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Hopes and dreams: youth activities in civil society organizations in post-conflict countries

GDI Briefing - 16. November 2023 - 9:20

For a long time, youth have been seen as a driving factor for conflicts or as victims of conflicts. While some literature and research on youth in conflict tend to be overly negative and focus on the danger posed by youth, we argue that these descriptions do not reflect reality: youth are crucial to sustainable peacebuilding and must, therefore, be included in conflict transformation processes. We demonstrate that while youth continue to experience difficulties in overtaking meaningful roles as actors of change in peacebuilding, there is an improvement in the acceptance of their agency. The article explores the case of Sierra Leone where the perception of youth can be seen as a massive change from immediately after the war to today. The article explores different roles that youth can have during and after a conflict, investigates positive impacts youth can have, describes what peace means for young people and how they would describe a desirable future, and finally speaks about how youth respond and interact with international ideas of peace and sustainability.

Kategorien: english

23-11-16_Martina Rieken - ZFD - Bosnien und Herzegowina

D+C - 16. November 2023 - 2:00
23-11-16_Martina Rieken - ZFD - Bosnien und Herzegowina dagmar.wolf Thu, 16.11.2023 - 02:00 Survivors from all parties to the conflict are gathering today at sites of the Bosnian War. Together, they want to send a message of justice and reconciliation in a country that is still torn apart Bosnia and Herzegovina Silence is not golden Survivors and veterans from all parties to the conflict are gathering today at sites of the Bosnian War. Together, they want to send a message of justice and reconciliation in a country that is still torn apart. 16.11.2023Central Asia, Caucasia, Southeast Europe and Russia Hintergrund SDG16 Bürgerkriege, Konfliktmanagement, Peacebuilding Zivilgesellschaftliche Organisationen

For the first time since his release almost 30 years ago, Marijan Krajina enters an abandoned warehouse in Kaćuni, a small village in the municipality of Busovača in central Bosnia and Herzegovina. He was imprisoned in the dilapidated building for 76 days during the civil war at the beginning of the 1990s. Marijan Krajina experienced unimaginable suffering here. He and his son, both Croatian civilians, were arrested for no reason by Bosniak soldiers. They were brutally mistreated in the old grain warehouse in Kaćuni. Krajina is visibly upset as he talks about his experiences. “The worst thing was that I had to listen to my son’s screams from the next cell,” the former primary school teacher recalls. He says that he just wanted to die. Appalling stories can be heard at this inhospitable place. Marijan Krajina had never wanted to return.

“But I did,” he says after leaving his former prison. An enormous weight seems to fall from his shoulders. “I want everyone to know what happened here. I want something this terrible to never happen again.”

About 50 people have come to Kaćuni with Krajina. They are veterans and survivors from all parties to the former conflict, accompanied by peace activists and local and international journalists. The visit to the former warehouse in Kaćuni is part of a peace campaign by the Centre for Non­violent Action (CNA). CNA has worked closely with the Centre for Training and Networking in Nonviolent Action – KURVE Wustrow for over 20 years in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia within the framework of the Civil Peace Service (CPS).

Kaćuni is one of five stations, along with Tarčin, Žepče, Derventa and Doboj, that the survivors are visiting on this weekend in March 2023. The participants place roses, hear harrowing stories, mourn and give each other courage. Then they affix a blue sign with the inscription: “Unmarked site of suffering – at this site, during the past war, people were subjected to inhuman acts. By not letting these events be forgotten, we stand in solidarity with all victims. May it never happen again to anyone.” CNA has already identified over 130 such places. The markings show respect to victims and their families and serve as a visible symbol for justice, reconciliation and peace.

After Marijan Krajina has shared his memories, a man steps out of the crowd. His name is Edin Ramulić, and he is a veteran of the Bosniak army, whose soldiers tortured Marijan Krajina on this site. He asks for forgiveness on their behalf. “I didn’t know that such terrible things happened here,” Ramulić says later. “Marijan reminded me of my father, who had a similar experience. I am the only male survivor of my family. I experienced the horrors of war as a soldier, prisoner and family member. Right after the war I became a peace activist.”

Shock and mourning

At the next station, in the village of Tarčin, about 30 minutes by car from Sarajevo, the Serbian Slobodan Mrkajić recalls his ordeal. He spent two years in a total of six camps. In Tarčin, his torturers extracted his teeth with tongs used for making horseshoes. His injuries will always be visible. It is almost a miracle that he survived. The group is silent after his story. Many people are stunned, some are crying. Together they fasten red roses to the fence of the former camp.

“We come to these places. We come in peace to remember the victims of the war and thereby show cross-border solidarity. Veterans and survivors who used to be enemies are setting an example of reconciliation and dialogue,” says Nenad Vukosavljević, co-founder of CNA. “They recognise that terrible suffering occurred on all sides.”

The peace campaign by CNA and CPS requires a confrontation with the past, which rarely happens in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but is necessary for a peaceful future. The society has still not recovered from the atrocities of the war.

Sheila Mysorekar 21.07.2020 Collective trauma

Bosnia and Herzegovina was a constituent republic of Yugoslavia that wanted independence. From 1991 to 1995, the three largest ethnic groups in the country were locked in a bloody conflict. Many Bosnian Muslims backed an independent state, while some Bosnian Serbs called for a union with Serbia, and Croatian Bosnians wanted to belong to Croatia. The wounds are deep on all sides to this day.

Divided society

Nowadays, the people still live ethnically, religiously and spatially separated. Even children are taught separately. Each group maintains its own version of the past and often disputes that its side committed war crimes. The rest is silence. Thus, the enemy image of the respective “other” is preserved and passed on to the next generation. The division in society is also reflected in politics. Politicians block each other on many issues, thereby exacerbating tensions in the country. The economy is in decline due to complicated regulations and widespread corruption. As a result, more and more young people in particular are emigrating.

The last stop of the peace campaign is the iron bridge over the Bosna River, on the outskirts of the city of Doboj in north-east Bosnia and Herzegovina. Here, 13 civilians were shot to death for no reason in June 1992. Their dead bodies were thrown in the Bosna. There are no survivors to tell the tale. Therefore, it is even more important that they are not forgotten.

After the meeting, the campaign’s participants publish an emotional appeal to the public in many European media. Their statement reads: “Deeply convinced that all victims deserve equal respect, with our joint visit to sites of suffering, including former detention sites, we want to express human decency, share in the pain and provide encouragement and support to each other.” Against the backdrop of their own experiences, they warn of the tragic consequences of war and make a plea for understanding. “Without denying our differences, we believe that mutual respect and understanding (...) can create space for dialogue where we can hear each other with open hearts,” the declaration continues. “We believe that our right to freedom and peace can only be achieved by working together, crossing the borders that have separated us since the war and by learning from our painful past.”

