Assuming and living up to increased responsibility
Germany as a whole needs to commit to a greater extent to its increased international responsibility and assume and live up to it on the basis of our values, with citizens, companies and policy-makers taking a common line.
Our country is recognized around the world as a reliable partner which advocates a rule-based international order and bases its foreign, development and security policy on particular values. As a member of the European Union, the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and as a party to numerous key international treaties, Germany embodies the values of an open and liberal society and peaceful international cooperation through stable institutions. The nation’s activities over the last few decades have shown that, in a closely interlinked global society, the focus is never in the first instance on its own interests as a nation, but rather on finding common interests as the basis for creating a culture of international cooperation and the equitable reconciliation of interests worldwide. Germany is concerned with the interests of Europe as the great peace project, with respect for basic human rights, with freedom of opinion, and with developing peaceful, democratic structures.
Of course, the Federal Republic has its own interests too, but we try to raise them as a partner in multilateral processes. We never threaten anyone, but rather rely on the strength of reasoning and promote active solidarity between states, whether in the European Union, in our interaction with partners all over the world, in development cooperation, in climate protection work, or in the many armed conflicts of our time.
Public discourse in Germany is characterized by reflectiveness and high moral ambitions. This is something of which we can be proud. Germany is peaceful, but it needs to develop its capacity to act on a more comprehensive basis and also be prepared from an organizational perspective to assume greater responsibility if it is to promote its values. This involves walking the talk, making more responsible corporate investments, conducting fair diplomacy, raising the ambitions of its development cooperation activities, engaging appropriately in cultural and academic exchange, establishing more initiatives to stabilize the planet, conducting proper arms control and disarmament activities, and, where peace and basic human rights are at risk, working with partners and within the framework of international law on security policy activities and on our readiness to act at any time.
In this context, our activities must be guided by an unshakeable commitment to an open, multilateral world order and a strong, united Europe. This is all the more important given that "our country first” movements and governments in the United States, Russia, Europe and other parts of the world are increasingly undermining international cooperation. We should do all we can to establish ourselves as a strong counterforce to the renationalizes and to realign our institutions and our global activities.
Demonstrating security and stability for EU citizens
If Europe fairs badly, Germany does not do well. A properly functioning EU is the solution to many of our foreign policy challenges. And having an effective EU foreign, development and security policy is the only way to represent our interests meaningfully and emphatically on the international stage.
While Europeans as a whole may have become more skeptical of the EU, they are well aware of this need and the vast majority favor the EU playing a more active role in the world. As such, foreign, development and security policy is an ideal area in which to show them the benefits of EU membership. For its part, the EU needs to deliver on its pledges in these policy fields. Germany has a key role to play here in defining goals and implementing commonalities.
Europe needs a new self-confidence in its diplomacy. The EU High Representative advocates for the interests of 500 million Europeans, and key EU member states carry tremendous diplomatic weight and prestige. Nevertheless, in situations such as the Syrian crisis, Europe lacks diplomatic clout. Consequently, the EU institutions require further strengthening if there is to be progress. This applies to our joint diplomatic endeavors, our coordinated development cooperation projects, our police and judicial development missions, and our joint military operations. It will be necessary at times for member states, including Germany, to give their seat in key diplomatic forums to the EU. And why not as part of our efforts to reform the UN Security Council push for the EU to have a seat?
A united Europe is more secure than a divided one. We want to retain open borders within Europe, but this requires that we greatly expand European structures for fighting crime and terrorism and sharing intelligence. It will not suffice to take small steps over an extended period of time. If action is now being taken to remedy weaknesses in Germany’s counter-terrorism operations associated with the federal system, then how much more is such action needed in cooperation between the EU and its member states. The idea of a European FBI should be followed up.
Ultimately, greater security for Europe will also require that we go to great lengths to deepen defense partnerships, not least joint arms procurement arrangements, in order to move towards a defense union. If we achieve this in a short space of time, then the EU will retain the confidence of its citizens and Germany will remain effective at international level.
Recognizing Africa as our key neighboring region
The population of the African continent is set to triple within the next few decades. The conflicts in the Arab world show the immense human suffering and refugee movements that are being triggered by the collapse of states and the loss of livelihoods.
