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One Face to the Customer
– by Hans-Jürgen Beerfeltz
Germany’s Development Minister Dirk Niebel visiting in South Africa earlier this year: Germany’s government needs a strong implementing agency
In the past, the workings of German development cooperation required considerable patience from our partner countries whenever they were involved in helping the German side to plan and implement development projects. Our partners had to contend with a host of different advisers or contact persons, different procedures, different forms of financing – but encountered very little coordination amongst the German parties involved. Just as Henry Kissinger once asked whom he should call if he wanted to speak to Europe, so our partners asked: Who do I call if I want to speak to someone responsible for German development cooperation?”
Germany’s government has decided to remedy this state of affairs. In future, it will be considerably easier for our partners to work with Germany's official development organisations. Policy dialogue with the governments of our partner countries on the actual content of development cooperation will remain in the hands of Germany’s government. For this purpose, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) will increase the number of staff it has based at Germany’s embassies. When it comes to the implementation of development measures, the point of contact will be the German House, the head of which will be appointed in consultation with the BMZ from now on. The principle of “one face to the customer” now also applies in German development cooperation. The German Houses for Development Cooperation will become the standard bearers of Germany’s development policy in our partner countries.
Why are we carrying out this reform?
The professionalism of the organisations and people involved in Germany’s development cooperation has already become a hallmark and is admired throughout the world. However, Germany’s government can and must use its resources more efficiently and effectively. The host of organisations involved in development work on the German side leads to a considerable lack of coordination and loss of efficiency, and takes up valuable resources both on the German side and in the partner country. Because we want to enhance the valued breadth of our portfolio of instruments, we must reduce the plethora of organisations involved.
We want to enhance the German government’s political capability to give its development cooperation activities a coherent and visible face, and want to establish Germany as a dynamic and innovative partner in international development policymaking.
Many players in this field – not just the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) – expect the German government to take on a stronger role in development policymaking. To enhance the effectiveness of development cooperation one must do one’s own homework first. That is why reforming our technical cooperation agencies is a key step for the German government on the road to the UN development summit to be held as part of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September this year.
More effective German development cooperation will empower our partners to an even greater degree to achieve economic growth and prosperity through their own efforts within a framework of democratic, rule-of-law structures. That is in the interests of our partners and also in Germany’s interest.
In the process, Germany’s government reconfirms its goal of providing 0.7 per cent of the country’s gross national income for development cooperation by the year 2015. At the same time, I wish to stress that we are concerned with not only the quantity but also the quality of our development cooperation activities. The one must not be played off against the other.
So how will the reforms take effect?
At the start of 2011, the new “Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit” (German Agency for International Cooperation) will take up its work. This agency will be created by merging the three government organisations of GTZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit), DED (German Development Service) and InWEnt (Capacity Building International, Germany). The shape of the new organisation – and how the three current organisations and their different operations are brought together – will not be managed from the latters’ various head offices in Germany alone. Rather, the new organisation – under the guidance of the BMZ – will determine its new structure and what requirements it must meet with the help of our partners in several pilot countries.
The German Agency for International Cooperation will be designed “from the outside in”. German development cooperation activities are carried out in developing countries, and it is there that we will sound out and be guided by our partners’ requirements when merging the organisations of GTZ, DED and InWEnt. This process will probably be completed by late 2011.
Our partners can then look forward to working with an implementing agency that is lean and willing to learn, functional and flexible, and whose new structure and operations are entirely geared to implementing projects. The German Agency for International Cooperation has the potential to become a global player and to make Germany’s technical cooperation activities into a highly successful export ‘commodity’.
What about Germany’s civil society players?
The importance of development policy in terms of global change is continuing to grow. Development policy is therefore one of Germany’s most important tools for shaping the international policy agenda. The German government promotes creativity, innovation and competition, and regards the support of civil society and private sector players as an integral part of its development cooperation activities.
In Germany, civil society is engaged in development issues to an extraordinarily high degree. There is a gratifyingly wide range of initiatives in Germany – all very different – engaged in promoting development cooperation, carrying out important public education work or making their own contributions to NGO-led projects in developing countries. Often, it is through and with the support of such initiatives that young people make their first contact with countries outside of Europe – or gain their first experience of working there.
The BMZ provides support to many of these initiatives. Here, too, we want to improve our efficiency further by setting up a new service point for civic engagement in development. Such a service point will help us improve the coherence of various instruments designed to promote development, and to make them viable for the future – all in close consultation with the NGOs. Furthermore, we want to get more people to support NGOs and work for them. To achieve this, we are launching activities such as a summit in Bonn on 3 September 2010 inviting citizens to “get involved” and an advertising campaign with the catchphrase: “Have you ever had the feeling the world would be a better place if you were given a go?”
So what does all this mean for the BMZ?
Reorganising the way projects are implemented in developing countries will naturally have an impact on the workings of the BMZ. The core idea behind the reform is that the BMZ is responsible for policymaking and the implementing agency for effectively carrying out projects with our partners for the benefit of specific target groups. This helps to draw a clear distinction between policymaking and implementation. It means that not only will the staff of the new implementing agency need to make a special effort but also the BMZ will have to change in order to enhance its ability to draft and shape development policy.
We shall achieve this by focusing, here at the BMZ, on core ministerial tasks. These include in particular the shaping of development policy agendas and consultative processes at home in Germany and at the international level; enhancing the coordination and coherence of our cooperation with our partner countries in the developing world; and nurturing dialogue and collaboration with civil society and the private and public sectors. We are not an administrative authority that deals with society “from the top down”; rather, we see ourselves as an arena – a hub, even – for discourse on development policy and cooperation.
To date, the three organisations have each followed different procedures in their cooperation activities with partners in developing countries. In future, there will be a single transparent process for planning cooperation activities together. Decisions on which goals and strategies to pursue, and on which German instruments to apply in development projects and programmes, will be taken jointly in a dialogue between our partners and the BMZ.
We launched this reform in a participatory manner – taking a “bottom-up” and, by consulting our partner countries first, “outside-in” approach. We shall continue in the same manner, even if that means considerable extra work for us and in particular the project group headed by Tom Pätz. We will retain our valued broad portfolio of instruments in our bilateral technical cooperation, even though we shall combine those instruments. Together with our partners we will select a new combination of instruments best suited to the target group of each project, thereby re-establishing the value of our broad portfolio.
The “look” of German development cooperation in the media will also change. In future, we shall promote the activities of German development cooperation using an official government logo. Such a logo will help to convey that our development cooperation is “made in Germany” or, more appropriately, “made by Germany”. In addition, the internet in particular will make it possible for everyone interested in our activities to find out more about them.
Everyone involved in this new era is called upon to embrace these changes and take up their new role. We are making these changes because we want to improve the overall effectiveness of our development cooperation. “One face to the customer” is a sign of our intention to enhance even further the impact of our work.