NGOs have called on the German development ministry to be strengthened and equipped with overarching, cross-cabinet powers so that all government services can promote human rights in development aid efforts. EURACTIV.de reports.
The relief organisations ‘Terre des hommes’ (Human World) and ‘Welthungerhilfe’ (World Hunger Aid) published their latest annual report on Tuesday (8 October), which takes a critical look at the German government’s most recent development policy efforts.
The 40-page paper, ‘Reality of Development Policy’, calls for the new German government to change course on development policy and proposes that the German Federal Development Ministry (BMZ) be enhanced to become a “ministry for international cooperation and global sustainability”.
“The future ministry should be given a cross-Cabinet, overarching coordination function on issues of global politics, which touch on questions regarding sustainable development and human rights,” the NGOs said.
According to the NGOs, the human rights inspection agency in the BMZ, the ‘Menschenrechts-TÜV’ (Human Rights Technical Inspection Association), should not be the only such agency dealing with development policy. “All the ministries, especially economic, agriculture, foreign, environmental and development ministries must move in the same direction,” it argued.
“The protection of human rights and the survival of the planet, are issues common to many policy fields,” said Wolfgang Jamann, secretary-general of Welthungerhilfe.
Danuta Sacher, chairperson of the managing board of Terre des Hommes Germany, echoed the call for a more coherent German approach to development. “We cannot delegate questions concerning the responsibility of southern countries and the realisation of human rights to only one ministry, namely BMZ. Here, coherent governance from all ministries is necessary.”
Terre des Hommes expects Germany to play a more active role in negotiating the UN’s future development goals, a role which Sacher says would “better fit Germany’s political and economic weight”.
“Germany’s development policy is characterised by a multiplicity of qualitatively diverse sector approaches, strategies and position papers,” Sacher said, noting that development issues currently enjoyed a relatively low level of importance in the German government.
Insufficient financial resource
Irrespective of this, Sacher stressed that Germany should observe its financial commitments, including the target of providing 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) to overseas development. The country was on course to meet just about half that target, she said.
“If our country wants to achieve this, it must gradually increase resources allocated for international cooperation by €1.5 billion per year until 2017. In the meantime, an additional €1 billion is required for international climate change financing.”
Here, the financial transaction tax (FTT) could serve as a welcome source of funds, according to Sacher. Last January, 11 EU countries decided to set up an FTT and called on the European Commission to follow France’s example by allocating 10% of the revenue “to the benefit of the poorest in the world”. However, it has not yet been implemented due to disagreements over how to allocate the funds.
At the same time, Sacher warned that the 0.7% target did not actually address the question of how to allocate funds and whether they supported human rights or sustainable development objectives.
“On the contrary, all the estimates thus far imply that the required level of financial transfer is much higher [to reach those objectives],” the development activist said.
“We need a fundamental re-founding of the system for public [development] financing”, Sacher concludes. This new definition, she added, should not be based on the concept of charity but should rather be founded on internationally negotiated principles like solidarity, the ‘polluter pays’ principle and shared responsibility.
NGOs have criticised the performance of German Minister of Development Dirk Niebel and asked for his replacement in the new cabinet. A reproach made was that Niebel followed national economic interests during his time in office.
“Economic self-interest above human rights and poverty reduction”, that was Niebel’s motto, said Anke Kurat, member of the political forum for the European NGO Confederation for Relief and Development (CONCORD), in a statement for EURACTIV.de.
“Civil society itself has nothing against stronger economic cooperation with developing countries. However, cooperation should be limited to supporting the economy of affected countries, not the country sending aid,” she said.
Michael Hansmann, an employee at the German relief organisation in Brussels, Brot für die Welt, told EURACTIV.de that in Uganda in 2001 the country’s army had cleared roughly 2,500 hectares of land to make room for a coffee plantation for the Hamburg-based Neumann Coffee Group. In reaction, displaced farmers fought in tandem with the Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN) for recognition of their property rights and for compensation. After a visit to Uganda this year, Niebel requested that the head of FIAN, Ute Hausmann, “reconsider [the campaign] from a development policy perspective”. In a written statement, he described the action taken by FIAN against the “well-regarded Neumann Coffee Group” as “unreasonable and unjustified”. The plantation of the Neumann Group in Uganda was “the biggest investment in Uganda, carried out in the goodwill of the German government”.
Andreas Hübers, political advisor for the campaign organisation ONE, said that Germany’s financial contribution in EU development policy had still room to grow, in fields such as the fight against AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
Since 2008, Germany has not increased its contributions to the Global Fund created by the Commission for these causes, he said.
“Germany is doing quite badly, because now it is the only large contributor, over the last six years, who has not introduced an increase”, said Hübers, who said he hoped that the next Minister of Development would be a "stronger" one. The new minister should also advocate for more awareness in the own country and not simply let the development budget endure cuts by the parliament, as it was the case in 2013, he said.
Compared to other European countries, Germany is the still the largest contributor to the EU’s development budget. Pledging just under €4.5 billion, Germany contributes 20.5% of the tenth European Development Fund (EDF) for the period from 2008 to 2013.
To ensure that these funds are efficiently spent, Brussels and Berlin work closely together. Their goal, as they have defined it, is to find a common denominator and create one voice from the variety of interests in the Commission and the 28 member states.
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