Zeitschrift für Politikberatung

, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 641–647

Global Focus—Regional Perspectives—Political Decisions

The GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies


    • GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies

DOI: 10.1007/s12392-010-0220-5

Cite this article as:
Peetz, P. Z Politikberat (2009) 2: 641. doi:10.1007/s12392-010-0220-5


In a unique manner, the GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies combines expertise on the regions Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East with systematic academic competence. This enables the institute to successfully meet the growing demands of political and economic decision makers for well-founded scientific policy advice regarding the four world regions, overarching questions, and global issues.


Comparative area studiesGlobal studiesCountry expertise

Globaler Fokus – Regionale Perspektiven – Politische Entscheidungen. Das GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies


Das GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies verbindet in einzigartiger Weise Regionalexpertise zu Afrika, Asien, Lateinamerika und Nahost mit systematisch-fachlicher Kompetenz. Dies ermöglicht es dem Institut, den wachsenden Bedarf politischer und wirtschaftlicher Entscheidungsträger an wissenschaftlich fundierter Politikberatung zu den vier Weltregionen und zu übergreifenden und globalen Fragen adäquat zu erfüllen.


Vergleichende RegionalforschungGlobale FragenLänderexpertise

1 Introduction

In an increasingly globalized world, up-to-date information and high-quality analyses on other world regions are key to political and economic decision making. At the GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, approximately 50 researchers explore political, economic, and societal dynamics in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. They also investigate globalization-induced changes at the interregional and global level.

The GIGA’s expertise is highly valued by institutions such as Germany’s Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, by decision makers in private companies and business associations, and by the media. The competitive advantage of the Hamburg-based institute is its unique combination of comparative and global studies on the one hand, which generally take into account political and theoretical considerations rooted in Western viewpoints, and area studies on the other hand, which strongly focus on the perspective of the non-European regions under study.

2 Research at the GIGA

Why is China heavily investing in Africa while other investors fear the risk? How are Venezuela’s neighbors reacting to Hugo Chavez’ “Bolivarian Revolution”, and what does this reaction imply for Europe’s policy vis-à-vis Latin America? What consequences will a less confrontational US policy towards Iran have? What are the effects of the global financial and economic crisis on China, and how is this affecting the East Asian region as a whole?

To answer these and similar questions, the GIGA conducts empirically based and theory-guided research projects. The overall research agenda focuses on four thematic clusters:
  • Legitimacy and Efficiency of Political Systems

  • Violence and Security

  • Socioeconomic Challenges in the Context of Globalization

  • Power, Norms and Governance in International Relations.

Together with the institute’s regional scope (Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East), these overarching topics establish the framework for a broad range of individual projects. While some examine country- or region-specific issues (e.g., continuity and change in “post-Fidel” Cuba), others focus on cross-national or cross-regional comparisons. An example for the latter approach is the project “Is Resource Wealth a Risk Factor? On the Importance of Contextual Conditions for the Connection Between Natural Resources and Violence in Non-OECD States.” In this project, an interdisciplinary research team is investigating the conditions under which resources such as petroleum can trigger or foster violent conflict. Countries as different as Algeria, Iran, Nigeria, and Venezuela are included in the analysis.

The GIGA cooperates closely with other prestigious academic institutions on many research projects. One of the most important projects currently being carried out is the establishment of a research network on rising regional powers such as Brazil, India, and South Africa and their role in international relations. The Regional Powers Network (see www.giga-hamburg.de/rpn) brings together experts from leading research institutions in Europe as well as the respective regions—including the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in Pretoria, and the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. The project addresses the role of regional powers in intraregional, interregional, and global contexts.

The GIGA’s scientific staff mainly consists of political scientists and economists but sociologists, historians, and scholars of further disciplines are also among the researchers. Their empirical work is based on on-site field studies and key sources, many of which are only available in the countries under examination and in the languages of these countries. Area studies, however, is not an end in itself but rather a precondition for extending knowledge about regions that cannot be sufficiently explained using only a single model based on Western experience.

