Statement by Foreign Minister Gabriel on the Berlin Humanitarian Call

12.04.2017 - Speech

Filippo Grandi,
Gerd Müller,
Ladies and gentlemen,

When I heard the dramatic appeals for aid from the United Nations recently, it was clear to me that the situation in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria is more calamitous now than it has been for a long time. I’m sure that your response was quite similar. For the first time since 2011, the official UN line is that this is a famine.

However, unlike then, this comes as no surprise. Back then, many people said that they didn’t have a chance to prepare properly. This isn’t a valid excuse this time around as it’s obvious that the various factors such as war, civil war, drought, climate disasters and refugee flows are coinciding. This is why we must do everything in our power to prevent a catastrophe of this nature.

All of you work in these crisis regions on a daily basis and are doing tremendous things under extremely difficult conditions that many people can barely imagine in their everyday lives – from distributing food and water to mobilising donations. And you are working to facilitate humanitarian access in order to give people what they need most urgently.

We have therefore intensified our political and humanitarian efforts in the Federal Government and have, in consultation with our international partners, endeavoured to mobilise further funding.

Allow me to come back to the reason for inviting you here today, however. What we want above all is to find out which measures, which aid, which underlying conditions you believe are required in order to avert a famine. With this in mind, I would like to present the priorities that we believe will help us to make progress. This is not a colossal master plan that claims to solve all of the problems, but a modest programme of work that is intended to show you what we have in mind and where we ask for your support.

Firstly, we need more money! This is not so much your responsibility, but that of governments and private donors. There’s a snag here, however. If you take part in international conferences on a regular basis, then you will have noticed that it is always the same people who are asked for help at each conference and always the same people who don’t even show up to the conference, just to be on the safe side. And this means, of course, that you reach the limits of what is politically feasible at some point. Let’s consider an example. If you say “many thanks for giving us a certain sum of money” to the members of the Bundestag’s Budget Committee on Friday and then come back again on Monday and say “by the way, there’s another disaster for which we’d like to ask you to set aside further funds that aren’t covered by the budget”, then this will work for a while, but not forever. And at some point, people will ask “why is it always these six, seven or eight countries and not the others?” The question as to how we can reach more countries is therefore out there. Incidentally, wealthy states are also among those to close their eyes to what is going on in the world.

And yet we have earmarked around 136 million euros for humanitarian assistance in Nigeria, South Sudan and in the Horn of Africa for 2017 and will request once again that the German Bundestag increase this funding. In other words, Minister Müller and I have already mobilised approximately 100 million euros from the budget of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and 100 million euros of the Federal Foreign Office budget and, with the support of the German Bundestag and the Finance Minister, we intend to add a further 200 million euros to what we have already pledged. We will therefore set aside money for Yemen and also contribute 50 million euros to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

Secondly, we need not only money, but also greater political will. While humanitarian assistance may be impartial and apolitical, calling for humanitarian access is not. We’re talking here about internationally binding law and are, unfortunately, living through an age in which abiding by the international legal order appears to have fallen out of fashion somewhat. This is why it is vital to keep on emphasising the importance of humanitarian access. We have clear political demands for the parties to the conflict in Yemen as we need aid organisations to be able to get supplies into the country via the port of Al Hudaydah, and without coming under fire. In Somalia, the clans must reach a lasting agreement to stop urgently needed supplies from having to take roundabout routes. Furthermore, the Sudanese Government must open up corridors and keep these open in order to allow food to be transported to South Sudan.

Thirdly, we need greater stability in the region. Our aid can help to alleviate conflicts, but it won’t resolve them. We must intensify our commitment to stabilising difficult and fragile regions. To this end, we intend to make more aid available in South Sudan, as we also pledged to do in Oslo for the Lake Chad region.

Fourthly, all of this will require considerable staying power. None of this must be a flash in the pan. We must actually do far more internationally to ensure that the funds and institutions of the UN are equipped with assets on a permanent basis, rather than having to appeal for money each and every year. This is another reason why we will meet again at a donors’ conference for Yemen in Geneva on 25 April and at a further conference in London on 11 May to talk with our partners about increasing funding, and this is why Germany intends to set a good example.

All of these things are, at the end of the day, important to us for humanitarian reasons. I think that we must, in public, clearly avoid the impression that we only want to tackle famines because we are out to protect ourselves from refugees. This is a strange impression that sometimes arises in the public debate. I think that this is a question of decency and moral integrity and that we cannot look away and ignore the UN Secretary‑General’s calls for help.

It is therefore important to us to also find out from you what we should do and how underlying conditions ought to be changed. And, of course, we also request that you support our Berlin Humanitarian Call not only in Germany, but also in your international cooperative partnerships and networks. Minister Müller once said in another context that if the international community is mooting a two percent guideline with respect to arms expenditure, then we should, at the very least, consecrate 0.7 percent to ODA. My personal opinion is that it would be better the other way around, i.e. two percent for ODA and 0.7 percent for arms expenditure.

Minister Müller’s statement flags up a great dilemma. We find ourselves in a situation in which the entire world is contemplating how to build up military capacities – sometimes for understandable reasons, sometimes not. And given the sums that are under discussion, we should actually be profoundly ashamed if we fail to raise four billion euros for the crises, including the one in the Horn of Africa, which represents but a small fraction of the amount that is being touted in the defence sector.

I therefore also believe that it would meet with great approval in our country if we were to set ambitious goals for ourselves and internationally, including for sustainable development. This would, incidentally, reduce the need for such high levels of defence expenditure. When all is said and done, comprehensive security cannot be guaranteed by the military alone. And so I am particularly delighted that both Minister Müller and I are on the same page here.

Thank you very much!

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