The fact that former enemies can reach out to one another at sites of war crimes shows that there is a path to reconciliation, however rocky it may be. “It helps us to talk about what happened,” one of the veterans says, “but they don’t want us to be here together”. He means politicians. None of the local politicians they have invited has appeared. The peace campaigns of CNA are tolerated, but not supported.

A few weeks after the campaign, CNA receives a complaint. Five associations from Busovača claim that there was no camp in Kaćuni where people were hurt, but that Bosniaks were tortured and killed at other sites in the area. CNA responded by referring to statements from victims and offering to discuss which unmarked sites of suffering the authors of the complaint would like to identify. Only through dialogue, CNA believes, can such resentment be dispelled.

CNA has been confronting the past and advocating for dialogue between different groups since 1997. In its offices in Sarajevo and Belgrade, a total of 11 people, including two CPS employees, work together in multi-ethnic teams. The goal is to process experiences, achieve reconciliation and develop an inclusive culture of memory. The latter is necessary to help create a notion of a shared state. In addition to its memorial campaigns, CNA is also working to systematically document, research and regularly publish the insights it has gathered in books, exhibitions, websites and seminars.

Rousbeh Legatis 05.01.2023 What helps traumatised societies to heal

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Martina Rieken is a public relations coordinator at the Civil Peace Service Consortium (CPS).

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Kategorien: english

‘No end in sight’ to rising greenhouse gas emissions: World Meteorological Organization

UN #SDG News - 15. November 2023 - 13:00
Greenhouse gas emissions reached a record high in 2022 with “no end in sight to the rising trend”, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in a report published on Wednesday. 
Kategorien: english

The implementation of sustainability taxonomies: the case of South Africa

GDI Briefing - 15. November 2023 - 9:56

In recent years, many jurisdictions have developed sustainability taxonomies that aim to increase transparency of financial markets and redirect capital flows to sustainable investments. Such sustainable finance policies can be important levers because today’s investments shape economic production processes for decades. This case study on South Africa’s Green Finance Taxonomy (GFT) addresses the question of what factors influence the adoption of sustainability taxonomies by potential users. It finds that one year after its publication, the GFT has hardly been used in practice. Important factors hindering an effective implementation are a lack of regulatory embedding, the absence of a legal recognition of the GFT by the European Union (EU), a hesitancy among financial market participants to build capacities to collect the necessary data, and fossil-fuel path dependencies in South Africa’s economy. These findings have important policy implications (e.g. regarding accompanying governance measures) for implementation processes in many countries in the coming years.

Kategorien: english

23-11-15_Adaze Okeaya-inneh - Nigeria - land use

D+C - 15. November 2023 - 2:00
23-11-15_Adaze Okeaya-inneh - Nigeria - land use dagmar.wolf Wed, 15.11.2023 - 02:00 Climate crisis and population growth increase pressure on arable land in West Africa Justice Land-use conflicts undermine food security in Nigeria In view of a fast-growing population, demand for land is increasing in Nigeria. At the same time, the climate crisis is compounding problems in agriculture. Land-use conflicts further diminish the scope for food production and other kinds of economic activity. Whether violent action is criminal or merely self-defence can be hard to tell. 15.11.2023Sub-Saharan Africa Hintergrund SDG2 SDG6 Klima, Energie Landwirtschaft, ländliche Entwicklung Ernährung, Hunger Soziokulturelle Faktoren Recht, Verwaltung Korruption Infrastruktur

Land-use conflicts are social disputes that can quickly turn violent. They occur when individuals or groups want to use an area for different purposes, like agriculture, housing, industry, commerce, recreation or transportation. Tensions become particularly likely when people believe that their rights are being violated.

In Nigeria, land-use conflicts vary from one region to another, though there are common themes. In the north, Fulani herding communities frequently clash with farmers. The violence sometimes spreads into cities as well. In south-eastern Nigeria, oil companies and local people have a long history of clashes.

Nigeria’s rapid population growth is compounding problems. According to UN data, Nigeria currently has over 200 million people, and the number is expected to double by 2050. The increase in people puts additional pressure on limited land in rural as well as urban areas.

The climate crisis is exacerbating resource-related conflicts further. Competition for water, arable land and pastures for herds is increasing at a time when traditional practices are becoming unviable.

Disputed ownership

Land ownership is crucially relevant, but often controversial. One reason is that traditional and especially collective ownership is often not properly recognised. Moreover, vacant plots may be considered to not belong to anyone. Encroachment, the unauthorised sale of community land and rental conditions can trigger conflicts in which local people are often pitted against outsiders. Whether a community-based group is simply acting in self-defence or has actually become an illegal gang is often not obvious, but a matter of perspective.

A typical kind of conflict is timber contractors versus farmers. Contractors often destroy farmlands when felling trees for commercial use.

Violent encounters between farming and herding communities are extremely worrisome. Disputes arise when herds destroy fields or even feed on farmers’ crops. As the north is becoming more arid, nomadic herders look for pastures farther south, moving into areas where villages have been expanding their fields. Both sides feel that they are merely defending their livelihoods and insisting on what belongs to them.

Making matters more explosive, the herders are typically Fulani, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, while farmers are often Christians of other ethnic groups. Tensions over land use thus become entangled with faith-based identity politics. Given that Islamist terrorism is affecting some parts of Nigeria quite seriously, this is most dangerous.

Land-use problems also haunt the Niger Delta. Since independence, there have been various periods of violence and even full-blown civil war. Oil exploitation on community lands is problematic. International corporations have caused massive oil spills on land and in rivers, destroying livelihoods. Local people can no longer farm or fish, and their health has been impacted as well. Oil companies do not pay adequate compensations.

Connie Nagiah Margaret Mapondera 19.03.2023 Women take on environmentally destructive ‘development’ projects

Government policies on land use and officers’ abuse of power also cause disputes. The Land Use Act of 1978 is itself a bone of contention. It has been amended several times, but it does not take traditional notions of ownership and the right to access land into account properly. Government officers have a pattern of using legal ambiguities to demand bribes and using their powers arbitrarily. It can be quite difficult to tell at what point an official procedure turns into an illegal extortion scheme.

The rate of food insecurity in Nigeria is alarming. Last year, Cadre Harmonisé, a UN supported West African tool for assessing food security, forecasts that about 25 million Nigerians would be at risk of food insecurity this summer.

Land-use conflicts not only contribute to food insecurity, but also increase insecurity in general. In parts of north-western Nigeria, farmers are often forced to pay levies to armed bandits before they can go to their fields. Some pay with their crops, but many farmers cannot pay at all. As a result, food production is hampered. The problem is transferred to consumers when food prices increase. Poverty is therefore worsening in already marginalised areas.

When attacks escalate, some farmers flee and desert their lands. In extreme cases, entire communities are forced to relocate. Internal displacement is a huge issue in Nigeria, and the side effects include a loss of culture and identity.

