Archiv für den Monat: August 2017

Private or public – how should international aid be organised?

By Monika Griefahn / Picture: Mercy Ships

The Africa Mercy as the sun sets over the port of Cotonou, Benin 2017.

The main headlines about the G20 summit in the German city of Hamburg in June were about the heavy and destructive violence that was perpetrated by protesters. The fact that actual political agreements were made under the protection of a substantial security operation largely fell by the wayside. All the more reason to focus on what was actually achieved.

One example is Africa: in order to reduce social inequalities and differences in standards of living around the world the G20 member states founded an Africa partnership with the aim of enabling „sustainable and inclusive economic growth“ on the continent. The initiative is especially keen on creating humane income opportunities for women and young people. At the same time the group wants to combat poverty and inequality as the main causes behind migration. The final communiqué made reference to a „partnership at eye level“ as well as the private sector, improved opportunities for investments, sustainable infrastructure and even support in the educational sector.

So the discussion is focusing more or less on economic topics – and if one believes that investments and support for private enterprises does indeed contribute to wealth creation, that may be understandable. However, experience teaches that too often only few people benefit. The hope remains that the „sustainable economic growth“ mentioned in the final communiqué actually does refer to a form of growth that’s ecologically sound while at the same time respecting social issues such as fair wages, humane working hours and employee participation.

One issue that the final document does not mention at all is healthcare. In many African countries the provision of medical services to the population is generally of a comparably low standard – apparently the G20 intends to leave this aspect to NGOs, charities and volunteers. We can bemoan that fact, or we can act ourselves.

One project that I find remarkable in this context is Mercy Ships, an NGO that aims to improve access to basic medical care in developing countries. The Africa Mercy is a non-military hospital ship. The entire crew of over 400 people consists of volunteers. Doctors and dentists aboard the ship are able to help in emergency situations. They are also able to perform surgical procedures that aren’t available locally in the country where the ship is moored. An additional important aspect is the fact that the crew takes on volunteers with other qualifications – recently, a nautical engineer from the Costa cruise group joined up. The NGO also co-operates with government agencies in order to improve local medical systems. All this work depends on donations.

What both kinds of development aid – private as well as public – should feature in practice is the approach at eye’s level. I suppose that many developmental measures have failed in the past because they didn’t take into account local cultures, special traditions or specific behaviours. If there’s one thing we should have learned during decades of international development aid it should be to not repeat those mistakes. Every culture requires its own individual approach.

More Information about Mercy Ships

Final communiqué of the G20 summit

Study: can conservation and the energy transition co-exist?

By Petra Reinken

Windräder an der Nordseeküste
Here’s the good news: yes, we can! Christina von Haaren of the Institute of Environmental Planning at the University of Hanover and her team are currently preparing a study for the Federal Ministry of the Environment in Germany to find out whether Germany can achieve its energy transition by 2050 in a fashion that is environmentally sound. The key question is whether the goals of the electricity revolution in Germany and the principles of environmental protection can be streamlined. And indeed: shortly before the completion of the research scientists say that yes, it is possible.

However, Fritz Brickwedde from the German Renewable Energy Federation (BEE), sitting next to von Haaren during the recent presentation of the study’s preliminary results in Berlin, shook his head. Germany had long lost its status as a trailblazer in the field of renewable energies, the former secretary general of the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU) said. „We are missing our goals every day because we have the wrong tax incentives.“ As an example Brickwedde cited a tax incentive the Federal government has created for oil-fired heating systems, saying: „When it comes to the energy transition, we are acting counterproductively and inconsistently.“

The general reaction from the podium to Brickwedde’s arguments was that the regulatory framework could after all be changed. Christina von Haaren for one wasn’t ready to have her optimism taken away from her. Her study features three scenarios under which Germany’s electricity needs can be fully covered through renewable energy sources by the year 2050 without any harm to the environment. What’s remarkable: all three scenarios in the study are based on the assumption that solar energy will make up significantly more than half of Germany’s future electricity mix and that all eligible roofs in residential areas will feature photovoltaic cells. Land-based wind energy would become the other main pillar of the energy transition – depending on the scenario it would cover between 19 and 32 per cent of Germany’s electricity needs. However, von Haaren does acknowledge that “political frameworks and a social awakening are necessary in order to make the energy transition sustainable and achievable by 2050.”

The largest portion of the discussion between the five panellists focused on the topic of wind energy, and specifically on the availability of eligible space and distance rules. The important issue of “power to gas”, which relates to the storing of excess wind energy was not addressed even though the technology could make the construction of further long distance electricity links obsolete.

