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– by Heike Hänsel
© Heike Hänsel
Hunger, poverty and inequality are increasing around the world, not least because of the global financial crisis. So it is troubling that the German government has cut official development assistance (ODA), while aid geared to enhancing German exports and boosting corporate bottom lines has risen. Development cooperation in the style of Minister Dirk Niebel is supposed to pay off for German companies. Indeed, many times of what is spent on ODA flows back from the global south to the global north in the form of credit services, evaded taxes and corporate profits that result from trade liberalisation. Jean Ziegler, the former UN special rapporteur on the right to food, is right: "The point is not to provide more to people in the south, but to steal less from them." His statement indicates what kind of structural change the global economy needs.
The Left is in favour of superseding the neoliberal economic system, which is the cause of southern nations becoming ever more dependent on the industrialised nations of the north. The dominance of neoliberalism in the last three decades has caused about one billion people to go hungry. Ziegler speaks of "murder" by the capitalist system.
According to estimates by Citibank and the real-estate consultancy Knight Frank, some 63,000 individuals all over the world own private assets worth a combined $ 40 trillion. This sum is more than half of this year’s global economic output, which the IMF estimates at $ 74,2 trillion. Our response to this crying injustice is that wealth must be redistributed – in Germany, Europe and the world. Doing so is a precondition for winning the war against poverty. We propose channelling money into a compensation fund at the United Nations.
Because we want southern nations to enjoy autonomous development space and more for food sovereignty, we back efforts to base trade and economic relations on solidarity, rather than on exploitation in the guise of free trade. We need to re-design our relationship with countries in the south fundamentally. Development cooperation must begin by addressing the structural problems brought about by the capitalist system. We want to
- contribute to improving relationships among southern countries,
- boost regional trade as a counterweight to world trade,
- promote the processing of commodities and value creation in the south, and
- support an equitable trading system with the north.
Small farms, appropriate technology and the fair distribution of land and resources must be at the centre of any assistance. Local producers must be protected from price dumping and cutthroat competition.
During the next legislative term, the Left will continue to resist the militarisation of German foreign policy. The coalition of Christian Democrats and Free Democrats that is currently in power is not the first to have subordinated development policy to geostrategic and economic interests. That was equally done by the Social Democrat-Green coalition from 1998 to 2005. The very idea of civil-military cooperation is cynical because it instrumentalises development cooperation for military purposes, putting at risk both local people and international workers. Development policy must be geared to making peace. We demand an end to blending civilian engagement with military occupation. The civilian toolbox for preventing conflicts and reconciling adversaries must be vastly expanded.
The Left demands equitable budgeting, the regulation of financial markets and the introduction of a financial transaction tax which would raise revenues for fighting poverty. We also demand that both speculation in food and the import of agricultural commodities for bio-fuel production from the global south must stop.
Heike Hänsel is the Left’s spokesperson on development in the current Bundestag.