We are feeling the effects in Germany too. Significant progress has been achieved in many areas of Africa through private initiatives, tax-funded support for health and education programs, and a wide range of development cooperation projects. Smallpox, for instance, has been eradicated and we are on the brink of eliminating polio. Child mortality rates have been halved in the last 25 years, the proportion of the total population affected by extreme poverty is decreasing, a growing number of children are gaining access to education, and institutions are becoming more efficient in many states. Despite all this, we still face major challenges, which we will have to tackle with determination in the next few years if we are to create decent prospects for local people, mitigate conflicts and prevent states collapsing.
Development policy is and will remain a decisive area of action when it comes to stabilizing and improving living conditions for many millions of people. As such, Germany rightly affords development policy equal status alongside foreign, security and environmental policy, and is one of very few countries around the world to do so. Looking at our big neighbor, the African continent, we have an enormous responsibility for ensuring that our efforts are more effective and mobilizing further investment through intelligent development policy and initiatives by companies and civil society stakeholders.
We must increase development cooperation budgets beyond the 0.7 per cent target already set (but not yet reached). We must promote more private investment in Africa and make trade relations more equitable in order to accelerate growth and employment. And above all else, we must quickly achieve a societal consensus in Germany and Europe, as our futures as a nation and a union will also be decided in Africa.
Prioritizing sustainability over economic development
The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is more than a list of development and environmental demands. It is a global commitment to safeguarding the future of our planet and now needs to be implemented throughout the world. Germany must remain a driving force in this context and work to accelerate implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in Europe. To this end, we require a paradigm shift in the way we do business in a closely connected world that views itself as a community of fate.
The predominance of the economy has resulted in the rapid destruction of our natural resources on an unimaginable scale; the environmental changes brought about by accelerated climate change are putting at risk all the development gains of recent decades. If we continue with the same business practices we have employed around the world to date, humanity will need two planets by 2030, which is just 13 years away, to meet its raw material needs and dispose responsibly of its waste. This would then increase to three planets by 2050. Our business and consumption patterns are pushing planetary boundaries; we need to change the course of our energy policy in order to avert global crises.
25 years of accelerated globalization have brought about an unimagined increase in prosperity and quality of life, including, and especially, in many developing countries and emerging economies. At the same time, globalization has led to societies in numerous nations around the world becoming highly polarized. Social inequality is a threat to peace within society, and therefore to political stability in a growing number of countries, as well as at global level.
It is about time we mainstreamed economic development within the imperatives of social and environmental sustainability. As one of the main beneficiaries of globalization and a role model in some aspects of sustainability, Germany can and must become a pioneer of a global socio-environmental market economy. To this end, the Federal Republic needs to provide strong impetus for a change of direction in the global economy. We must submit our export policy to scrutiny and talk about conditions for imports. As an economic power, Germany has the capacity to work with Europe to bring about change and curb climate change and the irresponsible exploitation of natural resources. If we achieve this at European level and in cooperation with emerging economies and African partners, then we could bring about a sustainable transformation in the global economy at the right time. However, without such a paradigm shift, our international efforts to promote peace and development will come to nothing.
Stepping up efforts to fight global poverty and expand health care
Fighting global poverty and ensuring health care for all people constitute basic requirements for safeguarding livelihoods and stability. They are human imperatives. And they are also the key to limiting major migratory movements and, by extension, foundational to international security. These are two good reasons for Germany to continue stepping up its investment activities in these innovative fields of human development around the world.
Large sectors of the population in developing countries and emerging economies have actually seen their economic situation improve over the last 25 years. The proportion of those living on less than 2 US dollars a day has fallen from over 30 per cent to around ten per cent. But long-term global trends such as climate change, the population explosion (which many are rightly dubbing the “mother of all future challenges”), and the advancing collapse of states are jeopardizing these development gains. Neglecting the fight against poverty and the expansion of health care provision would have grave consequences both for political and economic stability in the countries affected, and for the world as a whole. Epidemics lead to mass migration, accelerated state failure and, ultimately to “classic” security risks, with a direct impact on our communities. Poverty, disease and a lack of educational opportunities give rise to hopelessness and political tensions.
We must recognize the fight against poverty and the provision of good health care as the basis for all development endeavors and re-prioritize our activities. We need to ensure that international funds are well stocked. And we must work with African partners to ensure that the deployed funding reaches its intended recipients. Consequently, it is time for Germany to develop a comprehensive and coherent strategy for tackling global poverty and health risks and to review and further expand all its existing investment activities. Experience shows that such initiatives have the greatest impact when they are linked to the development of properly functioning institutions and the containment of particular interests. This applies in industrialized nations, emerging economies and developing countries alike.