Ben Ezeamalu 17.11.2021 Internal displacement is a huge issue in Nigeria’s northeast

Climate change is causing extreme weather in Nigeria, which also has an adverse effect on agriculture. During the 2022 rainy season, widespread flooding damaged 676,000 hectares of farmland. Twenty-seven of Nigeria’s 36 states were affected. The flooding exacerbated food insecurity as well. Slow trends such as worsening aridity obviously affect agriculture too.

Land conflicts restrict the land available for agricultural production and environmental conservation efforts. They also obstruct development. In rural Nigeria, telecommunication companies have been prevented from laying their cables and denied access to their facilities until they make illegal payments to community leaders.

The way forward

Resolving land use conflicts will require peacebuilding measures, as well as a change in government policies. Experts have proposed a review of the Land Use Act of 1978 to make room for meaningful growth in agriculture and other sectors. To ensure food security and reduce land-use conflicts, the government must consider adopting policies that encourage sustainable agricultural practices, increase climate resilience and boost investment in renewable energy.

Courts play an important role in solving land disputes. However, legal processes take time and are expensive. Though they hurt the relationship between aggrieved parties, they are a legitimate source of conflict resolution. Some consider Kenya’s Environmental and Land Courts (ELC), which are designed to reconcile formal and traditional understandings of justice, an example.

Another important step would be to encourage nomadic herders to switch to more sedentary livestock production. Measures could include teaching herdsmen local feed-preservation techniques, storing excess herbage using silage and hay and facilitating negotiations led by neutral parties. Nigeria has the natural resources to become one of the top agriculture-producing countries, but the first step is to give agriculture the attention it deserves and make good use of available arable land.

Reducing population growth and mitigating the climate crisis would help too. While Nigeria cannot rise to the latter challenge on its own, progress in fighting poverty would help to tackle the former one.

Mahwish Gul 23.06.2023 Slow decline of African birth rates

Adaze Okeaya-inneh is a journalist and screenwriter in Lagos.

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Kategorien: english

Moses Lubabali

D+C - 14. November 2023 - 15:11
Moses Lubabali dagmar.wolf Tue, 14.11.2023 - 15:11 Moses Lubabali

is a former employee of the Kenyan government. He worked for the Ministry of Education.

Kategorien: english

Are cash-for-work programmes good for local economic growth? The case of donor-funded public works for refugees and nationals in Jordan

GDI Briefing - 14. November 2023 - 13:28

This article investigates whether public works / cash for work (CfW) programmes contribute to economic growth locally, beyond benefits paid to participants, especially in contexts of flight and migration. Based on quantitative and qualitative research conducted in Jordan, it affirms that CfW substantially promotes economic growth through multiplier effects since CfW participants spend most income locally. Some programmes in Jordan improve also the employability of their participants, which, however, does not transform into higher employment rates because the Jordanian labour market is extremely tight. Finally, the programmes empower women by easing labour-market access and – though not irrevocably – changing gender roles.

Kategorien: english

The future of climate and development finance: balancing separate accounting with integrated policy responses

GDI Briefing - 14. November 2023 - 13:26

With the first Global Stocktake to be presented at the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Dubai, the question of inadequate levels of climate finance for developing countries will again take centre stage. Ongoing efforts to reform climate finance include the negotiation of a New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG) by the end of 2024; the structural reform of Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) to provide more climate finance and to lower the cost of capital; and the setting-up and integration of the new funding stream for loss and damage. Yet, there are other longstanding issues in international climate finance that likewise need to be addressed as part of these ongoing efforts, which are mainly related to the disentanglement of the development and climate finance regimes. Official Development Assistance (ODA), per definition, aims to promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries, and at the same time plays an increasing role in the global climate finance landscape. However, sourcing climate finance from ODA is already leading to a “crowding out” of limited ODA resources for its original purposes. Moreover, the current system of reporting on and accounting for climate finance provided through ODA has significant pitfalls and weaknesses. This paper discusses some of the key challenges caused by the blurring of the development assistance and climate finance regimes and argues that the NCQG process and the integration of loss and damage into the climate finance system must go hand in hand with a separation of climate and development finance accounting mechanisms whilst ensuring integrated policy responses. We address these issues in two parts: first we focus on the current system of reporting and accounting for international climate finance (as ODA); and second on the role of ODA to finance mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage. We argue that there is a political necessity for distinguishing between ODA and climate finance (for transparency and credibility), which contrasts with the operational reality where co-benefits of projects and development finance must be achieved by integrating climate and non-climate objectives. In this regard, the paper analyses the implications of on-going negotiations under the UNFCCC around the NCQG and loss and damage for a necessary ODA reform. In particular, we make the following recommendations:
(1) Align the accounting and reporting system of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) with the NCQG: one should separate climate and development finance; reduce over-reporting; and establish triangulation of climate finance data reported by donors.
(2) Introduce qualitative frameworks for monitoring and assessment of the impact of climate-related interventions; and define “fit-for-purpose” instru-ments and channels for the provision of climate finance.
Looking ahead, we expect discussions on a potential enlargement of the contributor base of climate finance to give new impetus to climate finance reform.

Kategorien: english

Rethinking Development Studies

EADI Debating Development Research - 14. November 2023 - 9:42
By Kees Biekart, Laura Camfield, Uma Kothari, Henning Melber Our world is in shambles. And what is widely understood as Development has been a contributing factor. While ‘fixers’ are quick to offer new recipes for Development, re-building or re-constructing societies destroyed, they often offer more of the same. This provokes the question, as to whether …
Kategorien: english, Ticker

23-11-14_Alihan Kadirgamar / Hans Dembowski - Sri Lanka

D+C - 14. November 2023 - 2:00
23-11-14_Alihan Kadirgamar / Hans Dembowski - Sri Lanka dagmar.wolf Tue, 14.11.2023 - 02:00 IMF policies did not solve Sri Lanka’s problems but made them worse, claims a sociologist who assesses the country’s ongoing debt crisis Sovereign-debt crisis “Without debt relief, Sri Lanka’s economy will keep deteriorating” Both poverty and political repression have been worsening in Sri Lanka since last year’s sovereign default. Here is the assessment of Ahilan Kadirgamar of the University of Jaffna. 14.11.2023South Asia Hintergrund SDG8 Entwicklungszusammenarbeit der Geberländer Finanzmärkte, Internationale; Währungen Global Governance Korruption Organisationen (international, multilateral) Privatwirtschaft Amts- und Regierungsführung Staatsfinanzen Staatsschulden Volkswirtschaftliche Entwicklung

Sri Lanka’s government defaulted in April 2022. How is economy doing today?
The situation is dire. Sri Lanka’s GDP contracted by 7.8 % last year and is contracting this year as well. Some 500,000 formal-sector jobs have been lost. Another 1 million informal jobs were lost in the construction sector. Cost of living has risen by over 70 % with the crisis. According to the World Bank, the poverty rate doubled to 25 % last year, and the UNDP reckons that multidimensional poverty now affects over half of our people. Multidimensional poverty takes account of things like child mortality, nutrition, school attendance and consumption patterns.

