Speech by Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the founding of the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF)

27.06.2017 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

Almut Wieland-Karimi,
Dr Kühne,
Fellow members of the German Bundestag,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Fifteen years of the Center for International Peace Operations - what a wonderful reason to celebrate! I am saying that today not just as the Minister of State for Europe at the Federal Foreign Office but also as the Chairperson of the ZIF Supervisory Board - a position of which I am suitably proud.

Let us embark together on a journey through time - back to the year 2002 when ZIF was founded. I had a look what was dominating the headlines fifteen years ago today:

For example, “President Bush presents plan for more democracy in Middle East”.

Another headline read: “Al‑Qaida planning cyber attacks”.

And there were reports on a “historic decision”: “Russia is to become a full member of the G8”.

As you can see, even back then, we were experiencing turbulent times. Many current topics on the international agenda, from the Middle East conflict and Islamist terrorism to our relations with Russia, were also keeping us busy back then. We now have many new crisis hotspots. No matter where we turn in our world, we are seeing tragedies, war, disorder and violence in far too many places.

Over the last two decades, we have witnessed two parallel developments. On the one hand, we are living in a highly networked and ever more globalised world in which the connections between countries and people are becoming ever more close and dense. At the same time, we are seeing that this has in no respect made our world more united and peaceful. On the contrary, if anything. Even here at the heart of Europe, terrorism has hit home and our continent feels surrounded by tempestuous seas of insecurity and violence.

Furthermore, we have to learn that interventions from the outside, even if they are performed with the best of intentions, rarely bring about a reduction in violence. Peace is not something that can be dictated. It has to grow - and be bolstered, secured and, it is true, sometimes even be hard fought.

The former United Nations Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean‑Marie Guéhenno, coined a new term for this. He spoke of the “fog of peace”. The way I understand it is that the moral goal of wanting to create peace by definition goes hand in hand with insecurity, false assumptions and thwarted hopes. It is difficult to navigate this fog of peace even with the best of intentions.

Yet the difficulties on the road to lasting peace must not stop us from gearing our foreign policy energetically to this longing of humanity. Always aware that failing is a possibility. Working on and for peace is not a linear process. We must not expect war zones to become stable democracies overnight.

Ladies and gentlemen,

If ZIF didn’t exist, we would have to invent it today. After all, in this world full of crises and conflicts, civilian experts are needed more urgently than ever.

Your work and experience, colleagues, is extremely valuable. Day in, day out, you are helping to defuse crises or - even better - to prevent conflicts emerging in the first place. And you are doing so all over the world.

To give you some very concrete examples, our civilian experts are helping to build the rule of law in Kosovo, to demobilise the FARC guerilla in Colombia and to support the security forces in Mali who are fighting terrorism and organised crime. Without them, it would not be possible to implement negotiated peace agreements, such as those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Ukraine. You are also supporting the administrative side of the missions or are working in the Secretariat of the OSCE in Vienna or of the EU in Brussels.

Particularly in crisis areas such as eastern Ukraine or Afghanistan, our colleagues are performing excellent work in the most difficult of conditions. 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.

I would thus like to express my sincere thanks to all ZIF experts who have been involved in the last 15 years.

Your outstanding work for peace and understanding has become an unmistakeable hallmark of German foreign policy, and, colleagues, let me say that I am rather proud of this.

One thing is of particular importance to me. 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. And that is what the revised Secondment Act that we recently adopted in the Bundestag is meant to do.

What admittedly sounds somewhat technical and complex actually serves to make many people’s working lives easier. This law is a milestone in legal protection and social insurance for civilian personnel. We want to pay them a fair salary for their work and to ensure that they are covered as well as possible in their difficult and often dangerous missions.

I also voice my gratitude to my colleagues in all parliamentary groups in the German Bundestag for their support throughout the entire parliamentary procedure. Particularly in the run‑up to an election, that is not something we should take for granted. It shows the high esteem in which these civilian peace missions are held.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am not sure if any of you remember but 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 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. We need people for this who are experts in their field, know the region in question and are also prepared to take on managerial positions in the missions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

When you started this work 15 years ago, ZIF was pretty much an avant-garde - what is more, also far beyond Germany’s borders. In this period, the importance of civilian missions has grown steadily. Thus, also in the future, we are going to need a highly capable Center for International Peace Operations - as part of forward-looking, responsible diplomacy.

While other countries are spending yet more money on armaments and planning to save money on diplomacy and development cooperation, let us take a different approach. Particularly now, we need to invest more in our civilian capabilities. We need some kind of “diplomatic surge”, a boost for diplomacy. In the Federal Foreign Office, we recently proposed that for every euro spent on defence, we should spend 1.50 euros on diplomacy, stabilisation, humanitarian assistance and mediation.

We are living in highly explosive times - literally. We have to presume that crisis is going to continue to be the norm in the years to come. But we mustn’t lose heart. On the contrary! We have to do what we can to prepare ourselves both in terms of policy and organisation. During this legislative term, we have set things moving in the right direction and we now must stick at it and keep moving forward.

Firstly, at the institutional level: since 2014, the Federal Foreign Office has had a separate Directorate-General dealing with crisis prevention, stabilisation, post‑conflict peacebuilding and humanitarian assistance. But new bureaucratic structures do not by definition create added value. But we managed to bring together expertise, (wo)manpower and new, fresh thinking in such a way that we are now able to work more effectively and react to crises more rapidly and more directly.

Secondly, at the financial level: in recent years we have considerably increased Federal Foreign Office funding for crisis management - also thanks to the support from the German Bundestag. But it is not just a matter of feeding more money into projects. We also need to gain traction on our diplomatic efforts. Here, too, we need to invest in brains and blueprints. After all, it is clear there can be no diplomatic solutions without diplomats.

Thirdly, in terms of personnel: we need to engage in the international organisations in very practical terms as these organisations work to promote peace in the interest of us all. That is why it was right for us to increase the number of German peacekeepers, civilian experts in the United Nations and German police officers in international support missions. We need to continue ambitiously along this path. If we want international organisations such as the United Nations to do substantially more to resolve conflicts, then we have to give them the support they need.

Fourthly, in terms of strategy: here too, we have taken an important step forward. The guidelines on preventing crises, managing conflicts, building peace adopted on 14 June sketch out the strategic framework for future Federal Government engagement in crises and conflicts. We are putting the primacy of politics at the heart of our engagement in crises around the world. Particularly when drawing up these guidelines, we made intensive efforts to seek dialogue - with civil society representatives and politicians, with academics and practitioners.

Let us continue this, not just when implementing the guidelines. After all, we need to pool all our knowledge, exchange experience and have a critical think about how to best navigate our way through the fog of peace.

After all, that is the very essence of forward-looking peace diplomacy. Such diplomacy acts with courage but does not claim ownership of the absolute truth. I am pleased therefore that with the Center for International Peace Operations we have an institution which combines critical reflection with operational clout. What is more, it has been doing so for 15 years!

Almut, fellow members of the German Bundestag, we are counting on you - but only from tomorrow, because today we want to celebrate together. I congratulate you most sincerely on your anniversary and looking to the future wish you sturdy support from the Government and Parliament, team spirit, a wealth of ideas, strength and trust. A more peaceful world is possible. Yes, also precisely because we have ZIF.

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