Is German development policy giving a boost? | Germany | In-depth news and reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW

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The new German Minister for Development, Svenja Schulze, sees the fight against the climate crisis as her top priority. When she greeted her staff by video link last week, she stressed that “the climate crisis and the accompanying structural change are a priority for the whole government and, of course, by a long tradition also for our ministry, “said Schulze, promising to develop and strengthen this area.

In the previous coalition government led by Angela Merkel, Schulze headed the Environment Ministry, representing Germany at global climate summits. It launched the ‘climate protection package’, a series of measures aimed at making Germany climate neutral by 2045. This means reducing emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2, but also offsetting them by removing carbon from the atmosphere, or through offsetting measures, which usually involve supporting climate-focused projects

In his role as Minister of Development Aid, the Social Democratic politician now wishes to use his international experience to better cooperate with the countries of the South. Germany is the second largest donor country in the world after the United States, and Schulze has a budget of over 12 billion euros ($ 13.5 billion).

“I am delighted that there is again a woman at the head of the Ministry of Development,” one of Schulze’s predecessors, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, told DW. Like Schulze, Wieczorek-Zeul belongs to the center-left Social Democrats (SPD). She was the longest-serving German development minister to date and served from 1998 to 2009. Today she advises the German government as a member of the Sustainability Council.

Wieczorek-Zeul believes that it is important that the Ministry of Development remains an independent entity with more weight in political decision-making: “It has always been suggested to assign the Ministry of Development to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as it is. is the case in Great Britain. would have been pretty catastrophic. “

She thinks it makes sense to focus on international climate protection as part of the fight against poverty in developing countries.

“Much of the discussion for the future will revolve around the question of how to compensate for the damage and losses in developing countries caused by climate change,” she explained. “It’s fundamentally a development issue and it’s all about poverty reduction.”

As Minister of Development, Heidemarie Wiezcorek-Zeul (m) pushed through a wide range of initiatives

Climate objectives not yet met

In welcoming his new employees, Schulze mentioned not only the climate crisis, but also hunger, poverty and migration. These are global mega-challenges that must be met with even more commitment, she said: “We must all strive to make life good for everyone in the world. It may sound too emotional, but it ‘is our aspiration. “

The new government of the pro-free SPD, Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) has pledged that at least 0.7% of Germany’s gross national income will go to development aid. The United Nations had already set this target for the richest countries in the world for 1975. Germany reached it last year. According to the new government, it should stay that way.

Strength and energy

“We have heard this many times before. But the reality has turned out to be quite different,” said Martina Schaub, chairman of the board of VENRO, which represents 140 private and religious development organizations in Germany.

But Schaub also sees Schulze spreading a spirit of optimism. At VENRO’s general assembly on Tuesday this week, the new minister announced “more vigor” for German development policy, Schaub told DW. “During her tenure as Minister of the Environment, it was obvious that she could make her voice heard,” says Schaub: “And she has certainly been able to get things done. Of course, we now expect her to do it with the same energy in her new job. “

Setbacks due to COVID-19

But it is already foreseeable that the budget squabbles within the government are likely to harden in the years to come. To deal with the fallout from the COVID pandemic, the federal government has contracted 240 billion euros in new debt this year alone.

“Funding is always a struggle,” says Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul: “I know this from my own experience. This will involve ensuring that sufficient budgetary resources are available for development cooperation.

The need is great, says the SPD politician, as COVID-19 and the effects of the pandemic have caused many setbacks in developing countries. “For example, in the area of ​​HIV / AIDS. We must help strengthen health systems in partner countries ”, insists Wieczorek-Zeul. “It is an essential task of development cooperation.”

Meeting a political challenge

A challenge to the ambitions of the new development aid minister could come from inside parliament. The far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) is expected to take over the chairmanship of the development committee, which discusses bills, hears experts and visits development projects on the ground. The AfD rejects the concept of development aid in its current form and wants to put a clear emphasis on Germany’s political and commercial interests while expecting that the poorest countries can help themselves. themselves.

“Of course, we would find it intolerable if the AfD’s attitude of sowing mistrust, reinforcing prejudices, ignoring the facts, affects the work of the committee,” explains Martina Schaub of VENRO.

It hopes that the new government will soon publish the guidelines for its development policy. Schaub would like all political decisions to be made in line with global sustainability goals, whether it is climate protection, biodiversity preservation or the fight against hunger, disease and poverty.

This article has been translated from German.

While you’re here: Every Tuesday, DW’s editors take stock of what’s going on in German politics and society. You can sign up for the weekly Berlin Briefing email newsletter here, to stay abreast of developments as Germany enters the post-Merkel era.

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