My honoured colleague Thomas de Maizière,
I should have brought some bread and salt [traditional German housewarming gifts] with me to this new Interior Ministry building!
Ladies and gentlemen,
Around the world, crises and conflicts constantly demand our attention. Just last week I returned from a trip that took in eastern Ukraine, Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and Paris, where we and our partners discussed our joint response to the deadly threat posed by ISIS. And in the weeks before that, I visited Lebanon, Jordan and eastern Congo. Of course, many of my meetings take place in government venues and conference rooms. But on my travels I always also meet aid workers in schools and refugee hostels, and talk to OSCE observers and German police officers. People who are working on the ground to prevent conflicts from escalating further, and struggling to find solutions.
We are honouring you today for your important work as civilian experts. You share the stage today with six colleagues – soldiers and policewomen. For all of you, crises are part of your normal jobs, which are often undertaken in difficult places and always require great commitment. I would like to thank you all most sincerely for your exemplary dedication.
We honour you today as peacekeepers. What does that really mean? You are keepers of the peace, but also peacebuilders and conflict-preventers.
I admit that’s all a bit too long and inelegant for a business card ... But that’s because your work is too all‑encompassing to fit on a little piece of paper!
You don’t only help to resolve conflicts. You also ensure that crises can be prevented altogether or de‑escalated at an early stage. For me this dovetails with a key ethos of the German Government’s common policy, namely what I mean when I talk of precautionary foreign policy. Our aim must be to invest in stability and peace through a precautionary, targeted and flexible approach instead of having to intervene later on – and often too late.
The variety of your work, honoured ladies, clearly illustrates this point. Your commitment shows the broad range of crisis prevention instruments available, and that they have to be put to use.
You are committed to stabilising Haiti. You are working to promote the rule of law in Kosovo. You are actively involved in human rights work in Niger. Your colleagues work in reconciliation, mediation, and in supporting free media.
And in all of this, you, and Germany, are not working alone, but in close coordination with our international partners.
Mali is a good example of this networked approach. There we support the UN and EU missions to establish and secure peace. Sadly, the tragic losses suffered by the UN mission highlight the dangers faced by peacekeepers in their work. The latest peace agreement between rival groups and the government is however an important step forward. The aim now must be to make this fragile peace lasting. We are making use of the whole spectrum of our foreign, development and security policy options to this end, for example by supporting the Malian Ministry of National Reconciliation.
Another example of our commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes is eastern Ukraine. The OSCE monitoring mission has the difficult task of overseeing the still fragile ceasefire and facilitating dialogue between the parties to the conflict. The work done by the OSCE experts on the ground is indispensable! If they weren’t there, the Minsk agreement would long have been in shreds.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Crisis prevention and stabilisation can only be successful if all of society is involved in the process – both men and women. And that’s why it’s a good thing that this year’s Day of the Peacekeeper is focusing on precisely this issue.
Women are all too often victims of violence in situations of conflict. You just need to hear the awful news from Syria, Iraq, Libya or Nigeria to know that.
Last year we gave the International Committee of the Red Cross one million euros to help protect women better from sexual violence. We are also providing support for many other projects, including psychosocial care for victims of violence in Nigeria.
But of course it is not enough to merely protect the victims. We must also strengthen the active role of women in bringing about peace and overcoming conflicts.
That was the aim of UN resolution 1325, adopted 15 years ago, which we are recalling today. UN Women is doing valuable work in this field. I am delighted that the Executive Director of UN Women, Ms Mlambo, is here with us today. Welcome!
But even at home we still have much to do. We want the number of women participating in peace missions to grow. Many female experts have told me that, as women, they could often gain better access to particularly vulnerable sections of society in situations of conflict. Women can make a unique contribution to the success of peace missions! You, my ladies, are living proof of it!
Ladies and gentlemen,
We need to create the right framework so that you can do your work safely and successfully. This matter is all the more urgent because the challenges we face are increasing given the number of current crises.
What is our response?
One of the things we have to do is improve conditions for civilian aid workers – for example with regard to insurance. And, as you know, we want to expand the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF) to make it a robust and fast‑acting sending organisation.
One thing is clear: We want you to be able to work safely and effectively, as peacekeepers, peacebuilders, and conflict‑preventers.
I hope that we will make progress in this regard in the coming years. Let me thank you from the bottom of my heart for your tireless dedication, and for choosing to put yourselves at such risk. You are performing a great service to the people in the conflict zones, and to our country’s reputation abroad!