Arjuna Ranawana 13.12.2022 Sri Lanka’s reform agenda is intimidating

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Doesn’t the bailout your government agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) help?
The problem is the austerity our government is imposing to fulfill its conditions. The government has cut social spending, including subsidies for basic goods. The rupee’s exchange rate has plummeted. The dollar went up to 360 rupees rather than 200 before the crisis. Fuel prices tripled. The central bank raised its lending rate from 6 to 16.5 %. It is now 11 %, but commercial loans reached as high as 30 %, so credit-financed investments are not viable anymore. Austerity is exacerbating preexisting economic problems which were caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, a resulting drop in remittances and later, when Russia invaded Ukraine, rising food and energy prices.

Kristina Rehbein Malina Stutz 11.12.2022 The role of the IMF in the global debt crisis

What is the political situation?
The government is increasingly repressive. It has passed and is passing bills to curtail civic freedoms. The list includes a new antiterrorism act, a new online safety bill and a new broadcasting bill. The authorities are restricting public dissent. Local elections were postponed because they were supposedly too costly. Presidential elections are due next year and parliamentary elections in 2025. Will they take place? We do not know.

Last year, a broad-based protest movement toppled the right-wing populist government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Has the democratic momentum been lost?
Well, the protests initially did inspire hope, but the result was weaker, not stronger democracy. According to our constitution, the people elect the president and the parliament. After Gotabaya fled abroad, however, the parliament, in which his followers still dominate, chose Ranil Wickremesinghe as the new president. He is beholden to the Rajapaksa oligarchy. Gotabaya’s brother Mahinda, as you certainly know, is a former president himself. He and other brothers served in Gotabaya’s cabinet.

To a large extent, the debt that is crippling Sri Lanka was piled up by Mahinda. Is corruption the main problem?
Corruption plays a role, but its relevance tends to be overrated. This is Sri Lanka’s 17th IMF programme. The sheer number shows that we were never on a sustainable growth path. IMF policies did not solve Sri Lanka’s problems, they made them worse. Over the decades, our welfare programmes were weakened. Liberalisation led to education and healthcare becoming defunded and increasingly costly for the people. We have free universities in Sri Lanka that are now under threat, and now even our universal healthcare system is under attack. People’s lives are becoming more precarious. On the other hand, market-orthodox policies encouraged speculative investments, and occasional spurts of growth facilitated new lending from abroad, both to the government and private entities. The pattern is that we may end up in another default when the debt burden eventually becomes too heavy, and then the next IMF bailout leads to yet more market-orthodox policies.

Private-sector creditors are much more important in many sovereign-debt crises around the world today than they were in the past. Moreover, China has issued huge loans too. Multilateral institutions and western governments are not the main players anymore. Western governments want all relevant parties to be involved in the kind of debt restructuring that Sri Lanka obviously needs. Do you see any progress in that regard?
Well, we only have rather vague public information. Our government says it is making progress, both in talks with the Chinese and foreign private-sector financiers. Information regarding China is slightly more precise, so negotiations with the private financiers probably look even less promising. India matters too, however. It has been supporting the Wickremesinghe government with new investments and clearly wants to limit China’s influence. It would certainly like Indian investors to buy Sri Lankan infrastructure when relevant facilities – such as the port of Colombo, for instance – are privatised. Geopolitical interests matter very much.

Getting China and the private sector to agree to debt restructuring seems to be western governments’ top priority regarding sovereign-debt crises in many countries. China is a very difficult partner. In the case of Zambia, for example, it only agreed to limited debt restructuring and insisted that the government start paying again as soon as the economy improves enough for doing so. Zambia’s outlook thus remains much darker than it would be if the country were allowed to restart with a decisively reduced debt burden.
Well, China is making things difficult for Sri Lanka too. We are yet to hear any public commitment to restructuring Sri Lankan debt. We are a middle-income country, and the G20 Common Framework on Debt Treatment, which China endorses, only applies to low-income countries. Without debt relief, Sri Lanka’s economy will keep deteriorating. In the meantime, IMF demands are accelerating the downward spiral. The Fund wants Sri Lanka to achieve a primary budget surplus next year and increase it to 2.3 % in 2025. This agenda is brutal. We had a primary budget deficit of 3.7 % last year.

José Siaba Serrate 18.05.2023 Disagreement between China and the Paris Club

Sovereign default means that a country’s sovereignty is damaged. I always wonder how democratic self-governance is possible in nations that are tied down by an unpayable debt that was incurred by a former government.
An international mechanism for restructuring excessive sovereign debt would help. All countries have legal procedures to ensure that private insolvencies are resolved in ways that limit the economic harm. We need something like that to contain the impacts of government defaults. Such a legal mechanism would clear the slate, creating deliberative space for democratically elected governments. Since there is no such system, whatever government is in place in a heavily indebted country basically must negotiate bailout terms with the IMF. The democratic public is irrelevant. In our case, the IMF terms benefit Sri Lanka’s oligarchs, but hurt disadvantaged people. A wealth tax would make sense, for example. It would only affect the most prosperous families and bolster the national budget. The bailout programme actually foresees such a tax from 2025 on, but consumption taxes, which hurt low-income consumers, were raised immediately. According to the IMF, the wealth tax cannot be introduced faster because it is challenging in administrative terms. Somehow administrative worries do not matter when austerity measures affect masses of poor people.

Germany’s Federal Government has spoken out in favour of an international sovereign-default mechanism. I suppose you would like it to promote the cause more forcefully. What else would you like it to do?
Well, there are several other things Germany could do. After China, Japan and India, your country is the distant fourth among Sri Lanka’s bilateral creditors. Together with Japan, your government wields considerable influence in the Paris Club of western creditor governments. The same governments dominate the IMF. Your government could question the prevalent market-orthodoxy, which has failed. Moreover, it could use its leverage to make the IMF impose measures that are less severe and more fit for purpose.

Are some measures counterproductive?
Yes, indeed. For example, the current programme absurdly frames that domestic creditors write off some of their debt. Since their bonds are denominated in rupees, that debt hardly matters. Debt denominated in foreign currencies becomes crippling when things spin out of control and the exchange rate deteriorates fast. International private creditors have demanded domestic debt restructuring. The way it has been implemented, moreover, will cause further hardship in the future. Our central bank shied away from imposing write-offs on Sri Lankan banks, because that might easily have triggered bank runs and, ultimately, the collapse of the financial sector. Instead, the central bank cancelled bonds held by the private retirement funds for formally employed people. Pensioners will therefore be worse off long term. Ironically, the central bank is the custodian of the provident funds. To meet IMF demands, it had to disregard its responsibility for safeguarding the pension system.

Ahilan Kadirgamar is a sociologist and senior lecturer at the University of Jaffna.

