Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to unveil the Federal Foreign Office Strategy for Humanitarian Aid Abroad at the 100th session of the Humanitarian Aid Coordinating Committee

15.11.2012 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

Fellow Members of the Bundestag,

Representatives of the Association of German Development NGOs,

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have an anniversary to celebrate today. This is the 100t time that the Humanitarian Aid Coordinating Committee has convened since it was founded under Foreign Minister Kinkel in 1994. Let me take this opportunity to thank you all, for myself and on behalf of my predecessors, for the excellent collaboration we have enjoyed over the years.

This Committee has proven its worth as a platform for close dialogue. We have learned a lot from your experience on the ground.

Together, we have made Germany’s humanitarian aid better.

There are three pillars underpinning the good reputation Germany enjoys around the world: astute diplomacy; economic strength and reliability; and, last but not least, our strong sense of humanitarian solidarity. People’s great willingness to make donations and your committed work in humanitarian organizations play a crucial role in shaping Germany’s image abroad.

Germany’s humanitarian aid isn’t a sugar coating with which we mask the pursuit of our political interests.

It is a discrete strand of our foreign policy and an expression of our solidarity with and respect for the international community.

The Foreign Office has drawn up a Strategy for Humanitarian Aid, following an external assessment and recommendations from the OECD. It takes up comments and suggestions from yourselves as well as from the Bundestag and other Government Ministries.

It is my pleasure today to officially unveil the Federal Foreign Office Strategy for Humanitarian Aid Abroad.

Global humanitarian challenges are on the rise. The number of refugees worldwide hit a discouraging record of 42.5 million in 2011. Violent conflicts are increasing too.

Such cold statistics mask an unimaginable amount of human suffering. I visited the Syrian refugee camp at Zaatari this September, and was extremely moved by what I saw there.

Over half of the refugees are children. Suddenly, all those statistics we hear reported had a human face. Just like any of us, each one of those children has only one chance to live his or her life.

Germany’s humanitarian aid is intended to provide prompt and flexible assistance wherever it is needed. Its objective is to ease the suffering of those affected and enable them to live through adverse situations in dignity and safety.

The causes behind humanitarian crises are often complex. Natural disasters all too frequently compound already adverse conditions in fragile states and conflict situations.

Terrorist groups in northern Mali and parts of Somalia are deliberately hampering humanitarian access. The fate of the vulnerable is being hijacked by extremist forces.

The German Government is therefore working hard to improve attitudes towards and access for humanitarian aid. Humanitarian aid is practical solidarity with people in need, emphatically without a political agenda. Germany is committed to the humanitarian principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence.

The number of natural disasters has doubled in the last 20 years, from 200 to 400 a year. About 90 percent of these disasters stem from extreme weather events and the effects of climate change.

Humanitarian need around the world is going to keep rising. However, in these times of debt overload and consolidation, the funds available for humanitarian aid are not growing with it.

If we are to keep providing the same levels of assistance, we need to rethink our approach to humanitarian aid. We need to shift our focus from reacting to crises as they arise to actively and preemptively managing risks.

For every euro invested in disaster reduction, seven euros in disaster response are saved. That’s why the German Government has been pushing since 2011 for the UN to enhance disaster reduction.

With an interministerial agreement, the Foreign Office has assumed sole responsibility for humanitarian aid abroad.

By restructuring in this way, we are pooling our efforts so that we can become still better at meeting modern humanitarian standards. We want to make our immediate and ongoing emergency assistance, transitional humanitarian relief, and food aid dovetail better in the interests of those in need.

In practical terms, we will also be cutting back bureaucracy for your organizations.

We are looking forward to working with you to implement the Strategy for Humanitarian Aid Abroad.

Let me take this chance to sincerely thank you and all your staff for the tireless and often dangerous work that you do in places struck by humanitarian crisis.

And let me also urge you to keep coming back to the close dialogue we have, so that we can keep improving our humanitarian engagement together.

Thank you very much.

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