GIZ’s Actions in the Brazilian Amazon: A case study on German cooperation for sustainable development

Felipe Abdon studied International Relations at Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais (BRAZIL) where he just finished one year of a Junior Scientific Initiation program. He was a visiting student during his undergraduate studies at the Hochschule Schmalkalden in Germany with a PUC-MG scholarship. His main research interests include Economic Development and international cooperation.  He can be reached at:  

Brazil | June 27, 2020 | Student Essay

When dealing with Germany’s presence on international cooperation and sustainable development, it is necessary to understand that we are not talking about a current and recent government policy, but a German state policy. This state policy involves several bureaucracies of various state agencies for more than fifty years, which has passed through various governments, some that have placed more emphasis on these two issues, others less, but which have never ceased to be taken into account.

Two of the first milestones in which German development cooperation can be identified date back to the second half of the 20th century, in 1956, with a resolution of the German Parliament. Such resolution provided DM 50 million for “promotion measures for underdeveloped countries” through the Federal Foreign Office and, subsequently, the creation of the German Foundation for International Development (Deutsche Stiftung für Internationale Entwicklung – DSE) which would be responsible for managing the projects of this new cooperation. Nonetheless, Germany’s work did not stop there, with the expansion and growing relevance of development projects which the German government later began supporting in several countries around the world, the creation of an independent ministry to take care of these new purposes was necessary.  Thus, in 1961, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (in German, Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung – BMZ), started its activities and since then it has been implementing agencies that are internationally recognized for their expertise and leadership in addressing global and sustainable development issues.

Due to the fact that the BMZ’s activities are wide-ranging and diverse, this essay will focus on the activities of only one of its executive agencies: the federal public company GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit). Created in 2011 from the merger of three German technical cooperation agencies and having as sole shareholder the Federal Republic of Germany, GIZ is today the world’s largest bilateral execution organization and, as it is impossible to summarize in one single paper the GIZ’s vast scope of action, I will primarily focus on the company’s direct actions in the Brazilian Amazon region by briefly analyze some of GIZ’s projects in the region in order to understand its role for the sustainable development of the region.

GIZ presence in Brazil and its projects in the Amazon region

Since the beginning of its activities, the German government has sought through GIZ to make partnerships with the Brazilian Government in order to favor sustainable development. Recently, the German agency has two main focuses in the South American country: renewable energy and energy efficiency, and the protection and sustainable use of the rainforest and its resources. It is worth highlighting, however, that it is not only limited to these two topics, but the agency also has projects focused on sustainable urban development and investments in other areas linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDOs). Although it has projects aimed at the preservation of other Brazilian biomes, a substantial part of its projects can be mostly found in the Amazon Region.

Although the Amazon Region occupies a large portion of Brazilian territory and is of fundamental importance to the country and to the world, the absence of economic incentives for inspection and sustainable management of its natural resources has led to deforestation,  illegal mining and grazing, and biopiracy. Acting as a strong investor and supplying technical and qualified personnel, GIZ enters as a strong link to solve some of Brazilian government. bottlenecks in the region administration.

In addition to providing advisory services to the “Organização do Tratado de Cooperação Amazônica – OTCA (the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization), an important regional program based in Brazil and led by BMZ and the Government of the Netherlands, and in cooperation with the Amazon Fund, which aims to finance actions to prevent, monitor, conserve, and combat deforestation in the Amazon Forest, GIZ has other projects. Through cooperation with the private sector for example, they ensure the sustainable management and recovery of natural resources with projects such as “Sustainable Cosmetics from the Amazon” and the project “Protecting tropical forests by means of green markets”, both of which support family farmers and cooperatives to comply with Brazilian and international environmental laws and develop the region economically and in a sustainable manner.


Although much can still be said about the work of GIZ in the Amazon region and in Brazil, this paper accomplished the aim of providing a broad overview of the German agency’s presence in the region. In short, GIZ’s performance in the Amazon region is vital to strengthen the culture of environmental and social sustainability in governments, at local and federal levels, and in companies by making public and private sector projects more efficient, accountable, transparent and competitive. By helping to solve part of sustainable management natural resources’ gaps in the Amazon and by adopting a methodology aimed at sustainable objectives, GIZ makes societies, state entities and companies assume a relevant role in mitigating the risks imposed on the environment and natural resources, in addition to contributing to health, development and quality of life in the region.

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