German Government policy guidelines: Preventing crises, managing conflicts, building peace

How do we intend to deal with crises and conflicts around the world in future? As part of the PeaceLab process, the Federal Foreign Office organised a lively debate among experts from ministries, the research sector and NGOs, as well as members of parliament and interested citizens. This resulted in the German Government guidelines on preventing crises, managing conflicts, building peace.

A military peacekeeping operation is of little use if there is no political process and if people have no hope that their country will develop in future. Peace, security and development are not isolated spheres – one cannot be advanced without the other. That is why the German Government, under the auspices of the Federal Foreign Office, has drawn up an overall interministerial concept on dealing with international crises and armed conflicts: the guidelines on preventing crises, managing conflicts, building peace. Together with the 2016 white paper, it forms the new strategic framework and compass for our actions.

Guiding principles for peace policy

Germany’s special responsibility for peace as a result of its history forms the foundation for the guiding principles for peace policy. Preventing wars and genocides, protecting minorities and human rights, are all part of Germany’s national ethos. What is more, there are hardly any crises nowadays which do not affect Germany at some point. Stabilising crisis-hit countries on a durable basis is therefore always in Germany’s interest.

Priority for prevention and the primacy of politics

The guidelines contain a clear commitment on the part of the German Government to always give priority to civilian instruments as well as our stated desire to prevent crises. For identifying and defusing conflicts before they flare up should be the focus of responsible foreign policy. Wherever possible, we place our faith in civilian instruments. Whether it be mediation, dealing with the past or humanitarian assistance, in most cases we can help in this way. Combat missions remain the last resort for the German Government.

Greater coordination

Aid delivery by the International Red Cross at the Lebanese refugee camp Nahr al-Bared

Aid delivery by the International Red Cross at the Lebanese refugee camp Nahr al-Bared
© dpa/picture alliance

Bild vergrößern
Aid delivery by the International Red Cross at the Lebanese refugee camp Nahr al-Bared

Aid delivery by the International Red Cross at the Lebanese refugee camp Nahr al-Bared

Aid delivery by the International Red Cross at the Lebanese refugee camp Nahr al-Bared

With a view to ensuring that the ministries involved cooperate even better in future, the German Government will strengthen its internal coordination. For only by working together can we make a difference. In Mali, for example, the diplomatic engagement, the Bundeswehr involvement in the UN and EU mission, as well as the development efforts are part of an overall political strategy. The aim is to foster reconciliation and to ensure the greater political participation of the north. For only if the roots of the problem are tackled can a conflict be resolved on a lasting basis.  

Responsibility also means risk

However, experience in Afghanistan and Iraq has also shown that crises take anything but a linear course. It is not a case of a nadir followed by an uninterrupted upward trend. Crisis geography is much more complicated than that. It is only possible to have a positive influence by accepting that there will be setbacks and that there are no guarantees of success. The guidelines therefore also call for more realism and a greater willingness to take risks.


The task now is to flesh out the guidelines. To this end, a host of follow-up processes are proposed in the document: for example, the German Government intends to refine its instruments of early crisis detection and to develop a strategy on how to strengthen the rule of law in order to foster peaceful coexistence. The German Government will also engage in an exchange with the Bundestag and citizens as well as with international partners on peace policy and present a comprehensive review after four years, that is to say in 2021.

Crisis prevention at the Federal Foreign Office

With the aim of promoting peace and being able to develop tailor-made and centrally coordinated crisis strategies, back in 2015 the Federal Foreign Office brought together the spheres of crisis prevention, stabilisation, post-conflict peacebuilding and humanitarian assistance in a new Directorate-General S.

Find out more:

Preventing crises, managing conflicts, building peace. The German Government policy guidelines (in German) (PDF, 1 MB)

Speech by Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel to the German Bundestag on the debate on the German Government’s guidelines on crisis prevention, conflict management and peacebuilding (30 June 2017)

Last updated 21.07.2017

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