Annual Report

Freedom. Restart. Innovation - Annual Report 2021

2021 was another year of huge efforts. Coronavirus had a major impact on our work in 2021. I would like to send out a big thank you to our employees and our partners in over 60 countries. And yet, looking back from early 2022 the past difficulties seem almost minute compared with the complex political issues that will need to be solved in the future.

One of the big main issues of 2021 is the danger of autocratic, political forces in Europe, Asia and the Middle East which are trying to weaken an open society and fundamental and human rights in the long term. The Foundation is committed to making these attacks on liberal democracy visible and raising peopleʼs awareness and educating of them and to work towards achieving the greatest possible participation in an open, tolerant society through its educational events and publications.

Many human rights defenders around the world are committed to fighting for freedom and democracy – people who put their own freedom at risk by dedicating themselves to the freedom of others and their human rights. We reported on the tireless commitment and dedication of pro-democracy activists and their global struggle for freedom in our “Human Rights Defenders” publication. The current human rights report gives an insight into the project work we carry out with our partners every day in the regions across the world – covering Egypt right through to Central America.

Our educational work covers a hugely diverse range of topics: 1,700 years of Jewish life in Germany, the digital transformation, the future of education, European policy, climate change and sustainability, and much more besides. In our work on the various different topics, we pay special attention to the question of how innovation can meet the challenges, especially in the areas of climate change, mobility and the future of inner cities. The Liberal Institute and the Global Issues Unit have developed innovative political ideas focused on the reality of peopleʼs lives, approaches to solutions which we have published in expert reports and other specialist publications. A digital masterclass was held for the first time on the topic of “The Future of Education”.

The Foundation did not confine itself to political developments at home. Since Joe Biden was elected as the new US President, Germany and Europe are facing the challenge of repositioning themselves strategically in respect of the global players USA and China. Germany is facing huge challenges modernising and must hold its own together with the EU. A large number of events organised by the foundations were dedicated to this topic.

Contemporary history has always been one focus of the Foundationʼs work. On the 60th anniversary of the erection of the Berlin Wall, the Foundation held commemorative events to remember those who failed in their attempt to escape in the hope of leading a new life in the free world. Another focus was the Freiburg Theses. More than 50 years ago in 1971, the FDP adopted the Freiburg Theses, an innovative and forward-looking manifesto. The Foundation honoured this anniversary last year with eyewitness talks, panel discussions and a supplemented new edition of the Freiburg Theses entitled “Change begins in the mind”.

Despite the ongoing effects of the pandemic, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom continued on its growth path. In the education programme, the number of people attending our events increased by a third to almost 168,000 at more than 2,300 events, 75 percent of which were digital formats. Here are some more figures showing our successes. In terms of press coverage, the Foundation achieved a gross reach of over one billion in the print media.

The website has been a real draw. With 5.9 million website hits, we achieved an increase of 40 percent.

As a foundation, the year 2021 was marked by a number of personnel changes:

Bettina Stark-Watzinger stepped down from the Board of Directors when she moved to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. We would like to offer her our heartfelt thanks for her tireless work and commitment, especially on educational issues and empowerment.

Our long-time Chief Executive Officer Steffen Saebisch moved to the Federal Ministry of Finance as State Secretary. In his seven years at the Foundation, Steffen Saebisch completely restructured the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, both in terms of substance and organisationally. He defined the goals of the Foundationʼs work in a contemporary way and brought the Foundationʼs educational work up to date and made it fit for the future. Like the Foundationʼs committees and staff, I am personally very grateful to Steffen for his ideas, his drive and assertiveness and his trust.

This report shows which projects and topics have shaped the Foundationʼs work in the past year. It will give you an insight into the work of the Foundationʼs staff and partners. I also cordially invite you to visit the digital library, the +Freedom media library and, of course, our many events on current political and social issues – digitally or (once again) in person.


Annett Witte
Chief Executive of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom