International 2020 Relief Fund for Organisations in Culture and Education

Virtual exhibition “Van Gogh Alive, The Experience” in Mexico City, August 2020 Photo (detail): Casas Leonardo © picture alliance/Eyepix/ABACA

On the initiative of the Goethe-Institut and the Foreign Office, an International Relief Fund was set up in summer 2020 to quickly support cultural and educational organisations abroad during the coronavirus pandemic. From September to December 2020, funds of over three million euros will be distributed to more than 140 projects. 

More than 440 cultural and educational organisations in 75 countries abroad applied. The Foreign Office provided the basic funding of three million euros, the S. Fischer Foundation and the Robert Bosch Stiftung provided additional funds, as did the Goethe-Institut, which is coordinating the entire fund with a team of several people. A number of juries made the funding selection. The Relief Fund consortium also includes the Berliner Künstlerprogramm of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the German UNESCO Commission, Stiftung Mercator and the Siemens Stiftung, all of which are participating with their own projects.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stated, “Foreign policy is a lived partnership, especially in difficult times. It also involves a cultural policy mandate. For in times of physical distancing, cultural closeness is more important than ever. We in Germany have therefore built a network of international solidarity for culture and civil society. I am pleased that the Goethe-Institut has taken up the coordination of this fund. International cultural policy needs strong networks and structures. The Goethe-Institut can and should play a key role in this.”

The International 2020 Relief Fund for Organisations in Culture and Education addressed institutions from countries outside the European Union where there are no other funding opportunities. The aim is to make a short-term and non-bureaucratic contribution to promoting material- and time-limited projects to maintain or rebuild infrastructure. The funds will go primarily to organisations active in the field of culture, art and education that, due to their innovative and open cultural work, contribute to the preservation of pluralism. The applications were submitted before 30 June 2020.

Johannes Ebert, Secretary-General of the Goethe-Institut, says, “In many countries, institutions such as theatres, art spaces, or independent literary houses are already under pressure – not least due to the reinforcement of authoritarian forms of government and increasing restrictions on civil liberties. Many of these institutions, which are essential for critical and open dialogue, are now faced with serious financial challenges caused by the coronavirus crisis. Through the International 2020 Relief Fund for Organisations in Culture and Education we want to help these very organisations, for their existence is vital for the societies and for international dialogue.”

Foreign office, Goethe-Institut, S. Fischer Foundation and Robert Bosch Stiftung support more than 140 cultural and educational projects abroad

The projects selected for funding are located on the African continent and in the Near and Middle East, as well as in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Central and Southeast Asia and in South America. From over 440 applicants from 75 countries, 141 projects were now selected for funding, each of which will receive up to 25,000 euros.

Funded institutions

One of the funded institutions is Olodum, one of the most venerable bloco afros of the carnival in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, and an important educational and neighbourhood centre in the Pelourinho district, where, thanks to the International Relief Fund, digital training programmes will be offered for disadvantaged women in the neighbourhood. In Burkina Faso, the human rights film festival Ciné Droit Libre will resume and intensify its work in the rural regions of the country. In Serbia, where the Roma population in particular is suffering from the coronavirus pandemic, an educational programme is being implemented with the help of the fund for primary school age Roma children and their families in order to support them during the period of limited schooling.

“In Serbia, majority of Roma live in extreme poverty. The access to education and risk of drop out was a critical issue even before crisis. Roma children and adolescents are among the most affected ones. At least 120 children as well as their parents will be supported through the activities of the project.” (Programme “Education for all”, Serbia)

In Uzbekistan, the renowned Ilkhom Theatre is being supported in resuming operations safely.

“We must return our audience to the walls of Ilkhom after quarantine is over. We are a black box platform theatre, located in the basement. And our first priority is to establish a ventilation system in the premises. This will ensure the safety of both the audience and the actors.” (Ilkhom Theatre, Uzbekistan)

The Khoj International Artists Association in India and the Mahal Art Space in Morocco are dealing with the question of what role independent art spaces like them play during the pandemic and how they can work even more in the digital space in future.

“Since our longstanding pedagogical programs, ATSA (ARThinkSouthAsia) and CISA (Curatorial Intensive South Asia) have been postponed indefinitely, we are trying to develop online course modules so that they can be accessed digitally for now and could then be integrated into physical training at a later stage.” (Khoj International Artists Association, India)

Further projects will be presented on the Relief Fund website in the coming months.

The funding 2020 was aimed at institutions from countries outside the European Union where there are no other funding options. They also had to meet the following criteria:
  • they do cultural work with relevance to civil society
  • have been active for more than three years
  • they are already known to the Goethe-Institut or the Foreign Office’s diplomatic mission abroad
  • due to their structure, they are suffering from the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic

Structural projects were also supported, for example:
  • Infrastructure maintenance or redevelopment projects that are limited in scope and time
  • Start-up financing of structural measures
  • Projects that serve (new) networking
  • Projects for the development of new, digital formats and/or digital further training and qualification
The maximum funding for a project in the period from September to December 2020 was 25,000 euros. 

The International 2020 Relief Fund for Organisations in Culture and Education was set up on the initiative of the Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut together with partners who came together in a consortium for this purpose. The Foreign Office provided basic funding of three million euros, the allocation of which is coordinated by a team at the Goethe-Institut. Numerous cultural organisations and private foundations from Germany, including the  Berliner Künstlerprogramm of the DAAD, the German UNESCO Commission, the S. Fischer Foundation, the Stiftung Mercator, the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the Siemens Stiftung and the Goethe-Institut, have also provided funds or are participating with their own projects.

The International Relief Fund is an initiative of:
Federal Foreign Office

Consortium partners:
Robert Bosch Stiftung
S. Fischer Foundation

Participating with their own projects:
German UNESCO Commission
Berliner Künstlerprogramm of the DAAD

Siftung Mercator
Siemens Stiftung