History of AGdD and the Reintegration Programme

1960s / 1970s

Early beginnings

In the young Federal Republic of Germany, the development services were among the first institutions to engage in development cooperation. Church-based and civil society groups started seconding professionals long before the development ministry was created. On 18 June 1969, the German Bundestag adopted the Development Workers Act (EhfG), providing a legal basis for development service for the first time. Link to the EhfG This made development service an integral part of the Federal Republic’s development cooperation activities, and it has been supported by the state ever since. Among other things, the EhfG sets out the contractual framework for development service contracts and outlines the responsibilities of the providers. As development workers offer their skills in the spirit of solidarity and do not receive a customary salary, the providers and the state have a duty of care towards them and also ensure basic social protection.

This protection also covers their return home. Article 12 of the EhfG stipulates that development workers who have returned to Germany and are looking for a new job are to be given careers advice and targeted support that takes into account their particular experience and knowledge.

Pre-empting the new Act, in January 1969 the Reintegration Programme was established to fulfil precisely this role, with the Karl Kübel Foundation assuming legal responsibility. The programme was managed by a newly formed association made up of the development service providers and the Karl Kübel Foundation. The organisations initially used their own funds to develop the programme, but at the end of 1970 the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) approved financial support for work with returnees.

Dienste in Übersee (DÜ – Services Overseas) started placing development workers in 1961, and from 1964 they were joined by professionals assigned by the German Development Service (DED). Their destination countries included Tanzania, Indonesia, Libya, Afghanistan and India. They were also the first people to make use of the Reintegration Programme. In 1968/69, a total of 239 returning professionals from five providers (the Association for Development Cooperation (AGEH), DED, DÜ, the International Christian Service for Peace (EIRENE), and Weltfriedensdienst (WFD – World Peace Service)) took advantage of the services offered by the programme; by 1972 the figure had risen to 357. In the first few years of the programme, the services encompassed:

  • Advice on further training and education
  • Grants for further training and higher education courses
  • Seminars (from 1970 onwards)


The Reintegration Programme moves to a new home

In the mid-1980s, the Karl Kübel Foundation decided to pass on the coordination of the Reintegration Programme. With the approval of BMZ, the Association “Learning and Helping Overseas” (AKLHÜ) temporarily assumed responsibility for the programme in 1987 for a year. The group of providers renamed itself the Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Dienste (Association of Services), or AGdD – the abbreviation still in use today.

In October 1987, the providers asked the Carl Duisberg Centren gGmbH (CDC) in Cologne to take on legal responsibility for administering the programme. The handover was completed by the beginning of 1988.

1989 saw the publication of the first issue of transfer, the magazine produced by the Reintegration Programme to give returnees information about reintegrating into working life back home. The publication series entitled “Training information for German professionals abroad” was discontinued (a total of 12 issues were produced between 1982 and 1984). transfer was initially published every three months, provided a wider range of information, and for the first time also included reports from returning professionals. The other areas of activity of the programme – advisory services, seminars, and financial support for further training and higher education courses – were continued.


The new AGdD is formed

On 31 March 1994, the Association of German Development Services (AGdD) was formed as an umbrella association for the state-approved development service providers. The founding members were:


  • Association for Development Cooperation (AGEH)
  • German Development Service (DED)
  • Dienste in Übersee e.V. (DÜ – Services Overseas)
  • Christian Services International (CFI)
  • International Christian Service for Peace (EIRENE)
  • Weltfriedensdienst (WFD – World Peace Service)

The purpose of AGdD as defined in its Articles of Association (8 December 1994) was:


  • To ensure the exchange of experience and advice among the individual development services;
  • To represent the development services’ common interests;
  • To make a contribution to international understanding and public relations and to raise awareness of development policy issues; and
  • To act as a point of contact for the parliament, government and political parties on matters relating to the assignment of development workers.

25 years of the Reintegration Programme

The same year, the Reintegration Programme marked its 25th anniversary with a major ceremony in Cologne. Mr Schlaghecke, Managing Director of CDC, praised the professionalism and specialised knowledge of his four-person team, and declared that “... the basic idea behind the programme is good. But more than that, I think it is essential.”

And the figures for the services provided between 1969 and 1994 certainly confirm this:


  • 7,000 advisory sessions held to discuss training
  • 700 grants provided for further training
  • Seminars organised for 4,500 returnees 

 The Civil Peace Service is established

The idea of creating a civil peace service emerged from the peace movements of the 1980s and became a matter of priority during the wars in the former Yugoslavia. Various groups joined forces and lobbied hard for this cause. In 1998 they were finally successful and the Civil Peace Service was established by Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (BMZ), the new Development Minister. In 1999, the first professionals took on assignments focusing on conflict prevention and non-violent transformation, particularly in fragile and conflict-affected states. The Development Worker Act (EhfG) provides the contractual basis for seconding experts. 


Responsibility for the Reintegration Programme is transferred to AGdD

In 2002, AGdD took over responsibility for running the Reintegration Programme, and the old group of providers was dissolved. The programme staff moved to Bonn, where they shared an office with AKLHÜ. A cooperation agreement was signed between AGdD and AKLHÜ, enabling AKLHÜ’s Managing Director to assume managerial responsibility for AGdD as well. The Reintegration Programme had a separate manager, who was in charge of all business and technical matters and reported directly to the Management Board.

AGdD’s Articles of Association were updated in 2003 to take these changes into account. A fifth point was added to the purpose of the association to reflect its mandate “to support the reintegration of returning development workers (professionals)”. The programme’s areas of activity stayed the same and demand for its services remained strong.

In March 2007, the Forum Civil Peace Service (forumZFD) was officially recognised as a German development service provider and became the seventh member of AGdD in June. 

2010 and onwards

Member changes

In 2011, InWEnt – Capacity Building International, Germany, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH and the German Development Service (DED) merged to form the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. In addition, Dienste in Übersee (DÜ – Services Overseas) – which had been incorporated into the newly formed Protestant Development Service (EED) in 1999 – became part of Bread for the World (BfdW) when the Protestant Agency for Diaconia and Development (EWDE) was established in 2012. EWDE’s new registered office is in Berlin.

These mergers also changed AGdD’s membership set-up. It has had the following members since 2012:


  • Association for Development Cooperation (AGEH)
  • Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
  • Bread for the World – Protestant Development Service (BfdW – EED)
  • Christian Services International (CFI)
  • International Christian Service for Peace (EIRENE)
  • Weltfriedensdienst (WFD – World Peace Service)
  • Civil Peace Service Forum (forumZFD)


 50 years of development service

In 2013, the development service providers paused to reflect: in their role as state-approved providers, they had placed more than 28,000 development workers in the previous 50 years. And although the general conditions, development strategies and requirements placed on the professionals have changed considerably from time to time, the providers all agree: by shaping cooperation between people and organisations worldwide in the spirit of partnership, development workers make a key contribution to ensuring global sustainability and quality of life.

Changes in the office

At AGdD’s general meeting in 2015, a full-time managing director was appointed to run the association, and she took office in June. The staff moved to a new building the same year, which they still share with AKLHÜ.