3 Scientific policy advice and transfer of knowledge

The GIGA publishes its research findings primarily in internationally renowned refereed journals and edited volumes. Yet, it also actively makes its expertise accessible to target groups other than the scientific community. One of the most important beneficiaries of the GIGA’s analytical capacity is the German Federal Foreign Office. GIGA researchers meet regularly with the ministry’s officials from regional and thematic departments and from the policy planning staff. In recent years, the Foreign Office as well as other German government agencies has welcomed the advice of the institute, in informal and institutionalized forms, when drafting policy strategies, for instance, the federal government’s policy concept on Latin America.1 Another example of this type of consultation is the GIGA’s close cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development. Among other services, the institute provides the ministry with more than 90 country reports for its Crisis Early Warning scheme annually. The GIGA experts’ assessments of recent developments in these countries then form the basis for the ministry’s policies regarding conflict prevention programs.

Political and economic decision makers also utilize the GIGA academics’ expertise, inviting them to public or closed discussion groups and to present their research findings in capacity-building courses and one-on-one conversations. One example of the latter is the Leibniz Association’s2 political consultation scheme “Science meets Parliament”. In June 2009, the event brought together individual researchers, two of whom were from the GIGA, with members of the German Bundestag who were interested in particular research topics. Furthermore, institutions outside Germany and on the international level increasingly seek the institute’s advice. In early 2009, for instance, GIGA researcher Dr. Bert Hoffmann published an article on US-Cuban relations in a compilation of policy recommendations for the Obama administration put together by the renowned US think tank Brookings Institution (see Hoffmann 2009). For the EU Commission, Dr. Margot Schüller, together with coauthors, drafted a consultation paper entitled “International Science and Technology Cooperation Policies of South East Asian Countries” (see Schüller et al. 2008).

To facilitate knowledge transfer to business associations, private companies, nongovernmental organizations, the media, university students, etc., the GIGA organizes the GIGA Forum public lecture series. There, current topics related to the institute’s thematic and regional research are discussed with the audience by in-house researchers and also by guest speakers, who are often renowned scholars or prominent politicians. The Norwegian peace researcher Johan Galtung presented his latest findings at one of these events in 2008, and the then Minister of State Gernot Erler of Germany’s Federal Foreign Office took part in a panel discussion in May 2009. Most of the GIGA Forum lectures take place in Hamburg, but since the GIGA has recently opened a Berlin office (www.giga-hamburg.de/berlin), it will increasingly organize these events in the capital city, not least in order to facilitate the participation of decision makers from Berlin-based political, economic and civic institutions. For those who cannot attend personally, exhaustive documentation, including audio files of the presentations, is accessible free of charge at the website: www.giga-hamburg.de/giga-forum.

The institute’s main instrument for reaching a large and diverse German-reading audience is the GIGA Focus. This publication picks up new events and developments and interconnects these with sound research-based analyses. The GIGA issues this free online publication (www.giga-hamburg.de/giga-focus) 12 times a year for each of its four world regions (GIGA Focus Africa, GIGA Focus Asia, etc.) and for global themes (GIGA Focus Global). In a short seven-page text, GIGA researchers and sometimes guest authors analyze current developments in individual countries, regions, or at the global level. Outbreaks of violence, elections, and important summits are the typical topics of the GIGA Focus. Matters of paramount worldwide relevance, such as the changes in world politics initiated by the Obama administration, are covered by all five Focus series (e.g., GIGA Focus Middle East on Obama’s stance in the Israel-Palestine conflict, GIGA Focus Latin America on Obama’s policies towards Latin America, etc.). As the GIGA Focus has achieved a high level of recognition (more than 200,000 downloads in 2008) and is very much appreciated by its German-speaking readership, the GIGA has recently begun to publish selected issues in English as well (GIGA Focus International Edtion, www.giga-hamburg.de/giga-focus/international).

4 GIGA key characteristics

The institute was founded in 1964 under the name German Overseas Institute (Deutsches Übersee-Institut). In 2006, it was renamed the GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies/Leibniz-Institut für Globale und Regionale Studien. At that time, it underwent a process of institutional and academic reform led by the institute’s current President, Prof. Dr. Robert Kappel. After an in-depth evaluation, the Leibniz Association officially stated the following in 2008: “The GIGA is a leading national facility for area studies and generates good to very good, and at times excellent, achievements in research, service and political consultation.”

