Germany to Build Internment Camps for Sudanese Government

I've written about E.U. plans to cozy up to East African authoritarian regimes in exchange for these governments blocking migrant routes to the Mediterranean. Bad enough. But new revelations by the SPIEGEL are adding whole new levels of disgust to the story:

documents relating to the project indicate that Europe want to send cameras, scanners and servers for registering refugees to the Sudanese regime in addition to training their border police and assisting with the construction of two camps with detention rooms for migrants. The German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development has confirmed that action plan is binding, although no concrete decisions have yet been made regarding its implementation.

The German development agency GIZ is expected to coordinate the project. The organization, which is a government enterprise, has experience working with authoritarian countries. In Saudi Arabia, for example, German federal police are providing their Saudi colleagues with training in German high-tech border installations. The money for the training comes not directly from the federal budget but rather from GIZ. When it comes to questions of finance, the organization has become a vehicle the government can use to be less transparent, a government official confirms.

How can anyone, especially the German government, be so ignorant and/or cruel to provide a country whose president is charged with genocide with money, advice and technology for imprisoning people? Are we as Germans/Europeans/rich people really so afraid of those who are coming in search of a better life that we are willing to sacrifice our last inch of humanity in an attempt to keep them away?

There would, of course, be another way. They way I see it, there are two overlapping migration phenomena: a refugee crisis, with people fleeing from violence and terror and an economic migration crisis, which sees many young people look for opportunities abroad.

To a certain extend, European countries should indeed just throw money at the problem, just not the way they currently do. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs tracks humanitarian appeals and funding. And the 2016 appeals have so far only been financed to the tune of 26 percent, falling short $10.9 billion. Filling this gap would go a long way to reduce the suffering of refugees, alleviating some of the pressure on migration routes.

But maybe even more importantly, the E.U. needs to overhaul its immigration procedures. As it stands now, it is practically impossible for most of the worlds population to apply for and attain a visa to lawfully migrate to an E.U. country. As thousands of boat people have demonstrated, many by loosing their lives, this is an ineffective and stupid way to manage migration.

Instead, the E.U. should introduce generous quotas for visa and allocate these based on points system similar to what Canada has done for years. Making available a legitimate, transparent and fair option for would-be migrants and refugees to attain legal status prior to arriving in Europe is the E.U.'s best bet to take the drama out of the current migrant crisis.

On a fundamental level, though, we as European citizens should reflect on our attitude towards migration more generally, especially given the continent's historical experience with similar patterns in the past, especially during and after WWII. And we should contemplate the responsibility of our own economic and foreign policy decisions for the dynamics that push people out of their own societies and across the Mediterranean on dingy death traps.

Germany’s foreign aid minister: “Europe relies on the exploitation of Africa for its prosperity”

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A very interesting interview with Germany's foreign aid minister Gerd Müller (not to be confused with Germany's iconic soccer player of the same name). Some very progressive discourse under the impression of the refugee crisis.

Viel zu lange hat Europa den afrikanischen Kontinent mit ausgebeutet. Wir Europäer haben wertvolle Ressourcen zu Niedrigstpreisen bekommen und den Arbeitskräften Sklavenlöhne gezahlt. Auch auf dieser Ausbeutung gründen wir in Europa unseren Wohlstand. Nun wundern wir uns, wenn die Menschen in Afrika keine Chancen mehr für sich sehen und zu uns kommen wollen. Wir senden ihnen ja auch täglich das Signal von Reichtum.

It remains to be seen if he follows up with any actual change in policy. So far, the current German government has not displayed anything even approaching "innovation" in its relationship with African states.

Source: "Europa hat Afrika ausgebeutet"

A critical look at Germany’s resource strategy from Africa’s perspective

Germany is not exactly the most prolific investor in Africa's resource sector. But as an export oriented economy with a solid reputation for world-class mechanical engineering, engine construction and specialised tooling, a considerable share of Africa's mineral exports wind up in Germany somewhere along their value chain. Additionally, Germany has considerable influence on European Union policy, making the country an important actor in the use of Africa's resources.

