History and Mission
The Early Years of FES Work in India:
India – Germany – Social Democracy
In the late 1940s, Germany and India shared both political, economic and social challenges and good bilateral relations. 1947 for India means independence; for the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung its refounding after 1933. Exchanges between Indian politicians of the Nehru era and representatives of (western) Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) took place on issues relating to both countries’ quests for economic development, their respective roles in the east west struggle and their socio-political positioning. In the 1960s FES employees from Germany contributed to international solidarity, social and welfare work.
The history of FES India since its founding in 1981
The year 1981 marks the official founding date of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung’s India office. At the beginning FES India entered a period of research on India’s labour organisations, educational sector and Indian social sciences. India’s continued economic upturn since the 1970s, the subsequent internationalisation and opening up of Indian society lent both vigour and substance to FES India’s work.
The 1987 working program highlighted five themes as ‘FES trademarks’, which defined FES India’s work for more than a decade: industrial labour relations, NGOs and public service institutions as well as India’s regional role. FES India accompanied India’s economic liberalisation process by adopting an integrated approach, which involved Indian economic, social and development decision makers, international organisations (e.g. WTO, WSF, EU) and marginalised groups alike.
FES India’s work has benefited from its long-standing cooperation with think tanks, research institutions for foreign, security, social, economic, as well as labour research; the ministry of labour and the ministry of women and child development; several NGOs, labours and their organisations. Like its networks FES India itself has grown considerably in size since 1981, at times comprising up to 16 employees.
Since the beginning of Indian independence, FES India’s history has been a learning journey, which has brought about the development of new instruments for the foundation’s international work. It has also substantiated the necessity for an exchange of social democratic ideas across borders, continents and cultures, especially in the age of globalisation’s continuing impact on Indian society and India’s sustained rise to global importance.