A recent opinion poll by the Stiftung Weltbevölkerung (DSW) has revealed that as many as 40% of citizens polled actually want greater German engagement with the world’s poor nations.
Some 81% of poll respondents said they considered German efforts top counter poverty in the developing countries to be either “important” or “very important.”
At the same time, those surveyed overestimated the amount of aid that Germany was currently dispensing, on averaging attributing a figure of 2.4% of gross domestic product (GDP).
In fact, around 0.38% of the country’s GDP is being spent on overseas aid, a little over half of the 0.7% target.
The results have sparked considerable controversy. Niebel’s statement on 21 August came as a ministerial cabinet meeting discussed the development agenda for 2015, seemingly focussed more on the question of “how” than on “how much?” where future goals were concerned.
According to Niebel, the 0.7% target should be subjected to greater scrutiny. “It is not difficult to spend a lot,” he said. “The art lies in achieving the right outcome. Modern development policy is not just about drilling for proverbial wells but also not purely emergency-oriented humanitarian aid.”
But that sentiment was flatly slapped down by Renate Bähr, the executive director of the Stiftung Weltbevölkerung. “The survey results are a clear indication to the Federal government,” she said. “Germany cannot afford to hesitate any longer. Instead it must accept its commitment to the international community.”
According to Bähr, if the German government abandons its 0.7% target, it would be a slap in the face for its own citizens as well as for those in recipient countries.
The Green MP Thilo Hoppe agreed. “Merkel and Niebel are wrong to assume that stingy politics will be well-received by the German public,” he said, ”The fact that the government has already made cuts to its support for the poorest of the poor and chosen to reduce development funding, not only hurts its international image but also stirs up domestic disapproval and local protests.”
The Catholic relief organisation Miseror pegged the move as a “fatal sign” for the fight against poverty. “These are not favorable conditions for international negotiations concerning the future of the Millennium Development Goals or the UN Climate Talks,” said the group’s spokesman, Thomas Antkowiak. “How can we sustain our function as an international role-model, and continue to encourage other states to fulfill their obligations?”
Industrialised countries nominally see the 0.7% target as an essential step to fulfilling the eight Millennium Development Goals set for 2015. Even so, the vast majority of EU member states remain well below this target.