Avoiding crises, settling conflicts and stabilising trouble spots – that is the core objective of diplomacy, particularly at a time when the world has come loose from its moorings. To make sure that the Federal Foreign Office is doing the right thing, diplomats are working with civil society and interested members of the public to draw up new crisis‑prevention guidelines at PeaceLab2016. Foreign Minister Steinmeier launched the project at the Federal Foreign Office on Tuesday (5 July).
What can we do about crises?
What can we do about the host of crises around the world? The German Government’s work is wide‑ranging. Between Mali and Burkina Faso, the disputed border has been demarcated and a shared healthcare centre built with German assistance. In eastern Ukraine, an OSCE monitoring mission is helping to prevent the conflict escalating further. And in the Iraqi city of Tikrit, which has been liberated from the terrorist organisation IS, Germany is supporting stabilisation and reconstruction efforts to help ensure that people can soon enjoy security and access to electricity, water, jobs and education once again.
Working around the world to prevent conflicts and peacefully resolve those which arise is a key area of the German Government’s foreign policy. “We do this out of a sense of international and humanitarian responsibility. But that is not the only reason. We also do it with our own country in mind,” Steinmeier said. In the refugee crisis if not before, he explained, everyone had seen clearly how quickly the world’s crises can arrive on our doorstep. So that previous crisis management experience can be put to good use and our future action can be even more effective and well targeted, new guidelines for our involvement in crises and conflicts will be drawn up between now and spring 2017.
Kick‑starting the guidelines drafting process
Work on these guidelines was kick‑started by Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the conference PeaceLab2016 – A Fresh Look at Crisis Prevention. There were contributions from EU and UN experts as well as from representatives of the Bundestag and civil society from Germany and abroad. They analysed Germany’s engagement in the field to date and outlined their expectations with regard to its future involvement in crisis prevention, stabilisation and post‑conflict peacebuilding. The forum was also an opportunity for the many stakeholders in this area to present their work and foster ties with one another. They included the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW), the Working Group on Peace and Development (FriEnt), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), KfW (Reconstruction Loan Corporation), the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF) and the Civil Peace Service (ZFD).
In his opening speech, Foreign Minister Steinmeier called for a forward‑looking foreign policy that tackled the entire conflict cycle, “from prevention, conflict resolution and stabilisation to follow‑up work and post‑conflict peacebuilding”. Germany, he said, wanted to assume greater responsibility and was therefore not only investing more in crisis prevention and stabilisation but also working to advocate political dialogue in the interests of settling live conflicts. He said this was why Germany had taken on the Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2016 and was standing for a seat on the UN Security Council for the 2019‑20 term.
The German Government is hoping for broad‑based and inclusive exchange with civil society and interested members of the public as a basis for the guidelines. The opening conference will be followed by a whole series of PeaceLab2016 events. Foreign Minister Steinmeier appealed for many people to get involved in the process: “We need your critical questions, experience, ideas and suggestions. We should talk frankly about where we are doing well and where and how we can become even better and more efficient.”