Results Closing Statement

Conference “Time Zones”

Closing Statement

von Dr. Martin Bröckelmann-Simon, President International Cooperation, Bischöfliches Hilfswerk MISEREOR

Martin Bröckelmann-SimonThe participants of this conference have dealt very fundamentally with a subject with many facets and for that today also made a pause. This fits perfectly to this time of fasting. The conference has shown from how many different perspectives one can approach the subject. By way of illustration I would like to remind you of the story of the elephant that is exhibited in a dark tent by Nossrat Peseschkian. The people cannot see the animal, only touch it. And depending on which part of the elephant they were touching, whether trunk or tusk or body, they had a very different conception of the animal and described it accordingly. Just as influential is the perspective that guides our look at the subject of time.

Why is time a subject for us in the first place? It is important for development cooperation to be aware of the cultural relativity of perceptions of time. The approach to time is also a question of power and development cooperation is also always confronted by questions of power. To be left waiting for example can also be understood as an expression of resistance against pressure from outside, as a kind of passive resistance. In the confrontation with different concepts of time we can train our systemic eye, instead of surrendering to a linear and mono-causal observation.

We must capture the spiritual importance of value and time perceptions. We must unearth the economic rationality of slowness that at first glance is not ascertainable and can for example find its expression in the preference for the present in insecure times. We must learn to see time as something positive and as a chance, against the trend of the present, the trend to ever more hurried action. It is necessary that one works long term, stubbornly and continuously on projects and stems oneself against the pressure of the “faster and faster”. Development cooperation must not sink to the level of an event or a staged production. We ourselves must not kindle unrealistic expectation: a “just-in-time” delivery is not possible in development cooperation.

It follows that the actors of development cooperation must engage themselves for a deliberate slowness, for pauses, partner orientation and trust in the people locally. A too forceful external intervention must be avoided. There are many different levels of reality in intercultural communication – in the first two, or three years of interaction only the highest is revealed. Here also more time is necessary.

And finally I plead for more honesty in development cooperation that demands that one also goes through crises together with the partner. More attentiveness when dealing with time – especially the time of the other – is essential, and thus also in our dealing with ourselves.

The above version is based on a transcript of the event.

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Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH Bischöfliches Hilfswerk MISEREOR

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