DED Celebrates 20 Years in Yemen [Archives:1999/15/Law & Diplomacy]

April 12 1999

DED representative, Mr. Gerd Winkelhane, spoke in a press conference on the German Development Service (DED) and its activities in Yemen. “We go back 20 years,” Mr. Winkelhane stated. The occasion was further highlighted by the visit of the General Manager, Mr. Juergen Wilhelm.
“On this occasion, I would like to thank all our Yemeni partners for their great cooperation,” he said. He mentioned that during the last twenty years of DED activities in Yemen, over 200 experts and workers engaged in various developmental fields. Though the average number of experts at any one time has fallen to thirty, the organization is doing its best to increase this number to the much higher previous levels.
German financial support to Yemen is mainly from three main organizations – the German Bank for Reconstruction specialized in financing projects, the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ) which specializes in technical cooperation, and DED – the German Development Service which specializes in training development staff.
DED activities concentrate mainly on health services, technical/vocational training, and water and sanitation sectors. In addition, DED has been involved with the General Authority for Preservation of Historic Cities.
The General Manager of the DED, Mr. Juergen Wilhelm, then talked in the press conference. He started with a short briefing on his meetings.
“I concluded meetings with Yemeni officials whom I found very understanding and appreciative of the DED’s activities.
“Relations between Yemen and Germany are long standing. We also share similarities in our recent historical backgrounds. Germany and Yemen were both divided into two parts. Both countries were re-unified in 1990.”
He then hailed democratization in Yemen. “Germany encourages the political transformation and economic development of Yemen.”
He indicated that his organization works hard to improve the level of local development cadres. “Such efforts cannot be accomplished without heeding the priorities of the Yemeni people. It means that DED has no special programs or priorities of its own. DED supports development projects of benefit to the Yemeni side.”
He also pointed out that the DED development workers are highly qualified persons. They are enrolled in social rehabilitation and orientation courses, most of them have experience in the work they perform in foreign countries, and all of them speak Arabic.
“As a friend, I would like to mention my administration’s first concern for safety. The kidnapping of one of our workers that took place in January in one of the medical centers shocked us, and it reduces the support we need to continue the service.
Then there was the following question and answer session:
Q: You just said that you follow the Yemeni government’s priorities and that you don’t have your own. How accurate it that?
A: We consider ourselves not to create our own priorities or projects. We are partners. It is the Yemeni side that defines and identifies the priorities of our cooperation. The local partner can write us a request through the German Embassy or directly through our representative in Sanaa, Mr. Winkelhane. We will take that into consideration. We then discuss whether and how we can meet this demand. We do not sit in Berlin, or our representative in Sanaa, and thinking of ways to create projects. We only react to the demands of the Yemeni side whether governmental or non governmental.
Q: The health sector is in shambles. Do you have ideas to improve the health sector?
A: Yes of course, there is a continuous dialogue between us and our partners. We can make suggestions and give advice based on our long and worldwide experience.
Sometimes we even have to say no to certain proposals. However, finding the right answer to Yemen’s needs is not our job. Yemenis themselves must develop ideas and solutions, and we help them in implementation.
Q: I saw on the map that you concentrate on a small part of Yemen. Do you plan to expand your services, say like going to Al Mahara?
A: We would like to do so. But up to now, we have not received any request from the Yemeni side concerning this region. I must say that it is quite difficult to reach such a remote area. We also have to consider the matter of security. But generally speaking, it is a matter of proper arrangements. We do not mind working in other regions.
I must say that we come from a foreign country, our policy is not to complicate local sensitivities. We answer questions and react to requests.
Q: If you get an invitation from Yemeni government to visit this region would you go?
A: Yes of course. We will respond to such a request and go. A remote area and less accessible might deserve our assistance more. Personally I have never visited that area. DED is specialized in remote areas. Our people are not brought here to stay in the capital city’s five star hotels or to sit in air-conditioned rooms. It is the other way around. Some 80 to 90% of our development workers are far away from the capitals and large cities.
Q: In how many countries do you work?
A: The number varies from time to time. Now, we are engaged in 48 development countries – Yemen included.
Q: You said that one of your workers was kidnapped. Can you tell us how that affected you?
A: It affected us because your colleagues worldwide starting from writers, TV and newspapers announcers reported for two weeks about this kidnapping act. At one stage, they confronted us with 3 TV cameras in my office in Berlin and it was on the front page of so many newspapers. So, the German people got the wrong impression that Yemen is a very dangerous place for German civil persons or development workers, to go.
This is the case, in all West European states. It is not just in Germany.
I have pointed out to the Yemeni officials that Yemen is a wonderful country that we love it and prove this fact by 20 years of cooperation. We haven’t withdrawn our people although we were asked to do so. I hope that the Yemeni government will resolve such matters and we leave everything as it is. We hope that there will be no more such unpleasant accidents to our workers or to any foreigner/s in Yemen. I would like to be optimistic. I have been asked about the situation in Yemen, and I would like to say the truth. My understanding generally is that it is very safe. But I have responsibility to my people. We came back and we are still here and would like to stay here and I am quite optimistic that we will stay here and continue our projects.
Q:If something like this happens again, what will you do?
A: I am not a speculator, and will not answer a speculative question.
Reported by:
Mohammed Bin Sallam
Yemen Times.