Policy Updates

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Criticizing current blockage of UN Security Council and calling for establishment of new 'World Crisis Council', German development minister says pandemic is "wake-up call" for international cooperation

German Development Minister Gerd Müller has criticized the impending failure of a drafted UN resolution on a global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It would be a fatal signal that the UN Security Council is blocked in the middle of the greatest economic and food crisis in recent decades, he said. While for him, the COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call for increased international cooperation, “the wake-up call is not heard by everyone", he said.

The United States blocked a procedure that would have cleared the way for a vote on the UN resolution draft. While the US did not explain its rejection, the blockade could be the result of US President Donald Trump’s negative stance towards the WHO. According to the resolution draft, the WHO should be given a central role in the fight against the pandemic. 

Against this background, Müller repeatedly called for the establishment of a World Crisis Council, responsible for coordinating international organizations and located within the UN Secretary-General. "The global community could react much more specifically and quickly to current developments in the pandemic, such as curbing new infections, combating the hunger and economic crisis, or curbing the already increasing terror and violence," he said.

News article – Tagesschau (in German)

German NGOs call for regulated COVID-19 vaccine distribution to ensure equitable access

Speaking in advance of the May 4 Corona Global Response Pledging Conference, the director of German NGO 'ONE', Stephan Exo-Kreischer, stated that Germany should join a "patent pool" which would allow pharmaceutical manufactures to produce large quantities of COVID-19 drugs and vaccines at an affordable price.

In the past, he said, it has often taken close to a decade for low-income countries to gain access to newly developed vaccines and medicines. This would render an effective response to the pandemic impossible. 

The NGO Medico International similarly called for binding rules for the vaccine’s distribution. Anne Jung, a global health advisor at Medico International said, “It requires transparent and legally binding procedures that prevent a vaccine from being developed with public funds, but which is ultimately patented.”

Prior to the Pledging Conference German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President of the European Council Charles Michel, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, France’s President Emmanuel Macron, Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had jointly stated that a future COVID-19 vaccine would be a "unique global public good of the 21st century” and that they were committed to making it "available, accessible and affordable to all”.

News article – Die Welt (in German)

News article – Life PR (in German)

Leaders of EU, Germany, Norway, France co-author op-ed on COVID-19 funding mobilization

In a joint open editorial published in the French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, EU Commission President Ursula Von der Layen, EU Council President Charles Michel, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Soblong, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a call to action to mobilize US$8 billion for vaccines, tests, and treatments for COVID-19.

Signatories of this open editorial reiterated the need for multilateral action and called upon governments (notably those of G20 countries), the private sector, and philanthropists to fill the gap in funding the global pandemic response.

The initiative sought to mobilize donors a few days before the May 4, 2020, virtual pledging event to mobilize funding for the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) initiative. ACT was launched on April 24 under the leadership of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Op-ed - Le Journal du Dimanche (in French)

Germany's new ‘BMZ 2030’ strategy prioritizes interest-driven geopolitics, leaving behind most vulenerable, say German NGOs

German NGOs have criticized German Development Minister Gerd Müller’s newly introduced ‘BMZ 2030’ strategy, stating that it would leave behind the most vulnerable. Part of the strategy is a reduction of Germany’s partner countries from around 85 to 60, thereby linking bilateral cooperation to a country’s willingness for reforms in the field of human rights, good governance, and fighting corruption.

The German development umbrella organization Venro, among others, criticized the planned focus on partner countries already performing well. According to Venro’s Chairmen Bernd Bornhorst, the strategy “must in no case lead to losing sight of the countries and people who particularly depend on support”. Similarly, the development organization ONE criticized the fact that the strategy would end bilateral cooperation with countries most affected by poverty.

Critical remarks also came from the opposition party, the Greens. Uwe Kekeritz, the Greens’ spokesperson on development cooperation, referred to the reform as mainly influenced by interest-driven geopolitics. “The new list of countries makes it clear that one of the main concerns of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is migration control and border security in Africa”, he said.

Minister Müller defended the reform, stating that while the ‘BMZ 2030’ strategy would encompass strict criteria for bilateral cooperation, Germany would not withdraw from emergency assistance, which would be continued parallel to its bilateral cooperation.

