Development policy is relevant for the system!

Development Policy28 Nov 2009The Broker

Danuta Sacher is the Executive Director of terre des hommes Germany. Sacher, former head of department of the Politics and Campaigns of the development organisation Brot für die Welt in Stuttgart, Germany, and having worked on refugee and human rights issues in South America, is concerned by the new development cooperation policies after the federal elections of September 2009.

To say the least: The future heading of German development policy is worrying. Only weeks after the federal elections the decision for the continuation of development policy as a distinct policy field represented by an autonomous Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development is received with some relief by development practitioners. At the same time, the inauguration of Dirk Niebel, member of the liberal party FDP, as new Development minister, poured water into the wine: Niebel, during the campaign one of the most ferocious supporters for the dissolution of development assistance under German foreign affairs policies, brings to office little proven expertise in development cooperation. Most worrying, he started off with some irritating beats of the drum: After having announced to phase-out development cooperation with the emerging powers China and India he continuous on this savings tracks by proclaiming the 2010 international commitment to mobilize 0,51 percent of gross national income (GNI) for development cooperation to be out of reach. His current demands to increase the German development budget by 300 million Euro in 2010 fall far short of the actual demands standing at an 1,7 billion increase annually to meet the 2015 deadline. Just to recall, dismissing the target is not at all in the German competence: It forms part of a binding commitment by European heads of state and government to reach 0,7 percent of GNI by 2015 dating back to 2005.

To date, many reports on the social consequences of the financial crisis confirmed that in times of shrinking national budgets in the global South development assistance becomes even more essential for the world’s poor. While billions of Euros have been poured into saving banks from going bankrupt, only bread crumbs are left for those that suffer most. Above all, the future of the world’s children, women and men is relevant for the system. Thus, we urgently need targeted national stimulus packages for immediate and appropriate action towards poverty eradication and sustainable development in developing countries as well. Governments are ultimately responsible for its delivery – both in North and South. But according to the coalition agreement of the new conservative Government in Germany, and resulting from pressure by the business lobby, economic interests prevail. While “planning development policy measures, objectives of German and European investment ventures should always be considered”. Clearly, the neoliberal concept of individual responsibilities (the infamous German ‘Eigenverantwortung’) and the power of markets prevails over the fight against poverty and the support for global structural policies towards sustainable development. Remarkably, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s proposals for a new global governance architecture including an international charta for sustainable development and a UN economic security council, vividly presented during the G20 crisis meetings, are missing from the coalition’s list of promises.

Regardless of rhetorics, current trends suggest an alarming de-solidarisation of German development policy in the making. But, as the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Our development policy still needs to prove that it values people over profit in delivering on Niebel’s explicit promise to direct assistance to ‘where the need is biggest’. A development minister paving the way for the mainstreaming of development policy under German foreign affairs and external economic policy interests certainly would be a lame duck from the start. If his vision is no longer one of global justice, human rights and poverty eradication, the question of the future of an autonomous development policy in Germany will be of minor importance – if any.