The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) was founded in 1925 as a political legacy of Germany´s first democratically elected president, Friedrich Ebert.
Ebert, a Social Democrat from a humble crafts background who had risen to hold the highest political office in his country in response to his own painful experience in political confrontation had proposed the establishment of a foundation to serve the following aims:
furthering political and social education of individuals from all walks of life in the spirit of democracy and pluralism,
facilitating access to university education and research for gifted young people by providing scholarships,
contributing to international understanding and cooperation.
The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) shares a long common history with the African National Congress (ANC) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). From the 1980s FES supported not only the ANC in exile but also its liaison office in the then West-Germany. Within South Africa FES gave its support to the nascent black trade union movement mainly through university-based labour support organisations. Towards the late eighties the FES also facilitated dialogue between the opposition in exile and reform oriented quarters within the white establishment.
The FES was able to open in 1991 its first official office in Cape Town, which was subsequently moved to Johannesburg in 1993. Dialogue and consultation but also capacity building was offered by the FES to assist in the process of political transformation and to prepare the ANC for future government.
Before and after the 1994 elections the FES contributed with research and capacity building to the constitution-making process. Simultaneously the FES offered training and advice to the South African trade unions. In this area of international relations FES was instrumental in setting up a new policy think tank, the "Institute of Global Dialogue" (IGD). The IGD was designed to analyse key issues confronting South Africa and southern Africa in mercurial international environment and to develop appropriate stratigies for them.
Up to the present the FES works in close cooperation with the ANC, COSATU and different civil society organizations for a better socio-economic development and for gender equality in South Africa and with the IGD on issues of international concern.
Their Priority Areas
Politics, Governance and Society
In this area the FES supports the efforts of its partners to improve the quality of governance, gender equality and media through consultation, capacity building as well as through lively democratic debates.
Economic, Social and Environmental Policy
In this area the FES supports its partners in Government, Civil Society and Trade Unions in developing and implementing appropriate policies for an economy which is sustainable, social and creates decent work through training, research and public debate.
International Relations and Foreign Policy
In this area the FES supports its partners in fostering a dialogue between North-South and South-South on issues of regional, international and global relevance through research, workshops and conferences.