Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at Abdou Moumouni University, Niamey

13.04.2022 - Speech
Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at Abdou Moumouni University, Niamey,
Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at Abdou Moumouni University, Niamey,© Florian Gaertner

Ramadan Mubarak.

J’aurais aimé tenir ce discours en français.

Mais après mûre réflexion, j’ai décidé de le tenir en allemand, car c’est mieux pour moi ... et … c’est mieux pour vous.

I’ve just come from Mali, with a group of German members of parliament.

We met many very impressive people there – above all, many courageous women. There were three visiting the MINUSMA camp yesterday, an agriculture expert, an artist and a teacher. Different though these women were, they all had the same message: that they were standing up for their country, standing up for their villages, and above all standing up for their right to a brighter future.

They are at the same time united by their great concern about the challenges facing this region. The women vividly described what a storm of misery and crises was sweeping with incredible ferocity across the people in the Sahel, across you right here.

Violence and conflicts are forcing people to flee their homes. Fear and misery are their constant companions.

The women we spoke to told us that some of their friends, mothers and even daughters in certain regions of Mali no longer dared to go out into the street – that they no longer dared to go to the market, though they so urgently need to sell their meagre produce, because they are worried about terrorist attacks, rape and violence.

But it’s not just violence that’s driving people from their homelands.

It’s also the extreme droughts. I just met your Foreign Minister at the airport, who said, “We used to have these droughts every ten years; now, it’s every second year.”

It’s also the irregular rainfall, dried-up wells, severe flooding and the associated ever-scarcer fertile land – fuelled by the climate crisis. This is robbing the people of the Sahel, robbing you, your families, your friends, of the space to live.

We can also see how extremist groups exploit people’s desperation and try to recruit them for their barbaric purposes.

At the same time, you here, just like in Europe, are dealing with the consequences of the pandemic, which have made trade and access to vital goods difficult or even impossible. All of this is driving up food prices on an incredible scale.

Go to a market today and you’ll have to pay twice as much for grain than you did a year ago.

As these prices grow, so does hardship. Some 38 million men and women and children in West Africa will suffer starvation in the coming months. That’s three times as many as just three years ago.

Conflict, climate crisis and starvation. This is a brutal storm, a dangerous concoction that is building up over the Sahel.

And into this mixture now comes the thing that is so occupying us in Europe at this time: Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine.

Russian troops are destroying factories, fields and farmland, roads and ports, and murdering innocent people.

Transport routes are cut off, causing major breakdowns in supply – especially of those goods that you so urgently need in this region: grain, cooking oil, fertiliser – all those things that are driving food prices even higher in many places around the world. Particularly in those places where people are already starving, like Yemen, Somalia or here in the Sahel.

This is a situation we have to face together.

Russia’s war is being conducted in a horrendous manner on the streets and in the towns and villages of Ukraine. The suffering it is causing, however, can be traced far into the Global South.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has warned of a “hurricane of hunger” if the international community fails to respond now.

And that is part of the reason why I am visiting your country – to do exactly that so that we face that hurricane together as a global community.

Three points are important to me on that score.

Firstly, I want to be very clear about this: the fact that there is a terrible war going on in Ukraine, in our immediate neighbourhood, in Europe, must not and will not result in us turning our backs on the other crises of this world. For me, it has the opposite effect.

After all, the very result if not even the strategy of Russia’s war is to further exacerbate hardship in the world’s poorest countries by disrupting or cutting off food supplies.

That’s why I am urgently calling on our international partners to tackle the global food crisis now, jointly and decisively.

It’s good that the UN Secretary-General has set up a Global Crisis Response Group to focus on precisely that concatenation of topics: food, energy and finance.

Germany – this is my message to you – Germany will play an active role in its work. For it is obvious that we need an international response, because we have an international responsibility.

We have therefore agreed with the G7, where Germany currently holds the Presidency – that is, with the group of the world’s strongest industrialised countries – that 430 million euro will be made available for food security, to mitigate the consequences of this war in other countries around the world, primarily in Africa and the Middle East.

We have also provided 100 million euro for emergency food aid and supporting the internally displaced here in the region. And we will provide an additional 15 million euro to support the UN World Food Programme in combating the food crisis here in the Sahel, here in the Niger.

My second point is this:

If we want to have any chance at all of effectively reducing hunger here in the Sahel and in other parts of Africa, then we need to finally get the climate crisis under control.

Climate crisis – what that means here in the Sahel is not what it still means to us in Europe, namely a climate crisis in terms of abstract percentages, temperature measurements and emissions targets of 0.1 or 0.5%.

Climate crisis – here in the Sahel, it means the conjunction of conflict, famine and displacement.

Climate crisis – here in your country and in neighbouring countries, it means a mother not knowing what she is to feed her children tonight.

Climate crisis – here among you, it means a farmer seeing his harvest wither yet again.

And it means that farmer worrying that his or her son, since no crops will grow and their source of income is gone, will fall in with extremist gangs.

For our new Federal Government in Germany and for our presidency of the G7, we have made the climate crisis and security one of our priorities.

Many people at home have no concept of what that actually means. That’s another reason for our visit: to show Europe in particular what it means in the Sahel to have the climate crisis continue getting worse, namely that the climate crisis is becoming a crucial security issue.

And that applies not just here in the region. Of the 20 states most affected by climate change, more than half are already mired in armed conflict.

“Climate change is another pandemic with devastating effects.”

That’s how your Foreign Minister put it to the UN General Assembly last year, underlining the way climate change aggravates conflicts and humanitarian crises.

