Ms. Schulze, your ministry is active in emerging and developing countries almost all over the world. Why do so few people in the Global South share Western horror at Russia’s war against Ukraine?
It is true that some emerging and developing countries do not attach the same importance to Russia’s war against Ukraine as we do. For them, this war is further away than for us. They accuse us of having double standards, of not being as outraged about wars in the Global South as we are about this war in our neighborhood. That’s why it’s very important to keep in touch.
Do we have double standards in the West?
Honestly, when it comes to wars and conflicts in Africa or Asia, don’t we often have the feeling that it’s so far away and has nothing to do with us? Our actions are not without contradictions, as can be seen from many examples. We should learn from this and stand up for a world in which compassion is not dependent on distance from one’s homeland. You can only expect solidarity from others if you show solidarity yourself.
Indian publicist Pankaj Mishra warns that because of the war against Ukraine, the West could now repeat the mistake it made after “Nine eleven” in 2001, namely antagonizing the countries of the Global South. Does this danger exist?
no We work too well together for that today. We are recruiting emerging and developing countries as partners. That’s why five of these states were invited to the G7 summit in Elmau. We work with many of these countries to establish food security worldwide.
And we try to refute the Russian narrative about the war against Ukraine, which blames the West for all evil, in direct conversations. Putin is the criminal against humanity, you can see that every day in the terrible pictures from the war. And I think that’s increasingly being seen in other parts of the world as well.
What do you expect from the G7 summit in Elmau promised $ 600 billion package to expand global infrastructure?
It’s not just about money, it’s also about stable partnerships between the industrialized countries of the North and the Global South. The industrialized countries make a partnership offer to expand sustainable infrastructures and to activate our private sector for this. This includes the EU’s offer to mobilize 300 billion euros via the “Global Gateway” program.
The need for investment in infrastructure is huge. That is why it is so important that there are alternatives to what China is offering developing countries.
In your experience, how was the offer from the G7 summit for cooperation with emerging and developing countries received there?
Our partners appreciate that we recognize their problems and want to work with them on a long-term basis. An example: We are working with South Africa on a socially just energy transition. If workers in the mines lose their jobs as a result of the coal phase-out, we will work together to ensure that new, climate-friendly jobs are created for them. We now want to start similar cooperations with other emerging countries.
Can the G7 infrastructure offer also be interpreted as an attempt to limit or reduce the influence of China and Russia in the world? How does the investment volume of China’s new Silk Road compare?
The order of magnitude should be similar to the G7 offer, but estimates vary widely because China does not publish reliable figures. In any case, a strong downward trend can be seen, also because numerous countries have already got so much debt.
Many of our partner countries are sobered by the experiences with China. China’s investments are often opaque, create strong dependencies, and have helped many countries find themselves in debt traps. Everything has its price. We can score with sustainability, transparency and quality.
The head of the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (formerly the Overseas Institute), Amrita Narlikar, says: The poor are paying for the West’s sanctions against Russia. Is that correct?
The trigger is not the West, but Russia. It is not the sanctions that are preventing the export of wheat, but the Black Sea ports blocked by Putin. President Vladimir Putin is deliberately using hunger as a weapon in this war.
This infamy takes your breath away. If Putin’s terror against Ukraine were simply accepted, the poor would continue to foot the bill. Because that would be a world without security and values, in which only the right of the strongest would count.
But don’t the Western sanctions have collateral damage if Europe wants to become independent of Russian energy and therefore buys on the world market, which drives up prices, from which the global South suffers more than we do?
Of course, this war has consequences for the whole world. The increase in energy and food prices hits the people hardest, spending almost all of their income on it. The World Bank has calculated that a one percent increase in food prices would plunge ten million more people into poverty. So this has dramatic consequences.
That’s why we’re doing everything we can to stop this war as soon as possible. But it is also true that Putin uses Russia’s wheat and fertilizer exports as a means of exerting political pressure and, above all, supplies those who are pro-Russian.
The G20 summit in Bali is scheduled for autumn. Indonesia as G20 President has invited Putin. Do you think it’s right that Chancellor Olaf Scholz still doesn’t want to boycott this summit?
We mustn’t let Russia destroy these international formats for us. Because they are very important in order to solve global crises together, climate change, species extinction or the consequences of Corona. Without cooperation with the G20 we won’t get any further. Some developing and emerging countries fear that since the war in Ukraine Europe will only take care of itself. Exactly such worries would be reinforced with a G20 boycott.
