7. Germany’s fragility, crises and humanitarian assistance

There is increased convergence of Germany’s development co-operation policy and its foreign policy objectives, although each is the responsibility of a federal different ministry. Several crises in Europe’s global neighbourhood have led Germany to be more ambitious in conflict management and settlement, with a recognition that fragility and crises have a direct impact on Germany’s security and should be addressed (Federal Government, 2016[1]). As a result, Germany contributes substantially to the international debate around peace. Within that frame, development co-operation is designed to support Germany’s efforts in conflict prevention and conflict management (BMZ, 2017[2]). Germany prioritises diplomatic efforts and multilateral conflict resolution mechanisms but may also engage its military forces in crisis contexts. Germany’s most significant international engagement is in Afghanistan, where it has deployed troops since 2001 (NATO, 2015[3]), but stabilisation of the Sahel region with its partners has become a priority. While not engaged in combat, Germany has stationed around 1 100 troops in the Sahel as part of either the United Nations (UN) or European Union (EU) missions. Understanding that the drivers of crises and fragility are not military in nature, this security effort is combined with substantial development co-operation1 (Federal Foreign Office, 2020[4]).

During the reviewed period, Germany has developed or renewed important cross-government strategies, using as their foundation the Guidelines on Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts, Building Peace (Chapter 4) (Federal Government, 2017[5]). The guidelines promote closer links between the issues of governance, fragility and conflict. From the security side, the 2016 White Paper on Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr already called for strengthening the whole-of-government approach (Federal Government, 2016[1])). A set of thematic policies articulate Germany’s vision for peace in the fields of crisis prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding in a particularly coherent combination.2 Additional policies are being designed on conflict prevention and fragility. Germany’s position on fragility is evolving with new learning, new commitments and new policy initiatives. In 2020, BMZ published its overall development strategy on transitional development assistance (BMZ, 2020[6]). Germany’s main operational organisations, GIZ and KfW, have also designed a set of specific guidance and strategies for engaging in fragile contexts (GIZ, 2021[7]), (KfW, 2020[8]). These guidelines are effective: Through KfW and GIZ, Germany is now involved earlier in recovery contexts including outside the main mediated crises, as is the case with its involvement with the Gambia Stabilisation Fund (ECOWAS, 2019[9]).

While peacebuilding has remained a core area in Germany’s development policy, most of Germany’s bilateral ODA is not primarily geared towards fragile contexts. In 2019, Germany mobilised 23% of its total ODA in fragile contexts, less than the DAC average of 33%. In spite of this lower ratio, Germany was the third largest donor of bilateral ODA to fragile contexts among DAC members in terms of volume. In addition, while remaining slightly below the 11.27% DAC average in 2019, Germany’s peace-related expenditure increased over the full reviewed period to reach 9.72% of total ODA to fragile contexts; this is closer to the 10.18% share for humanitarian expenditure3 (Figure 7.1).The share of peace-related expenditure allocated to crisis prevention has also increased slightly — an encouraging evolution — to 3.46% of Germany’s ODA in 2019, slightly above the DAC average of 2.92%. In very fragile contexts, the largest ODA share, 31.55%, goes to humanitarian response. Because it focuses on trade, private sector investment and job creation, the BMZ Marshall Plan with Africa (BMZ, 2017[10]) does not target those contexts that are least conducive to such investments, though 53% of Germany’s ODA to fragile states is allocated to Africa.

Coherence and complementarity among different instruments are good development practice throughout development co-operation engagement beyond nexus and peace partner countries. In its new strategy, BMZ has created a group of ten “nexus and peace” countries in which addressing fragility is a key focus (BMZ, 2020[12]). However many of Germany’s long-standing partner countries listed in the “bilateral partnership” category are fragile, some of them extremely so, and these countries benefit from both BMZ transitional assistance and the Federal Foreign Office’s humanitarian assistance. In addition, GIZ considers that 54 of the 120 contexts it engages with are fragile. KfW is active in 47 fragile contexts (Balthasar, 2020[13]). As conflict sensitivity is one of the BMZ’s six quality criteria (BMZ, 2020[12]), it will be important to make clear to Germany’s programming staff and partners that conflict sensitivity or a nexus approach to programming is relevant across its portfolio, including the BMZ Marshall Plan with Africa, and beyond the ten countries experiencing the most severe crises.

