Speech by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on the Day of the Peacekeeper 2024

27.06.2024 - Speech

“Security can be measured by the situation of the weakest in a society. Security is when a pregnant woman in Somalia has access to medication.”

These are the words you used, Ms Dörlemann, in preparation for today.

What you say is a perfect reflection of the thinking behind our Federal Government National Security Strategy, namely, that security is more than the mere absence of war and violence.

The Defence Minister’s use of precisely this phrase shows these are not just words that we wrote down together as ministries but are actually what we all believe and live.

However, what that means for life on the ground is something that you, esteemed peacekeepers, know all too well. You see this every day in your missions.

Switching to concrete issues, security also means:

If I go to work, do I have to fear being attacked by armed militia?

If I go to hospital, can I be sure that there won’t be a sudden power cut?

If I am robbed, will the police and the courts help me regardless of my skin colour or my gender?

These security questions are ones that peacekeepers ask for themselves time and again but above all else for the many, many people they work for every day.

And they answer these questions in the best possible way. They make plain that military means alone do not create sustainable security, nor do diplomacy or police officers alone. But rather, there can only be security if these instruments complement one another day in, day out. Because they are intertwined.

This approach is not just the cornerstone of our National Security Strategy, the first in our history, but also for decades now the cornerstone of peacekeeping.

Thus you can consider yourselves as trailblazers for our integrated approach. That is why peacekeeping has not become any less important after the Zeitenwende or watershed, as some thought it would. In fact, peacekeeping has become more relevant than ever with and as a result of the Zeitenwende.

This is because peacekeeping boosts our work to promote international law and our security. Particularly in these challenging geopolitical times, peacekeeping is in our primordial geopolitical interest. Because our security is linked to other global regions, because there are no seemingly distant crises that do not affect us. Because every crisis always impacts our security at home, as the Interior Minister will make plain in just a moment.

And because, and this is perhaps a new factor since 24 February and the Zeitenwende, we are living at a time in which we, too, are dependent on international assistance. A time in which we, too, need others to secure our peace in Europe. At a time in which we call upon other countries to stand up internationally against Russia’s war of aggression, this also means: when others need our help, we cannot give the impression – particularly when it comes to the budget negotiations that came up earlier – that our budget balance is more important to us than the security of our partners and friends.

We also know that the conditions for you as peacekeepers have become anything but easier.

Although the level of global violence is higher than it has been since the Cold War, the UN Security Council is all too often in deadlock and thus unable to react appropriately. Several peacekeeping missions had to be ended early due to pressure being exerted or coups in the host countries. Disinformation and fake news also played a fatal role here. And in ongoing missions, a clear political mandate is often lacking – as well as, above all else, the necessary resources. We must and will work together to change this.

However, we also know that, despite all the challenges and adversities, peacekeeping is making a difference every day, a difference for millions of people around the world. Because courageous and conscientious peacekeepers like you are doing this work today.

People like you, Dr Ntagahoraho Burihabwa.

We have just heard about UNIFIL. There isn’t much I want to add. Since the dreadful Hamas attack on Israel and the start of the intensive bombardment of northern Israel by Hezbollah, you have been living, as we just heard from the soldiers, in a different world in the UNIFIL mission.

Tens of thousands of people had to flee on both sides of the border. Many of your colleagues in the mission have been transferred for security reasons out of headquarters in Naqoura to the capital Beirut, a city I visited again just two days ago.

You stayed. Fully aware of what you were doing. You are there on the ground as a key advisor to the deputy head of mission. You continue to perform this role which is especially important now as your work has become even more challenging in recent weeks. Yet it is more vital than ever.

After all, your work is about facilitating communication between Israel and Lebanon and thus reducing the risk of the conflict spreading to the wider region.

“We are all tired,” you said. “But what I want to do is prevent the situation getting even worse for people. I want to play my part”.

That is why we are honouring you today. Thank you very much, Mr Burihabwa, for your dedication. You receive this honour on behalf of so many others.

Today, we are also paying tribute to Michelle Dörlemann who I quoted earlier.

Ms Dörlemann, you work for UNSOM, the mission in Somalia. Not a mission we are hearing all that much about right now but that makes your work all the more important.

We know that the major wars and crises that are maybe geographically closer to us overshadow the fact that there are so many others, where so many peacekeepers continue to do their work.

The mission in Somalia where you work is ensuring that all groups in society can be involved in drafting a new Somali constitution.

What is more. you are doing so in an extremely challenging situation. You visited a field office of your mission just a few weeks ago and just after you left nine mortar shells struck. Fortunately, no one was injured.

But what I find most astonishing is that you didn’t actually want to tell us. You didn’t want the focus to be on the danger but on what can be achieved on the ground. To my mind, this epitomises the wonderful work you and your many colleagues are doing.

You wanted to talk about the people. About how your mission’s work in Somalia means that, particularly in regions dominated by traditional clans and clan law, women are, thanks to UNSOM, now playing a greater role in resolving conflicts in village communities. And in ensuring everyone benefits from more security. This is absolutely in keeping with our feminist foreign policy. After all, when women are safe, everyone is safe.

You put it this way: “Setting up a state is a pretty difficult business. But you mustn’t lose heart. I am making a very small contribution on this journey.”

It isn’t just that this modesty and commitment to keep trying also in the face of major adversity generates feelings of the utmost respect in me. It also signals that peace is possible. Thank you very much for your so important work.

The third person to be honoured in the field of civilian peacekeepers is Dr Ousman Njikam.

Mr Njikam, when you told your colleagues two years ago in New York that you were moving to Bangui in the Central African Republic, I am sure some of them gave you funny looks, even in New York. You now head the administration of the Special Criminal Court. In concrete terms, this means you are responsible for the security of witnesses whose statements are often the only evidence presented against suspected war criminals.

With your work, you make clear that we see the injustice and the violence which combine to create the key topic of our time, justice versus injustice. Whose side are we on? That of the aggressors or the victims? Also for the international community, it is a matter of making plain in every corner of the world that we do not just see the victims but we stand by them.

Every day you have to observe a strict curfew from 10 o’clock in the evening. Water and electricity supplies are unreliable and it is not just other customers queuing up with you at the supermarket to do their shopping but also time and again Wagner mercenaries.

You told us why you decided to do this in these difficult times – you could just as easily have stayed in New York. “For me the key moment is when the victims who give evidence against those who raped them can see that they no longer have any power over them. That they are in the dock. The satisfaction in the faces of the victims. For this moment, I am happy to endure what I do.”

Thank you very much for doing this, also for representing our values and our understanding of the rule of law.

Thank you very much to all three of you, three people whom we have chosen to represent all the German experts engaged around the world for the Federal Foreign Office through the Center for International Peace Operations. 170 people are currently on the roll – they are fathers and mothers, daughters and sons. And therefore I would like to thank not just them but also their families who are perhaps with us here today.

So with this in mind, I would now ask Michael Roth, Chairman of the Bundestag Committee on Foreign Affairs, to come on to the stage because, as my colleague Boris Pistorius pointed out, it is not just the Federal Government but the entire German Bundestag that wants to thank you for your dedication.


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