Why do countries give help to others

Six questions about German development aid

How much development aid does Germany provide?

8.541 billion euros are in the budget for the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2017.

But the BMZ's budget is not identical to what the OECD considers to be a state contribution to development aid. The unit of measurement here is called ODA, an abbreviation for the English term "Official Development Assistance".

This includes all government services for developing countries directly or to international organizations, which in turn use them for the benefit of developing countries.

To qualify as ODA, at least a quarter of these benefits must be grants, so they don't have to be repaid.

However, these services do not necessarily have to come from the federal government. This also includes expenditure by the federal states or municipalities.

For example, the costs for students from developing countries in Germany or the accommodation of refugees in Germany are also partially counted as ODA benefits.

Study place costs alone account for around eight percent of German ODA each year. Overall, German net ODA in 2015 was around 16 billion euros.

How does Germany fare as a donor country in an international comparison?

In order to be able to compare the development aid of different donor countries with one another, one puts the state benefits (ODA) in relation to the gross national income. This is called the ODA quota. In 2015, the German ODA quota was 0.52 percent, slightly above the average for the donor countries.

By 2015, all donor countries had actually committed to an ODA quota of 0.7 percent. It was already exceeded in some European countries in 2011: in Sweden, Denmark and Luxembourg it was just under one percent.

The USA, on the other hand, is the main donor country in absolute terms, but its ODA quota in 2013 was only 0.18 percent and thus well below the Millennium Development Goal of 0.7 percent.

Bilateral development aid - what does it mean?

This means development cooperation from state to state. The supporting funds flow directly and not through an international (multilateral) organization such as the EU or the World Bank.

Well over half of German government development aid is provided on a bilateral level. In this way, Germany can set its own priorities for development aid.

About every two years there are government negotiations between members of the federal government and the individual partner countries. This defines the structure and scope of the cooperation in a binding manner.

But the German contribution is also important within the framework of the EU or international organizations: Overall, the EU and the EU member states together finance around 60 percent of development cooperation worldwide.

Where does Germany help?

In 2016, the BMZ had 68 partner countries in five regions. 24 of these countries alone are located in the sub-Saharan region and for the most part are among the least developed countries in the world, such as Senegal, Ethiopia and Malawi.

But countries in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe are also supported, especially the new Balkan states.

The main goal in the Middle East and North Africa is to bridge the gap between Europe and the Arab world and to support democratic awakening.

Latin America and the Caribbean are important partners in areas such as climate protection.

The BMZ takes a very differentiated view of the Asian countries: They are developed very differently and also show very different economic growth rates. The Asian projects are primarily concerned with making development ecologically sustainable and socially balanced.

However, German aid is not limited to these 68 partner countries. On the one hand, a total of around 150 developing countries and areas receive benefits from the global donor community. German money is flowing into their institutions - such as the World Bank, for example.

In addition, non-governmental organizations can apply to the BMZ for grants and funding for their projects. These in turn do not necessarily have to be in one of the partner countries.

On the contrary: the BMZ often uses the opportunity to be indirectly active through NGO projects in countries with which negotiations at government level would be difficult.

Why is Germany doing all this at all?

Against the background of terrorism and civil wars in many countries, the BMZ sees development cooperation as a method to guarantee security and stability in Germany as well.

For the export nation Germany, from the point of view of the ministry, a stable global economy is also important, which is why Germany also benefits if crises in Africa or Asia can be prevented.

Even environmental problems can only be solved globally. If, for example, a lot of carbon dioxide is produced in developing countries through fossil fuels, this has a negative impact on the world climate and cannot be dismissed as a national matter.

In addition, the BMZ cites a twofold moral obligation for Germany as a reason for its work: On the one hand, the responsibility of the strong to help and support the weak.

On the other hand, there was a historical obligation: after the Second World War, Germany was itself the recipient of billions in support through the Marshall Plan.

I want to help too. What can I do?

In development aid, in particular, each individual can make a contribution. It already starts in everyday life, for example by buying fair trade products.

You can also work for one of the numerous non-governmental organizations or donate money to them and thereby support projects that make sense to you yourself.

You can get even more involved as a volunteer who works on site for a limited time in a project. "asa" and "weltwärts" are the names of the programs for young adults.

Retired people can pass on a piece of their professional experience through the Senior Expert Service (SES). For pupils there is ENSA, a special exchange program with schools in developing countries.

Author: Christina Lüdeke