Foreign Minister, you are quite right. We hear you. And we will take action together.

On est ensemble.

This is an expression often used and heard here in the Niger, among friends and partners.

And that’s what we are to your country: friends and partners.

We stand together, facing a challenge that affects us all. Climate change affects everyone on the planet. But it doesn’t affect everyone everywhere to the same extent.

That’s why I am here today to listen to you – because I want to know what consequences of the climate crisis you, your families, your friends, are confronted with on a daily basis.

We want to hear what your points of view are, what ideas you have for solutions, and that in concrete terms.

Here at the German-funded WASCAL programme, you bring together expertise from across the globe. Research here is being conducted by so many of you from so many different countries where people know what climate crisis means in reality.

Where people know what the answers and the solutions might be: new clean energy sources, green hydrogen.

And it’s fantastic that we are speaking here at Abdou Moumouni University, since its namesake, Professor Abdou Moumouni, was a pioneer in the field of solar energy in the Niger.

The good thing about solar energy is that the sun – unlike oil and gas exporters – doesn’t send a bill.

Flying into your country by plane, one sees its vast expanses of land.

There is drought there, there is aridity. But there is also that incredible potential which we don’t have in our country – space. At home, one street leads to the next, one town leads to the next, and we are glad when there are a few trees between them. And land is becoming scarce. That’s why we build our solar arrays on roofs. That won’t be enough though; we need big solar farms, particularly across large areas to produce hydrogen.

The industrialised countries agreed at the historic climate conference in Paris in 2015 to use our efforts combating the climate crisis to electrify Africa at the same time, and we have to finally put that into practice.

For this continent in particular, expanding renewable energy is one of the great development opportunities.

In Glasgow, at the last climate conference, the world agreed to reduce global emissions by 45% by 2030 so as to stand a chance of meeting the 1.5‑degree target.

The crucial thing now is to use the next climate conference in Egypt, on the African continent, to set out that course and finally turn ambitions into meaningful action.

Standing before you today makes me feel optimistic, because you – like those formidable women in Mali – make it clear that you have the courage and the strength to tackle that change, that challenge.

It’s young people like you who are taking to the streets together around the world and making it clear that we have to act now – young people like you who are conducting research here at the university and driving forward the debate.

The industrialised countries have a responsibility, as we promised at Paris 2015, to finally supply the funds for that research, for that transition.

After all, the fact we are so deeply mired in this climate crisis is due to the industrial development of industrialised countries. That development made us rich. And now it is time for us to give something back, because the consequences of this climate crisis are hitting you here.

That’s why my message here today – and my message as Foreign Minister at the next climate conference – is that we are doing all we can to finally make our promise of 100 billion dollars in climate finance a reality.

This also means making arrangements for adaptation finance in which we double our expenditure.

After all, adapting to climate change is what occupies you here. It’s no longer a matter of mitigating alone but of adaptation too.

Therein lies my third point.

Climate action is a matter of global justice.

If we are earnest in acknowledging that the climate crisis affects us all, but not all to the same extent, then we must also take the concerns of the worst-affected states particularly into account.

Yes, this is about mitigation, about curtailing the climate crisis. That is and must remain key. But as we can see especially in the Sahel, it is also vital that we dedicate our efforts, at the same time, to reducing climate risk. This is about adaptation. You students know what that means, since that’s exactly what you’re researching.

This is also about resilience. And, regrettably, it’s about dealing with consequences of climate change that we already have no chance of preventing.

We are working to that end.

That’s why Germany’s helping farmers in the Sahel make their harvests less vulnerable to extreme weather events.

That’s why we’re working with countries like the Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso on building roads, wells and pumps that will give people quicker and, above all, safe access to a water supply.

That’s why we’re supporting countries like yours in making even better use of precious water resources by helping to build rainwater-collection systems or assisting farmers in setting up anti-erosion measures and trickle irrigation for agriculture.

That’s why we’re investing in you and in local research to work out how farmers and herders can best prepare for periods of drought that we – this is the painful truth – can no longer prevent.

And that’s why we’re putting our faith in early-warning mechanisms and risk analysis to improve our forecasting of events.

We will use our presidency of the G7 to launch a climate, peace and stability initiative under which the use of such instruments will be even better coordinated and we will deploy our resources jointly. Instead of having one strong industrialised country supporting one thing in one country while another promotes something else elsewhere, we will pool our resources in order to, for example, set up large-scale solar farms and jointly ensure that we are supporting farmers in that situation.

That is also a job for the next climate conference. With that in mind, we – the new German Government – have appointed a Special Representative for International Climate Policy, Jennifer Morgan, who is sitting here in the second row.

She is also the point of contact for your country so that we can collaborate even more effectively on energy-partnership matters in future.

We are not doing these things with the thought that we are taking care of other people; we are doing them because we know that, if we don’t act together in your region and elsewhere, then it will become a security issue for us too, since the climate crisis doesn’t stop at borders. The climate crisis is a truly global crisis.

To invest more in protecting the climate is to invest more in all of us.

This is investment in the work of the courageous women in Gao, Bamako, Niamey and Ouallam, who are fighting with such great courage and strength for a brighter future.

It is investment in you, in your university, but above all in the younger generation in the Sahel, who have their future ahead of them and will need this energy in future.

You know this very well, because you are researching in this field, because you are pioneers at your university:

We actually have all the tools we need, globally, to resolve this hurricane of crises.

We need to do it now, together with determination and side by side.

On est ensemble.


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