Speech by Minister of State Michael Georg Link in honour of “The Tenth Anniversary of the Center for International Peace Operations” held in Berlin on 24 May 2012

24.05.2012 - Speech

-- Tranlation of advance text --

Ms Wieland‑Karimi,
Mr Kühne,
Fellow colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,
And above all,
Experts who have been active abroad in past years,

I am happy to be able to celebrate with you here today.

The Federal Foreign Office is not a small building.

All those who have tried to find their way through the halls of our Ministry at Werderscher Markt know what I mean.

There are also 200 missions spread out all over the world.

However, what the Federal Foreign Office does not have – in contrast to some other ministries – is a number of institutions acting on its behalf and in its interest. With the establishment of the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF) ten years ago, the Federal Foreign Office also took a big step in that direction.

I say this, on the one hand, to underline how unique you, Ms Wieland‑Karimi, and your team are for us at the Federal Foreign Office. (And I also know that that does not always make things easier for you).

I mention this also because it is worthwhile to recall why ZIF exists.

In the 1990s, when we needed civilian experts for the OSCE missions in the Balkans, the responsible division, then still located in Bonn’s Adenauerallee, had to telephone around to drum up a German contribution of staff.

When in the summer of 1999 we had to build up the civilian administration UNMIK in Kosovo on the basis of Security Council Resolution 1244, we already had a well-ordered card catalogue of addresses that helped equip the mission with German experts as well.

But during that summer at the latest it became clear to everyone involved that future challenges in the fields of security and peace policy could not be tackled with the help of a card catalogue, no matter how well stocked it might be.

Nobody is better able to provide information on the many practical steps that were still necessary to go from this realization to the establishment of ZIF in 2002 than the founding director Winrich Kühne.

Mr Kühne, you can be proud of what you set in motion back then.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the difficult years of wars, civil wars and international missions in the Balkans in the 1990s we learned that the actual work only really begins after the weapons fall silent.

That is when it is necessary to start building functioning institutions, to firmly establish the rule of law and human rights, to provide life’s necessities, clean water, shelter, education and the prospect of a better life.

Based on this experience, we developed the concept of “networked security”, a concept that does not limit security and peace policy to the deployment of military and police forces but that is based on a broader concept of security and that coordinates and networks the wide range of policy instruments. That is not always easy, either. All of you who have worked on an international mission or have gained experience in the field of civilian-military cooperation know what different cultures collide here. And still: this concept has proved its worth. Today it is a matter of course that peace policy and peacekeeping encompass a broad spectrum from the deployment experts to prevent crises to armed enforcement of peace.

Even with all the difficulties and disillusionment in the course of our engagement in Afghanistan, we have made great progress in networking the efforts of Bundeswehr, police, diplomats, development aid workers, and experts there.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Peacekeeping is always complex. There are no easy solutions, for it must always deal with the underlying, structural causes of the conflict. Civilian crisis prevention thus becomes a task that cuts across foreign, security, and development policy.

Moreover, it is my personal conviction that we are still in the early stage of networking in foreign policy. The dramatic increase in the number of state and non‑state actors as well as the simultaneous continued increase in the number of policy fields that call for cooperative international solutions confront us with completely novel challenges in steering foreign policy.

The internationalization of ever more policy fields is a welcome development. Health, environmental and climate policy require close coordination across borders, as do many other areas. But all these policy fields taken together do not add up to a convincing foreign policy unless we are able to pull the threads together and make sensible connections at a national and European level. An even more networked foreign policy extending far beyond the established concept of networked security is necessary for the future.

But to return to the peace missions: the networking of military, police, and civilian efforts to deal with conflict is necessary for sustainable success.

This is where the work of the United Nations, the European Union, the OSCE, and other actors in civilian conflict management comes in.

But only the secondment and deployment of qualified staff can help them bring about tangible progress on the ground.

In light of the constantly increasing demand for civilian experts and the Federal Government’s stated goal of supporting and strengthening these institutions’ capacity to act, the establishment of ZIF was a logical step, from today’s point of view almost a necessary step.

