Reporting by Michelle Martin
Teis Jensen in Copenhagen
Editing by Mark Heinrich
May 24, 2018
A lawmaker from the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) called on Thursday for Muslim doctors, nurses, pilots, bus and train drivers to be banned from working during Ramadan if they are fasting. Germany is home to some four million Muslims – including Turks who have lived here for decades as well as migrants and asylum seekers who arrived in the past few years, many fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.
AfD politician Martin Sichert said employers who were not able to give fasting Muslims a night or early shift should be able to make them use some of their annual leave during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. “What patient should have to be operated by a surgeon who has not drunk anything for 12 hours?” asked Sichert, a member of the parliamentary committee for labor and social issues.
“Why should people have to be transported around by other people who might face concentration problems and dehydration because they have been fasting for hours?” A German government spokesman said he did not want to comment.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has faced strong criticism from some Germans for opening the borders to more than a million migrants over the last few years, wants an inclusive, multi-ethnic Germany. She has long stressed Islam is part of Germany and has called for tolerance. Sichert’s comments came after Inger Stojberg, Denmark’s Integration Minister, caused furor on Monday by urging practicing Muslims to take vacation during Ramadan to avoid a negative impact on society.
“It can simply be dangerous for all of us if the bus driver doesn’t eat or drink during a whole day, and you don’t perform at nearly the same level at the factory or the hospital if you don’t eat or drink during the bright hours of the day for a full month,” she said in a letter printed in Danish newspaper BT. Her letter was met with widespread criticism, including from within her own Liberal Party.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Fellow members of this House,
BERLIN, Germany, March 19, 2018/ — :I expect you feel the same way I do. Looking at the situation in South Sudan requires strong nerves. The country, which achieved independence seven years ago, is now entering its fifth year of civil war. I think there are various aspects of this conflict that need to be mentioned here.
Firstly: the humanitarian situation has got even worse. It is easy to say that, but anyone who has taken a closer look at the situation will find it almost inconceivable. There are 2.5 million refugees from South Sudan in the neighbouring states and two million internally displaced persons within the country itself. That, ladies and gentlemen, makes it the world’s third-largest refugee crisis. It is the worst crisis in Africa since the genocide in Rwanda.
In 2018, seven million people will be dependent on humanitarian assistance. The fact that the parties to the conflict and particularly the Government repeatedly place obstacles in the aid workers’ way is disastrous. Last year alone, 28 aid workers died. This behaviour by the Government, and by all the parties to the conflict, is unacceptable. Ladies and gentlemen, there is another frightening figure to be mentioned, and it is one that illustrates the extent of the catastrophe: two million children in South Sudan are not going to school today because of the conflict.
The second point is this: the human rights situation as a whole is, as a United Nations report documents, characterised by violations of the most fundamental humanitarian principles. A climate of impunity prevails. The press, the public, civil society and especially human rights defenders are under enormous pressure. Ethnic violence is being stoked and very deliberately used as a political tool.
The third aspect is perhaps one that allows a little bit of optimism. The regional organisation IGAD has managed, in part with support from the Federal Government, to get all the parties to the conflict around one table at last. A High Level Revitalisation Forum met in December and again in February for two rounds of negotiations at which it tried, basically, to get the various parties to the conflict talking. And, yes, ladies and gentlemen, there is now a ceasefire. But you will also be aware that it is breakable, and it is being broken, sometimes on a daily basis.
In close coordination with its partners, the Federal Government is pursuing an integrated approach towards stabilising the country. The mission we are discussing today, UNMISS, is a vital instrument in these endeavours.
We are, as I have said, trying to tackle a humanitarian disaster. The United Nations expects the aid organisations working in South Sudan to need 1.72 billion dollars this year alone to provide concrete humanitarian assistance. For those among us who are not routinely concerned with the issue, let me make it clear once again: we are not talking here about providing help for reconstruction or funding for long-term structures. We are talking about saving lives and ensuring survival. The Federal Government has made almost 170 million euros available for this since 2016, and 19 million euros this year alone. Ladies and gentlemen, the Federal Government is committed to this engagement. It will continue this engagement and, if I might say so, given the situation, it is absolutely crucial that it does.
Why am I talking about humanitarian assistance in the debate about UNMISS? There is a simple reason. Without UNMISS, it would be impossible to protect the aid workers. Without UNMISS, an estimated 200,000 people in the UNProtection of Civilians sites would be left utterly defenceless in the face of the violence. But UNMISS is also on the ground throughout the country, wherever possible, wherever the security situation allows. That too, ladies and gentlemen, is something we support.
What we want to see is a real improvement in the human rights situation – I mentioned the UN report a few minutes ago – but we are also concerned with the political consequences. We know from other conflicts too that impunity encourages violent players to continue to concentrate on brutal war. That is why documenting the crimes committed – an initiative we have been supporting for many years not only in South Sudan but also, for example in Syria – is an important signal. It is intended in doing so to make it clear that the actors cannot simply assume that they will escape punishment just because there might be peaceful development and a peace settlement. That is why this is an important task.
The UN has asked us for support. Again and again we do whatever we can to ensure that these issues are on the agenda of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. And now I ask you, fellow members of this House, for the German Bundestag’s support in this important endeavour. I thank you for making the necessary funds available.
In the final analysis, it is all about the peace process. “What peace process?” some of you might be wondering. That is a valid question. But I would point out that talks are taking place again now, for the first time since 2016, so there is something like a process going on, a debate which one might for the first time again with a certain degree of optimism term a peace process.