Creating incentives and routine collaboration for staff can help systematise complementarity among different parts of the administration. Because intervening in crises abroad relates directly to Germany’s foreign policy, the Federal Foreign Office deals with crisis prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding (Federal Foreign Office, 2021[14]). In addition to its transitional development assistance, BMZ has also been engaged through its development co-operation. . There are obvious linkages between these streams of engagement, and Germany is aware that global challenges and increased funding require more co-ordination across its complex development system. As a result, Germany has complemented its different strategies with a number of thematic interministerial working groups and operational guidelines, leading to an improvement in the way different ministries interact and jointly analyse crises contexts. In particular, the modalities of a joint analysis and joint planning (GAAP) were agreed upon in 2019 by the Federal Foreign Office and BMZ This is good practice. Yet, given the independence of each ministry within the German system (Federal Government, 1956[15]), effective co-ordination requires balancing different objectives in dealing with crises. In addition to the guidance in place, Germany can build on the pragmatism and some good co-ordination practices that exist in partner countries between Germany’s stakeholders (Chapter 4).

The two separate federal ministries, each with different funds and instruments, administer Germany's engagement in crisis contexts, which could result in parallel rather than complementary programmes. The scope of humanitarian assistance in the context of transition managed by the Federal Foreign Office and transitional development aid managed by BMZ was delineated in a specific guide as early as 2012 to avoid overlap (Federal Foreign Office, BMZ, 2012[106]). However, Germany did not always make the best of its improved co-ordination between the Federal Foreign Office and BMZ. This is changing: Germany’s new humanitarian strategy calls for the early engagement of other actors in crisis contexts to prevent the emergence and growth of humanitarian need and reduce dependence on assistance and does not refer to transitional humanitarian assistance (AA, 2019[108]). This is in line with the principle of “prevention always, development wherever possible and humanitarian action when necessary” outlined in the DAC Recommendation on the Humanitarian Development Peace Nexus (OECD, 2019[109]). Revising the guide to describe the tasks of the Federal Foreign Office and BMZ in fragile contexts in the light of recent policy developments could help Germany to improve further the coherence and complementarity of its aid in fragile contexts, preserving the independence of each Ministry.

BMZ’s transitional development assistance remains a key instrument in Germany’s toolbox to promote peace and help prevent conflicts, and it could do even more (BMZ, 2020[6]). Transitional development assistance is not a new instrument for Germany, but it has been refined and extended since the last peer review to become one of the DAC’s most elaborate crisis management instruments. In addition, special initiatives — among them the Special Initiative on Displacement (BMZ, 2020[16]) and ONE WORLD – No Hunger (BMZ, 2015[17]) — give a particular policy focus and political weight to specific areas such as forced displacement and the fight against hunger. Each with its own dedicated budget, such initiatives can further fragment Germany’s engagement (Chapter 2). However, when integrated within BMZ’s programming process, as seen in Colombia where the special initiative on forced displacement was integrated into the peaceful and inclusive societies core area, these can also have a synergetic effect that is often missing in such vertical political initiatives. Bringing BMZ’s transitional development assistance as early as possible into a crisis context also provides other opportunities for synergies with the Federal Foreign Office through crisis prevention and peace.

Partners of both BMZ and the Federal Foreign Office clearly feel that the inherent risks of operating in difficult contexts are shared — and not merely transferred to them. Germany’s federal ministries and implementing organisations have developed mechanisms that draw on systematic analyses to ensure a proper contextual understanding accompanies engagement in fragile contexts. These include joint Federal Foreign Office and BMZ analysis, peace and conflict analysis as well as early warning systems to measure the potential for crisis escalation. As such, Germany is not only looking at the programmatic risks to itself, but also assesses the overall risk environment, including political risks. Germany assesses the risks of unintentionally prolonging or intensifying conflict and has also set up strong risk management systems within GIZ and KfW.

The increased migration flow to Europe has influenced Germany’s policy, and supporting forcibly displaced people is a key element in Germany’s response to crises. Germany is a prominent supporter of multilateral initiatives to support forcibly displaced persons such as the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (Günther, 2017[18]). Its special initiatives aimed at “helping refugees build a future”, “tackling the root causes of displacement” and “[re-]integrating refugees” (BMZ, 2020[16]), support Germany’s prominent role in the global policy discussions. They also led to the Global Compact on Refugees (2018), and the Global Refugee Forum (2019,) of which Germany is a co-convener. This policy focus is matched with significant resources that increased from EUR 158 million4 (USD 175 million) in 2015 to a peak of EUR 668 million (USD 761 million) in 2020, representing the biggest allocation pledge for special initiatives (Federal Government, 2020[19]).

