In practice

Germany steps up development co-operation in response to COVID-19

Key messages

Despite intense pressure on government budgets, Germany was able to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in its partner countries quickly and at scale. Strong political will, backed by strategic, well-timed planning by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), enabled this scaled-up response.

Challenge

KeywordsGlobal goods and challenges, Official development assistance allocations

Key partnerGermany

Last updated14 April 2022

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When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic, Germany knew it must take action quickly and on a large scale. However, the global crisis brought a number of challenges. The rapidly changing trajectory of the virus made assessing needs complex. Its broad impact also meant that partners’ capacity to implement funds might be limited. And as Germany was itself heavily affected by the pandemic, the significant financial resources needed for its domestic recovery made advocating for additional official development assistance (ODA) more difficult.

Approach

Germany took a stepped approach to these challenges.

Before making the case to the federal parliament for additional ODA in 2020, the German Government first mobilised its existing capacity. It did so by:

  • Tracking needs thematically, instead of by region/country: Through its embassies, multilateral and civil society partners, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) kept track of needs in its partner countries across seven priority areas: the health sector; secondary impacts including food security, social protection, fragility, securing jobs in global supply chains; ensuring liquidity in partner countries; and co-operation with the UN, World Bank and other partners.

  • Reallocating funds within development co-operation programmes: BMZ restructured programmes to provide more emergency relief and services for displaced people and to strengthen crisis management, reallocating approximately EUR 1.63 billion of the 2020 ODA budget by April to address the health and economic impacts of the crisis in developing countries.

Having reallocated existing funding, Germany also mobilised humanitarian funding. Over the course of 2020, the Federal Foreign Office provided an additional EUR 450 million for humanitarian assistance.

Finally, BMZ then requested supplementary budgets. To help address the medium-term impact of the pandemic, BMZ proposed increases in the development co-operation budget for 2020 and 2021 in the total amount of approximately EUR 3.1 billion, as part of Germany’s fiscal stimulus package.

Results

While it is too soon to know the full impact of Germany’s efforts (which are to be evaluated by the German Institute for Development Evaluation), its approach meant that Germany stands out for having backed up its commitments to supporting developing countries in a time of crisis:

. Germany was able to mobilise significant resources quickly: Humanitarian assistance, reallocated funds and additional funding brought the total ODA for the COVID-19 relief package to EUR 4.7 billion (including the re-allocation in April 2020). In February 2021, at the Group of Seven (G7) meeting, Germany announced an additional EUR 1.5 billion for global medical support activities.

. Partners appreciated Germany as a reliable and flexible partner: Multilateral partners were grateful for Germany’s quick responses to food emergency appeals and the very welcome front-loading of payments. For example, Germany responded to some partner country requests outside of the regular inter-governmental negotiations to increase bilateral co-operation funding for social protection.

Lessons learnt

. Adapting existing programmes while assessing additional needs made it easier to step up the response. Germany was able to make the best use of its existing capacities and strengths, while at the same time identifying how and where additional resources were needed most. This also gave Germany’s partners space to adjust in order to be able to implement funds.

. Building a strong case helped to gain political and public support for additional funding. In March 2020, political bandwidth in Germany, as elsewhere in Europe, was focused on the crisis at home. When the BMZ Minister took the reallocation plan to the Federal Parliament in mid-April, Germany’s own fiscal package was already on the table. Comparing the scale of investment in Europe with the lower level of resources available to developing countries and making the case for global solidarity — i.e. sharing a portion of Germany’s stimulus package with populations most in need — proved to be a compelling narrative.

Further information

BMZ (2021), Fighting COVID-19 – at home and worldwide, https://www.bmz.de/en/development-policy/covid-19-pandemic.

GIZ, Focus Coronavirus, https://www.giz.de/en/ourservices/85066.html.

OECD resources

OECD (2021), OECD Development Co-operation Peer Reviews: Germany 2021, https://doi.org/10.1787/bb32a97d-en.

OECD (2020), Development Co-operation Report 2020: Learning from Crises, Building Resilience, https://doi.org/10.1787/f6d42aa5-en.

OECD, Key Policy Responses from the OECD: Tackling Coronavirus (Covid-19). Contributing to a global effort, https://www.oecd.org/coronavirus/en/policy-responses.

To learn more about Germany’s development co-operation see:

OECD, "Germany", in Development Co-operation Profiles, https://doi.org/10.1787/0079f636-en.

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