In his speech at the event, organised by the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community and the Federal Ministry of Defence, State Secretary Andreas Michaelis praised the work done by peacekeepers.
Ladies and gentlemen,
And especially, given that this is your day, peacekeepers,
Once a year, our three ministries host a joint celebration to say a public thank you to you, our peacekeepers, and to honour nine of you, as representatives of all those in the field today, for your extraordinary commitment. In several ways, you really do represent all peacekeepers.
- Firstly, there is the fact that you are all working in various places around the globe. The list of locations includes all today’s hotspots – the Congo, northern Iraq, eastern Ukraine, to name but three. German peacekeepers have become global players. That was a great help in our successful candidacy for a seat on the UN Security Council.
- Then there is the wide range of personal expertise you bring to the job. You are police officers, soldiers and civilian experts, and six out of nine of you are women. The three experts I will be honouring in a moment themselves bring skills from the fields of ethnology, mediation and the judiciary.
- And finally, there is the broad spectrum of tasks you fulfil. You are patrolling the contact line between the Ukrainian army and the separatists; you are helping to build up the rule of law in Kosovo; you are tackling human smuggling in the southern Mediterranean and saving lives in the process.
And even if you do not wear a blue helmet when working, together you all stand for hundreds of thousands of peacekeepers worldwide.
One thing almost all your missions have in common is that you work under dangerous conditions. Peacekeepers go to places where there is no peace, and often face danger to life and limb. We try to keep these risks to a minimum, but we cannot erase them completely. What we can do, however, is give you better legal and social security. We did this for our seconded civilians last year with the Secondment Act. To my mind, the Secondment Act’s unanimous adoption by the German Bundestag underlines the fact that peacekeeping is today recognised as a cross-party task and as an integral part of German foreign policy.
Our peacekeepers fulfil their tasks within a broader, a political framework. Germany is prepared and able to assume responsibility in the world’s trouble spots. This peace policy in its purest sense needs civilian instruments and input. Because no conflict can be permanently resolved by military means. The most important civilian instrument at our disposal is you, the peacekeepers. Without you, our pledge to step up Germany’s engagement worldwide would be nothing but empty words.
That said, crisis management is not a national task. In our view, crisis management only functions in a multilateral, rules-based framework – as part of the EU and UN. In both these forums, we are working towards better crisis management.
In the EU, moves are being made to strengthen the civilian Common Security and Defence Policy. We want to reach a binding agreement with the EU member states by the end of this year which will bring a qualitative and quantitative improvement in the EU’s civilian capabilities. There is a lot going on in this area at the United Nations as well. With his “Action for Peacekeeping” initiative, Secretary-General Guterres has launched a series of reforms relating to training, equipment and performance reviews for peacekeeping missions. Our seat on the UN Security Council allows us to do our utmost to resolutely support this reform.
That is the political context in which we are operating. So, now I am looking forward to hearing more from you about your work and your impressions.