Aware that gender inequality is both a cause and a consequence of fragility, Germany supports the agenda of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UN, 2000[20]). Germany launched its third UNSCR 1325 National Action Plan in 2021, (Federal Foreign Office, 2021[21])which gives a prominent place to the role of women in conflict resolution and peace efforts and the prevention of gender-based violence. This focus manifests in activities such as dialogues on peace, through which peace activists are trained in methods of gender-sensitive conflict mediation and dialogue facilitation. In its plan, Germany also aims to strengthen international criminal jurisdiction and work to end impunity of perpetrators of sexual and gender-specific violence at national and international level. In other sectors, Germany supports its policy commitment with significant financial resources.5

With 46 embassies in fragile contexts6 (Federal Foreign Office, 2021[22]), including 24 with a permanent BMZ presence (BMZ, 2021[23]), Germany has a solid footprint in contexts where development co-operation and humanitarian assistance represent the main features of Germany’s engagement. In partner countries where the co-operation portfolio goes beyond aid such as in Colombia, Germany is able to blend humanitarian objectives with technical support and capacity building of national or local authorities, which is good practice and reflects a more granular analysis of the context at subnational level. Germany seeks to learn from evaluations and from others in order to better understand the complexity and challenges of fragile contexts (Box 7.1). To bring coherence and complementarity across Germany’s engagement in crisis contexts, it is also important that country strategies take into account the breadth of Germany’s activities and objectives to inform Germany’s political dialogue.

Germany has built particularly strong partnerships with the multilateral organisations it supports, and has become one of their largest and most indispensable donors. Germany is committed to strengthening the multilateral system (Chapters 2 and 3) and to improving the efficiency of the system’s crisis response. Partnership goes beyond funding: For multilateral partners, it involves risk sharing and strategic dialogue that leads to global policy initiatives such as on forced displacement. Germany also acts as a broker to guide joint analysis and to realise joint projects among its partners such as the World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the UN Children’s Fund. An example is its support to these partners’ joint projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Food and Agriculture Organization, 2020[24]). In this regard, Germany is instrumental in steering its UN partners to implement the DAC Recommendation on the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus. Going forward, it will be important for Germany not only to assess the achievement of each of the separate entities that are reporting and communicating on Germany’s support, but also to assess whether and how such a joint approach brings more coherence and effectiveness in the overall response, for example through common reporting and evaluation.

EU joint programming is the default platform for Germany to co-ordinate with other European donors (Chapter 5). However, when Germany has a strong political interest to co-ordinate closer, it also engages in strong bilateral or multilateral partnerships with other donors, one of the most visible examples being the Alliance Sahel that it launched with France in 2017 and that other bilateral donors subsequently joined.

Germany’s efforts to bring more coherence to its engagement in fragile contexts predate the adoption of the DAC nexus recommendation. The last peer review in 2015 took note of those efforts. Through its consistent work at policy level — including through the International Network on Conflict and Fragility, of which it is a co-chair and active member — Germany has designed tools to address needs generated by protracted situations. In particular, technical expertise is deployed in crisis contexts to enhance the peace impact of its engagement, and Germany is supporting the alignment of different institutions in responding to crises, for example between the World Bank and the World Food Programme (World Bank, 2018[25]), or within the European Union and its nexus pilots.

Germany started to focus on long-term collective impact. The meta-review of ten years of ODA in Afghanistan, released in 2020, is a striking example of the relevance of such a long-term view in measuring impact to inform future planning (Zürcher, 2020[26]) (Box 7.1). Germany is also reviewing humanitarian and development assistance to Iraq (Federal Government, 2020[19]). This is good practice, and Germany is encouraged to integrate such learning into its programming in crisis contexts, share its learning with the DAC and set such impact evaluation as standard practice. At operational level, Germany relies on its partners’ reports for information on programme outcomes, but has also evaluated its development co-operation in fragile contexts, bringing critical knowledge about what works in fragile contexts and what does not (German Institute for Development Evaluation, 2019[27]).