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Kategorien: english

Trade policy and food security in turbulent times

GDI Briefing - 13. November 2023 - 16:11

The objective of this chapter is to investigate the linkages between trade policy and food security in the MENA region. It provides an overview of the theoretical nexus between international trade, trade policy, and food security. It also analyzes the status of food security in the MENA region and trends in trade policy between trade barriers and trade agreements. The repercussions of the current global shocks (COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian war on Ukraine) on food security, together with longstanding structural issues that undermine the region’s potential to achieve food security are also discussed. The chapter concludes with policy recommendations for enhanced food security in the region.

Kategorien: english

Umdenken demokratischer Akteur*innen in der internationalen Gemeinschaft erforderlich

GDI Briefing - 13. November 2023 - 15:22

Bonn, 13. November 2023. Die jüngste Welle von Staatsstreichen in Afrika hat die internationalen Akteur*innen aufgeschreckt, die für demokratische Werte einstehen. Was in Mali nach regierungsfeindlichen Protesten im August 2020 begann, breitete sich bald wie ein unkontrollierbares ‚Harmattan-Feuer‘ auf fünf weitere Länder in der Sahelzone und in frankophonen Teilen von Zentral- und Westafrika aus und brachte die dortigen Regierungen zu Fall.

Während diese Putsche zwar einen besorgniserregenden Trend in Afrika markieren, scheinen sie unter der afrikanischen Bevölkerung jedoch auf breite Unterstützung zu stoßen. Es bleibt jedoch abzuwarten, ob diese Militärputsche die Erwartungen der Bürger*innen erfüllen werden. Denn so gut wie keiner der bisherigen Militärputsche – vor allem in der Region – hat der Bevölkerung Vorteile gebracht. Nun scheint sich der Staub gelegt zu haben und die internationalen Akteur*innen, denen an einer Demokratisierung gelegen ist, sollten aus dem Geschehenen Lehren ziehen, um weitere Putsche in Afrika zu vermeiden.

Internationale Akteur*innen sollten genau darauf achten, welche Arten von Demokratie sie in Afrika unterstützen. Gegenwärtig sind viele Länder Afrikas langjährige Wahlautokratien (Hybridregime), die sich schon lange hinter der Fassade von Wahlen als Demokratien ausgeben. Das Handeln bzw. Nichthandeln der internationalen Akteur*innen, die Demokratien in Afrika fördern wollen, lässt jedoch darauf schließen, dass sie diese Hybridregime kompromisslos unterstützen, statt sich für demokratischere Regimeformen einzusetzen. Fast 64 % der Netto-Entwicklungsleistungen aller Geber*innen fließen in Länder, die nach international anerkannten Demokratieindizes wie dem Varieties of Democracy Index als nicht vollständig demokratisiert gelten. Daraus folgt, dass Entwicklungsleistungen weiterhin dazu dienen können, unvollständige Demokratien zu stabilisieren.

Infolgedessen ist die Demokratie in Afrika nicht mehr als ein zyklisches Phänomen, das durch scheinbar erfolgreiche Wahlen herbeigeführt wird, die allerdings mit einer ganzen Reihe von systemischen Mängeln einhergehen. So waren zwischen 1990 und 2023 etwa 70 % der Regime in Afrika entweder geschlossene Autokratien (17,6 %) oder Wahlautokratien (51,7 %). Nur 25,1 % waren Wahldemokratien und 5,6 % liberale Demokratien. Die häufigste Regierungsform in afrikanischen Ländern scheint also die Wahlautokratie zu sein, die de facto ein Mehrparteiensystem ist, aber aufgrund erheblicher Unregelmäßigkeiten und Einschränkungen des Parteienwettbewerbs nicht demokratischen Standards entspricht.

Die Unterstützung dieser hybriden Regime als Standardform der Demokratie erweckt den Eindruck, dass funktionierende Demokratien vorhanden sind. Tatsächlich sind diese jedoch nicht nachhaltig, denn sie sehen weder eine vertikale noch eine horizontale demokratische Rechenschaftspflicht vor, während öffentliche Gelder und Ressourcen in großem Maßstab veruntreut werden. Die Bürger*innen geben ihre Stimme in der Erwartung ab, dass die von ihnen gewählten Politiker*innen ihre Wahlversprechen erfüllen. Aufgrund der institutionellen Schwächen und Inkohärenz von Wahlautokratien sind die Regierenden jedoch nicht verpflichtet, ihre Versprechen einzuhalten und können ungehindert ihre Macht missbrauchen. Und so kommt es, dass in vielen afrikanischen Ländern dringend benötigte öffentliche Güter fehlen, während sich korrupte Beamt*innen die Taschen füllen.

Besonders problematisch ist, dass sich diese Regime durch scheinbar demokratische Wahlen als Demokratien ausgeben. Die Bevölkerung, die unter der Unfähigkeit ihrer Regierung leidet, zweifelt zunehmend an der Idee der Demokratie, weshalb andere Regierungsformen wie die Militärherrschaft immer beliebter werden. Menschen in ganz Afrika unterstützen und feierten die Staatsstreiche – nicht etwa, weil sie demokratische Systeme an sich ablehnen, sondern weil sie unzufrieden damit sind, wie die ‚Demokratie‘ funktioniert bzw. nicht funktioniert.

Ein weiterer wichtiger Punkt sind ungerechte (post-)koloniale politische Vereinbarungen zwischen afrikanischen Regierungen und ehemaligen Kolonialmächten, denn sie schüren Feindseligkeiten und begünstigen Staatsstreiche. Dies zeigt etwa der antikoloniale Diskurs gegen Frankreich bei den jüngsten Putschen. Die Bürger*innen kritisieren ungerechte Steuerabkommen, die Monopolstellung von Air France in den frankophonen Ländern, die einseitige militärische Zusammenarbeit und die Dominanz französischer Unternehmen, z. B. in den Uranminen. Verstärkt wurden diese Ressentiments durch die Ambitionen konkurrierender Supermächte, sich in der Region Wettbewerbsvorteile und eine Vormachtstellung zu verschaffen. So soll Russland beispielsweise mit Desinformationskampagnen in afrikanischen Ländern die Stimmung zugunsten antidemokratischer Akteur*innen in der Region aufgeheizt haben. Die Militärjuntas in diesen Ländern beziehen sich oft strategisch auf Russland. Allerdings war Russlands Rolle in vielen dieser Länder bisher eher rhetorischer Natur.

Zusammenfassend lässt sich sagen, dass die Arbeit von demokratischen Akteur*innen, wie der ECOWAS, zur Stärkung der Demokratie über die Ermöglichung von Wahlen hinausgehen sollte. Außerdem ist es notwendig, die demokratischen Verfahren zu institutionalisieren und zu festigen. Der derzeitige Ansatz internationaler Akteur*innen, Hybridregime als gültige Form der Demokratie anzuerkennen, legt nahe, dass Wahlautokratien bereits liberalen Standards genügen würden. Allerdings gelten Wahlautokratien als eine fragile und defizitäre Form der Demokratie – weitere Schritte zur Demokratisierung sind notwendig. Zudem lässt sich die Zustimmung der afrikanischen Bevölkerung zur Demokratie nur dann gewinnen, wenn keine ungerechten (post-)kolonialen politischen Vereinbarungen mehr geschlossen werden.

