekte/stube_eng. [Accessed 20 11 2017].
The World Bank, "GDP per capita (current US$)," 2016. [Online]. Available: data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD. [Accessed 20 11 2017].
The Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI), "Social inequality: Scope, development, consequences," [Online]. Available: www.boeckler.de/wsi_110319.htm. [Accessed 20 11 2017].