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Bonn's new profile

Status: April 2022

June 20, 1991, marked the beginning of a big challenge for the City of Bonn: at this memorable date, the German Parliament decided with a narrow majority to transfer its seat and the core functions of the Federal Government to Berlin. This vote was implemented by the Berlin/Bonn Act in 1994. The Act laid down a fair division of labor between the two cities, according five political fields to Bonn. A compensation agreement amounting to 1.43 billion euro was granted to the city and surrounding region facing the structural change. In the meantime, based on these solid foundations, the vision of the early nineties has become an acknowledged reality: Bonn’s new profile!

The Federal City

Six out of the 14 Federal Ministries have their first seat on the Rhine. They represent the political fields as determined by the Berlin/Bonn Act: education and science, culture, research and technology, telecommunication, environment and health, food, agriculture and forestry, development policy, defense. More than 20 federal authorities, amongst them the Federal Cartel Office and the Federal Court of Audit have moved from Berlin and Frankfurt to Bonn in order to partially compensate for the loss of ministerial jobs. Thus Bonn – with the title of federal City adopted from a Swiss tradition - has become a second political focus within the strong federal system of the German Republic.

The international city - Germany’s United Nations City

The idea to transform Bonn into a center for international cooperation already formed part of the parliamentary vote in 1991. Since then, a great number of organizations working in the international field have been attracted to the city. Together with about 150 non-governmental organizations they form a strong network.

The most important success in the field of international activities, however, has been the settlement of currently 25 United Nations organizations, amongst them the UN Climate Secretariat (UNFCCC). International activities focus on sustainable development, development cooperation and disaster risk reduction and management. The common denominator of the Bonn-based UN entities is ‘UN Bonn – Shaping a Sustainable Future’. In 2021, Bonn celebrated its 25th anniversary as a German city of the United Nations with a major anniversary program.

Since summer 2006, the nuceleus of international Bonn has been the UN Campus around the former "Langer Eugen" high-rise building for members of parliament. 1,000 UN employees work here. In spring 2022, an extension building, the "Klimaturm", was handed over to the United Nations, which provides space for 330 people and meets the highest energy efficiency requirements. In the immediate vicinity of the UN Campus is the World Conference Center Bonn, which opened in 2015 and also includes the former plenary hall of the German Bundestag.

Already in the past, Bonn has repeatedly been able to demonstrate that it is also suitable as a congress venue for large conferences. Examples include three World Climate Summits, the Freshwater Conference, the Afghanistan Conferences, the International Conference for Renewable Energies and, in 2008, the UN Conference of the Parties on Biological Diversity. In 2017, the 23rd United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) was held in Bonn, Germany. With over 20,000 participants, it was the largest international conference ever held anywhere in Germany. 

As another major international organization, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), based in Reading near London, has decided to open a site in Bonn in 2021. ECMWF is a world leader in global numerical weather prediction and climatology. Earth observation programs are a central component of the climate researchers' activities. Around 150 employees, including numerous scientists*, are to move to Bonn in the coming years, where a new building will be constructed for ECMWF. Another addition to the international cluster is the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy for International Politics, which began its work in Bonn in 2021.  The academy is dedicated to global challenges and structural changes in international politics in the 21st century. The focus is on promoting scholars from around the world and their international and interdisciplinary networking.