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German policy

Points of reference

by Hans Dembowski

In brief

The Charter for the Future calls for more intensive inter-faith dialogue: Bishop Karsten Nissen from Denmark went to Cairo in 2006 to discuss with Muslim leaders cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that had been published by the newspaper Jyllands Posten.

The Charter for the Future calls for more intensive inter-faith dialogue: Bishop Karsten Nissen from Denmark went to Cairo in 2006 to discuss with Muslim leaders cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that had been published by the newspaper Jyllands Posten.

In a broad-based process involving the public, a “Charter for the Future” has been written on behalf of Gerd Müller, Germany's federal minister for economic cooperation and development. It was launched in late November and spells out the future goals of German development policy.

The Federal Cabinet appears to be very interested in the Charter. Apart from Müller, who hosted the launching event in Berlin, five other members took part: Angela Merkel, the chancellor, Peter Altmeier, her chief of staff, Andrea Nahles, the labour minister, Barbara Hendricks, the environment minister and Christian Schmidt, the agriculture minister.

Merkel said she appreciates Müllers initiative. Her speech tackled some of the Charter's topics. She said every person on Earth has the right to live in dignity and explicitly included refugees. She added that it was essential to safeguard peace and create circumstances in which people are not forced to flee from their homes. According to the foreword written by Minister Müller, the Charter is a “document of reference”. He wants German policy to be assessed by the standards it sets. The document consists of eight chapter that analyse the state of the world and spell out goals to improve matters. The headlines of the eight chapters are:

  • Ensure a life in dignity for all everywhere
  • Protect natural resources and manage them sustainably
  • Combine economic growth, sustainability and decent work
  • Promote and ensure human rights and good governance
  • Build peace and strengthen human security
  • Respect and protect cultural and religious diversity
  • Drive transformational change through innovation, technology and digitalisation
  • Forge a new global partnership and develop multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable development

The chapters are coherently interlocking. Inspired by recent debate, they up-date the sustainability principle that was agreed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The principle is that future generations must have the same opportunities as people living today and that all nations have the same claim to prosperity. The new Charter for the Future argues that Germany must establish and promote innovative partnerships to achieve the goals.


Human dignity

Human dignity is the Charter's starting point. Every individual has the same dignity, which must be protected the world over: “There must be peace and security, the eradication of all forms of hunger and poverty, equal opportunity in education, gender equality, comprehensive health-care services and effective participation in society.” Properly functioning institutions of government and the rule of law are indispensable, according to the Charter, and policy must be based on human rights, not least to the benefit of marginalised groups such as ethnic minorities or persons with disabilities.

As sustainable development is said to be impossible without peace, the Charter wants crisis prevention, civil conflict resolution and peace efforts to be strengthened. It acknowledges that strife can often be understood only in an international context since no country, on its own, is able to stem effectively illegal trafficking in persons, weapons, natural resources or drugs. To prevent violence, the Charter insists that:

  • there must be no safe havens for illegally accumulated wealth,
  • arms exports must be handled in a restrictive manner, and
  • policies concerning refugees must comply with human rights and serve development.

The Charter expects Germany and Europe to live up to demands of this kind.

The document states that a life in dignity is hardly possible based on the purchasing power of slightly more than $ 1.25 per person and day. That is how the World Bank currently defines absolute poverty. The Charter demands that poverty should be addressed in all its dimensions. It explicitly states that income inequality must be reduced. Development policymakers are required to respond to increasing poverty in urban areas and middle-income countries, without neglecting the misery many rural people live in.


Beyond economic growth

In order to promote sustainability, the Charter calls for new economic indicators beyond the mere growth of gross domestic product. Moreover, it wants to see the public sector engage with the private sector with the goal of ensuring “compliance with applicable rules, regulations and standards across all production facilities and entire value chains”.  

Change is needed in Germany too, as the Charter points out: “At current levels of growth, we would require several planet Earths to enable everyone in the world to enjoy the type of lifestyle we now expect in Germany. However, we only have one world.” The Charter calls for a societal transition towards sustainable patterns of production and consumption. Germany is expected to set a global example by phasing out nuclear power and moving on to renewable energies. At the same time, the Charter reaffirms that biodiversity, forests and oceans must be protected internationally. 

Cultures and religions shape the way people perceive the world. Agreeing on the values that shape our action is not a side aspect, but at the centre of the global debate on sustainability, according to the Charter. Therefore, it states that inter-faith dialogue must intensify.

Leading civil-society organisations including industry associations have contributed to drafting the Charter. Government agencies such as Engagement Global were involved in preparing it and will continue to raise awareness for it. Next year will offer many opportunities for doing so. “2015 will be the development year with new international Sustainable Development Goals, international negotiations of a new climate protocol and a German G7 presidency,” states Minister Müller's foreword to the Charter. 

Hans Dembowski