Implementation of the German Government policy guidelines: Preventing crises, resolving conflicts, building peace

31.03.2021 - Article

Stronger tools, multilateral cooperation and early crisis detection – taking stock after four years of applying the crisis Guidelines.

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

Peace, security and development are not isolated spheres – one is not possible without the other. It was in this context that in 2017 the German Government, under the auspices of the Federal Foreign Office, drafted an overall interministerial concept on dealing with international crises and armed conflicts: the guidelines on preventing crises, resolving conflicts, building peace. Now in 2021, the Federal Government's implementation report takes stock for the first time.

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 where the effects are not felt by 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 Federal Government to always give priority to civilian instruments and to the goal of preventing crises. Identifying and defusing conflicts before they flare up should be the focus of responsible foreign policy. Whether it be mediation, dealing with the past or security sector reform, in most cases it is possible to help in this way. Combat missions remain the last resort for the German Government.

Responsibility also means risk

Experience in Afghanistan, Iraq and Mali has shown that crises take anything but a linear course. It is not a case of a nadir followed by an uninterrupted upward trend. Crises are much more complex. It is only possible to exert 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 implementation report published in 2021 (see below) reviews how the tools and processes of the Federal Government have been strengthened since the adoption of the guidelines in order to be able to respond even more effectively to crises – or, better still, to prevent them.

Experience in the major fields of rule-of-law promotion, security-sector reform, dealing with the past and mediation has been bundled in strategies and concepts which now form the basis for increased engagement in these areas.

During its membership of the UN Security Council, Germany supported the efforts towards reform initiated by Secretary-General António Guterres and actively worked to strengthen blue helmet and political peace missions. The EU's civilian crisis management has been further strengthened, including through the establishment of the European Centre of Excellence for Civilian Crisis Management in Berlin.

The federal ministries have significantly stepped up their coordination in many areas. Regular interministerial meetings on the implementation of the policy guidelines have been held since 2017. Foreign-policy instruments and development cooperation complement each other even better thanks to the tool of joint analysis and coordinated planning. And in the Working Group for Early Crisis Detection the ministries systematically evaluate their knowledge of incipient conflicts and critical developments.


Not only the instruments, but also the challenges, have developed and changed over the past four years. The Federal Government has therefore set itself four priorities for the further implementation of the policy guidelines.

There is growing awareness of the link between the climate crisis and issues of peace, security and sustainable development. Early detection of climate-related conflicts, but also adaptation and the further development of possible solutions, will be of key importance in the coming years.

COVID-19 has revealed the weaknesses of all societies when it comes to responding to pandemics. When strengthening healthcare systems, one priority in future will be to keep an eye on the links between health crises, state fragility and conflict tendencies.

The EU is more necessary than ever as an international actor in crisis prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding. The Federal Government will give the EU even more support than hitherto in this role.

The Federal Government has significantly expanded and refined its early crisis detection instruments since 2017. On this basis, the focus now is on linking up with crisis prevention policy.

Crisis prevention at the Federal Foreign Office

In 2015, the Federal Foreign Office set up Directorate-General S in order to be able to respond sooner, more effectively and more decisively to crises and help people in need. It pools instruments, funds and competence for crisis prevention, stabilisation, post-conflict peacebuilding and humanitarian assistance.

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