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Development Under the Grand Coalition in Berlin

New constellation, old conflicts

"Germany as a responsible partner in Europe and the world" – such reads the headline of the chapter on foreign, security, European, development and human rights policy in the coalition agreement. The entire chapter contains neither spectacular nor – even worse – specific statements. This void is particularly obvious in the section on development policy. The influence exercised by the new CDU/CSU coalition partner on development policy can at best be discovered (if at all) by reading between the lines, observes Barbara Unmüßig.

According to Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (SPD), minister for economic co-operation and development in her third term, the coalition agreement provides a "good basis for continuing the successful development policy of the past years". After seven years of red-green development policy members of all political camps unanimously agree: development co-operation has never before been as political and publicly visible. The BMZ, the Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development, has learnt to intervene and make itself heard whenever the structural framework conditions for economic development of the South are on the agenda. The BMZ took a stand in the debate on trade policy, in the definition of social and ecological minimum standards for important traded products such as coffee, and even in crisis prevention. Wieczorek-Zeul will certainly continue this policy of involvement – and such a continuity would be highly desirable. Therefore, during her third term her performance will be measured above all against her ability to assert herself and to set new impulses for the ministry's activities.

* Continuity – and then?
The fact that this marginalised policy field has become more publicly visible cannot deceive us into believing that the claim to influence key economic and political framework conditions is nothing but rhetoric. In her first speech in the new parliament and prior to the WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong the minister had nothing more to say than to appeal in general terms to the "industrialised countries" to improve access to the markets for the developing countries. The actual decisions are still being made in the ministries of finance and economics, in Brussels, and by the global trade and finance institutions in Washington and Geneva.

Yesterday's conflicts of objectives will also be the future ones. Competitiveness as the key objective of the Lisbon strategy is a central element in the coalition agreement. However, this objective can contradict the support for the Millennium Development Goals, for ecological sustainability, the preservation of biological diversity or climate protection which are also specified in the coalition agreement. The agreement only contains the meagre promise of "new impulses and initiatives". It does not get more specific.

* 2006 budget as litmus test
The first litmus test for the ability of the minister to assert herself will be the upcoming budget negotiations for 2006 in the cabinet. While the coalition agreement contains a reference to the EU plan of an increase of aid to 0.7% of gross national income by 2015 (with the well-known phases of 0.33% by 2006 and 0.51% by 2010), this stated objective will be credible and achievable only if the new budget provides considerable additional funds. Previously applied arithmetics such as increasing the ODA quota by setting off any waiver of debts are dishonest.

Wieczorek-Zeul has long been known for her support of innovative financing instruments. However, the coalition agreement neither differentiates nor specifies any of them. No mentioning of the kerosene or the air-ticket tax which countries like Chile and France want to implement shortly, no mention of the interesting idea to convert EU agricultural subsidies into development funds. The Social Democratic minster of finance and the Christian Social minister of economics both made sure that none of these issues made their way into the coalition agreement.

* Weak profile of German DC
German development co-operation can best be described as unfocussed, be it the choice of countries, of topics, of instruments and the ratio of bi- and multilateral development cooperation. According to the coalition agreement bilateral development cooperation is supposed to “focus” on 60 partner countries. This reflects the influence of the coalition partner CDU/CSU and the disagreement between the partners. Will Germany stick to its concept of anchor countries and its necessary operationalisation? Should we continue to provide funds for development co-operation for emerging economic powers such as China and India? How should we handle the new regional powers? These are key questions and nowhere in the entire coalition agreement are answers to be found. The BMZ at least intends to create "strategic partnerships" with important newly industrialised countries. Why and what for? The coalition agreement remains silent.

* Roll-back?
The agreement demands a review of the ratio of bi- and multilateral co-operation. Here, too, a controversy between the new coalition partners is in the offing. Multilateral development co-operation is already limited to 30 % as per a resolution of the federal parliament – a limitation which led to major cuts in particular of UN funds since contractual obligations with the World Bank, the regional development banks and the various international funds have to be served first. This impedes a successful and consistent multilateral policy which should particularly strengthen the United Nations. The CDU/CSU has long been known to favour a return to a more bilaterally oriented development co-operation. This would mean a roll-back to traditional concepts of development co-operation which focus on bilateral project aid rather than providing budget and programme funds.

Moreover, no decision has been made to date whether development co-operation should become an even stronger instrument for promoting foreign trade or whether the MDGs should be achieved by providing more funds for key sectors such as basic education, healthcare, water supply, etc. The coalition negotiations have shown that in the future we once again will be faced with attempts to abuse development co-operation for promoting foreign trade.

* Homework
The bi- and multilateral donors promised again to improve their co-operation and create a meaningful division of labour to enhance the co-ordination of donor activities. This, too, is an old promise which the coalition agreement rehashes and which supposedly aims at improving the quality of development co-operation.

Germany should set a good example at home by furthering the reform of the German institutions involved in development co-operation. The policies of the various departments should be better integrated and made more coherent. It is high time for Germany to finally co-ordinate its fragmented UN policy on cabinet level. Budgets and instruments of conflict prevention and promotion of peace for example are scattered over several departments. Reviewing the tasks and streamlining the processes is overdue. Narrow (and occasionally even counterproductive and envious) thinking within department limits prevents strategic action on federal level – a weakness which intensifies at EU level and continues at multilateral level.

* Never-ending story of “legitimisation”
Development co-operation must legitimise itself again and again more so than other policy fields. But when is such legitimisation necessary and useful? And when does it cause more harm than good - for instance with unreasonable macro-economic requirements, infrastructure projects, support of interest-based economic structures, by undermining the responsibility of the governments for their own people? These questions will probably have to be answered by the critical public rather than by the actors themselves.
Institutions such as the World Bank, the EU, the bi- and multilateral development cooperation organisations undoubtedly need more public visibility and more transparency. After all the campaigns for more development aid surrounding the millennium development goals we once again need a fundamental debate on the objectives, effects and quality of development co-operation. Development policy must be challenged and newly legitimated mainly with a view to its economic, social and ecological impacts.

Barbara Unmüßig is member of the executive board and in this position responsible for the North-South department of Heinrich Böll Foundation.

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