Speech by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the conference “Berlin Peace Dialogue”

29.09.2022 - Speech

In a small village in northern South Sudan, a man attacks his neighbour with a spear. The victim luckily survives. But he cannot file charges because there is no government-run court in the area. If he exacts revenge, he could unleash a spiral of violence that could plunge whole families into years of conflict.

But I have good news: in this real-life case, the conflict was averted. And that was also due to the work of a German public prosecutor. Sabine Arnold advises the judicial authorities in South Sudan as a peacekeeper for the UN mission. An important part of her work takes place in a tent. With a team of 30 people, she brings a so-called “mobile court” to rural areas.

And in this tent, the case of the spear attack was tried. The perpetrator was convicted and had to pay several cattle to the victim as compensation.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have often heard the sentence “There is no glory in prevention”. I think the example from South Sudan shows how wrong that actually is. Prevention is glorious. It may not always cause the biggest headlines, but it keeps people safe.

Everyone present here today at this conference knows how civilian instruments, like independent courts or an efficient police force, can prevent violence. That is why they are an essential part of German international security policies.

Yes, the war in Ukraine has led to a new focus on interstate conflict in our thinking on security – while our civilian instruments for a long time focused primarily on resolving internal conflicts.

But I am convinced that we need civilian instruments more than ever, and that we need to adapt them now. If we only think of security in military terms, we will not be able to create long-term peace.

Our approach to crisis prevention is therefore based on an integrated concept of security.

Security means, first and foremost, the safety of life – not having to be afraid of being shot on the street or killed in a bomb attack. That is why we are supplying heavy weapons so that Ukraine can defend its citizens.

But it’s also our civilian instruments that protect people from violence. In the Niger, we train police officers who help keep people safe from terrorists and crimes perpetrated by gangs in the border region. And the example of Sabine Arnold from South Sudan shows that court decisions can help create security as well.

Second, security means that people can live in freedom. This year, a German peacekeeper who was on duty in Ukraine for the OSCE said to me: “Peace cannot be forced with weapons. Otherwise it’s not sustainable.”

That’s what I had to think about this week when I saw the reports on the sham referendums in the Donbass. Under threat, and sometimes at gunpoint, people are taken out of their homes or workplaces to vote in glass ballot boxes. This is the opposite of free and fair elections. This is the opposite of peace. It’s dictated peace.

As long as this Russian dictate prevails in the occupied territories of Ukraine, no citizen is safe, no citizen is free.

I am pleased that we will soon be hearing virtually from Svetlana Tikanovskaya, who continues to bravely oppose the regime in Belarus. Because she and many people in Belarus know better than anyone else that there is more to freedom and security than just the absence of war.

Third, security means protecting fundamental necessities of our lives – our environment and our natural resources.

When heavy rains in Pakistan flood a third of the country – a territory that’s about the size of Germany – this shows how dangerous the climate crisis is to us.

By 2050, more than 200 million people worldwide will have to flee their homes because of climate change. This in turn shows that the security of entire states might come under threat because of the climate crisis.

And these threats not only concern countries like Pakistan, Ethiopia or Chile, but also European states – if we do not tackle the biggest security challenge on earth that is the climate crisis.

Therefore, the climate crisis will be at the core of our crisis prevention. This means that we must actively combat climate change – nationally and internationally. Every tonne of CO2 matters. Because it makes a big difference if we live in a world of 1.5, 1.7, 2 or 3 degrees of temperature rise.

And we are helping those already hit hardest by the climate crisis – because we are already living in a world of 1.1, almost 1.2 degrees, of global warming.

We are bringing food to the Horn of Africa and we are supporting peaceful negotiations that regulate the fair use of water in dry areas.

The security of our life, of our freedom and of our livelihoods: these dimensions of human security will be the basis of our National Security Strategy.

It will integrate internal and external aspects of security and will bring together policy areas ranging from disaster control to NATO planning. And it will include all relevant actors with a view to defending human security.

One thing is crystal clear, which is that we will continue to rely on the work of the Advisory Board for Civilian Crisis Prevention.

Because your expert perspective and views matter – and they save lives.

I think one good example is Afghanistan. I am very much in favour of reflecting on what went wrong in Afghanistan – not in order to blame people, but to learn for the future. Systematic evaluations will do exactly that and help us perform better in the future – also with your help.

Many of you have suggested such assessments. I am very happy that two members of the Advisory Board – Hans-Joachim Gießmann and Winfried Nachtwei – are now part of the German Bundestag’s Committee of Enquiry that will evaluate our involvement in Afghanistan. This will help us learn, and become better at what we do.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank you all for your expertise – and also your critical but always constructive advice and your commitment.

You all show that there is, indeed, glory in prevention.

Because crisis prevention can save lives. Not only in South Sudan, but also in the Niger, in Ukraine – and here at home in Germany.

With this in mind, I wish you all good discussions.

Thank you very much for your engagement.


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