International players

United Nations (UN)

Chapter VI of the UN Charter provides the United Nations, supported by its member states, with numerous tools for the peaceful resolution of conflicts. Preventive Diplomacy to avert crises is one of these tools. It affords the Secretary-General of the United Nations opportunities to be proactive in a variety of ways: for example, he can use his good offices or mediation missions, which he can initiate either himself or through a special envoy appointed by him. The Secretary-General has appointed a considerable number of envoys, some of whom attend to particular conflicts (e.g. Myanmar, the Middle East, the Great Lakes) and others who attend to particular issues (e.g. climate change, HIV/AIDS). A relevant overview may be found on the following website: http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/SRSG/index.htm During the recent reform of the Department of Political Affairs the so-called Mediation Division was also bolstered. The Secretary-General’s initiative in 2004 to improve the coordination of different UN institutions in promoting the rule of law is also serving to prevent the outbreak of crises and conflicts.

The formation – from a circle of suitable UN member states – of so-called “Groups of Friends of the UN Secretary-General”, in which a small group of states work together with the affected parties to resolve bilateral problems, can play its part in preventing conflict.

Recently, in tandem with these practical undertakings, the UN has also increasingly been addressing the topic on a conceptual level. The Millennium Summit and General Assembly were instrumental in initiating a specific report on the “Prevention of armed conflicts”, which the Secretary-General presented in June 2001. The lively discussions that followed resulted in the adoption for the first time of consensus resolutions on this topic in the Security Council and General Assembly – a remarkable event, considering that the priorities of the UN member states naturally differ and some countries fear that an increased international commitment to peace will lead to the neglect of the fight against poverty or to interference in internal affairs.

These resolutions and the preceding debate of the UN General Assembly provide a useful springboard for further developing the UN’s role in all aspects of crisis prevention, whilst at the same time emphasizing the responsibility of the member states. The Secretary-General’s report on the work of the UN at the 56th General Assembly also lays emphasis on, among other things, bolstering the interdisciplinary approach (global approach) to crisis prevention. At present the idea is being pressed forward, with the active support of Germany, of discussing all UN related questions regarding crisis prevention as a specific agenda item in an appropriate committee of the UN General Assembly in the first instance. Likewise, the Security Council has approached the topic of the role of women in situations of armed conflict in this way for the first time.

The UN Peacebuilding Commission
An important instrument of the UN in the field of crisis management is the UN Peacebuilding Commission, PBC. The PBC was set up at the end of 2005 by identical General Assembly and Security Council resolutions as an intergovernmental advisory body. The aim is to get the national and international players involved in a post-conflict situation round the conference table, support them in the reconstruction process, develop coherent strategies for peacebuilding, and contribute to the mobilisation of resources.
In its activity thus far the PBC has initiated a broad dialogue with actors involved in peace processes in Sierra Leone, Burundi, Guinea-Bissau and the Central African Republic and has blazed a trail as regards working out comprehensive peacebuilding strategies. The success of the PBC will, however, in the final analysis, be measured according to whether it succeeds in achieving tangible results for the local population.
The PBC affords a unique facility that brings all actors in a post-conflict situation round the same table and gives them the opportunity both to develop a common understanding of the causes of the conflict, and then – in agreement with the affected government – develop ways to tackle it. In so doing the PBC closes a gap which everyone recognized was there and strengthens the UN in its central tasks of crisis management. Together with the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO), a small diagnostic and evaluative section of the Secretariat, and the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) – a voluntary fund of the UN Secretary-General with its own decision-making structure that is independent of the PBC – the PBC represents a comprehensive peacebuilding architecture within the UN. The purpose of the PBF is to provide resources at short notice in post-conflict situations in order to enable, as swiftly as possible, the national and local institutions to manage the reconstruction process in their country themselves.
Germany has supported the setting up of the PBC from the outset and, as a member of the organizing committee of the PBC, is active in influencing the structure of its work. With the payment of 11 million USD so far into the UN Peacebuilding Fund, a new benchmark has been set for supporting the peacebuilding architecture of the UN.

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

The OSCE has various tools at its disposal to carry out its tasks of early warning, civilian crisis prevention, conflict resolution, conflict management and post-conflict peacebuilding. These range from the secondment of fact-finding missions and the appointment of Personal Representatives of the Chairman-in-Office, through to the establishment of long-term missions. In addition the OSCE advances the protection of human rights, minorities and the freedom of the press through its own established institutions. The apparatus of the OSCE field missions adopted by the 1992 Helsinki Summit has especially proven its worth with respect to long-term crisis prevention.

At present the OSCE supports 19 field missions, presences and project coordinators in the Balkans, the Southern Caucasus, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and Central Asia. The main emphases of its activities, which are structured differently according to mission, are: advice and assistance in the development and improvement of democratic structures and those pertaining to the rule of law; the protection of human and minority rights; fostering the development of civil society; conventional arms control and military transparency; economic and environmental cooperation.

These missions, which rest on the consensus of all OSCE participating states, are an important contribution to the international effort to support, monitor and advise.

Germany is an active contributor to the OSCE field missions and provides over 50 experts, i.e. roughly 9% of its personnel. In 2008 budget funds amounting to approximately EUR 2.2 million were set aside for this purpose. The OSCE office in Minsk is under the leadership of a German diplomat.

