Aid to Fragile States: Germany’s Approach to Development

September 16, 2013

On September 16, 2013, AGI hosted a roundtable on “Aid to Fragile States: Germany’s Approach to Development.” The roundtable featured discussions on a comprehensive development approach between the German State Secretary of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Hans-Jürgen Beerfeltz, and a number of specialists. While the participants agreed that a comprehensive approach to foreign aid is necessary to not only help fragile countries, but also ensure global security, the steps toward this approach and the degree of previous success in countries such as Afghanistan remained debatable.

The roundtable began with a short informative talk about Germany’s comprehensive approach to aid in insecure states, and the definition of a fragile state. The discussion then shifted toward Afghanistan and the lessons that were acquired from this involvement. Finally, the pinnacles and low points of the transatlantic relationship were discussed in view of the collective efforts of the United States and Germany in Afghanistan.

Germany adheres to five points in its process of development in fragile states. First, the effort should always be concentrated on the long term improvement. The second point is understanding that foreign aid is implemented for Germany’s interests and security, as regional conflicts may escalate into potential global conflicts—as we are currently witnessing in Syria. Third, the security of the fragile state is essential for development, and without basic security progress is unattainable. The fourth point emphasizes that the aid needs to focus on all areas and include NGOs as well the military and policies. The final aspect relates to the extent of the aid. As part of Germany’s comprehensive approach, locals as well as foreigners need to be included to ensure a viable development.

A general agreement was reached among the experts that the involvement in Afghanistan has been successful and that the situation has improved in the main areas such as the Afghan Local Police (ALP), women’s rights, and infrastructure. However, some experts believed the costs have been too high in comparison to the progress attained, while others were unsure about the lessons learned, as the overall consensus in the U.S. still mostly opposes foreign aid.

A benefit of German-American cooperation in Afghanistan is that both countries are interested in not only promoting their own values, but also in bringing forward the overall stability and security of the country. However, the difference in the degree of focus on the military in Afghanistan exposed an underlying discrepancy in the German-American relationship.

Although both sides of the Atlantic agreed upon the importance of foreign aid, the procedure and focus remain open for discussion. Further, the involvement and cooperation in Afghanistan were successful, and despite some disappointments there are no alternatives to foreign aid. Thus, the comprehensive joint approach remains an important issue, and one that needs to be collectively improved.