I am passionate about instilling the idea of international understanding in as many young people as we can
Daniel Mittler attended Lester B. Pearson UWC of the Pacific from 1990 to 1992. He is currently the Political Director of Greenpeace International dividing his time between Amsterdam and Berlin. He is leading a global team of specialists working on issues ranging from sustainable fisheries management to peace and delivering effective and progressive policies that protect our climate. He is a member of the global senior management team of Greenpeace International´s forest campaign.
From October 2008 to April 2010 he was Head of the Germany Programme at the European Climate Foundation. He was providing strategy advice and issuing grants to prevent the building of new coal fired power stations in Germany, helping to successfully stop 10 new coal plants.
Prior to joining the Foundation, Daniel worked for environmental NGOs for many years. From 2004-2008 he was Political Advisor of Greenpeace International. He led Greenpeace teams to G8 and WTO Summits and attended the global climate negotiations for many years. He also helped a team of Asian Greenpeace campaigners to force the Asian Development Bank to massively expand their investments in renewable energy projects.
From 2000-2004, Daniel was Head of International Campaigns at Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) and one of the initiators of the McPlanet.com conferences, the biggest biannual discussion forum on environment and globalisation issues in Germany. Daniel spent two years as Earth Summit Coordinator for Friends of the Earth International, preparing the organisation for the largest UN conference on environment and development issues, which took place in Johannesburg in 2002.
Daniel received his M.A. (Honours) in Political Science from Edinburgh University and spent one year at Queen's University in Canada.
“The impact that UWC has had on my life is multi dimensional. I met my wife through the voluntary work I now do with the German UWC National Committee. In January 2009 we are expecting a true UWC baby! I wanted to stay active with UWC and help spread the word within Germany, so I am currently coordinating the media work for the Committee. I also enjoy being a part of the student selection process – it is a real privilege each year to meet the bright and determined students who have applied to UWC. The Committee always has the difficult task of deciding which students will attend the colleges. I am passionate about instilling the idea of international understanding in as many young people as we can!
“Professionally, my interest to work on a global level was borne out of my UWC experience, and I believe that experience equipped me to work cross culturally. I have met a lot of other UWC graduates and there seems to be a pre-disposition for international work, which I would put down to the cultural sensitivities that we develop at UWC.
“Liaising across cultures is difficult, but to remain culturally sensitive in a pressurised work environment is a real challenge. I am aware that Germans are perceived as being very direct and at times even blunt; and what is culturally acceptable at home, does not necessarily ‘translate’ well. I have worked a lot with people in Asia, Africa and Latin America and am delighted when they comment that I am good to work with, or may be even more considerate of their needs then other Germans they have worked with in the past.
“When you have the chance to meet people from around the world at such an early age and often at a much younger age than most, you learn to adapt and be aware of your surroundings. Certainly sharing a very small room at UWC with three other boys from around the world makes you accept that there are many ways to do things, and this adaptability continues to have a profound impact on the way I work and live my life today.
“I was at UWC during the 1991 Gulf War and organised a peace fast for four days as well as published a book of poetry with poems from many UWCs called War No More. There were students at the College whose family members were in the front line and, of course, this created real tension. The war was brought home to us but despite these tensions, there was also still an ability to communicate; dialogue within the College remained possible, even though that dialogue had broken down in the world of politics. It was a time when UWC lived up the rhetoric that humans are human and individuals above all else, irrespective of religion and nationality.
“I am really pleased to have managed a successful campaign for the World Summit on Sustainable Development whilst at Friends of the Earth International. We achieved a result at that summit that nobody expected - Governments were forced to respond to our demands. Two years earlier, everyone said we would be unable to even get our issues on the agenda - but we did it. I managed to get a very diverse network of people from around the different offices of Friends of the Earth to work together on this project. This was not without conflict, but it was a moment when the loose federation of Friends of the Earth groups really came together. It was also the first time I had led a global campaign, so it was a steep learning curve but the positive feedback I received from my peers afterwards gave me reassurance, pleasure and confidence for the next projects.
“One of my favourite UWC memories occurred at Victoria bus station. I was at the beginning of my second year, and there were first years arriving from all over the place. The bus to College was taking its time – so many of the newcomers waiting picked up their bags and headed for the door with a sign ‘Restrooms’ on it. They clearly thought this would be a place to rest – but quickly discovered that they were in fact heading for the toilet. These cultural confusions that we experienced together caused a lot of laughter in the first few weeks of each year.
“A more difficult early memory was when my roommate from the US arrived and immediately put up a poster of Lenin in our room, which he had picked up on a visit to Moscow. When my other roommate, whose parents had fled from Prague and the Soviet tanks in 1968, entered the room he went very white indeed. After a bit of hectic negotiation, we found a compromise: Lenin hung upside down for the rest of the year. My American roommate could thus be reminded of his fascinating trip to Moscow and my Czech-Canadian roommate could rest assured that our room was not about to endorse the Soviet regime – and we had all learned a bit more about what it means to respect different ways of viewing the world.”