Fighting Poverty: Why We Need a Development Aid Ministry

VGreat challenges lie ahead of us: fighting pandemics, protecting the climate, feeding a growing world population, protecting forests and biodiversity, and fair globalization. We in German development policy are working on finding a solution every day. Because the technologies and the knowledge are available to create a world without hunger and to limit the consequences of climate change worldwide. The fact that Germany has its own ministry for this is a great advantage, not a disadvantage.

We should use this global lead and consistently align the ministry with future global tasks, with an increased focus on international climate protection, the global transformation of energy and industrial policy and Africa policy.

Because whether we master global tasks such as the refugee or climate problem is largely decided in developing and emerging countries. An example: Millions of people have already lost their livelihoods due to climate change. If we do not take consistent global countermeasures, this could result in 140 million climate refugees in the next 30 years. We must therefore see development policy much more as an investment in our own future.

This also offers great opportunities for the German economy to contribute to solving problems in the growing markets of developing and emerging countries and to take advantage of its own opportunities. For example with the expansion of renewable energies. This strengthens the technology leadership in Germany and creates new jobs on both sides. And it is an effective contribution to climate protection – two thirds of global CO2 emissions occur in these countries.

The ministry is trusted worldwide

Considerations of downgrading the Development Ministry to a department in the Foreign Office with an investment budget of more than 13 billion euros would be the wrong way: Even the outsourcing of humanitarian aid to the Foreign Office ten years ago led to friction losses and should be reversed.

The Ministry of Development is a valued partner for church and civil society organizations that do successful work in the world. We are a market opener for many companies. The trust that is placed in us worldwide is based on the fact that we build on long-established structures in our cooperation with developing countries. As development minister, I visited 45 of the 54 African countries and launched the Marshall Plan with Africa. Because Africa deserves our special attention.

Development policy has achieved a great deal in recent decades: since 1990 the number of the extremely poor has fallen by almost two thirds – although the world population has grown by 2.2 billion people. Diseases such as polio have almost been eradicated – there were 350,000 cases 30 years ago, there were 96 in 2020. And with COVAX, a global vaccination program for two billion people in poorer countries was implemented in a very short time.

Germany has made a significant contribution to these successes: Since 2020, we have been implementing a worldwide immediate Corona program worth 4.7 billion euros. The German contribution to international climate protection has more than doubled since 2014, and species protection areas are protected six times the size of Germany.

Reputation and Influence

With German development policy, we have earned our reputation and influence all over the world. This has made Germany a strategic economic and development partner for many countries, which pays off politically.

Of course, we have to work continuously on the effectiveness of our measures. In 2020, with “BMZ 2030”, we decided on and implemented the first comprehensive reform concept in twelve years. We rely on measurable progress in good governance, democracy and the fight against corruption. We are increasingly supporting countries that consistently follow this path with us. Anyone who permanently disregards human rights and is unable to reform will end state cooperation, such as with Myanmar and Burundi.

In the case of Afghanistan, that means drawing the right lessons here too. But it is certainly not German development policy that has failed in Afghanistan. On the contrary: the number of schoolchildren has increased twelve-fold to over twelve million. Germany has trained 17,000 teachers. 87 percent of Afghans have access to health services, compared with just 8 percent in 2001.

These measures were not simply implemented; they have been clearly conditioned for years: if reforms failed to materialize or the Afghan government failed to meet the agreed conditions in the fight against corruption, no money was paid out. Since the Taliban came to power, bilateral cooperation has therefore been completely suspended. It deserves respect, support and recognition that many NGOs continue their work in Afghanistan to alleviate the hardship under the most difficult of conditions.

But one thing is clear: what we urgently need is more international coordination, especially in Europe. The next logical step must be greater European coordination of development policy and greater European involvement in external trade and development policy. Because the global challenges ultimately need global solutions.

Gerd Müller (CSU) is Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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