While Germany was a mining country once, today the only "hard" commodity produced on any scale is coal (and even this fuel is imported to satisfy demand). Especially Germany's once abundant mineral reserves are completely exhausted. Especially over the last years, with world market prices sky high and exporters like China artificially curbing supply, this has resulted in demands from Germany's industry for political support for securing access to essential mineral resources.

The government's answer is its 2010 Resource Strategy (pdf, German), which was designed with considerable input from industry interest groups. As official policy from one of the world's most powerful governments, it is worth looking at possible consequences for resource politics in Africa.

Government supported investment and trade

Two core objectives of the strategy are to diversify Germany's resource sources and secure favourable trade agreements. While the focus on diversification is positive for Africa's economies, as Germany has traditionally stronger links to resource producers in Latin America, the emphasis on trade is not. Germany has a long history of pushing the free trade agenda and supports this policy strongly on EU level. Free Trade Agreements (FTA) have been struck with many developing countries on a bilateral level and the German government has also used organisations like the WTO to further this goal.

Of course different opinions exist on the consequences of FTA's, but I'm firmly in the camp that sees little benefit for developing countries. To often, FTA's lock countries into unfavourable arrangements with Western companies. Especially clauses strengthening investor's rights, giving them immunity from changes of law that would impact their investment negatively, often undermine efforts of developing countries to shape their resource sectors to be more profitable and less environmentally damaging. African countries should be very careful when entering into these agreements, ideally avoiding them completely. FTA's could also limit African country's efforts to demand a higher local content.

Lip service to human rights and environmental protection

The strategy states that

It is one of [the strategy's] main goals to further the responsible and transparent handling of resources (Good Governance) and the sustainable use of resources while securing human rights and strengthening internationally accepted social and ecological standards. - p 22

This dedication to securing human rights in the resource sector is probably more lip service than anything else. As much was made clear in a discussion with government officials about this topic during a workshop on the German resource strategy. The government representative made it clear that human rights, environmental protection and corruption are "within the domain of the host country" and not the responsibility of the investing country (Germany).

This low level of dedication is deplorable, because Germany has considerable power to positively influence whole value chains, if it chooses to do so. A good example is the development of a certification system for "conflict minerals" from the DR Congo under the leadership of Germany's ministry for economic corporation. Here Germany has successfully developed a model that could in theory guarantee social and ecological standards in mineral production (while of course being ineffective in its stated purpose - undermining the financing armed groups). Together with strong EU regulations, this could fundamentally change industry practice in a positive way, but so far Germany doesn't seem to be interested in playing a constructive role. An interesting test will be the government's position to the EU counterpart of the Dodd-Frank act regulating the import of conflict minerals. More on this in a later post.

It should also be noted that the German Government didn't go out of its way to get input from African (or any other) resource exporting countries or civil society. The only interest group consistently involved in the process was the German industry. This is bad for virtually everybody involved. African governments weren't able to give input on how to design the policy to make it favourable to them, increasing the likelihood that it would actually pay of for German importers; African and German civil society weren't able to raise social or environmental concerns, increasing possible harm done to African countries in the long run and the German government lost out on the possibility to offset its limited direct influence on African resource markets through innovative policy making.

A civil society alternative

As a reaction to the content and process of the resource strategy, civil society in Germany has asked the Government to review the policy. Its position paper (pdf, German) lists three main demands:

1. Lower consumption of raw materials

2. Human rights and due diligence procedures  for companies

3. Democratize resource policy

I don't want to go into too much detail on the content of these demands, but I think that their adoption would be in the interest of African countries as well. Reduced resource use in Western countries would decrease environmental damages in exporting countries, without necessarily limiting long-term earnings from resources. Strong due diligence laws and more transparency in the shaping of resource politics in some of the world's leading consumer markets would have tremendous positive effects on issues like corruption and human rights violations linked to mining. African governments and civil society should engage intensively with policies like the German resource strategy, because they can have tremendous repercussions on the other side of the world - it depends on their design, if these repercussions end up being good or bad for the people facing them.