New approaches to food security
In order to feed a global population, set to reach ten billion in 2050, we need to increase our current food production levels by 60 per cent without further harming the global climate or exacerbating the problem of water scarcity.
Food security is a prerequisite for peace, stability and human development. While the food situation has eased in recent decades for many in developing countries and emerging economies, some 800 million people still suffer from hunger. This equates to 11 per cent of the world’s population. And yet we have enough food, the necessary knowledge and sufficient financial resources to beat hunger. If the international community intends to achieve the Zero Hunger goal (SDG 2) of the UN 2030 Agenda, then it needs to step up its efforts once more. According to the Global Hunger Index, the situation is still “serious” in 43 countries and even “alarming” in seven others. Things are particularly severe in rural areas, where three quarters of all starving people live, even though almost all those affected produce food themselves.
This is where Germany can make a particular contribution by sharing its expertise in fertilizer manufacture, crop cultivation, the promotion of new trade strategies, the abolition of unfair trade practices, the dissemination of productive farming methods, improved financing for smallholders and, last but not least, ways of changing our consumption patterns. Clearly labelling all imported products to indicate the growing/production methods used, the volume of water consumed in the process and the social situation in the countries of origin would be a significant step towards realizing our ideal of responsible civic and consumer choices and free trade.
We must invest more in research and in the process of translating agricultural innovations into practice. We need to overcome our fears of calling upon the expertise of major companies in order to bring about the necessary improvements in the food situation. Moreover, having ambitious climate protection goals in industrialized nations is a key requirement for protecting the agricultural land available worldwide. It is essential that Germany uses its economic and academic clout and its agenda-setting influence to make a significant contribution to global food security - indeed, it is in its own best interest to do so.
Better evaluating Germany’s activities
There is a repeated need to justify to the public the increasing amounts being spent on military deployments, development cooperation, humanitarian assistance and global environmental policy. Consequently, all international initiatives should be better evaluated in future in terms of policy in order to promote their achievements and learn from their mistakes.
It is not only the mixed results of Afghan-German cooperation that have left people skeptical of the Bundeswehr’s overseas operations. Societies must always provide compelling and transparent reasoning if they are to risk human life and deploy limited financial resources and long-term political capital in order to pursue a cause outside of their own borders. Dictums such as that of Peter Struck, who claimed that our activities in Afghanistan are now part of safeguarding our security, will no longer suffice.
Citizens are highly interested in foreign policy and are showing a great deal of solidarity for and willingness to help people in need. In order to ensure that the social capital for supporting this foreign policy is not exhausted, there is a need to provide comprehensive accountability regarding foreign policy initiatives in an unbiased and independent manner. If Germany is to assume greater responsibility in the world, then all development initiatives, humanitarian assistance measures and military operations should be evaluated in a timely and publicly visible way in future. This will ensure that we not only provide accountability, but also pave the way for improvements and generate more understanding and approval among the population.
This kind of performance-based assessment of Germany’s international activities could be conducted by a kind of academic advisory council for the nation’s foreign relations appointed by the German Bundestag. Such a council would conduct an annual review of declared objectives, measures implemented and results achieved.
Additionally, foreign, development and security policies should be placed on a more comprehensive knowledge-based footing. In the world of research, there is a basic principle that three per cent of our economic power should be invested in research and development in order to facilitate future innovation and safeguard prosperity. We should adopt a similar approach in our international cooperation activities, whereby three per cent of our spending in this area must be channeled into knowledge cooperation, in collaboration with international partners. Using jointly developed knowledge to solve global problems creates a basis for intelligent decisions and at the same time provides legitimacy for joint action.
Making sustainable urbanization a German key issue
New cities and infrastructure will be built for another three billion people by 2050. Over seven billion people, or 75 per cent of the world’s population, will then live in urban areas. This will represent the greatest urbanization surge in human history. With 70 per cent of energy related greenhouse gas emissions already associated with urban areas, it is essential that this surge be managed in a climate friendly manner. As a pioneer in the field of climate protection and with its technological expertise, Germany is well placed to become an agenda-setter on the global policy stage.
