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The newly structured German development agency half a year on

The merger of three German development organizations into a single agency is hoped to increase efficiency and promote synergy. But how has this played out, half a year later?

GIZ logo

GIZ is the new German development agency

The merger of three German development organizations into a single agency is hoped to increase efficiency and promote synergy. But how has this played out, half a year later? German companies and partners in developing countries should see benefits, although it may be too early to assess the merger's success.

German Development Minister Dirk Niebel said that merging the three formerly separate organizations, the German association for technical cooperation (GTZ), the German Development Service (DED) and the education agency "Inwent," makes for more efficient structures.

The new agency, the German Society for International Development, better known by its German acronym GIZ, is supposed to benefit from cross-stimulation among the organizations it has brought together.

But it's also been experiencing growing pains. The agency's strengths and potential have not been fully attained, said MP Ute Koczy, Green Party spokesperson for development policy. For example, the question of gender equity was not addressed, as all seven leadership positions in the agency are filled by men, Koczy pointed out.

Critics add that the individual organizations could lose their own profiles, developed over years, and that longstanding, successful projects could lose their funding.

Hans-Jürgen Beerfeltz,

'GIZ is an export hit,' says chairman Hans-Jürgen Beerfeltz

Hans-Jürgen Beerfeltz, secretary of the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, and chairman of the GIZ board, called the new agency a showcase for the country. The idea is to make it easier for partners in developing countries, by having them now interact with a single agency for their development needs.

More public-private partnerships

Beerfeltz emphasized the agency's desire to increase cooperation with the private sector, as well as with civil society.

GIZ cooperation with the private sector involves both local companies in partner countries, as well as German enterprises. Through public-private partnerships, German companies may play a bigger role in German efforts to boost progress in developing countries and emerging economies.

Cooperation between state-run organizations and the private sector were already promoted under the former social democratic cooperation minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul.

German development minister Dirk Niebel with young people in Daressalam

Germany's development minister, Dirk Niebel, supports GIZ's new focus

The current development minister, Dirk Niebel – who is a liberal democrat – wants to extend the program considerably. Fanning out from his agency are 30 so-called scouts, who are currently assessing further possibilities to extend cooperation and develop more contacts in the private sector.

GIZ Board Spokesman Bernd Eisenblätter supports this policy. Taking stock of the first six months of GIZ's operation, he said that the issues the agency deals with – along with its footprint – are changing, with an increased emphasis on promoting growth in emerging economies. "We want to benefit from our good reputation in countries like India, China and Brazil to get contracts," he said. These efforts are already showing some success.

But Koczy asserted that economic power alone cannot solve the problems pressing upon developing countries. "Good development cooperation must work on hunger, poverty, and climate change, including social and ecological standards and human rights. One can't achieve global justice through economics alone," she told the Deutsche Welle.

Of course, private companies have their own interests and priorities, which are not necessarily the same as development goals, critics point out.

Education efforts in Afghanistan

The GIZ employs some 17,000 staff members in 130 countries. And it plans to further extend its education projects – such as German development activities in Afghanistan. Here, the GIZ for instance supports administrators in the town of Masar-i-Sharif, which will shortly be taken over by local experts.

School in Afghanistan

GIZ supports education and teacher training programs in many countries.

Almost 2,000 Afghan students recently received teacher training at a new campus. The agency was also instrumental in educating some 440 teachers in Masar-i-Sharif, and provides additional training to 1,000 other teachers in five different training centers across the country.

"They all pass on their knowledge to curious students, thus building up the future of their country," Eisenblätter said.

Training up-and-coming leaders

Enhancing good governance and leadership also play a major role for the GIZ. The education programs are set to train future leaders in partner countries, who can then act as intercultural mediators.

The agency also trains experts – both development workers and European businesspeople – to prepare them for their work abroad.

"And there are also programs for young Germans who want to pick up international know-how abroad," Eigenblätter said, referring to a German program called "Weltwärts," or world-ward. The scheme is aimed at Germans aged 18 to 28, who can volunteer to work in a developing country for up to two years.

Future growth

For the GIZ, two-thirds of the budget of some 1.85 million euros comes from the Development Ministry. The rest is proffered up by other German ministries, as well as EU and UN organizations, and the World Bank.

If the state-run German development organization's hopes come true, it will soon grow to having a turnover of 2 billion euros per year.

But whether the new agency attains its goals remains to be seen. "The agency has noted some of its problems, and is working on them," Koczy said.

"It's still a little too early to judge."

Author: Marcel Fürstenau/ Sonya Angelica Diehn

Editor: Anke Rasper

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