This week Welthungerhilfe presented its report, according to which more than 800 million people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger. The numerous emergencies are a “wake-up call to finally step up efforts to combat climate change,” says the report. Did the federal government hear the message?
During my time as Minister for the Environment, I had always wished that the federal government as a whole would deal with climate change, the time has finally come at the traffic light. Climate change is a dramatic reality. All over the world people suffer from droughts or floods, they lose their livelihoods.
That’s why we don’t just have to stop emitting carbon dioxide. We also need to help those who are already being harmed today and who are at risk of further significant harm. The countries of the Global South need our solidarity.
The emerging and developing countries have long been demanding that the western industrialized countries participate in financing climate damage. Do you understand?
Absolutely. We will present a new global climate risk protection umbrella at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue at the beginning of the week. We are thus making a concrete offer for dealing with future climate damage in developing countries in the international climate negotiations. We received the support of the G7 heads of state and government in Elmau at the end of June.
My goal is to start this protective umbrella at the world climate conference in Egypt in November together with the particularly vulnerable developing countries and then gradually expand it.
Can you make that a little clearer?
Aid was quickly promised in the Ahr Valley after the flood disaster a year ago, which at least limited the damage. That was only possible because we have the structures and the money for it. We now want to offer structures and money to the most vulnerable developing countries.
For example, if a small farmer loses her entire harvest in a drought, she should be able to get money for new seeds quickly and easily. In this way she can continue to work, does not fall into even deeper poverty and can continue to provide herself and others with food. All of this saves money in the end, because humanitarian emergency aid afterwards is always more expensive than anticipatory support.
How big are we talking about financially?
Before we collect additional money, we want to agree on the mechanism with the affected developing countries. But regardless of the protective shield, one thing is clear: this coalition wants to increase the federal government’s contribution to international climate finance from budget funds by 2025 from the current four to at least six billion euros per year.
In doing so, we not only want to protect against climate damage, but also advance the energy transition in developing and emerging countries or improve adaptation to climate change. The promise is that the industrialized countries will collectively mobilize $100 billion each year to address the climate crisis in developing countries. And we have to comply with that.
At the moment it doesn’t look like Russia wants to end the war. How far have you come in your efforts to ensure global food security under these conditions?
Shortly after Russia’s attack, it was foreseeable that the war would increase world hunger. That’s why I initiated an “Alliance for Global Food Security” and first won over the World Bank and the African Union. More than 100 states and organizations are now taking part.
Above all, we want three things in this alliance: mobilize more money, coordinate support better and make agricultural systems more crisis-proof. We need to enable more countries to start growing their own food again. Many have focused on cotton or coffee for export, relying on cheap imports of food for their own needs.
If there is a disruption in the supply chain, as is the case now, it immediately has massive consequences. So it’s not just about food packages, but above all about enabling climate-adapted, sustainable agriculture on site.
Does the EU only take care of overland food exports from Ukraine, or is this also coordinated through the Global Alliance?
The task is so big that we organize it in a division of labour. The EU coordinates this and keeps the others in the alliance up to date. Every ton of grain that we get out helps Ukraine, but also relieves the world market. In the short term, it will not be possible to export the same quantities overland as via the Black Sea ports.
At least now talks are taking place between Ukraine and Russia on grain exports. This is a glimmer of hope, as the UN Secretary-General said. But there is more to a sustainable and climate-adapted solution:
We need to create alternatives to the wheat, corn and rice that have dominated the world’s diet so far, and we need to enable more sustainable local production. An example: In Kenya, wheat flour is now being replaced by sweet potato flour. This is a project we initiated that helps to use less wheat and still be able to produce bread and groceries.
Norbert Lins, head of the Agriculture Committee in the EU Parliament, says: Most of the grain that can be exported from Ukraine stays in the EU. How can that be?
These quantities involve enormous logistical tasks. At present, it is already easier to transport grain from the Ukraine to Romania, for example. But in order for it to be shipped from Europe to the rest of the world, further logistical hurdles have to be overcome.
What does the medium-term financial planning for your ministry look like, can you use it to complete the tasks that are ahead of you? For the coming years, the finance minister wants to give you less money than for the current…
The financial plan for the next few years doesn’t really match the major development policy tasks, and that worries me. This year, the negotiations managed to allocate significantly more money for the fight against hunger, the reconstruction of Ukraine and all the other tasks than was originally planned.
For 2023, the Finance Minister has planned a provision of five billion euros for unforeseen consequences of the crisis, which the Federal Foreign Office and the Development Ministry can primarily access. In view of the current world situation, it is to be feared that this will also be sorely needed.