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Germany's Energiewende: synergies, trade-offs and political drivers

GDI Briefing - 13. November 2023 - 15:04

There has been a significant policy shift in Germany’s energy transition – the Energiewende – resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent war. The Easter Package, rolled out in Spring 2022, set a series of ambitious renewable energy targets and laws to enable both climate action and energy security. These are to be implemented in tandem with existing laws such as the Coal Exit Law and the Federal Climate Change Act. Aligning policies and targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and ensure energy reliability and affordability requires concerted policy coherence, a policy process to pursue multiple goals in a way that maximises synergies and minimises trade-offs. Reducing trade-offs (and their consequences) is especially crucial if the energy transition is to be just for all and become a vehicle towards a broader Just Transition, as well as to achieve the aims of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (including “leaving no one behind”) and the Paris Agreement. This policy brief first examines some of the most important policies – and (in)coherences – pertaining to the Energiewende, with a specific focus on the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), one of Germany’s main coal-mining regions. The brief then goes on to explore the main political drivers – through the lens of ideas, interests and institutions – of policy (in)coherence in two parallel Energiewende policy processes that are particularly relevant to the electricity sector: the coal phase-out and the phase-in of onshore wind. Although solar power and green hydrogen are also key to a successful Energiewende, these are not the subject of this brief. Our insights derive from policy document analysis and 28 semi-structured interviews. To move towards a Just Transition, the following recommendations are made to promote coherence in Germany’s Energiewende and inform the ongoing revision of the NRW Sustainability Strategy (last updated in 2020). The recommendations may also be of interest to the newly appointed NRW Advisory Board on Sustainability:
• Mitigate ideological, institutional and interest-based barriers to ambitious climate action by ensuring a political commitment to policy coherence. In NRW in particular, this means meeting recent promises to deliver a coal phase-out by 2030 and lift the 1,000 metre (m) “rule” (i.e. 1 kilometre (km) between residential buildings and wind turbines), as well as mitigating arising conflicts between residents’ interests, particularly around the sharing of profits. Such commitments should be made explicit in the revised NRW Sustainability Strategy and legislated.
• Promote greater political equality in all Energiewende policy-making decision processes at all governance levels (i.e. federal, state and municipal) in consultative and participatory mechanisms towards greater energy democracy. Reducing political in-equality is key to increase the public’s acceptance of renewable energy projects (e.g. through cooperatives) – one of the aims of the latest NRW Sustainability Strategy.
• Integrate notions of social and climate justice into Energiewende policy to ensure the German energy transition is a just one for all individuals, and not just for German coal workers. Notions of procedural, distribution and recognition justice are featured here and should be highlighted in the updated NRW Sustainability Strategy.

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New round of talks on global plastic pollution treaty underway in Nairobi

UN #SDG News - 13. November 2023 - 13:00
Negotiators from around the world gathered in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday for fresh talks over a landmark international treaty to combat plastic pollution. 
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23-11-13_Rabson Kondowe - Malawi - mobile app

D+C - 13. November 2023 - 2:00
23-11-13_Rabson Kondowe - Malawi - mobile app dagmar.wolf Mon, 13.11.2023 - 02:00 In Malawi, a new app helps farmers to organise their finances and ensures that they have funds available when they are most needed – during planting season Technology A mobile app extends much-needed credit to smallholders In 2021, Mlimi Pay, a fintech startup developed Mlimi Digital Wallet, a mobile solution designed exclusively to meet the financial needs of smallholder farmers in Malawi. The word Mlimi means “farmer” in the Chichewa language. 13.11.2023Sub-Saharan Africa Nowadays SDG1 SDG2 SDG9 Arbeit Ernährung, Hunger Landwirtschaft, ländliche Entwicklung Informationstechnologien Volkswirtschaftliche Entwicklung

Despite a successful maize harvest last season, Patrick Thimisoni, a smallholder farmer on the outskirts of Lilongwe, is struggling to buy seeds and fertiliser for the new planting season. Thimisoni’s predicament is not unique. Many smallholder farmers across Malawi face similar challenges. Social pressure, self-control or spending needs make it difficult for farmers to save for future purchases. These habits keep them in a vicious cycle of poverty.

The Mlimi Pay team conducted research with smallholder farmers and found several barriers to farmers’ financial inclusion. Many of them admitted to lacking knowledge about existing investment opportunities. Illiteracy was also a major factor. Many farmers admitted that they did not understand the intricacies of the banking sector.

Malawi’s economy largely depends on agriculture. The sector is said to employ an estimated 64 % of the population, many of whom are smallholders. Helping farmers is therefore a matter of urgency for the country.

Mlimi Pay’s innovation seeks to leverage digital technology to extend credit, payments and savings services to farmers. The startup’s credit solutions are tailored to fit farmers’ unique needs, considering the seasonal nature of their income. They ensure that farmers have funds available when they are most needed – during planting season. 

Since its inception, the mobile wallet has brought significant change to farmers. For instance, Thimisoni has now been able to save money on quality farm inputs. “In the 2021/22 season, I was able to buy a lot of seeds, fertiliser and equipment which significantly increased my yields,” he says. “In the process, I have been able to build a house for my family and we are food secure unlike before.”

Stanislaus Sakwiya, the co-founder and managing director of Mlimi Pay, says that the inspiration behind their Mlimi Pay app comes from understanding the difficulties farmers face in accessing mainstream financing systems. Even microfinance often falls short since loans typically require regular instalments that can be challenging to honour due to the unpredictable nature of farming.

“Using existing technologies, like Airtel Money, which the majority of smallholder farmers are familiar with, our app delivers a solution that is affordable, easily accessible and user-friendly,” Sakwiya says. 

According to Sakwiya, MlimiPay began with just 14 farmers with a total deposit of 13,685 Kwacha ($ 13) in the first month in Mkangamira Village, situated on the outskirts of Lilongwe. Today, over 300 farmers have Mlimi digital accounts. Mlimi Pay intends to expand by also setting up a microfinance loan programme for smallholder farmers and expanding its services outside of Lilongwe.

Rabson Kondowe is a journalist in Blantyre, Malawi.