In establishing the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF), the Federal Foreign Office has created its own executive arm for the recruiting, training and seconding of staff for international civilian peace missions (OSCE, UN, EU). The delivery of training and further-training courses for employees on civilian peace missions is another part of ZIF’s remit.

European Union

The EU is a prime example of built-in crisis prevention. For five decades its members have built a community of peace in which war has become unthinkable. This is because the member states have committed themselves – of their own free will and for the good of all – to a process of integration in which conflicts are resolved exclusively by peaceful means. Owing to its own experience in overcoming historical conflicts and also to its ability to combine economic and technological power with diplomatic and political influence, the EU is well placed to make a significant contribution to international crisis prevention and crisis management. The EU also has at its disposal a broad spectrum of programmes and tools. They start with the enlargement process itself and encompass trade, development and environment policy, EU commitment to human rights worldwide, disarmament and arms control, right through to initiatives related to foreign policy and security and defence policy. Examples of this are the Stability Pact and the Stabilization and Association process for South Eastern Europe, which were given substantial support by the EU and its member states; the complete opening up in the final stage of the EU market for products (with the exception of arms) from the poorest countries (“everything-but-arms” initiative); the active support for the Kyoto Protocol in reducing harmful emissions; the EU contribution to establishing an International Criminal Court; the EU action plan for combating terrorism as well as civilian and military operations in the sphere of European security and defence policy.

In view of present-day security threats, the European Security Strategy adopted in 2003 expressly supports timely preventive action by the EU in order to prevent the eruption of crises in the first place. Without underestimating the EU’s significance as a global player, the European Security Strategy places emphasis on establishing security in our immediate neighbourhood.

Within and alongside the framework of European security and defence policy, the EU has, since the Cologne European Council in 1999, developed its civilian and military capabilities with respect to crisis prevention and crisis management in a balanced way. The EU is today involved in numerous civilian and military operations in crisis prevention and crisis management – from peacekeeping operations and police training, border patrols through to training legal personnel. Here the EU works together with international and regional organizations, such as the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, NATO or the African Union, as well as with third countries.

The EU is constantly engaged in further developing the instruments at its disposal with regard to crisis prevention in the long and short term, and to this end has dialogue with players from civil society.

Council of Europe

With the support of Germany, the Council of Europe has been able to bolster its tools for monitoring and protecting basic rights and fundamental freedoms substantially, thus increasing its scope and authority within the sphere of conflict prevention. For example, it has established both a permanent European Court of Human Rights and the office of the European Commissioner for Human Rights. It has also introduced the monitoring of countries by the Parliamentary Assembly and the monitoring of issues by the Committee of Ministers; and it has increased its operational capacity (field missions in Kosovo, among others) and expanded its activity with respect to promoting and stabilizing democracy. More and more will depend in the future on making the expertise and apparatus of the European Council practicable, in a synergetic and efficient manner, in the areas of human rights protection, promotion of democracy and the rule of law – especially with the OSCE and the EU.


During the German Presidency in 1999, the G8 – not least because of the impact of the Kosovo conflict at the time – initiated a package of conflict prevention measures designed, amongst other things, to combat the uncontrolled passing on or illegal trafficking of small arms, to direct development policy towards crisis prevention, and to end the use of child soldiers. They were also aimed at relieving the effects of armed conflict on children and providing civilian police forces for international deployment. This approach was subsequently taken up in new initiatives regarding the role of women and transnational corporations (“Corporate Citizenship”) in conflict prevention. Particularly over the past three years – and once again during the German Presidency in 2007 – the G8 has continued to be involved in establishing a framework for peace and security in Africa. The key focus is on lending support in setting up the “African Standby Force”, including civilian components such as police, schools for training personnel in peacekeeping measures and an early-warning system geared towards conflict prevention and post-conflict rehabilitation. The G8 has also increased its commitment within the sphere of counter-terrorism.

The stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan have become key focuses of long-term G8 crisis management and crisis prevention. Under the German Presidency in 2007, the G8 Foreign Ministers introduced an Afghanistan-Pakistan Initiative aimed at improving the fragile relations between the two countries, particularly with respect to border management, refugees, economic development and contact between civilian societies. The Initiative is being carried forward by the Japanese G8 Presidency and now encompasses over 150 projects.


Through its presence particularly in Kosovo and Afghanistan, NATO is – with German contingents of 2200 (KFOR) and 3500 (ISAF) Bundeswehr personnel respectively – making a vital contribution to efforts to bring stability to these countries and prevent fresh outbreaks of violent conflict (post-conflict peacebuilding). These presences secure a peaceful environment for all and provide protection for ethnic minorities; they also raise the awareness of all parties that conflicts of interest are to be addressed in a non-violent manner. In this respect both the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPR), with its 50 member states, also contribute to crisis prevention: through consultation fora and numerous activities they foster security cooperation in the Euro-Atlantic area, the integration of armed forces into society, the democratic control of the armed forces and also their internal reform are at the forefront of these programmes. Partnership and pre-accession assistance have in the past provided participating states with the opportunity to hone their own mechanisms for civilian conflict resolution both internally and externally. They will also do so in the future. NATO pursues similar objectives within the framework of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (four partner states in the Gulf region) and the Mediterranean Dialogue group (seven partner states from the Mediterranean region) in order to build up confidence through joint activities and support the peaceful resolution of conflicts in cooperation with these partner states.

Last updated 24.06.2013

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