Another issue that wasn’t mentioned was the question of why high energy savings are being factored into many projections regardless of the fact that in the past expected savings have almost always been neutralised by rebound effects and the introduction of new energy intensive equipment. Furthermore, nobody challenged the twice-mentioned sentiment that the energy transition in the automotive world was almost entirely unconnected to environmental issues. In reality, an electric car requires just as much traffic space as a conventional car does – every bridge and every bypass road has a negative impact on nature.

But maybe in the end it’s simply about this clear statement: yes, we can! If that is the case then what are we waiting for?

An abriged version of the preliminary study results in German is available here.

Privat oder Staat – so kann Entwicklungshilfe aussehen

Von Monika Griefahn / Foto: Mercy Ships

The Africa Mercy as the sun sets over the port of Cotonou, Benin 2017.

Im Gedächtnis geblieben ist der G20-Gipfel im Juli in Hamburg maßgeblich durch heftige, zerstörerische Ausschreitungen von G20-Gegnern. Dass abgeschirmt von der Gewalt die zusammengekommenen Politiker aber tatsächlich Vereinbarungen getroffen haben, ist weitgehend untergegangen. Grund genug, das Augenmerk gerade darauf zu legen.

Nehmen wir Afrika: Um Ungleichheiten von Gesellschaften und Lebensstandards auf der Welt zu verringern, haben die G20-Staaten eine Afrika-Partnerschaft gegründet. Es soll „nachhaltiges, inklusives Wirtschaftswachstum“ auf dem Kontinent ermöglichen. Vor allem für Frauen und Jugendliche sollen menschenwürdige Beschäftigungsmöglichkeiten geschaffen werden. Armut und Ungleichheiten als Ursache von Migration will die Gruppe bekämpfen. Im Abschlusskommuniqué ist von einer „Partnerschaft auf Augenhöhe“ die Rede, vom privatwirtschaftlichen Sektor, von verbesserten Rahmenbedingungen für Investitionen, von nachhaltiger Infrastruktur, sogar von Unterstützung im Bildungsbereich.

Es ist also mehr oder weniger von Wirtschaftsthemen die Rede – und geht man davon aus, dass Investitionen und die Förderung von Unternehmen tatsächlich zum Wohlstand beitragen, mag das nachvollziehbar sein. Allein, die Erfahrung zeigt, wie oft nur einige wenige profitieren. Bleibt zu hoffen, dass „nachhaltiges Wirtschaftswachstum“ im Abschlusskommuniqué auch wirklich ein Wachstum meint, das ökologisch vertretbar ist und soziale Belange – gerechte Löhne, Mitbestimmung, humane Arbeitszeiten – berücksichtigt.

Was gar nicht in dem Abschlussdokument vorkommt, ist die Frage der Gesundheitsversorgung. Sie, die in den afrikanischen Ländern generell auf vergleichsweise niedrigem Niveau ist, ist offenbar den gemeinnützigen Organisationen und dem Ehrenamt überlassen. Wir können das bedauern, oder wir können uns engagieren.

Ein Projekt, das ich in dieser Hinsicht lobenswert finde, ich Mercy Ships. Diese Nichtregierungsorganisation (NGO) will den Zugang zur medizinischen Grundversorgung in Entwicklungsländern verbessern. Die Africa Mercy ist ein Lazarettschiff, hat aber mit dem Militär nichts zu tun. Das Besondere: Die gesamte, mehr als 400 Helfer starke Besatzung ist ehrenamtlich tätig. Auf dem Schiff arbeiten Ärzte und Zahnärzte, die in akuten Situationen helfen können, aber auch Operationen durchführen, die es vor Ort nicht gibt. Wichtig ist, dass sich auch Ehrenamtliche melden, die andere Qualifikationen haben (wie zum Beispiel gerade ein Maschineningenieur der Costa-Kreuzfahrtgruppe). Außerdem arbeitet die NGO mit Regierungen zusammen, um das lokale Gesundheitssystem zu verbessern. Auch dafür braucht es Spenden.

Was wir bei beiden „Projekten“, der privaten Hilfe und den staatlichen Bündnissen, in der Praxis nicht vergessen sollten, ist die Augenhöhe. Vermutlich sind schon viele Entwicklungshilfemaßnahmen daran gescheitert, dass lokale Kulturen nicht berücksichtigt, besondere Traditionen nicht erkannt und spezifisches Verhalten nicht verstanden wurde. Wenn wir eines in den vergangenen Jahrzehnten der Entwicklungshilfe gelernt haben sollten, dann, diesen Fehler nicht mehr zu machen. Alle  Kulturen benötigen jeweils individuelle Lösungen.

Mehr zu Mercy Ships
Das G20-Abschlusskommuniqué