Western countries must live up to their aid pledges, Germany's development minster told DW at an UN summit on helping developing countries struggling to cope with the global financial crisis.
Developing countries need aid more than ever as financial crisis worsens
Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Germany's representative at the four-day summit in Doha, told Deutsche Welle why the current round of talks is important and what she thinks can be achieved.
Deutsche Welle: There has been a lot of debate during this conference about how much importance the international community has given the conference. Can you sum up the aim of this conference in Doha in one sentence?
Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul: To contribute towards ensuring the world remains committed to combating poverty and hunger during the difficult economic and possible humanitarian crisis. And to sign off on, as I call it, a "global New Deal" for the 21st century.
Development Minister Wieczorek-Zeul is pushing for a Global New Deal to end poverty
What do you mean by a "global New Deal"?
Nowadays we know precisely that we can only act against crises in a global manner. It's my personal opinion that a so-called Global Council, as suggested by the former President of the EU Commission Jacques Delors, which would be made up of high-ranking representatives of every region and international financial organizations, should decide on economic and social matters.
This conference is also a follow-up to the 2002 UN conference in Monterey. With the benefit of hindsight, what would be different today if the Monterey conference had not taken place?
I think there wouldn't have been as much progress in the funding of the Millennium Goals. Since Monterey there has been an increase in resources available for cooperation in development work and there has been the promise of debt cancelation, which the international community has honored in two stages, most recently in connection with a multilateral agreement on debt cancelation, which was signed in Gleneagles.
The UN Millennium Goals aim to eradicate poverty by 2015
Yet many people, among them the secretary-general of the OECD, still claim that they don't expect many countries, if any, to meet the Millennium Goals.
He's referring there to past circumstance: in every previous crisis, development cooperation has been reduced. And he is saying that in this current phase, a reduction in cooperation would be the worst thing we could do, as it would detriment women, children and the weakest in society. He clearly emphasized that in such a global situation, it's also in the interests of industrialized nations to endure that developing and emerging countries do not fall into recession. Up until now, they were the growth drivers.
In a global world (a reduction in development cooperation --eds.) would be the worst thing we could do. I want to add that if the world is able to fund huge billion dollar recovery packages for financial markets, then it must be possible to find the smaller amounts necessary to save the world from poverty, hunger, unemployment and climate change.
One of the promises is that rich countries increase their level of development aid to 0.7 percent of GDP. Is Germany on course to achieve this goal by 2015?
Yes, the French President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed that on behalf of the entire European Union. That is also a concrete part of the coalition agreement between Germany ruling parties. That corresponds to what we've been talking about: It is in all our basic interest to ensure the world does not slip into a massive economic downturn.
It's not yet 2015, but the secretary of the UN General Assembly noted that the 0.7 percent promise actually dates from the 1970s.
Yes, but I believe it's now common knowledge that our predecessors in the 1970s made the mistake of not setting a definite timeline. In 2005, the European Union made great progress in setting the deadline we are now talking about; that is 0.51 percent by 2010 and 0.7 percent by 2015. Therefore this has set the precedence for others to emulate.