On 24 June 2002 the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF) was opened here in Berlin. On behalf of the Federal Foreign Office it was to take care of recruiting, managing, and seconding staff for international peace missions and election observation missions from then on.

That sounds technical, but it was and is very important to the effectiveness of our security and peace policy. For keeping the peace and preventing crises requires first and foremost qualified experts ready to deploy.

Ten years is a long time – not just in domestic politics in Berlin.

When I look out at the big crowd of guests here today, when I look out at the large number of international partners and friends here, I think that that is a sign of the well-deserved respect for 10 successful years in which ZIF has become an institutional role model. The Center has not only acquired an excellent international reputation, it also enjoys great respect across all parties here in Germany.

ZIF’s expertise is specifically drawn on by the United Nations, the OSCE and the EU.

The demand for civilian experts continues to grow: every year a total of 300 German civilian experts are sent on long-term missions abroad within the framework of EU, NATO, OSCE, and UN activities.

More than 2000 experts have taken part in ZIF training measures; over 3000 German election observers have been seconded via ZIF.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Also in the future, we will continue to be confronted with crisis situations and conflicts. We are increasingly forced to deal with the phenomenon of weak or failing states. New potential dangers that span borders threaten the stability of many communities, be it food or water shortages, climate change, pandemics, or waves of migrants. Again and again the international community will have to struggle anew to find the right concepts to counter these risks. Going far beyond training, selection and secondment of qualified experts, ZIF now deals with the question of what that all means for civilian crisis prevention in the future.

You, Ms Wieland‑Karimi, have not only energetically taken over the baton from Winrich Kühne, but have also set your own course. I whole-heartedly join the large choir of international voices praising that work, and not just today. I hope you take that as encouragement and draw strength from it to continue your important work with your usual inexhaustible energy.

Ladies and gentlemen,


I am very pleased that so many of you accepted the invitation to come here today. It is in your honour that we are gathered here. We want to recall your efforts on international missions. We want to recognize your personal efforts towards peace, security and stability.

Peace missions make huge demands on each and every one of you. In addition to your qualifications in your field, you need flexibility, strong nerves and a talent for communication. The exposed role as foreign experts in societies riddled with conflict draws much attention from citizens and the media. You are in the public eye not only as international experts, but also as Germans. You are confronted with expectations that you can only fulfil if you have a special sense of responsibility and sensitivity.

Every one of you has accumulated your own experience first-hand, whether as a judge in Kosovo, a border monitor in Georgia, a mediator in Afghanistan, a police consultant in Central Asia or on one of many other missions. I believe that this time will have been enriching for each and every one of you. I well know, however, that these concrete experiences often enough also include risks, frustration, and a sense of futility. But neither in the details on the ground nor in the broader policy sphere can we let this keep us from doing what we can. Many of you have accepted limitations to personal life and career in order to have the opportunity to participate in missions. For that I would like to explicitly thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our soldiers and police officers traditionally receive awards for their service abroad. The public sees mostly the debates and votes of the German Bundestag on sending German soldiers on UN, NATO, and EU missions. In no way do I want to value that too lightly. For in every one of these votes it is a question of the most difficult decision that can be demanded of a politician invested with responsibility – it is a question of the decision to send other human beings on life-threatening missions for an important cause.

But especially in light of our practical experience with networked security, I believe that appropriate recognition for civilian peace missions is important, indeed absolutely necessary.

That is a sign of how much we value your personal commitment and your work.

At the same time that shows the public how important these civilian missions are for the goal we all share of promoting peace and security in regions at risk.

The “comprehensive approach” that has guided our security and peace policy for years must find expression in the appropriate recognition of all participants.

I could imagine, Ms Wieland‑Karimi, that as you suggest this could take place on a jointly chosen Day of Recognition.

I am thus pleased that today we are taking the first step toward equal recognition of your commitment by presenting certificates.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank the Center for International Peace Operations and the entire team for the work they have done.

I wish you and ZIF all the best for the future.

And finally, on a personal note, let me say, also on behalf of Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle and the Federal Foreign Office:

We are happy that we have you.

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