Germany allocated roughly €1.8 billion for foreign aid projects in 2017 alone, making the country the world's second-largest donor. An upcoming government report outlines the scope of Germany's humanitarian spending.
The need for humanitarian assistance is on the rise, according to a German government report on foreign aid from 2014 to 2017 that Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet aims to finalize on Wednesday.
Germany supported UN and Red Cross aid organizations with almost €4 billion from 2014 to 2017, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) newspaper. In 2017 alone, Germany allocated €1.8 billion for humanitarian projects.
But those large figures are no reason to celebrate, according to Bernd Bornhorst, CEO at the VENRO umbrella organization of development and humanitarian aid nongovernmental organizations in Germany. The increased funds show the government's great commitment to humanitarian development, but they also show "the rising need for aid in a world that confronts us with an increase in disasters," he told DW.
'Expenditures and commitments'
Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, has steadily made more funds available. The country more than tripled its humanitarian aid from 2010 to 2013 compared with the previous period, the FAZ reported, quoting the government report. The focus, the paper added, was on the war in Syria and hunger in Africa.
Spending rose sharply in 2016 and 2017 during the mass flight from Syria. The government made €416 million available in 2014, a sum that had more than quadrupled by 2017.
"We consistently urge the German government to ensure that expenditures and commitments are maintained," Bornhorst said. Donor conferences are set up relatively quickly and funds are made available in crises that feature prominently in the media, he explained, but there are "many small, forgotten and yet horrific disasters" that miss out on aid funds.
The German government has apparently come to the same conclusion. According to the report, two trends have determined humanitarian aid in recent years. On the one hand, the gap between growing demand and available aid has widened. On the other hand, the nature and extent of natural disasters and armed conflicts have worsened. "Humanitarian emergencies now drag on for years or even decades," Bornhorst said.
Experts warn that bilateral humanitarian support is no cure-all with regard to serious crises such as Syria's civil war and the ongoing problems in African countries. Those cases illustrate the limits of humanitarian aid, Bornhorst argued, adding that the lack of political solutions is the real problem. "Humanitarian aid must not be allowed to become a crutch for lacking political solutions," he said, stressing that that political action is needed, which is where foreign policy comes in.
With an eye on terrorism and internal conflict in many countries, and the refugees those crises create, the German government sees humanitarian aid as a way to ensure security and stability at home. A stable world economy is crucial for Germany, an exporting nation. So Germany stands to benefit, too, when crises are prevented abroad.