German Minister Picked to Head UN Development Conference | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 17.04.2008
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German Minister Picked to Head UN Development Conference

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has chosen Germany's Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul as a special envoy for an upcoming conference on financing development aid.

workers carry flour bags at a United Nations food aid distribution center

According to the UN, the global food crisishas reached emergency proportions

Social Democrat Wieczorek-Zeul has long made a name for herself as an advocate for the world's poorest countries. As the longest serving member of Germany's government, who has been in office since 1998, she is now taking on an honorary job for the United Nations.

As the UN's special envoy, Wieczorek-Zeul -- together with South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel -- is organizing the International Conference on Financing for Development, which will take place in Doha, Qatar, from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2.

The meeting is expected to focus on taking stock of current development cooperation and come up with binding assurances for the future, Wieczorek-Zeul said. As part of her new role, she'll also be responsible for helping to make the UN's millennium goals a reality. The goals include the reduction of debt of developing country, lifting trade restrictions and strengthening the financial power of poorer countries.

Red and reliable

Wieczorek-Zeul gesturing at a press conference

Wieczorek-Zeul wants to make sure that developing countries get a chance

Wieczorek-Zeul, also known as "red Heidi" because of her leftist views and the color of her hair, said that her nomination was a confirmation of "the high level of trust in the federal government and the reliability of German politics" at the United Nations.

By picking Wieczorek-Zeul and Manuel, the UN secretary general chose a representative from an industrialized and a developing country. The Doha conference is a follow-up meeting to another summit that took place in Monterrey, Mexico, 2002.

In light of the global food shortage, Wieczorek-Zeul called for an increased support for regional agriculture in developing countries.

"We think there's a lot of work to be done," she told German daily Neue Presse, adding that combating hunger and poverty was the most important thing for her.

Bad subsidies

The minister is also working towards ending export subsidies for agricultural products. She said that this was something that had to be achieved as fast as possible during negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO). Sending subsidized food to developing countries was preventing local production and therefore had to stop, she said.

Wieczorek-Zeul also reiterated her promise to offer 10 million euros ($15.8 million) to the UN's world food program. She said, however, that this could not happen by cutting money from other areas of development aid.

Budget battles

Peer Streinbrueck

Peer Streinbrueck expects budget cuts from several ministries

"This clearly means that development aid funds will have to rise," said the minister, who is currently fighting with Germany's Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck over the coming budget.

Steinbrueck, who is also a Social Democrat, recently provoked a rift within the government by telling several ministries that they had to lower their budget plans.

Wieczorek-Zeul is banking on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who heads the conservative Christian Democratic Union. She said that her ministry simply wants to implement the promises which the chancellor made at last year's G8 summit.

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