German development policy ‘lacks coherence’ before landmark year

School girls in the Central African Republic. [Pierre Holtz UNICEF/Flickr]

With its 2015 European Year for Development, the EU hopes to inspire citizens to fight global hunger and poverty. But as ambitious targets threaten to remain unfulfilled, experts warn that a lack of collaboration among political actors is to blame. EURACTIV Germany reports.

With the G7 Summit in Germany, the UN Conference in New York and the World Climate Summit in Paris, 2015 is set to be a landmark year for development policy.

The summit marathon will be accompanied by a European Year for Development, set by the European Commission and flanked by an extensive awareness campaign.

In preparation, Germany’s Federal Development Ministry (BMZ) also drafted a “Charter for the Future” and, in public fora, is calling for a change of direction in the debate over sustainability.

“2015 is not only an opportunity, but also a risk,” warned Wolfgang Jamann, CEO of the development NGO Welthungerhilfe, at a recent workshop hosted by EURACTIV in Berlin. The public is tired of the “bad news” about hunger and poverty, he said.

To reinvigorate interest in global problems, development policy must be retold without reverting to old stereotypes, Jamann indicated.

But to do this, he said, politicians must start by developing concrete solution plans. “We are no longer believed to have a positive influence on global development,” Jamann emphasised. Instead, people take to the streets protesting refugees without discussing the problems in the countries of origin, Jamann explained.

For months, German Development Minister Gerd Müller has been promoting the development and sustainability agenda to the public. Just a few weeks ago, Müller presented the Charter for the Future – in cooperation with numerous NGOs. The measure is to be the basis for the summit year and pave the way for the creation of new Post-2015 Sustainability Goals.

“But does anyone really believe that Economic Affairs Minister Gabriel went home after the presentation and dwelled on global questions of the future?” a WWF expert from the audience asked rhetorically.

But the magic word for development experts at the workshop was political coherence. It is supposed to ensure the development minister’s ambitious plans are also echoed by his colleagues in the federal cabinet.

Since 2007, the European Commission has been forming a coherence report. In the document, it lays out the reciprocal effects between development policy and twelve political categories. These categories were determined in 2005 by the European Council as the areas that have the most significant effect on countries in the south. The twelve include trade, environment, climate change, security, agriculture, fisheries, social dimensions of globalisation, employment and fair working conditions, migration, research and innovation, transport, energy and information society.

MEP Arne Lietz, who hails from the Social Democratic Party (SPD) called for a similar coherence report for Germany. The Bundestag’s Europe Committee could take on a leadership role and conduct negotiations with other departments, he said.

The Bundestag has already started initiatives to rework development policy affairs across all departments, said Christian Democrat MP Georg Kippels. “We have created working groups with representatives from the Committees for Health, Research and Development, for example. These have considerable overlap,” said Kippels.

“The organisational demands for development policy have become larger and more far-reaching,” explained Imme Scholz, deputy chairman of the German Development Institute (DIE). German parliamentarians could play a key role in compiling a coherence report, she indicated. But Scholz emphasised that the report’s mandate should be extended.

At the EU level, political coherence on development has been under analysis, “but we must extend the report to cover the global dimension and the dimension of securing public goods like the environment”, said Scholz.

That is precisely the task of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the development analyst added.

In a few weeks, the global community will begin negotiations over setting new global development targets – the so-called Post-2015 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The new targets are expected to be set by September 2015, when the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will expire. Meanwhile the German government has already expressed its support of 17 ambitious goals recommended by a UN working group.

“We are working on a global social contract that is about linking development with sustainability,” said Ingolf Dietrich, who is the representative for the task force “Sustainable Development Targets” at the BMZ.

The fear that the 17 targets with 169 sub-targets are too broadly formulated and are hardly measurable was something Dietrich dismissed. “This is an ambitious, demanding development agenda, but the global challenges have also grown and have become more complex. We will attempt to sell these targets to citizens as best we can,” Dietrich explained.

Unwrapping the package again and reducing the targets – as the United Kingdom is hoping – to ten or less targets, is something Germany will not permit, Dietrich confidently commented.

Welthungerhilfe’s Jamann backed the BMZ’s agenda, but indicated that he had his doubts over whether the plan could be credibly presented to the public. To do this, politicians must work together, he said, and so far other departments have hardly collaborated to create more sustainable development policy.

“Mr. Schäuble is stepping on the brakes with regard to development financing and [Minister President of Bavaria] Horst Seehofer hopes to win elections with the automobile toll, instead of helping his fellow party member Müller solve global issues,” Jamann said. “These extensive discussions must take place, otherwise every summit or ‘Charter for the Future’ will fall flat.”

In 2000, the United Nations set eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to be met by 2015. The goals are:

  • Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • Achieve universal primary education
  • Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Reduce child mortality
  • Improve maternal health
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases
  • Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Develop a global partnership for development

In 2008, governments, businesses and other organisations reinforced their commitments to meet the MDGs, raising some €12.3 million in new funds for development. Two years later, the MDG summit adopted a global action plan, again reinforcing the drive towards meeting the MDGs.

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