Interview by Johanni Larjanko & Ruth Sarrazin for DVV International
Photo by photothek.net
Dr. Gerd Müller has been Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development since December 2013. He has been a member of the German Bundestag representing the constituency of Kempten, Lindau and Ober allgaeu since 1994 and was foreign and European policy spokesperson for the CSU in the German Bundestag until 2005, among other dut ies. From 2005 to 2013, he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Federal Minister of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection with responsibility, among other things, for international relations, develop ment projects and global food security.
Why does the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) support Adult Education projects in developing countries?
Education, for me, is the key area for progress. The importance of education for sustainable social development and fighting poverty and hunger is beyond question.
Without education, people continue to be dependent; with education, however, they can take their lives into their own hands and give them shape. Education is a basic human right for everyone and an essential foundation for all forms of development cooperation!
German development policy is guided by the principles of holistic Lifelong Learning. This means education from early childhood through primar y and secondar y school, vocational education, higher education, and on to further education and training. It means not just academic learning, but also and above all non-formal education, of the kind that DV V International implements in its projects. Take Afghanistan, for example: In its local education and community centres in Afghanistan, DV V International is contributing in an outstanding way to ensuring that women in particular, who would otherwise have no access to the formal education system, are able to get an education and thus have the chance to earn their own living.
What is your personal connection to the topic Adult Education?
Adult Education was a major focus of my studies. The institutions involved in Adult Education are important pillars of further education and training in Germany and within development cooperation.
I am convinced that Adult Education, especially in developing countries, is making a ver y essential contribution towards sustainable development and pover ty reduction, for example, in Africa, where DV V International, with the support of the BMZ, is operating in nine different countries. We want to and will continue to strengthen and expand this work.
What, in your view, can Adult Education accomplish in developing countries?
Adult Education as part of Lifelong Learning is an important key to being independent and earning money. Of ten, in addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, quite practical life skills are also taught. I am thinking here, for example, of areas such as health, nutrition, family planning or basic legal knowledge.
The wide range of activities carried out by DV V International in Africa stretches from literacy projects to training in skilled craf ts, and from courses for entrepreneurs, ranging from production to marketing, to courses for young mothers. At the same time, DV V International advises local and national governments on ways to improve the learning environment and on developing curricula. This contributes to a long-term improvement in the situation! Especially impor tant to me is promoting equality for girls and women.
What will be your focus for German development policy in the coming years?
The world is facing enormous challenges: poverty and hunger, wars, conflicts and refugee flows, environmental degradation and climate change – these are key questions for human sur vival, and we need to act jointly and consistently here. The point is to create a humane and just world order, which at the same time also provides a set of values and offers hope for the future for all people. The reality is different: 1.4 billion people worldwide still live in absolute poverty. The richest 20 percent of the world’s population claim 80 percent of the world’s resources for themselves whilst causing two thirds of all damage to the environment and the climate. One billion people have nothing to eat and must go hungry. There are 51 million displaced persons worldwide.
For me, this means that I would like development policy to start where fundamental changes are necessary. Development policy must contribute to overcoming poverty and malnutrition; to environmental and climate protection; and to education, health care and fair working conditions. My vision here is of an ecologically responsible social market economy.
What are the most important changes you have made so far as minister?
I have set up four new special initiatives: “One World – No Hunger” to stabilise food security; an initiative for regional development in North Africa and the Middle East; another for refugees; and one for climate protection.
The situation in Syria alone has driven nearly three million people out of their homes. For Syrian refugees and the communities which take them in, we have therefore made 50 million euros in emergency aid available, and other significant amounts will follow.
Similarly, we have resumed development cooperation with South Sudan and, working together with France, we have become involved in the Central African Republic for the first time. In a new strategy for Africa, we are setting new development priorities.
You want to change global structures. Must we, in the industrialised countries, also do a rethink?
Yes! For example, for me, fair trade and complying with social and environmental sustainability standards are very high on the agenda. At my initiative, companies, associations, trade unions and civil society have come together to form an alliance for sustainable clothing production. The goal is that, in the future, consumers will be able to see if a suit or dress has been produced using environmentally and socially sustainable methods.
What does the Charter for the Future “ONE WORLD – our responsibility” stand for? And how can civil society actors participate?
With the Charter for the Future, we want to show that development policy for equitable sustainable development begins with us in our normal everyday lives: What shall I wear? What am I going to eat? How big is my own CO2 footprint? Every day, with our actions, we can assume part of the responsibility for our planet!
We have started a broad discussion process across society – with civil society, the business and science communities, local government and the Länder, governmental and non-governmental organisations, and the general public. I say to all of these actors in our country: I would like to invite you once again to get actively involved. We want a broad discussion process in which you can participate directly in the online dialogue and in the various thematic forums. You can also organise your own events and bring the results into the process of the Charter for the Future.
As far as DVV International itself is concerned, through its “Global Learning” project it is contributing to raising awareness about global relationships among interested learners in Germany’s Adult Education Centres. There are outstanding courses and exhibitions in this programme, for example on decent work, or about soccer and its global background. They stimulate a change of consciousness in society, and I encourage you to share your experiences in our dialogue process!
The German government has made the Charter for the Future a flagship project for 2014 as part of its national strategy for sustainability. It will also be a strong German contribution for 2015, when it is time to take the UN Millennium Development Goals to the next stage.
On 24 November, in Berlin, at a conference about the future, I will present the Charter, which will contain the results of our public debate, to the Chancellor. I heartily invite DV V International to take part in this event!
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