Germany has modernised its humanitarian policy, notably to incorporate its commitments at the World Humanitarian Summit as well as evolving global policies (Federal Foreign Office, 2019[28]). In addition to humanitarian assistance, the Federal Foreign Office is managing Germany’s crisis prevention and stabilisation efforts. As such, humanitarian assistance is part of Germany’s commitment to peace and security, in acknowledgment that humanitarian assistance can have an impact on peace (Federal Foreign Office, 2019[29]). Like several other DAC members, Germany is successful in maintaining a delicate balance between shielding its humanitarian assistance from political influence and further integrating its humanitarian assistance within a whole-of-government operational framework. For example, Germany sees its engagement in northern Iraq as a nexus best practice (BMZ, 2020[30]). It demonstrates that joint programming can respect each instrument’s individual mandate, purpose and objectives, strategic goals, and budget lines.

Germany is mindful of providing its humanitarian assistance strictly based on humanitarian needs, and those needs are assessed by its partners. However, while Germany has almost quadrupled its humanitarian budget since the last review, there will always be greater needs than funds available. Therefore, Germany must decide which to address first, a dilemma common to every humanitarian donor across the DAC. Because it relies on trusted partners, Germany is striving to let its partners decide which needs are the most critical and uses flexible mechanisms. For example, its support to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (UN, 2020[31]) and to other pooled funds has increased significantly since the last peer review, which is also consistent with Germany’s commitments at the World Humanitarian Summit, notably the Grand Bargain (Inter-Agency Standing Committee, 2016[32]). Going forward, Germany will have to assess the increase in softly earmarked support provided through those funds is consistent with the priority of forgotten crises set out in its humanitarian policy.

Germany’s partnerships are based on mutual trust, and it consults early on with humanitarian organisations about its humanitarian responses and comes to a rapid agreement. Germany takes an extra step: A trademark of Germany’s humanitarian assistance is that it is anticipatory and forward looking A. It was a pioneer in forecast-based financing, notably with the German Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and under the umbrella of the Action Plan of the Federal Foreign Office for Humanitarian Adaptation to Climate Change (Federal Foreign Office/German Red Cross, 2015[33]). Germany has also extended its anticipatory approach with multilateral partners and non-governmental organisation (NGO) networks such as the START crisis anticipation fund (James, 2021[34]). This is good practice, and Germany could share its experience with other members.

Germany has put a great deal of policy emphasis on localisation of aid. As it is for all DAC members, this remains a challenge in practice. Germany is pragmatic and probably as direct as it can possibly be within its existing administrative and legal constraints and capacities. Most of its support to local aid providers is offered through a single intermediary, either a UN or NGO partner (Inter-Agency Standing Committee, 2020[35]). It contributes to several indirect mechanisms that allow support to local responders, such as UN country based pooled funds (CBPF), whose share of national recipients is increasing regularly and reached 26.1% in 2020 (UN OCHA, 2021[36]). Over the review period, Germany has become the second largest donor to CBPF in line with some of its commitments at the World Humanitarian Summit (Agenda for Humanity, 2016[37]).

Germany is able to respond swiftly to disasters in developing countries, based on solid disaster management organisations at national and federal state level. As for many other sectors of intervention in crises, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism is an important framework within which Germany contributes its civil protection and military logistical capacities. Under the overall responsibility of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance) and the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) are engaged in projects to help other states strengthen their civil protection capacities and capabilities. THW is a governmental non-profit organisation. As a technical and operational agency, its tasks include assistance in emergencies after a disaster and capacity building, including in fragile or crisis contexts such as Iraq (THW, 2021[38]).

With its significant increase in humanitarian funding, Germany is relying more on multilateral channels, including for its bilateral co-operation. The use of multilateral channels for humanitarian assistance rose from 47% in 2015 to 69% in 2016, with limited variation since then (OECD, 2021[39]). Multilateral partners interviewed for this review are unanimous in praising Germany’s partnership when engaging in fragile or crisis contexts. Beyond flexible funding modalities, Germany also exchanges with its partners to shape the global humanitarian policy agenda. In line with its commitment at the World Humanitarian Summit, Germany continued to increase the multi-year funding share of its humanitarian budget, which reached 75.2% in 2019 (Inter-Agency Standing Committee, 2020[35]). With humanitarian NGOs, the partnership entails more compliance requests. It is well structured through the Humanitarian Aid Coordinating Committee, bringing together all Germany’s actors in humanitarian assistance, notably VENRO, the umbrella organisation of development and humanitarian NGOs in Germany. However, this partnership with smaller NGOs remains more limited, notably because of the rapid increase in humanitarian budgets that tend to favour large projects from multilateral or civil society organisations with large absorption capacity (VENRO, 2020[40]).

