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Speech by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers

01.06.2016 - Speech

Ladies and gentlemen,

Distinguished peacekeepers,

Three years ago, we celebrated International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers for the first time here in the Federal Foreign Office. Since then, this day has become a fixture in our diaries as a joint event by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Ministry of Defence, the Federal Foreign Office and the Center for International Peace Operations.

This shows that too many cooks do not always spoil the broth! After all, Federal Minister de Maizière and State Secretary Brauksiepe, a comprehensive approach, that is a combination of military, security policy and civilian expertise, is exactly what is needed for success in peacekeeping!

And this is why I am pleased that so many of you are here today.

The aim of this day is not to philosophise about war and peace in an abstract way. Instead, it provides an occasion to pay tribute to the people who work to foster peace day in, day out. They do so under the most difficult conditions, in missions that involve danger and deprivation, missions that require great patience, determination and, at times, tenacity.

Today, we would like to thank you, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished peacekeepers, for your impressive work.

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Ladies and gentlemen, you play very different roles in peacekeeping. You help to resolve conflicts – but you also ensure that crises can be prevented altogether or deescalated at an early stage. And, as should be the focus this year, you help to ensure that peace agreements are actually upheld.

• As soldiers, you monitor adherence to peace agreements, for example in disarmament and demobilisation processes such as in Afghanistan. And you act as mediators between the parties to a conflict.

• As police officers, you protect the local population and train civil security forces.

• And as civilian experts, you provide support to political talks, for example in Libya. You help with the implementation of key elements of peace agreements, such as the establishment of the rule of law in Kosovo or the reform of the security sector in South Sudan.

Ladies and gentlemen, the wide range of your work shows that if we want to play an active role in achieving and maintaining peace, we need to make full use of the extensive toolbox available to us in crisis management, that is, on the police, military and civilian level.

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One example of this comprehensive approach is our work in Mali. Just how difficult the situation is for peacekeepers in the country can be seen not least in the attacks of recent days in which several UN peacekeeping soldiers were killed. I myself had the opportunity to meet our peacekeepers in Mali a few weeks ago. I met people working at all levels – Bundeswehr soldiers, police officers and civilians.

My meeting with soldiers in Camp Castor in Gao in northern Mali stands out in my memory. It was sweltering, almost 50 degrees Celsius, when the experts reported to me on their work. Their report was impressive. Working under the most challenging conditions, they and their colleagues are helping to maintain the fragile peace and to stabilise the country.

Germany is not only active in the UN mission in Mali – it is also involved in two EU missions to train civil security forces and the armed forces. We have also been providing support to the reconciliation process in Mali from an early stage because we want to create the basis for stable future peace in all phases of the conflict.

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Distinguished peacekeepers,

Whether it is in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Ukraine, without your help in implementing peace agreements, these vulnerable processes would often be doomed to immediate failure. Even the best agreement is not worth the paper it is written on if people do not adhere to it. But in your missions, you help to make fragile peace more sustainable, to strengthen unstable structures and to restore the public’s trust in their state.

To this end, we have also increased our activities in the field of mediation. The point is that mediation does not end once the ink has dried on a peace agreement. On the contrary, supporting the implementation process can be just as difficult and important as getting the parties around a table in the first place!

This is also a key issue for our OSCE Chairmanship this year. Our aim is to enhance the OSCE’s crisis-management capacities throughout the entire conflict cycle, from early warning to post-conflict peacebuilding. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine is doing ground-breaking work in this field. And I would like to express my profound gratitude to these experts for their important and difficult work.

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It is clear to us that if we want to play an active role in fostering peace, we also need to expand our multilateral support in the field of peacekeeping, for example by strengthening UN crisis-response mechanisms and the use of mediators or by creating important new jobs, in Vienna, for instance, to set up a liaison office between the UN and the OSCE, or in New York to implement the reform of UN peacekeeping missions. Christian Burckhardt, one of the civilian experts to whom we are paying tribute today, will do this job. I am very happy about that!

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Creating peace in turbulent times is not some lofty goal for you, ladies and gentlemen, but rather part of your concrete day-to-day work.

And this makes you an important role model because we want even more Germans to be represented in peace missions.

However, we are also aware that we need to provide you with greater support and, where necessary, to protect you. This is why we are working flat out to implement the reform of the Center for International Peace Operations. Our aim is to develop it into a fully fledged sending organisation and thus to enhance your legal and social protection.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are very grateful for your hard work.

You motivate us to continue persevering to de-escalate conflicts and reach peaceful solutions – particularly in these difficult and unsettling times!

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