The CIVIS project began in a time when immigrants were still referred to as “guest workers”. There seemed to be a clear dividing line between long-term residents and those who would only be around for a limited time. The first CIVIS prize, awarded in 1988 by the Commissioner for Foreigners, Liselotte Funcke, the Freudenberg Foundation and WDR on behalf of ARD, honoured “Common Understandings with Foreigners”. Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker said that making the simple distinction between “us” and “them” was not enough.
With the racist attacks and pogroms in Hoyerswerda, Hünxe, Rostock-Lichtenhagen, Solingen and Mölln occurred, there was no longer any doubt: racism is not a closed case, the problem is still festering in society. CIVIS broadened its range of tools and also created networks with other actors in the field of anti-racism and integration policy. The aim of the CIVIS Media Prize was now “Living with Cultural Diversity - Having Respect for Others”. Solicitude was not the guiding principle here, but participation and partnership.
Since the year 2000, the project has taken on a distinctly European dimension with partners from the Österreichischer Rundfunk, Schweizerische Radio und Fernsehgesellschaft (SRG SSR), Slovenian radio and TV, Arte, Deutsche Welle and others. The respective Presidents of Germany and the European Parliament became sponsors of the media prize.
Since 2003, the newly founded non-profit CIVIS Media Foundation has been organising the CIVIS Media Prize as well as the CIVIS media conferences. Michael Radix is the founding managing director. In the subsequent years, the annually awarded prize became more and more differentiated and turned into the most significant European media prize for the issues of migration, integration and cultural diversity. From 2006, it has been advertised in 24 languages across all EU member states as well as in Switzerland.
With immigration taking on a new dimension, the issue of integration is a top priority on the societal agenda. It is becoming more and more apparent how artificial the dividing line between “us” and “them” is. It has long since given way to a rich tapestry of traditions and religions, world views and ideologies. This is hard work, but it is also exciting. And, everywhere, in view of demagoguery and populism, it is necessary to fight against resentment, hate and violence. The CIVIS Media Foundation sees itself as an integral part of these efforts.