Dare more progress?: What Germany's ‘traffic light’ coalition signals for development cooperation in the years ahead

After two months of talks, on November 24, 2021, the Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens, and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) agreed to form a so-called ‘traffic light coalition’ (a reference to the parties’ traditional colors) and presented their coalition treaty under the title ‘Dare more progress – Alliance for freedom, justice, and sustainability’. The agreement marks an important step towards forming a government and paves the way for the SPD’s Olaf Scholz – the Minister of Finance and Vice-Chancellor in Angela Merkel’s last Cabinet – to replace Merkel as next Chancellor. His term will commence on December 6, 2021. While the Cabinet make-up has not yet been revealed, it has been determined that:

  • The Development Minister and Health Minister will be Social Democrats;
  • The next Finance Minister and the Minister for Research will be Liberals; and
  • The next Foreign Minister will be a member of the Green Party. 

Since the start of the coalition talks, the SPD, Greens, and FDP have made an effort to appear harmonious and optimistic about forming an alliance of equals, emphasizing their shared commitment to making “Germany better”. But what of that spirit made it into the coalition treaty? And what does it mean for Germany’s role in global development?

ODA  

Like the outgoing government, the new coalition commits to an ODA quota of at least 0.7% of Germany’s gross national income (GNI) and of that, plans to channel 0.2% of the country’s GNI to the world’s poorest countries (countries on the UN’s list of ‘Least Developed Countries’). Overall the new government plans to spend 3% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on international action, including diplomacy, development policy, and Germany’s commitments to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). ODA funds will be part of this spending.

The treaty suggests that Germany will increase its international climate finance. Most expect this to be additional to ODA, meaning that trade-offs with other areas of ODA spending are not likely. KfW, Germany’s development bank, will act more strongly as an innovation and investment agency, especially in the field of climate financing. The treaty also commits to increasing spending on crisis prevention, humanitarian aid, cultural relations, education policy, and development cooperation on a one-to-one scale with increases to defense funding, based on the 2021 budget.

From now on, ODA funds will be evaluated and coordinated more closely at the federal level among relevant ministries to increase their effectiveness. As in other budget areas, the ministries will need to introduce clearly defined and measurable indicators to improve evaluation and impact assessment. Some of the Development Ministry’s (BMZ’s) current budget structure is set to be reviewed.

Global Health and Research and Development

The new government will strengthen the global health architecture under the ‘One Health’ approach (a multidisciplinary and integrated approach to disease control), with a particular focus on the World Health Organization (WHO). The treaty highlights global health topics such as poverty-related and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs); water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); and the Global Immunization Alliance.

COVID-19 will remain a government priority in the years ahead. Germany will provide ongoing support and further strengthen COVAX, the COVID-19 global vaccination campaign, both financially and through rapid dose sharing. The new government also plans to support voluntary production partnerships and transfer of know-how to expand vaccine and medicine production capacities worldwide. To increase Germany’s preparedness for future pandemics, an interdisciplinary scientific pandemic council is to be set up at the Federal Ministry of Health to provide the government with scientific advice.

The new government woud like to turn Germany into an international leading hub for biotechnology. In support of this, government expenditure on research and development (R&D) is set to rise to 3.5% from 3.2%of GDP by 2025. New, daring research ideas in future areas such as preventive, crisis-proof, and modern health care systems that combat age-related diseases as well as rare and poverty-related diseases, will be taken into consideration. Germany’s future R&D policy will aim to bring together research on future technologies, more strongly integrate perspectives from civil society, and strengthen Open Access and Open Science.

Gender equality

Gender equality will be a priority of the new government. Most excitingly, Germany’s future foreign policy will promote more gender equality and social diversity in the spirit of a feminist foreign policy. As part of their development policy, they have committed to producing a comprehensive gender action plan, in collaboration with civil society, to strengthen the rights, representation, and resources for women, girls, and marginalized groups such as LGBTI*. The new government will continue to champion sexual and reproductive health and rights and unrestricted access to healthcare for women and girls.

Education

Equal access to education will be on their agenda. The treaty suggests they will increase Germany’s support for basic education, dual training, and further education, particularly by enabling equitable access to and participation in it through digital technologies.

Agriculture

Food security and access to clean drinking water through sustainable agroecological approaches, as well as knowledge and technology transfer, especially in the field of smallholder agriculture, will be among the new government’s development priorities. In line with its strong focus on climate change, Germany will support the breeding of climate-resistant plant varieties and fulfill its pledges for Germany's share of the US$100 billion in international climate finance as part of a coherent external climate policy.

Multilateralism

Germany’s multilateral engagement (e.g., during Germany’s upcoming G7 presidency) will be strengthened under the new government. The United Nations are considered the most important institution for stable international order and will be supported politically, financially and personally by the new government. To support partner countries in the fight against poverty, an international financing instrument (Global Fund for Social Protection) will be supported to build up social protection systems. However, support for specific multilaterals, such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), are not explicitly mentioned in the coalition treaty, although Germany has been a strong partner to them in recent years. The African continent remains to be a close partner for Germany, on a bilateral level and as part of the G20 Compact with Africa.

What will happen next?

If the parties’ decision-making bodies sign off on the agreement, the three-way alliance — a constellation which to date has never been in power at the national level — will replace the current ‘Grand Coalition’, which includes the country’s traditional popular parties (CDU/CSU and SPD). For this to happen, the coalition deal requires approval from a ballot of the Greens’ membership and conventions of the other two parties. The three future governing parties have said they hope parliament will elect Scholz as chancellor in the week of December 6, just in time for the next European Union leaders’ summit which will be held on December 16-17. After Parliament has elected Olaf Scholz as chancellor, the Committees will be set up. The Committees are expected to form in January 2022, although no concrete timeline has been announced.