The Greens want to become more diverse. Measures from 2020 are showing their first effects, but there is still a lot to be done - for example with regard to social background.
BERLIN taz | Tabikan Runa feels at home in his local association, so he doesn't want to be misunderstood. The 22-year-old comes from Singen, a small industrial town in the hinterland of Lake Constance. Four years ago he decided to become politically active. He pored over the programs of the various parties and because he liked the Greens best, he finally joined them. He has never regretted it. He likes the people there. He's even made it to the board of directors. And yet: sometimes he feels a bit lonely in his party.
“For a long time I was one of the few young members in Singen who were always at the start. Anyway, I'm the only one with foreign roots in the local branch," he says on the phone. "It's a little different at the county level. It's more mixed there because of the university in Konstanz. But I'm one of the few who don't come from an educational background.” Runa's parents came to Germany from Turkey as guest workers. The mother is single. For a long time, the family lived on social benefits. So he doesn't have a typical Green biography.
Academic, well-earning and white: That's the image that the Greens usually carry around with them. In their programs they promote a diverse society, but they themselves often present a homogeneous image to the outside world. The reputation of the elite party is no accident.
After all, they are working on the problem. It has been almost two years since the party congress adopted an action plan. In their diversity statute that was decided at the time the party attested to itself and its structures "barriers, hurdles or prejudices" that need to be dismantled. The declared goal for the Greens of the future: "The representation of socially discriminated or disadvantaged groups at least according to their social share." Gender, skin color, sexual orientation, age or educational status - in every respect one wanted to become more diverse.
“We Greens have become more diverse in many areas in recent years. But we still have a lot to do to be truly participatory,” says Pegah Edalatian two years later. The Düsseldorf native is the deputy chairwoman and at the same time spokeswoman for diversity policy for the party - an office that was newly introduced with the statute. In the federal office, Edalatian has access to a specially created diversity department.
New board, own budget
"I feel a strong tailwind for our work from the party," says Edalatian. The culture war over diversity and identity politics, which has been waged bitterly throughout society for several years, is not going past the Greens without upheaval. A open letter against “left identity politics” and “cancel culture”, signed last year by the controversial mayor of Tübingen, Boris Palmer, and some ex-deputies, is just one example. Efforts to increase diversity within the company's own ranks have so far at least not met with open rejection.
The measures are ambitious. In addition to the representative on the executive board and the department at the party headquarters, the statute also introduced a diversity council. The new body was constituted in the spring; this weekend the 50 delegates met in Hanover for their second meeting.
Among other things, the council decides on the use of a diversity budget of one euro per year and party member, i.e. over 100,000 euros for 2022. A large part is currently flowing into the development of a "train the trainer" program: the diversity council ordered the state associations to carry out anti-discrimination training, led by members who are being trained as part of the project.
Success is controversial
In addition to such programs, it is also important that the party thinks about diversity when jobs are available. In a prominent place the Greens have become more diverse since 2020. The electoral successes of the past few years, through which many new posts had to be filled, have certainly helped. The six-member federal executive committee, which was still completely white a year ago, now has two people with a migration background, Edalatian and party leader Omid Nouripour. The Greens sent Cem Özemir to the federal cabinet, and Aminata Touré – the daughter of refugees from Mali – became the new social affairs minister in Schleswig-Holstein. Hanover's mayor is called Belit Onay, his parents came to Germany from Istanbul in the 1970s as guest workers.
On the other hand: The party did not send a single member with migration experience to the new black-green cabinet in North Rhine-Westphalia. In Berlin not even one East German made it into the Senate after last year's election. And even when compiling lists, diversity is often not yet a decisive criterion.
"For us in Schleswig-Holstein, the list for the state elections was primarily about ensuring that the district associations were represented in a balanced way. Apart from one trans* person who made it into the parliamentary group, that was it with diversity,” says Gazi Freitag, Green from Kiel, candidate for the state presidency and himself a member of the Diversity Council.
In the future, and this is also stipulated in the statute, the Greens will regularly scientifically evaluate the success of the new measures. The first survey will start this year. The party will ask all the way down to the district executive committees how diverse their bodies are. The results will be presented at a party conference next year.
debate about quotas
Depending on the result, a debate that existed before the Diversity Statute was passed could flare up again: Should the party introduce new quotas for its committees and lists? The women's quota, which has been mandatory for the Greens for decades, has undoubtedly led to more gender equality in the party. Couldn't this work for other diversity traits as well?
"I will not shut myself off from the discussion about quotas if the evaluation should show that we cannot make progress otherwise," says Pegah Edalatian. "However, there are many unanswered questions when it comes to implementation."
In fact, new quotas would be complex. What criteria do you apply, for example, to a migration background? Does a person with a French grandmother count the same as a person who fled from Syria to Germany? And how do you reconcile all the other dimensions of diversity? After all, the Diversity Statute is not just about people who have experienced migration or are affected by racism - even if these characteristics are often at the forefront of the debate.
No money for the beer
Other aspects are less visible. During the Diversity Council meeting in Hanover, Pegah Edalatian recalled the party conference where she was elected to the Diversity Office. “I talked about LGBTIQ, people with disabilities, PoCs in my speech. Immediately afterwards I got a message: 'Hey Pegah, what about the topic of socio-economic origin?'” That was a “first learning” for her: the disadvantages of members with little money, bad work or low educational qualifications should not be forgotten.
MEP Katrin Langensiepen agrees with her in the debate: she herself came to the Greens while she was receiving Hartz IV – and she almost left the party right away. On the one hand, she was annoyed by the elitist language that was difficult to understand. On the other hand, she had problems with the customs: "After the general meeting, going here for a coffee or a beer there is not possible with a Hartz IV standard rate."
In a resolution, the Diversity Council finally raises demands for “equal participation of people with a low socio-economic status” in the party. Green events, for example, should take place in places where there is no obligation to eat. Members should not have to pay for travel expenses or have to pay them themselves. The federal board should organize a congress to work out even more measures.
Off to the council
Workshops and training could be part of it. In Baden-Württemberg, the state association of the Greens runs its own diversity projects. This year he launched a support program for members from social groups who are underrepresented in the party. Tabikan Runa, the 22-year-old from Singen, who not only has parents from Turkey but also knows poverty from his own experience, takes part.
Single parents, queers, people with a migration background: The group that met in July for the opening event in Stuttgart was mixed. And yet there was one thing in common between the 20 participants. "The coolest thing was how empowering the program is," says Runa. "You can feel the support of people who have all had similar experiences: to achieve something, we always have to walk that extra mile."
For example, how does networking work? How do you appear at events, how do you approach others? Other people would have noticed that from home, he had to learn it first. There was a workshop on this in Stuttgart.
The goal of the program: to prepare the participants for candidacies in the local elections in two years. In Singen, the members of the current Greens parliamentary group are Eberhard, Regina, Dietrich, Karin, Sabine and Isabelle. There could be a premiere in 2024: Tabikan Runa also wants to make it onto the list for the election.