When we consider that China built more concrete structures between 2011 and 2013 than did the United States in the whole of the 20th Century, then it becomes clear just how enormous a challenge urbanization presents. This hunger for resources is being driven by unchecked population growth. In the 2050s, the world’s population will have grown to more than ten billion people; we will see a tripling of the population in Africa alone. This is resulting in increased pressure for urbanization. By the middle of this century, seven out of ten people will live in mega cities. Traditional urban construction, based on reinforced concrete, fossil fuel powered transport systems and fossil fuel energy, would generate 300 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases in the building phase alone. This would use up three quarters of the remaining budget afforded to us by the 1.5 to 2 degree target in the Paris Climate Agreement. As such, cities are the places in which the battle for effective climate protection measures will be won or lost. They are also the places where the welfare of humankind, and therefore the scope for political stability, will be determined.
If we fail to take countermeasures, the number of slum dwellers will increase from around one billion at present to between two and two and a half billion. Consequently, global urban development based on a climate friendly and socially responsible model must become one of the top items on the international agenda. Germany has a great deal to offer in this area, with its state of the art building materials, technological expertise, strong municipal networks and proven system of investment incentives. We need an action plan for better deploying this expertise at international level. We also need an international agreement limiting traditional urban construction activity and steering it in a more sustainable direction. Germany should lead the way in this area.
Boldly pursuing a new international finance policy
The world’s financial resources are by no means insufficient to lay the foundation for positive development and stability in all countries around the globe. The money is there, but it often bypasses key future tasks, instead flowing into non-sustainable areas of the economy and not seldom into the private bank accounts of corrupt elites.
The reordering of international financial markets is therefore a key building block in a sustainable 21st Century world order.
Firstly, the decisive global common goods must be taxed in the interests of the international community, for example, to prevent everyone and anyone depositing carbon emissions into the atmosphere as they see fit. This dramatic, undesirable development can only be stopped by immediately halting subsidies for carbon-emitting industries and imposing taxes on carbon emissions worldwide. German and European policy-makers should present internationally applicable models for this purpose and apply them in their own domestic contexts.
Secondly, over USD 70 billion will be invested in infrastructure by 2050 to meet the needs of a rapidly growing global population. The World Bank estimates that around USD 50 billion will need to be spent each year over a 15-year period in order to build housing and infrastructure for everyone. It is necessary to set the right course here. The only way to steer this investment surge in a sustainable direction is to employ innovative financing and taxation strategies. Germany should present a series of ambitious initiatives in this context.
Thirdly, there is a need to develop viable tax systems in developing countries and emerging economies in order to facilitate public investment in social and environmentally friendly areas and boost private investment. In many nations, tax revenues fall well below the levels typical in OECD countries. Instead of imposing taxes on raw materials exports and goods imports, the European approach of generating state revenue primarily through taxing local value creation and work should be adopted. This is the only way to provide the elite with an incentive to develop their own countries and improve people’s living conditions.
Fourthly, if action is taken in industrialized nations, emerging economies and developing countries alike to put an end to the tax evasion strategies of global companies and the most wealthy among the world’s population and disclose details of corruptly amassed assets, then financial policy could make a major contribution to the global common good.
Germany has a unique window of opportunity in 2017. The G20 Presidency and its subsequent processes offer a chance to orient the international agenda towards sustainable finance. Germany is a credible partner when it comes to presenting proposals for a new international financial policy that will help to remedy the causes of crises and conflicts.
Rethinking the way we deal with authoritarian regimes
The proliferation of authoritarian regimes requires that Germany make its position clear. German foreign, development and security policy is based on values from which interests are derived. Wherever there are mass human rights violations and international law is being severely infringed, there is a need to impose effective sanctions to curb the actions of the elite.
Authoritarian regimes are gaining ground. In many states, good governance is the exception rather than the rule, and authoritarian forms of government often go hand in hand with high corruption levels. Two thirds of all the world’s countries are so corrupt that they fail to meet any of the standard good governance criteria. This means that there are billions of people being subjected to corruption and poor governance on a daily basis. As such, the key challenge lies in working with authoritarian and corrupt regimes in such a way as to enable them to carry out their central duties in accordance with the expectations of the population and at the same time successively increase their participation in economic and political processes.
Germany cannot afford to shrink back when it comes to matters of good governance and transparent business practices. Prosperity without respect for the principle of transparency, human rights, and health, social and environmental standards is neither sustainable nor morally acceptable. Consequently, investment in social participation, sound institutions, free media and democracy serves the interests of Germany and the international community alike.
