In almost all areas of community life, and in particular in social, charitable and interpersonal fields, a flourishing community life is only possible through the voluntary commitment of local citizens. If people particularly distinguish themselves in such voluntary work, the Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany), or the Niedersächsischer Verdienstorden (Lower Saxony Order of Merit) can be awarded. However, such awards require independent and award-worthy service for the benefit of the general community, a service which has been practised with great personal commitment over a long period and which has involved the sacrificing of personal interests to the promotion of important state and social causes. The award-worthiness is defined by the degree of community spirit, expert knowledge and energetic action upon which the work is based and on its significance in terms of the general good.
The Land government attaches special importance to the often non-perceivable work of women in the social sphere. In future therefore, the Land parliament would like to honour such work performed for the general benefit of society to a greater extent through awards.
Lower Saxony awards
Achievements of special significance in terms of Land politics are honoured by conferring the Lower Saxony Order of Merit. Such achievements include in particular regionally important or structurally constructive commitment, or even the promotion of customs such as, for example, the Low-German language.
People engaged in activities in honorary capacities and who in terms of commitment have set an example in the service of their fellow men, can be awarded the Verdienstmedaille für vorbildliche Verdienste um den Nächsten (Medal of Honour for Exemplary Services to Others) .
The Niedersächsische Landesmedaille (Lower Saxony Land Medal) is the highest award to a person who has performed outstanding services for the benefit of the Land of Lower Saxony.
Other honours awarded in Lower Saxony include the Niedersächsische Sportmedaille, (Lower Saxony Sport Medal), the Medaille für Rettung von Menschen aus Lebensgefahr (Medal for Saving People from Life-threatening Situations), and the Ehrenzeichen für Verdienste im Feuerlöschwesen (Badge of Honour for Firefighting Services). Honours are also conferred for certain wedding anniversaries and birthdays. The Lower Saxony Ministry of the Interior is responsible for these awards.
German Federal Government Awards
The Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany) is awarded in eight order classes. In making this award, the Federal President honours work performed in the following fields in particular:
Promotion of peaceful co-existence and tolerance between cultures and religions;
social, charitable or ecclesiastical commitment;
services which promote the growing together of divided Germany and services to the new Länder;
especially courageous intervention against violence;
political commitment on behalf of young people, for example in the improvement of career opportunities and the creation of apprenticeship places and jobs for young people;
outstanding research and development work;
entrepreneurial work by founders of new businesses which makes a permanent contribution to growth and employment;
promotion of relations between Germany and its European neighbours;
special cultural services in the fields of theatre, music, film, fine arts and literature.