Along with research, knowledge transfer, both to decision makers and to the broader public (e.g., media, university students), is a key priority for the GIGA. In this vein, the institute makes its own research findings as well as those of other institutions accessible through its Information Center, Germany’s largest nonuniversity library for area studies and comparative area studies (www.giga-hamburg.de/iz). Most of the GIGA’s publications, such as the GIGA Focus series and the GIGA Working Papers series, can be downloaded free of charge via the website: www.giga-hamburg.de/publications. Since 2009, the full texts of the institute’s four renowned academic journals are also accessible in Open Access format at www.giga-journal-family.org. The GIGA Journal Family consists of the periodicals Africa Spectrum, Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, and Journal of Politics in Latin America. The GIGA’s Open Access strategy not only facilitates an unhampered exchange of ideas with other scholars worldwide, but also makes research findings and the GIGA’s unique thematic and regional expertise easily available for practitioners in politics and business.

5 More on the GIGA:

GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies/Leibniz-Institut für Globale und Regionale Studien, Neuer Jungfernstieg 21, 20354 Hamburg. http://www.giga-hamburg.de.

GIGA Berlin-Büro, Charlottenstr. 43, 10117 Berlin. http://www.giga-hamburg.de/berlin.


GIGA (2009). Global Hotspots—Regional Insights—Political Decisions (GIGA Image Brochure), www.giga-hamburg.de/image-brochure.

Recent publications by the GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies:

Africa Spectrum, issue 2/2009, www.africa-spectrum.org.

Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, issue 4/2009, www.currentchineseaffairs.org.

Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, issue 4/2009, www.currentsoutheastasianaffairs.org.

Journal of Politics in Latin America (JPLA), issue 3/2009, www.jpla.org.

Bergstresser, H. (2009). Afrikas Medien: Im Spannungsfeld von Meinungsfreiheit, Boulevardisierung und Repression. GIGA Focus Afrika, 7/2009. www.giga-hamburg.de/giga-focus/afrika. Accessed 3 Dec 2009.

Brach, J., & Loewe, M. (2009). Getting off lightly? The impact of the international financial crisis on the Middle East and North Africa. GIGA Focus International Edition, 1/2009. www.giga-hamburg.de/giga-focus/international. Accessed 3 Dec 2009.

Fürtig, H. (2009). Turbulente Wahlen in Iran: Die Islamische Republik am Scheideweg? GIGA Focus Nahost, 7/2009. www.giga-hamburg.de/giga-focus/nahost. Accessed 3 Dec 2009.

Hess, N. (2009). Brasilien, Mexiko und LAC-Staaten—Inflation der strategischen Partner der EU in Lateinamerika? GIGA Focus Global, 6/2009. www.giga-hamburg.de/giga-focus/global. Accessed 3 Dec 2009.

Hillger, D. (2009). Die Rückkehr der Dynastie? Indien nach dem Wahlsieg der Kongresspartei. GIGA Focus Asien, 7/2009. www.giga-hamburg.de/giga-focus/asien. Accessed 3 Dec 2009.

Peetz, P. (2009). Honduras: Von einem Militärputsch, der keiner sein will. GIGA Focus Lateinamerika, 7/2009. www.giga-hamburg.de/giga-focus/lateinamerika. Accessed 3 Dec 2009.

Stroh, A. (2009). The effects of electoral institutions in Rwanda: Why proportional representation supports the authoritarian regime. GIGA Working Papers, 105. www.giga-hamburg.de/workingpapers. Accessed 3 Dec 2009.


See the “Guidelines for Germany’s foreign policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean” (http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/diplo/en/Aussenpolitik/RegionaleSchwerpunkte/Lateinamerika/Leitlinien.html).


The Leibniz Association (Leibniz-Gemeinschaft) comprises 86 German research institutions which address scientific issues of importance to society as a whole. The GIGA is a member of the Leibniz Association.


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