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23-11-12_Dagmar Pruin - Brot für die Welt

D+C - 12. November 2023 - 2:00
23-11-12_Dagmar Pruin - Brot für die Welt dagmar.wolf Sun, 12.11.2023 - 02:00 Almost 800 million people still suffer from chronic hunger. One widespread assumption is that when people go hungry, there is not enough to eat. But it is not that simple Global food supply There is enough for everyone Almost 800 million people still suffer from chronic hunger. Politicians, agribusiness and scientists argue about causes and solutions. One widespread assumption is that when people go hungry, there is not enough to eat. But it is not that simple. 12.11.2023Global Hintergrund SDG2 SDG12 Ernährung, Hunger Landwirtschaft, ländliche Entwicklung Moderne Technik Nachhaltigkeit Naturschutz, Ökosysteme, Biodiversität

To defeat hunger, we do not simply need more food. Solutions that focus on boosting production volumes fail to address the root causes of global food crises. There has been enough to feed the world for decades.

However, the simplistic debate about increasing volumes kicked off again shortly after the start of Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine. It was suggested that the EU should roll back all environmental requirements in agricultural policy. Yields should be enhanced by technological innovations – from digital drone farming to chemical fertilisers, to genetically modified crops.

Much of this was put into practice. The European Commission suspended environmental requirements relating to crop rotation and set-aside land (GAEC 7 and 8 – standards for maintaining land in good agricultural and environmental conditions). The G7 countries asked the World Bank to provide loans so that countries with low-income levels could buy more chemical fertiliser. Agricultural corporations subsequently made huge profits and paid record dividends to their shareholders.

It is doubly scandalous that millions of people are denied the human right to adequate food and that their predicament is then all too often exploited for selfish economic gains – whether from speculation on high grain prices or from the intensification of a climate-damaging agricultural model that devours more and more land for maize, rice, soya and wheat. The motto is invariably “the more, the better”.

That is the wrong approach. Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World), the globally active development agency of the Protestant churches in Germany, has worked since 2010 with a completely different campaign motto: “There is enough for everyone”. Even today, the total volume of harvests worldwide could feed more than 10 billion people. 

According to a study conducted by the University of California in 2022, those harvests yield a statistical 5600 calories per person per day. That is more than enough to keep anyone in the world from going hungry. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calculates that the average person’s calorie intake is around 2600 calories a day.

Hunger is not a problem of quantity

So, if there is enough food, there can be only three answers to the question of why millions of people still suffer from hunger: harvests are not for direct food use, food fails to reach those who need it, or people cannot afford a healthy, balanced diet.

Sadly, all three answers are true. Almost half of the global harvest ends up in troughs as animal feed. Another large amount is left in the field due to logistical deficits such as a lack of storage facilities. Commercial and household food waste in industrialised countries is an additional problem. And last but not least, an increasing volume of food is used for biofuels and bioplastics, which means less food is produced for human consumption.

So instead of continuing to use chemical fertilisers to obtain record yields from ever-scarcer agricultural land so that crops (such as rapeseed or maize) can be grown for animal feed or agrofuels, global agricultural production needs to return to its original purpose: growing crops to secure the right to food.

Brot für die Welt supports a holistic approach to agricultural production: Agroecology is a system that gives farmers and consumers joint control over what is produced, how it is produced as well as by whom and for what purpose. By supporting research, digital innovation, education, gender equality and democratic participation, we promote the further development of this approach working to implement the concept of food sovereignty.

Agroecology as a crisis response

The current crises show how successfully agroecology can provide protection against them. Freedom from exposure to extreme equipment prices, proximity to target markets, ability to respond rapidly to grain shortages by sowing local varieties – these are arguments that have aroused keen interest in agroecology in agricultural, political and commercial circles.

In this context, we expect the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to strongly prioritise the agroecological elements of the BMZ core strategy “Living without Hunger – Transforming Agricultural and Food Systems” when planning and implementing new projects and activities. 

Svenja Schulze 08.11.2022 Social protection improves food security

It remains incomprehensible that the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development intends to promote the production of green hydrogen-based nitrogen fertiliser in Kenya with a € 60 million loan. Urea produced in this way is still a chemical fertiliser that will cause considerable damage to soil health, climate (nitrous oxide release) and groundwater (nitrate). 

Diversified agroecological systems are more resilient, especially in the face of the advancing climate crisis. Almost a third of  all carbon dioxide emissions are generated by the agricultural and food industries. For this reason alone, the expansion of volume-fixated agriculture would be a step in the wrong direction.

We need the skills and knowledge of smallholder farmers, and we need to strengthen their rights, because they already bear the main burden of food production. Over the past ten years, many of their proposals have been included in the reports of experts on the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). Far too many of them have been blocked by opposition from agribusiness and agricultural exporting countries.

Mathias Mogge Hans Dembowski 28.10.2022 What agriculture-policy reforms must deliver

Agricultural production in the coming decades will be shaped in particular by declining rainfall and falling groundwater levels. Rain-fed agriculture will become more difficult. Modern irrigation techniques based on groundwater (over)use will not be able to compensate for this in the long term.

Here too, agroecological practices will be helpful. They offer solutions for making more efficient use of rainwater – for example by traditional retention techniques, agroforestry systems such as permaculture, the construction of new cisterns and the use of older, drought-resistant plants and varieties.

Political support should focus on these approaches and not on purely technological solutions aimed at increasing yields. Because there is enough for everyone.

Dagmar Pruin is President of Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World).

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Reforming the WTO through inclusive and development-friendly plurilaterals

GDI Briefing - 10. November 2023 - 14:06

Updating the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has become imperative to address the dynamic challenges confronting modern trade. Plurilateral agreements can be a viable option for responding to trade issues where achieving multilateral consensus in the full WTO membership is difficult. However, plurilaterals should follow an inclusive and development-focused framework for participation. They should have a layered architecture of rights and obligations and encompass capacity-building measures. WTO Members should also initiate plurilaterals on topics which are of particular concern to developing countries and which can help achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The G20 (Group of 20) can play a decisive role in fostering discussion and mutual understanding on plurilaterals.

Kategorien: english

Gaza conflict could spark rise in poverty, UN agencies fear

UN #SDG News - 10. November 2023 - 13:00
Nearly 20 years of development progress could be wiped out in the Occupied Palestine Territories if the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues for a second full month, according to a UN report published on Thursday. 
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Chinese investors in Zambia and Angola: motives, profile, strategies

GDI Briefing - 10. November 2023 - 9:25

This chapter offers a comprehensive and up-to-date evaluation of Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa, with a specific focus on the motives, profiles and strategies of Chinese investors in Zambia and Angola. Drawing on fieldwork and extensive interviews conducted with relevant stakeholders and 50 Chinese companies in Zambia and Angola in 2019, the chapter sheds light on the considerable heterogeneity that exists amongst firms operating in Africa. The chapter goes beyond a surface-level examination by exploring the diverse motivations, including both push and pull factors that drive Chinese investment in these two Southern African countries. By challenging prevailing misconceptions and offering nuanced insights, this chapter contributes to our understanding of the heterogeneous and dynamic nature of Chinese investors in Zambia and Angola. Moreover, it argues that African agency should be also viewed through the lens of policy implementation and the ability to drive fundamental structural change.

