On 24 February Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed Bärbel Kofler to the Federal Foreign Office. Shortly before, the Cabinet had appointed her the new Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office. Her name had been put forward by Steinmeier. After her meeting with the Foreign Minister, Kofler stressed that she saw her appointment as an affirmation of her work so far in defence of human rights and in support of disadvantaged members of society. She will take office on 1 March.
She’s punched her way through difficulties on various occasions before and has clearly demonstrated here fighting spirit. That’s how Foreign Minister Steinmeier introduced the newly appointed Human Rights Commissioner Bärbel Kofler on Wednesday. Steinmeier praised her dedication to human rights, development policy and humanitarian assistance, and stated:
You are certainly not assuming this office at an easy time. According to figures published by the United Nations, more people have now fled their homes worldwide than at any time since the Second World War.
Defending humanitarian affairs in turbulent times
According to the United Nations, 60 million people are currently refugees. At the same time, the large number of crises and conflicts are resulting in a constant increase in humanitarian requests. Germany is “honestly” engaged in humanitarian assistance, and is “not just comparing itself with others active in the field”, Steinmeier said. The same was true of Germany’s engagement for solutions to the conflicts from Ukraine to Syria.
Regarding the remit of the future Human Rights Commissioner, Foreign Minister Steinmeier noted that “our attention also remains focused on all world regions in which human rights are endangered.” The protection of human rights would also remain at the very top of the agenda. Steinmeier went on to say:
I am glad that in you we have someone who has continually and passionately fought to ensure that human rights policy and humanitarian assistance are always considered matters of great importance in Germany’s policies. We will both endeavour to ensure that this does not change.
Fighting with strong convictions for human rights
Kofler pledged to continue her work for women’s and children’s rights, workers’ rights and the protection of refugees, among other things, even if the job was “growing exponentially”. She will also devote particular attention to the elaboration of the Action Plan for Business and Human Rights.
Bärbel Kofler is a member of the German Bundestag whose current posts include that of Development Policy Spokesperson for the SPD parliamentary group. As Human Rights Commissioner she will succeed Christoph Strässer, who announced his resignation on 22 February. Kofler will take up her post this coming Tuesday (1 March). One of her first tasks will be to represent the German Government at the 31st session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.