Aid for refugees, climate protection, fighting poverty – the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) has invested record amounts in development projects worldwide. Yet, not everyone is pleased.
More than two billion euros: That is the sum that the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) invested last year. A record amount, said the group's chairwoman, Tanja Gönner, in Berlin on Tuesday. At a press conference, she presented the GIZ's annual report on its worldwide development activities. The agency is mainly financed by the German government with the aim of helping people around the globe improve their living conditions.
According to Gönner, the GIZ has recently put its main focus on combating climate change. "One in three of our projects is in that field", Gönner said. The organization, for example, helped 30 countries change legislation in order to promote sustainable sources of energy. "Germany is seen as a role model with its Renewable Energy Act, many countries have adopted similar laws," she noted.
Employees and refugees
Helping refugees in regions of war and crisis is another priority for GIZ. The organization says that it has catered to more than six million refugees over the course of the last ten years. "We built all-weather shelters for 4,600 refugees in eastern Ukraine before the start of winter last year", said Gönner.
At the moment, the organization is setting up housing for 6,000 refugees who had to flee the "Islamic State" terrorist group in northern Iraq, some of them from the Yazidi minority. Moreover, GIZ says it is building schools and hospitals for 200.000 people in that region. The organization was also fighting causes for migration and flight with long-term projects, Gönner said. One of those is financing apprenticeships for 50,000 young men and women in Pakistan.
Yet, GIZ does not only want to help speed up development in poorer countries. With some of its projects, the organization also has German interests in mind. Gönner mentioned that her agency was facilitating the influx of skilled workers that Germany's labor market desperately needs. Last year, GIZ helped 500 trained nurses from Serbia, Tunisia, Vietnam and other countries to start a new life in Germany. Gönner also considers GIZ to be playing a role in fostering good relations with countries that Germany is dependent upon for the import of natural resources such as rare earths.
Made in Germany
Uwe Kekeritz, development spokesman for the Green Party in the German parliament, criticizes this approach. He says that development policy was turned on its head by putting German interests first. "I do not mind German companies also profiting from contracts in projects that serve the interest of local populations", he told DW. "But the current approach seems to work the other way round."
"Made in and made with Germany" was the unique characteristic of the GIZ's work, said Friedrich Kitschelt, chairman of GIZ's supervisory board. The organization was always focused on the demands of local project partners, he added. "Our partners value our broad, high quality service portfolio." GIZ is proud that not only the German government, but also clients from abroad are paying for its services. Last year, private and public institutions outside of Germany spent 152 million euros on GIZ projects.