Germany abides strictly by the UN guidelines on the use of military assets in crises. In particular, Germany’s humanitarian strategy refers to the use of foreign and civil defence assets in disaster relief (UNOCHA, 2007[41])as well as the guidelines on the use of military and civil defence assets to support united nations humanitarian activities in complex emergencies (UNOCHA, 2006[42]) (UN OCHA, 2003[43]). Germany seldom uses its armed forces to provide humanitarian assistance. Germany has learned from its long experience in Afghanistan that assistance provided by professional civilian actors improves the chances over the long term that assistance reaches the most vulnerable.

Germany upholds humanitarian neutrality, notably in carefully selecting humanitarian partners that are guided by humanitarian principles, and the Federal Foreign Office is the clear entry point for partners’ emergency humanitarian action. As is the case for several other DAC members, Germany’s foreign ministry — the Federal Foreign Office — manages humanitarian assistance. While the increase in the humanitarian budget over the review period led to a staff increase, humanitarian NGOs consider staffing insufficient to ensure Germany is able to manage medium-sized and smaller projects that can have a sustainable impact at local level but come with a higher management cost (VENRO, 2020[40]). Since 2015, humanitarian assistance has been managed in the same directorate as crisis prevention, stabilisation and post-conflict reconstruction (Federal Foreign Office, 2021[44]). These different instruments with different objectives and operating principles are working in the same environments and grouping them under the same structure can improve synergies among two working cultures and ultimately create a shared understanding of the political economy of a crisis. Implementing the DAC Recommendation on the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus can help Germany make the best of this administrative architecture and better assess the humanitarian actors’ contribution to peace.

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[26] Zürcher, C. (2020), Meta-Review of Evaluations of Development Assistance to Afghanistan, 2008-2018, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany, https://www.ez-afghanistan.de/sites/default/files/Summary%20Paper%20Meta-Review%20of%20Evaluations%20Afghanistan%20March%202020_0.pdf.

Notes

← 1. On average over 2018-19, Germany has spent USD 286 million in the three countries in the Sahel that are most affected by the current crisis: USD 117 million in Mali, USD 103 million in Niger and USD 66 million in Burkina Faso. For further details, see the OECD (2021[39]) Creditor Reporting System database at https://stats.oecd.org/index.aspx?DataSetCode=CRS1.

← 2. The thematic policies cover, notably, promoting the rule of law, security sector reform and transitional justice. These are described, respectively, in (Federal Foreign Office, 2019[46]), https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/blob/2248210/65a178ff3ed0b537fd08e92b24a2bd7d/190917-rechtsstaatsfoerderung-data.pdf; (Federal Foreign Office, 2019[48]), https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/blob/2248208/44c6eebba11f48b74243f2434535943d/190917-sicherheitssektorreform-data.pdf; and (Federal Foreign Office, 2019[47]), https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/blob/2248206/633d49372b71cb6fafd36c1f064c102c/190917-vergangenheitsarbeit-und-versoehnung-data.pdf.

← 3. BMZ (2013[45]) set its own peace and security marker in 2013, measuring whether contributing to peace and security is an important secondary objective or the objective of a project or programme. For BMZ, the peace and security area consists of support to address the causes of conflict, fragility and violence; improve the capacity for non-violent conflict management; create the environment for peaceful and inclusive development. See https://www.bmz.de/en/publications/topics/peace/Strategiepapier333_04_2013.pdf. For comparison purposes, this peer review used the OECD (2021[11]) dataset for peace expenditure at http://www3.compareyourcountry.org/states-of-fragility/overview/0/.

← 4. Figures in this paragraph were provided by Germany.

← 5. For example, over the second UNSCR 1325 National Action Plan, (2017-20), Germany is providing EUR 10 million in funding to support women’s political participation in peace and transition processes in countries including Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen (memorandum).

← 6. For details on fragile contexts identified on the OECD (2021[11]) fragility framework, see the States of Fragility platform at https://www3.compareyourcountry.org/states-of-fragility/overview/0/.

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