While Germany seeks to promote good governance through its cooperation arrangements and assistance, we often have to make do with “good enough governance” in order to help bring about improvements. This latter kind of governance, which involves compliance with non-negotiable minimum standards, provides the necessary scope for action for German foreign and development policy. However, no cooperation arrangements must be entered into where there is a failure to comply with these minimum standards, even if this causes our influence to further diminish. We as Germans need to redefine these minimum standards. After all, only when we and our European partners work together with other constitutional states and democracies to set clear boundaries will it be possible to force a rethink on the part of authoritarian regimes.
Structurally reordering foreign relations
Our ongoing efforts to develop our state structures have not kept pace with changes around the world. There is a need to fundamentally revise the shape and working methods of German government ministries and parliamentary committees.
The Federal Government’s 2016 White Paper outlines ten challenges facing Germany in the next few years. Alongside classic security-related areas of action, it also refers to issues such as epidemics and pandemics, fragile statehood, data security, climate change, the supply of energy and raw materials, and migration. As such, it finally reconciles the classic action area of foreign and security policy with development and environmental policy. However, this requires an extremely high degree of coordination between ministries and connected thinking and action.
The shape and working methods of German Government ministries have barely changed since the end of the Cold War. Germany’s foreign, development, security, environmental and economic policies have long been criticized for their lack of cohesion. And yet in each legislative period, the ruling parties form five independent ministries with barely any integration between them. What is true of the ministries is also true of the work of the German Bundestag and its committees (which monitor the ministries).
The ambitious international voluntary commitments of Agenda 2030 must be implemented on an integrated basis. And there is a need for strong daily coordination in our key fields of international activity. Under our constitution, this function can be based in the Federal Chancellery, which requires a second Chancellery minister to provide greater capacity for coordinating foreign, development and security policy, as well as international initiatives (for example, in health, energy and environmental policy).
Equally, the Federal Security Council, which currently only takes decisions on the approval of arms exports, requires further development to enable it to live up to its true potential. It should be a place for coordinating and systematically preparing key security decisions between all relevant ministries. The concept of security should be understood very broadly in this context and by no means limited to military issues as in the past.
At the same time, the Bundestag should establish a new integrated committee to deal with key questions relating to our foreign policy activities. A kind of academic advisory council should be set up for Germany’s foreign relations to supplement this reordering of foreign, development and security policy activities. This council would critically oversee and evaluate the whole range of Germany’s foreign relations against the backdrop of international developments, devising options for action and reporting and issuing recommendations to the Bundestag, German ministries and the Federal Chancellery.
Investing more in our international responsibility
Germany is connected with the world more than virtually any other country. This makes us vulnerable and at the same time responsible. There is no cutting corners when it comes to being prepared for risks and dealing effectively with crises. Germany should spend three per cent of its economic output (GDP) on diplomacy, development cooperation, crisis prevention and defense.
The security and development objectives of our nation are currently subject to a range of different budgetary guidelines. While Germany bases its security spending on NATO’s two per cent GDP target (in actual fact, Germany spends just 1.22 per cent of its GDP in this area), it uses the OECD’s 0.7 per cent target as a point of reference for its international development cooperation spending (in reality spending just 0.52 per cent of GDP in this area).
Given the tense state of world affairs and the fact that Germany and Europe’s freedom, prosperity and democracy depend on stable and sustainable global trends, this low level will no longer suffice. According to a current study, more citizens in our country are now calling for Germany to play a bigger role on the international stage (41 per cent in October 2016 compared with 34 per cent in January 2015)1. There is no getting around the fact that we need to significantly increase our defense spending on an ongoing basis. But this will not be enough on its own. Why don’t we introduce a general three per cent criteria for our international commitments? Three per cent of our gross domestic product allocated to crisis prevention, development cooperation, diplomacy and defense, coordinated by a second State Minister at the Federal Chancellery, approved by a new integrated parliamentary committee for key questions relating to our foreign policy activity, and overseen by an academic advisory council for Germany’s foreign relations.
This would represent an ambitious, forward-looking German foreign policy and would at the same time strengthen the EU’s capacity for action. After all, the only way for us to realize all our goals and interests at international level is to work together at EU level and with partners who share our values.