Headline: German-French Forum for the Future

In January 2019, President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel signed the Treaty of Aachen, which aims to “shape a common future by strengthening Franco-German cooperation and integration.” The German-French Forum for the Future (Deutsch-Französisches Zukunftswerk) established by article 22 of this treaty is one of the priority projects identified by the French and German governments.

At the Summit of Toulouse in October 2019 Merkel and Macron had announced, that the German-French Forum for the Future “will focus on transformation processes in our societies”, guided, among other things, by the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The French and German governments have appointed two Secretaries to lead the Forum’s work: Mr. Gilles de Margerie, Commissioner-General of the government institute France Stratégie, and Professor Dr. Patrizia Nanz, Scientific Director at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies. The two Secretaries have established a joint Secretariat to implement the Forum’s roadmap. A Steering Committee has also been set up to advise the Secretariat. It meets twice a year and comprises 16 members, including government officials, members of parliament, and representatives from civil society, the economy and science.

The two governments have entrusted the Forum with the task of developing visions of the future that strike a balance between environmental, societal, technological and economic considerations with a view to improving quality of life in both France and Germany. Every 12 to 18 months, the Forum will issue policy recommendations on a given theme, using the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as guideline. The Forum’s Secretaries will present these recommendations to the Franco-German Ministerial Council and the Franco-German Parliamentary Assembly.

Grounding visions of the future in local and regional innovations

To develop these visions and policy recommendations, the Forum engages intensively with local and regional initiatives in France and Germany that strive to steer major social, economic, ecological or technological transitions in their region. Through observation, dialogue and action research, the Forum gathers information on perspectives from the field and patterns across initiatives to inform national policymaking.

In addition, the Secretariat organises peer dialogues among the French and German actors involved in these initiatives in order to foster mutual understanding and learning and generate, whenever possible, converging visions of the future and concrete proposals for how to achieve them.

Practitioners take centre stage in the Secretariat’s facilitation activities: They define the issues to be discussed, the need for external expertise, and the outputs of the dialogues.

Building on these dialogues, the Secretariat organises transdisciplinary workshops, where experts and policymakers from various sectors learn about the experiences, perspectives and proposals of the French and German practitioners. The purpose of these workshops is to enrich the visions and proposals that emerge from the dialogues by incorporating the inputs of a wide range of experts and decision-makers.

Collaboratively developing policy recommendations for the French and German governments

The themes of the policy recommendations are chosen by the Steering Committee based on suggestions from the local and regional initiatives and the political priorities of the French and German governments.

For each theme, the Secretariat will gather a group of 40 relevant actors (practitioners, NGOs, public institutions, experts) within a “Resonance Space” (Resonanzraum). The Secretariat will then facilitate a collaborative process over two to three months to develop policy recommendations, building directly on the perspectives, propositions and visions emanating from local and regional initiatives. This collaborative process may involve field visits by Resonanzraum members to local and regional initiatives, expert hearings, and meetings with other Franco-German organisations. Three resonance workshops (plenary meetings of the Resonanzraum) will take place over the course of the collaboration process.

At the end of this process, the Secretariat will organise a public event, the Forum conference, where the policy recommendations will be formally presented. The two Secretaries will then hand the recommendations to the Franco-German Ministerial Council and the Franco-German Parliamentary Assembly.