News article – Tagesschau (in German)

 

News article – Deutschlandfunk Kultur (in German)

 

Press release – The Greens (in German)

 

Press release – Epo (in German)

With new ‘BMZ 2030’ strategy, Germany ends bilateral cooperation with a third of partner countries; will transition toward multilateral and civil society support

German Development Minister Gerd Müller presented a new strategy for German development cooperation which significantly reduces the number of of Germany’s bilateral partner countries. The so-called ‘BMZ 2030’ strategy represents the most fundamental reform in 12 years. Currently, Germany cooperates with around 85 countries, providing direct bilateral funding through the German development agency, GIZ, and the KfW development bank. With the new strategy, Germany would withdraw from a third of these partnerships. Future development cooperation would be concentrated on fewer countries that would be willing to “implement targeted reforms regarding good governance, human rights protection and fighting corruption, with our support," Müller said.

According to the FAZ, Burma, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Liberia, Cuba, Haiti, and Guatemala, are among those countries whose bilarteral cooperation realtionships would be severed. Müller emphasized, however, that in those countries no longer directly receiving bilateral support, the development ministry would work to strengthen the engagement of multilateral institutions as well as churches, civil society, and private sector investment.

Additionally, Germany would continue to provide support in emergency and crisis regions. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Germany would also continue all its direct bilateral cooperation with countries in the health sector.

The strategy also includes new substantive focuses, including climate protection, sustainable supply chains, digitalization as well as all-encompassing health and family policies. 

Press release – BMZ (in German)

News article – Deutsche Welle (in German)

German Development Minister calls for European ‘Green Deal’ for African continent

German Development Minister Gerd Müller has called on the EU to take a pioneering role in the fight against climate change and expand its so-called ‘Green Deal’ to the African continent where 600 million people currently live without access to electricity. The expansion of renewable energy in Africa "away from coal towards clean future technologies such as 'green' hydrogen and synthetic fuels” would be pivotal in the fight against climate change, according to Müller. A comprehensive innovation and investment package would be needed, he said, and he expressed hope that Germany would be able to align the EU budget for the coming years with such future investments during its upcoming EU Council Presidency.

Together with the African Development Bank, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development will further launch a market entry program for renewable energies this year, he said. Müller emphasized that “we have to make globalization fair and find a new way of dealing with each other and with nature."

News article – Der Spiegel (in German)

NGO 'ONE' calls for Global Pandemic Response Plan featuring leading role for Germany

The German NGO ONE has called for a Global Pandemic Response plan with a leading role for Germany. Fragile health systems, insufficient hygienic conditions, and the lack of economic means to mitigate the crisis mean the pandemic to hit the least developed countries hardest. ONE has suggested a response plan consisting of the following pillars:

  1. Protection for the weakest: Everyone must have access to treatment and vaccination as soon as it is available. Germany should take the lead within the international community in mobilizing US$8 billion in funding for research and development (R&D) and ensuring fair access to a COVID-19 vaccine, once available. Germany should further increase its funding to Gavi by €100 million (US$110 million) to a total of €700 million (US$773 million);
  2. Economic support for those who are hit particularly hard: Germany should contribute to an economic emergency package of US$100 billion, as requested by African countries, and promote a debt cut for IDA-countries for 2020 and 2021;
  3. Strengthening health systems to be prepared for the next pandemic: Germany should increase its funding of health systems, lead the introduction of a new Global Fund for the prevention and containment of future pandemics, and strengthen the German Epidemic Preparedness Team (SEEG); and
  4. Justice and equal opportunities around the world: When the world comes out of the crisis, there should be a global conference the size of Bretton Woods to rethink globalization and establish a global architecture able to efficiently respond to climate change, pandemics, gender equality, and economic inequality.

Report – ONE (in German)

World Bank will provide up to US$196 million to IDA member countries through Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility

The World Bank announced the activation of the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF) insurance window for member countries of the International Development Associations (IDA) on April 17, 2020. All criteria for activation including outbreak size, spread, and growth were met by the current COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to the struggle to mobilize funds for the 2014 Ebola crisis, the World Bank launched PEF to provide additional financing to countries facing cross-border, large-scale outbreaks. The PEF fund has two components: a 'cash window' to provide fast financial support to countries in need, and an 'insurance window' for eligible countries to buy protection against worst-case scenarios, with premiums being paid for by the donor countries of Japan, Australia, and Germany.