However, we are also seeing this process being undermined by representatives of all parties to the conflict, including the Government of South Sudan. And so it is right and proper that sanctions have been imposed on individuals, including by the EU. I believe this is an important political signal, a demonstration of resolve, a sign that such behaviour will have consequences. Ladies and gentlemen, we are determined to continue to pursue this policy in order to support the fragile peace process.
Here, too, UNMISS is indispensable. Because, when it comes down to it, what does UNMISS do? UNMISS helps to safeguard the talks; it supports the organs which want and have to implement the agreements reached in the talks. This primarily means monitoring the agreed ceasefire.
If we look at our engagement, then we can, I believe, see that it certainly does act as a signal: on the one hand – and I say this first – for our soldiers in South Sudan, who are working in staff positions and as military observers in extremely difficult conditions across the country. I think we owe them all gratitude for their commitment.
It also acts as a signal for the humanitarian workers. Their work needs to be safeguarded, and they need a sign of support.
But it is also a signal to the Government of South Sudan. We will support the Government of South Sudan if it is looking after the concerns of its own citizens.
But the situation is clear: some of those responsible are members of the Government. And so we expect the Government of South Sudan to stop undermining the work of the United Nations, the work of UNMISS.
Last but not least, ladies and gentlemen, we must signal to the people of South Sudan that we are not giving up hope, and that we stand ready to support the reconstruction process, because they want to build up their own young country along with us. We should play our part in this.
Thank you for your attention.
BERLIN, Germany, March 13, 2018/ — An African ministerial working meeting conveyed by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) during this year’s Berlin International Tourism Fair ITB (8 March) agreed to move ahead with a new ten-point UNWTO Agenda for Africa. The final document will be adopted at the UNWTO Commission meeting for Africa, taking place in Nigeria in June this year.
Against the backdrop of international tourist arrivals expanding 8% in Africa in 2017, thus outgrowing the world average increase in arrivals, tourism is gaining weight as a development opportunity for the whole continent, with its vast diversity of nature, culture and wildlife its greatest vehicle for development.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili stressed that “tourism has huge potential to generate lasting development opportunities in Africa if we manage it in the right way, which is economic, social and environmental sustainability”.
The participants from 17 countries, including 14 ministers, supported a coordinated approach to seizing the continent’s potential for tourism, a sector that last year attracted more than 62 million international visitors. Issues on the UNWTO Agenda for Africa include, among others, connectivity, the image and brand of Africa, poverty alleviation, climate change, education and skills development, and financing. Delegates underscored the importance of educating other economic sectors on the broad impact of tourism for the benefit of societies and its people, and promoting tourism as a priority in national agendas.
The detailed, four-year UNWTO Agenda for Africa will be approved at the upcoming 61st Regional Commission for Africa – UNWTO’s annual gathering of all its member countries of the continent – in the Nigerian capital of Abuja (4-6 June).
The following countries were represented at the meeting at ITB: Angola, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sudan, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
BERLIN, Germany, February 6, 2018/ — A Federal Foreign Office spokesperson issued the following statement today (5 February) against the backdrop of the start of the South Sudan peace talks:
We welcome the second round of the South Sudan peace talks commencing today under the aegis of the regional organisation IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development).
The Federal Government urgently appeals to the desire of the South Sudanese conflict parties for peace and calls upon them to be willing to compromise in the negotiations in order to put an end to the civil war that has been raging since July 2016 and has been marked by unspeakable atrocities. Germany, together with its international partners, supports the efforts of IGAD, the African Union, South Sudan’s neighbours and the United Nations to bring about a comprehensive peace solution for South Sudan. The goal now has to be to ensure nationwide compliance with the ceasefire that entered into force on 24 December 2017 during the first round of talks, to stabilise it and to use this as a basis on which to reach a consensus on fundamental issues of governance, state structures and security.
The monitoring of the ceasefire by the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) will be a crucial factor in this process. Germany wholeheartedly supports the CTSAMM’s work and condemns all attempts to hamper its efforts by means of verbal threats or the abuse of bureaucratic regulations. Those attempting to undermine the peace process must be identified and should reckon with consequences. Germany is supporting the peacebuilding efforts in South Sudan through a mediation project financed by Federal Foreign Office stabilisation funds. In addition, it is providing financial contributions to the institutions involved in the peace agreement, particularly the ceasefire commission. In 2017, the Federal Foreign Office made available 90 million euros for humanitarian assistance for the South Sudan crisis.
BERLIN, Germany, January 9, 2018/ — Since September 2016, Germany has helped to destroy the last stockpiles of chemicals from Libya’s former chemical weapons programme.
Some 500 tonnes of dangerous dual-use chemicals were successfully destroyed in an environmentally safe manner over the past months, through a complicated procedure and under the supervision of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The chemicals date back to the Gaddafi era and had to be disposed of in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.
In 2016, Libya requested assistance from the international community for the destruction of these chemicals. In response to this request, both the OPCW and the United Nations Security Council decided to grant Libya the required assistance.
Germany and other OPCW member states had declared their willingness to assist Libya in a joint effort. The cost of destroying the stockpiles was covered by the United States and Germany.
Destruction of the toxic chemicals was carried out in Munster by the state-owned company GEKA, which is responsible for disposing of chemical warfare agents and has long-standing expertise in this field.
To mark this milestone, a ceremony will be held at GEKA in Munster, Lower Saxony, on 11 January 2018. It will be attended by State Secretary Dr Suder (Federal Ministry of Defence), Ms Susanne Baumann, Deputy Federal Government Commissioner for Disarmament and Arms Control, and Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General of the OPCW, as well as by a Libyan high-level representative.