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  • Ruth Spencer (EJC)
    Ruth Spencer is a journalist, Editor, producer and hails from Montreal, Canada. She has worked for the European Journalism Centre since September 2008 and has edited all three rounds of TH!NK ABOUT IT. She has production experience in print media, theatre and broadcast television. She tweets via @thinkteam and is currently based in Toronto.
  • Guy Degen
    Guy Degen is an Australian freelance journalist and is based in Germany. He travels widely contributing stories to international broadcasters and is regularly commissioned by UN agencies as a multimedia producer. Guy writes for the Frontline Club blog and tweets via @fieldreports. Guy also trains journalists in multimedia skills and mobile journalism.


Germany’s new development policies… and the Minister’s hat

Published 29th March 2010 - 1 comments - 5940 views -

I've been grounded at home in Bonn for most of March waiting for my passport to return from the Belarusian Embassy with a visa for a forthcoming trip.

So, rather than looking over the horizon for my first stab at TH!NK3, the subject of my first post is about 10 minutes away by bicycle.

Germany's Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is based in Bonn, and the minister responsible for the BMZ under the new conservative-liberal coalition government is Mr. Dirk Niebel of the FDP.

Niebel's appointment was interesting to say the least. During the election campaign last year the FDP had called for the BMZ to be abolished and its responsibilities to be absorbed into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

From the outset of his tenure, Minister Niebel has not shied away from asserting his ideas about how Germany should spend its 6 billion euro international aid and development budget.

To begin with the Minister has launched an efficiency drive to restructure the government's development arms. Germany's three main development agencies - GTZ, DED and Inwent - are to be combined to form one large development agency. Plans for how this, as yet unnamed, super-agency will operate have not been made public, but the aim is to cut costs and streamline services.

On the whole the restructure plans are seen as a positive step by the development sector (though members of the GTZ might be wondering if they'll have to move from Frankfurt up to Bonn!).

As for other big ticket items such as keeping up with Germany's millennium development goal (MDG) commitment to contribute 0.7 % of GDP to overseas development assistance, it's been hard to pin down exactly where the government stands at the moment. Yes, there is still a clear commitment from the German government to reach 0.7 % by 2015, but with five years to go Mr Niebel is not quite setting out how Germany is going to make it. Even with substantial additional funding in this year's budget, Germany will fall short of reaching the interim 0.51 % target by 2010 set by the EU.

Maybe Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bono will have to chat about that?

Mr Niebel has also been keen to point out what the name of the Economic Cooperation and Development Ministry in his eyes, perhaps literally, means.

Judging from an interview on the national ARD television network over this past weekend, Germany's new development policies could well have an emphasis placed on the Economic.

"We want to initiate development cooperations where German businesses operating in partner countries generate economic growth with the people there - so that they get a chance to work, to have their own income and have access education and to fight poverty," he said.

To what extent development programmes will have to involve German businesses in the future will be interesting to monitor.


Minister Niebel was also asked about the BMZ's new policy in Afghanistan. Some 250-million euros a year (until 2013) are earmarked for German development assistance in Afghanistan. However, these resources will be concentrated in regions where the German army is operating.

Mr Niebel refers to "networked security" and a "peace dividend" - development should occur wherever Germany's soldiers are on the ground so local people can see the benefits of Germany's presence in Afghanistan.

Critics of this policy argue that there's more to development in Afghanistan than Kunduz - the northern province where German soldiers are currently operating. And, does tying development to military operations make for good policy?

And while we're speaking of things military, I should perhaps wrap up by pointing out that hat.

Mr Niebel served as a paratrooper in the German Army and obviously likes wearing his old hat when on official trips. Hats come in all shapes and sizes. I won't dwell on the pros and cons of what some might say is gung-ho attire (Heavens, journalists are certainly prone to kitting themselves out with a dash of military-style gear!). However, I do hope that someone in the new super-development agency in Germany will come up with some sort of hat for staff, and their superiors, to wear in sunny climates. 


Thomas Imo -

(Photo credits: Thomas Imo -


  • Ian Sullivan on 29th March 2010:

    Delivery of aid is certainly as important as the amount that a country gives. This article presents a worrying picture of where the German government is at. Working with German companies could easily mean that most of German aid commitments end up back in Germany….

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