As well as meeting the criteria for outbreak size, spread, and growth, two additional criteria need to be met for a country to be covered by the insurance window for COVID-19:

  1. A period of 12 weeks (84 days) from the start of a non-flu outbreak. In the case of the COVID-19 outbreak, this period ended on March 23, 2020.
  2. After the 12-week period, a positive exponential growth rate in IDA/International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) countries as calculated by a third-party calculation agent.

The PEF bonds and swaps are expected to contribute US$196 million to the PEF insurance window. The PEF Steering Body - consisting of Australia, Germany, Japan, WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank, and two IDA eligible countries (currently Haiti and Liberia) - will meet to determine how the PEF bonds and swaps will be allocated to IDA countries.

Press release – World Bank

German Development Minister requests additional US$3.3 billion for COVID-19 response package with focus on food and job security, crisis region stabilization

On April 22, 2020, German Development Minister Gerd Müller presented a COVID-19 response package, requesting an additional €3 billion (US$3.3 billion) from Germany’s supplementary budget to strengthen global health infrastructure and to provide emergency assistance to crisis regions. The additional funding has not yet been approved. As part of the package, Müller additionally intends to redistribute a total of €1.2 billion (US$1.3 billion) in his budget.

With an additional €800 million (US$883.1 million) for "health and pandemic control" (of which €200 million would be repurposed from internal BMZ finance and €600 million would be requested as additional allocations), the response package focuses on food security, stabilization of crisis regions, job security for companies in the textile and tourism sector, efforts to ensure states' liquidity, and grants to UN organizations and Gavi, the vaccine alliance.

To make the refunding of €1.15 billion possible, Müller plans to repurpose 10% of funds within existing bilateral country portfolios to COIVD-19 response measures. Educational organizations such as Oxfam expressed concerns, however, that the repurposing could lead to cuts to their funding in the middle of the crisis.

Müller further announced the revision of the BMZ’s original plan to shift bilateral health funding to multilateral channels in the medium-term. Instead, immediate measures such as diagnostics and laboratory equipment are now being implemented in several countries. Müller’s original plan to restructure bilateral into multilateral funding had been strongly criticized by development assistance organizations, the private sector, and even the Ministry’s development agency, GIZ, protesting that direct bilateral development assistance would be indispensable for countries with weak health systems.

News article – Süddeutsche Zeitung (a) (in German)

News article – Süddeutsche Zeitung (b) (in German)

Spain and Germany join efforts for multilateral COVID-19 response

The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Arancha González Laya, and the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas, held a teleconference meeting aimed at strengthening the collaboration between the two countries for addressing the COVID-19 crisis. Both Ministers reviewed potential economic and financial measures to counterbalance the effects of the pandemic and reiterated the importance of EU solidarity in effectively approaching the crisis. 

The two ministers also highlighted the importance of strengthening multilateralism and supporting low- and middle-income countries in Latin America, Africa, and other regions, to effectively address the health and economic repercussions of the pandemic. 

Press release – MAEUEC

German Development Minister to present new COVID-19 response package, requests additional funding from supplementary budget

On April 22, 2020, German Development Minister Gerd Müller will present a COVID-19 response package to the German parliament’s Committee on Economic Cooperation and Development, which would require additional funding through the supplementary budget for 2020. So far, Germany has provided €1 billion (US$1.1 billion) repurposed from the development budget for laboratory capacities, vaccination campaigns, and food assistance. According to Müller, however, “that will not be enough to stabilize the regions with high numbers of refugees, the Sahel region, and other collapsing states."

Müller called on the EU to support African and Middle Eastern countries with an additional €50 billion (US$55.2 billion) in stabilization loans and emergency assistance, saying that the EU must "extend the protective shield to our neighboring regions in Africa and the crisis region around Syria.”

The European Investment Bank could launch economic loans, he said. According to Müller, such an immediate emergency assistance program could be financed through drawing from the €280 billion (US$309.1 billion) of the EU’s budget not yet spent. Müller further suggested implementing a financial transaction tax on highly speculative finance products to cover the costs of the pandemic.