Kategorien: english

23-11-10_ Bernhard Amler / Christoph Kowalewski - Transparency International

D+C - 10. November 2023 - 2:00
23-11-10_ Bernhard Amler / Christoph Kowalewski - Transparency International dagmar.wolf Fri, 10.11.2023 - 02:00 Corruption undermines democracies and supports autocracies. Although progress has been made in the fight against corruption, much more needs to be done Abuse of power Fighting corruption on an international level Corruption undermines democracies and supports autocracies. Although some progress has been made in the fight against corruption, international efforts need to increase. 10.11.2023Global High-income countries Hintergrund SDG16 SDG17 Demokratisierung Finanzmärkte, Internationale; Währungen Global Governance Korruption Organisationen (international, multilateral) Privatwirtschaft Amts- und Regierungsführung Zivilgesellschaftliche Organisationen

Democracy and freedom worldwide have declined for the 17th consecutive year. That is one of the main takeaways from the “Freedom in the World 2023” report by American NGO Freedom House. At the same time, the global average score on the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index has shown stagnation rather than progress in recent years. Many factors – often country-specific ones – help to give rise to populist governments, autocracies, military regimes and anti-democratic movements in general. However, corruption in all its various forms is one of the most important causes. Where political rights and civil liberties deteriorate, abuse of power for personal gain increases.

Corruption undermines democracy. It destroys public trust in institutions and manipulates political decision-making processes for the benefit of a minority or elite. Moreover, it results in accountability mechanisms being undermined. It also distorts markets, hinders equitable access to services, increases inequality and creates insecurity and instability (TI, 2021).

Autocratic regimes thrive on widespread systemic corruption, including “state capture”, the illicit control of state institutions by private interests. The G7 leaders speak of kleptocracies. In authoritarian systems, power is institutionally concentrated and not subject to democratic control mechanisms, which makes abuse of power more likely. Democratic institutions, in contrast, distribute power. Autocrats view the fight against corruption as a threat because it weakens their influence, both at home and abroad.

None of this is entirely new, but it has become more relevant because, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, more and more countries have been lost in recent years to authoritarian leaders and kleptocrats. Nor is it new that populists come to power with anti-corruption promises, only to undermine the fight against corruption and democratic institutions in order to consolidate their power.

Corruption on a small and large scale

In many societies, charges of corruption are levelled at “those at the top”, while for ordinary people daily life is fraught with “petty corruption” – small “fees” that need to be paid to access public services, such as appointments with public authorities. This leads to further marginalisation of vulnerable groups and helps normalise forms of corruption that pose a systemic threat to the state, including “grand corruption”: the establishment of kleptocratic structures that facilitate the diversion of state funds by – or with the collusion of – high-ranking state officials and politicians. This can cause massive harm and give rise to gross human-rights violations.

Grand corruption also poses a threat to countries where corruption is not considered a significant social issue. In Georgia, for example, there is evidence of a special form of grand corruption. Known as “strategic corruption”, it is perpetrated by local oligarchs and the hegemonic power, Russia, with the aim of undermining the democratic societal decision to move closer to the EU.

Authoritarian regimes make extensive use of strategic corruption, notably against western democracies but also to advance their interests in countries of the global south. Their aim is to:

  • win over decision-makers for their geopolitical objectives,
  • destabilise democratic institutions,
  • weaken the fabric of societies and
  • undermine their national security.

Strategic corruption is designed to secure long-term influence and is part of the non-military arsenal of modern wars (hybrid warfare). As shown by the example of Ukraine, it also serves to prepare for wars of aggression.

Indeed, every country in the world uses foreign, economic and security policy to exercise influence for its own strategic advantage. The key difference lies in the means (corruption) and the objectives (destabilisation). It is therefore only right and proper that interventions by western industrialised nations in countries of the global south should be assessed by the same criteria. And “the West” would be well advised to uphold democratic decision-making processes and prevent any kind of corruption. However, western states are reluctant to address their own corruption risks, which makes countries like Germany vulnerable to attack.

Money flows to tax havens

All major forms of corruption share a common trait: they cause substantial harm for the vast majority of society and at the same time lead to a massive increase of power and wealth for a small minority. Typically, much of the money derived from corruption is transferred to so-called tax havens, but a significant amount flows into western economies as investment. Corruption is thus facilitated by illegal cross-border financial flows and money laundering.

There is a glaring need for more action against money laundering. As the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) reported in 2022, Germany is a popular destination for money that originates from organised crime and kleptocratic systems all over the world. Thanks to the scope for concealment, the country offers a wide range of investment opportunities. In addition, there is insufficient repatriation of confiscated assets, as well as lack of compensation payments to affected groups. Democratic states urgently need to review and refine their law enforcement instruments. In many cases, there is a lack of enforcement capacity; in some it is coupled with a suspicious lack of willingness to act.

International cooperation is key

The mid-term review of the 2030 Agenda shows that the global community is running well short of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The impact of corruption is generally not taken adequately into account. Combating corruption and money laundering needs to be clearly identified and addressed as a prerequisite for achieving the 2030 Agenda – within the context of each and every one of the 17 SDGs. It is important to break the so-called SHE-cycle – Steal-Hide-Enjoy. As long as it is possible to launder money, i.e. conceal its illegal origin (Hide), corruption will remain attractive as the means of theft (Steal). Only when opportunities for investing dirty money are systematically and effectively denied will the incentive for corruption decrease because the benefit from the money (Enjoy) is diminished.

Internationally, there has been progress. Corruption is now a criminal offence worldwide and widely condemned. The US and the G7 have made a firm commitment to support the fight against transnational corruption. And successes in places like Guatemala show what can be achieved when fighting corruption is a priority and is supported by the international community.

What is perplexing, however, is the reluctance of countries like Germany to clearly prioritise anti-corruption action. Comprehensive national efforts and the implementation of binding international agreements are needed here. Stronger international cooperation to uncover illicit financial flows and corruption offences needs to be reflected in national legislation.

A strong civil society, free media and an independent judiciary are vital for a resilient democracy. This is why democratic countries should:

  • promote cooperation between civil society and policymakers,
  • develop country-specific anti-corruption measures,
  • establish sanction mechanisms,
  • raise awareness among political and business leaders,
  • make state action more transparent, e. g. by ensuring comprehensive accountability and maintaining lobby and transparency registers and
  • strengthen independent, investigative media and protect whistleblowers.
Ronald Ssegujja Ssekandi 15.04.2021 Global sustainability depends on financial integrity

Corruption has to be prevented and fought against at government level. Additionally, a national anti-corruption strategy needs to be developed to coordinate all action and create a clear roadmap. Ultimately, corruption must be consistently recognised and addressed as a threat to national security.


TI, 2022: Corruption Perceptions Index 2022.

TI, 2021: Addressing corruption as a driver of democratic decline.

Bernhard Amler is a member of the board of Transparency International Germany (TID).

Christoph Kowalewski is a member of the working group on public development cooperation at TID.

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