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Speech by Minister of State Michael Roth to the German Bundestag on civilian crisis prevention

16.02.2017

First reading in the German Bundestag of the amended Act Governing Secondments within the Scope of Civilian Crisis Prevention Operations, 16 February 2017 

-- Translation of advance text --

Mr President,
Fellow members of this House,

In this time of crises and conflicts, Germany is facing a greater number of foreign and security policy challenges than ever before. And this does not only affect members of parliament and soldiers, but also, and indeed above all, many civilian experts, who help day after day to prevent new conflicts, to de-escalate crises and to mitigate the effects of war and hatred.

Today’s debate concerns these people. In the Secondment Act – I admit that it’s a pretty technocratic name – we are creating a legal basis to enable our civilian experts to fulfil their roles in an even better way in the future.

The bill before us may seem complex and tedious. However, our aim is to help people in their day-to-day working lives in very concrete ways. That is the whole point.

The global conditions for our work are certainly not easy. The world is becoming more unstable and the international order is in disarray. We need to respond to this and to take on greater responsibility internationally. It is great that broad consensus has developed in large sections of the political sphere and society in recent years as regards taking on this new role decisively. The will is there – but now we also need to take practical steps.

To this end, we need to learn from our experiences and to become even better at what we do. The Federal Government’s new guidelines on crisis prevention, conflict management and peacebuilding are currently being drawn up. My ministry is leading on this.

We plan to adopt these guidelines in the Cabinet in the spring. The aim is to combine our crisis management activities as a joint strategy, as crises and conflicts cannot be resolved single-handedly. Our crisis management activities must always be part of a policy that is embedded in multilateral peace and security endeavours.

Our Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF) plays a key role in this. I don’t know if any of you recall that in the late 1990s, when highly qualified civilian personnel were needed for an OSCE peace mission in Kosovo, the Federal Foreign Office had to recruit suitable experts more or less out of thin air. At the time, there was simply no central organisation like the ZIF we now have in Berlin.

The foundation of the ZIF in 2002 under the SPD-Green government marked the start of a process to professionalise German staffing policy for international peace operations. With its integrated “one-stop shop” approach of recruitment, training and support for civilian personnel, ZIF has become a role model worldwide.

Every year, it recruits over 160 experts for international peace missions and over 300 election observers. Fellow members of this House, their work is extremely valuable. They help to defuse crises or – better still – to ensure that conflicts do not arise in the first place. They monitor ceasefires and elections. They create sustainable structures in the judiciary and the security forces.

To give you some very concrete examples, our civilian experts are helping to develop the rule of law in Kosovo, to demobilise FARC guerrillas in Colombia, and to strengthen the security forces in Mali who are fighting against terrorism and organised crime. Without them, it would not be possible to implement peace agreements, such as those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or in Ukraine.

But they also provide support to the missions’ administration, work in the OSCE Secretariat in Vienna or for the EU in Brussels.

Our colleagues work under extremely difficult conditions, especially in crisis regions such as eastern Ukraine and Afghanistan. They are often not able to move about freely because of the tense security situation or they have to live in a staff compound or even on a military base. And they are often separated from their family and friends for long periods of time.

This is another reason why we value the many experts who work for and with us across the globe. Their outstanding work has become a hallmark of German foreign policy. Fellow members of this House, allow me to say that I am rather proud of this.

However, we do not want to express our appreciation merely with kind words. We want to improve how we support and protect our civilian experts in real life, too. We want to pay them a fair salary for their work and to ensure that they have proper legal protection and social insurance.

The aim of the amended Secondment Act is to ensure this. It is a milestone in legal protection and social insurance for civilian personnel. For the first time, it will allow us to pay the experts a proper salary, rather than merely a fee, for their important work and to do so on the basis of regular work contracts. The experts will also have proper health and social insurance.

And we will ensure that our seconded personnel have the best possible protection in their difficult and often dangerous missions.

In the future, the ZIF, which has outstanding expertise, will be the employer and key point of contact for seconded staff. In this way, we will ensure the best-possible preparation and support for all civilian personnel in all phases of their secondment.

The ZIF’s experience in international staffing policy enables us to contact the people who are most suited to each individual job. Let us not forget that we need the best women and men! Precisely because we want to play a role in shaping the international order, we need people who are experts in their field, know the region in question and are also prepared to take on managerial positions in the missions.

The new Secondment Act provides us with an excellent basis for this. Long-standing members of this House will know that the Federal Foreign Office rarely proposes legislation. This bill is especially important, and it is of particular importance to me as Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Center for International Peace Operations. I kindly request your input and support!

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