News article – Morgenpost (in German)

Germany's Müller announces increase in WHO funding, says its capacity and funding mechanisms must be broadened

German Development Minister Gerd Müller has called to expand the World Health Organization (WHO) to a global pandemic center to be better prepared for future pandemics. As the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to be followed by other pandemics in the future, the WHO would be key in future global coordination of disease monitoring as well as vaccine research and deployment, he said. To this end, Müller further announced a German increase in WHO funding. The international community must start thinking about reforming WHO funding, he said, making it more state- and less privately funded.

Müller further underlined his concerns about potential COVID-19 consequences beyond a health crisis on the African continent – such as the potential for riots, famine, and, in certain regions, even the collapse of state structures. With many national health systems lacking sufficient intensive care units, many African countries would be at risk for hundreds of thousands of deaths, he said. At the same time, Müller expressed hope that the continent’s average age of 20-25 and the warmer climate conditions could help to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on African infrastructure.

News article – DPA (in German)

News article – Deutschlandfunk (in German)

News article – Reuters (in German)

24 foreign affairs ministers launch joint call for multilateral action on COVID-19

In a joint declaration, 24 ministers of Foreign Affairs from 24 countries, including France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Canada, Sweden, Mexico, Ethiopia, the Netherlands, and Norway launched a 'wake-up call for multilateralism' to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

The signatories of this declaration are members of the Alliance for Multilateralism, an initiative founded by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian. This 'supra-regional network of like-minded states' aims to promote and support the values of the UN and to strengthen international cooperation. Member Ministers emphasized the need for further international cooperation instead of national retrenchment, considering the global dimension of the threat and urging governments to adopt a "co-operative, transparent, science-based and coordinated global response" to the pandemic.

Signatories committed to providing resources in support of the WHO’s COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan; the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation (CEPI); Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; UNITAID; and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, in order to assist the most impacted countries. They have called for other governments, philanthropic organizations, and the private sector to do the same.

Press release - French Ministry of Foreign Affairs

24 foreign affairs ministers launch joint call for multilateral action on COVID-19

In a joint declaration, 24 ministers of Foreign Affairs from 24 countries, including France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Canada, Sweden, Mexico, Ethiopia, the Netherlands, and Norway launched a 'wake-up call for multilateralism' to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

The signatories of this declaration are members of the Alliance for Multilateralism, an initiative founded by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian. This 'supra-regional network of like-minded states' aims to promote and support the values of the UN and to strengthen international cooperation. Member Ministers emphasized the need for further international cooperation instead of national retrenchment, considering the global dimension of the threat and urging governments to adopt a "co-operative, transparent, science-based and coordinated global response" to the pandemic.

Signatories committed to providing resources in support of the WHO’s COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan; the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation (CEPI); Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; UNITAID; and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, in order to assist the most impacted countries. They have called for other governments, philanthropic organizations, and the private sector to do the same.

Press release - French Ministry of Foreign Affairs

European and African leaders call for international support for Africa’s pandemic response

European and African world leaders co-signed an op-ed in the Financial Times arguing for a debt moratorium and health and economic assistance to support African countries’ response to the COVID-19 crisis. Leaders called for governments, multilateral institutions, businesses, foundations, and NGOs to join forces to boost Africa’s emergency health response and to provide economic stimulus and humanitarian assistance through existing institutions like the Global Fund, Gavi, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization. 
 
The opinion piece, titled 'Only Victory in Africa can end the pandemic everywhere', was signed by 18 world leaders. EU signatories included European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, President of France Emmanuel Macron,  and the prime ministers of the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. 
 
Opinion article - Financial Times

 

European and African leaders call for international support for Africa’s pandemic response

European and African world leaders co-signed an op-ed in the Financial Times arguing for a debt moratorium and health and economic assistance to support African countries’ response to the COVID-19 crisis. Leaders called for governments, multilateral institutions, businesses, foundations, and NGOs to join forces to boost Africa’s emergency health response and to provide economic stimulus and humanitarian assistance through existing institutions like the Global Fund, Gavi, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization. 
 
The opinion piece, titled 'Only Victory in Africa can end the pandemic everywhere', was signed by 18 world leaders. EU signatories included European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, President of France Emmanuel Macron,  and the prime ministers of the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. 
 
