We owe him a lot: Dr. h.c. Karl Osner,
the founding Managing Director of EDP e.V. He enabled many people insights into the lives of people living in poverty and exclusion and he developed ways to overcome poverty. It was his aim in life and his life’s work to discover the dignity and power in the poor, to enable encounters and to form structural alliances to overcome poverty.
Dr. h.c. Karl Osner died on the 15th September 2014. He was born in 1927 in Freiburg and helped forming a basis for church development cooperation, especially by establishing the Deutsche Kommission Justitia et Pax (German Commission for Justice and Peace) in the 1960s and 1970s, by being one of the first members of Misereor, the founding Managing Director of AGEH (Association for Development Cooperation) and the founder of Exposure and Dialogue Programmes. From 1962 to 1992, retired Ministerialdirigent (head of section) Osner worked for the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, where he created the unit “Armutsbekämpfung durch Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe” (poverty reduction by means of self-help).
When he was made honorary doctor, he thanked the „hosting families and especially the women in the South, who helped me and many other people to understand what it means to lead a life in poverty and to fight for less vulnerability and more security”. He dedicated his last published work in 2010, “With the strength of the powerless”, to these women. There, he described his experiences with EDP to encourage processes of structural change, processes like those the partner organisations of EDP e.V., SEWA or Grameen Bank were able to realise.
Structures can be changed, this was one of the convictions that drove Karl Osner, in a state context, as well as in a church context. Unjust conditions are made by humans, so humans are able to change them in a sustainable way. To recognize the ability of the poor to help themselves and to believe in their capability to actively shape their future, were not only project names to him, but lifelong personal effort, learning and change. Karl Osner challenged his dialogue and cooperation partners, he was a critical companion until the end. The aim of creating a life in dignity for everyone, a life in freedom and solidarity, in justice and peace, was always on his mind. He was willing to pay a high price and demanded a lot from those he travelled with. He invested a lot and achieved a lot.
We owe him a lot and we will continue his life’s work, that he created in decades of professional and voluntary work.
Michael Steeb, chairman of EDP e.V. and Managing Director of AGEH (Association for Development Cooperation)
Gertrud Casel, Managing Director of EDP e.V. and Deutsche Kommission Justitia et Pax (German Commission for Justice and Peace)