Opinion article - Financial Times

EU's COVID-19 funds are insufficient, lack targeted instrument for low-income countries, says German Development Minister

German Development Minister Gerd Müller has called on the EU to increase its development budget to support low-income countries in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

The EU Commission plans to provide €15 billion (US$16.6 billion) in the form of grants, loans, and guarantees to low-income countries severely affected by COVID-19. However, as stated by EU High Representative Joseph Borrell, these funds had already been earmarked for development assistance and will now be restructured to fight COVID-19. The €15 billion will be made up of €6 billion (US$6.7 billion) from the EU Commission's development budget, €4 billion (US$4.4 billion) from the neighborhood aid budget and €5 billion (US$ 5.5 billion) from a European Investment Bank program.

In light of COVID-19’s far-reaching consequences for low-income countries, Müller considers these funds insufficient: “Additional money is needed," he said. "It will not work to just refinance funds from one budget line to another." To this end, Müller asked the EU to add an instrument specifically targetting low-income countries, particularly those on the African continent, to the COVID-19 Marshall Plan.

News article – Tagesschau (in German)

News article – Deutsche Welle (in German)

German Greens call on government to provide additional US$2.2 billion in development assistance

In a position paper, Katrin Göring-Eckardt and Anton Hofreiter, chairpersons of Bündnis90/ the Greens, called on the German government to provide at least €2 billion (US$2.2 billion) in additional funding for development cooperation and humanitarian assistance. They gave their support for debt cuts to low-income countries and a rededication of repayments for health care measures. They further demanded the lifting of tariffs for medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and similar goods that are essential in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Greens, Germany should also substantially increase its payments to the World Health Organizatuon (WHO), which should further become a permanent member of the G20. The party also called on the UN to classify the COVID-19 pandemic as a "threat to humanity and world peace” and to establish a COVID-19 task force to support countries with weak health systems.

Emphasizing the pivotal role of women in fighting COVID-19, the party further suggested a feminist approach to international politics to respond to the special risk of women and other marginalized groups amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the party called on the German government to advocate for immediate worldwide ceasefires and a rapid resumption of refugee resettlement programs by UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). 

News article – Der Spiegel (in German)

Intended focuses of Germany’s EU Council Presidency will be tabled in favor of comprehensive COVID-19 response, says German EU Ambassador Clauß

Germany's Ambassador to the EU, Michael Clauß, has warned of significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the German EU Council presidency, which is due to start on July 1, 2020.

In a letter to the German chancellery and several ministries, Clauß acknowledged that the presidency's intended focuses, such as the fight against climate change, would be overshadowed by COVID-19 related issues and that Germany’s previous program would need to be completely redesigned. “The focus will be on European institutions’ ability to act, on crisis management, […] and on reconstruction – maybe even maintaining the EU integration itself,” he said. 

Germany’s performance, Clauß said, would be evaluated against the backdrop of its COVID-19 management. He further emphasized that the EU legislative process would slow down considerably as EU premises do not offer the technical equipment needed to operate effectively. With room capacities are limited, the envisaged number of meetings during the German Council Presidency will drop significantly. According to Clauß, the expected capacity bottlenecks would make inevitable the prioritization and reduction of focal topics, at least for the beginning of Germany’s presidency.

News article – Der Spiegel (in German)

German Development Minister denounces 'unbearable conditions' in Lesbos refugee camp amid COVID-19 outbreak, calls for imediate EU action

German Development Minister Gerd Müller has called on the EU to restructure the refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece and evacuate children to prevent a COVID-19 disaster. Calling on the EU to act immediately, Müller emphasized that the EU's current plan to evacuate only 1,600 children would still leave many in harm's way. The EU should restructure the camp in smaller units, Müller said, to live up to UNHCR standards. “Hopefully, Brussels won't wait until disaster strikes”, he said.

Müller, who visited the camp in person, views the situation as unbearable, with 20,000 people living in a camp sanctioned for 3000 people. He further pointed to the situation of refugees in Syria’s neighboring countries, where hardly any medical help is available. “Lebanon, which has taken in 1.5 million Syrian refugees, is facing bankruptcy," he said, "For fear of stigmatization, many people do not dare to go to the hospitals, which are already overworked, and measures such as keeping their distance or washing their hands are simply not possible for millions of people in overcrowded refugee camps without water supply.”