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Speech by Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the conference,
A Fresh Look at Crisis Prevention – PeaceLab2016

05.07.2016

Ladies and gentlemen,

It’s not every day that one is happy to see disaster workers arrive in one’s own building – but this is the case today!

I have just come from what we call the Blue Hall. In the space where we usually welcome our high-ranking international guests, Federal Agency for Technical Relief workers are presenting their heavy equipment. Some of the men and women with whom I just had a chance to speak are staff with many years of experience. But some of them have only been working with the Agency for a short while. They are people who fled war, terrorism and violence in their native countries. Many of them come from Syria. At the Federal Agency for Technical Relief, they are now learning important skills that will be urgently needed to rebuild their countries one day.

I am mentioning the Federal Agency for Technical Relief as a symbol of all of the colleagues from the many organisations represented at today’s conference. They include the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, KfW (Reconstruction Loan Corporation), the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF), the Civil Peace Service, the Working Group on Peace and Development (FriEnt) and of course our colleagues from the Bundeswehr and from the other ministries. I would like to thank all of you for your important work. Ladies and gentlemen, your work is an outstanding example of how wide-ranging and comprehensive our crisis-management activities are and indeed need to be.

Whether we are talking about Syria, Libya, Yemen, Mali, Iraq or the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the crises that surround us are multi-faceted and complex. And that is why I firmly believe our answers must also be comprehensive and complex. It is simply not enough to only deal with a conflict once it has escalated.

We need a foreign policy that looks ahead. We need to tackle the entire conflict cycle from prevention, conflict resolution and stabilisation to follow-up work and post-conflict peacebuilding in our policies.

And that is the main aim today.

That is why I do not only want to talk about Federal Agency for Technical Relief workers in Hanover or Potsdam today, but also for example

about nurses on the border between Mali and Burkina Faso,

OSCE observers in eastern Ukraine

and café owners in Tikrit in Iraq.

***

But let’s take this one thing at a time. First of all, allow me to say a few words about why we work so hard and with such dedication to resolve crises. Our aim is to alleviate suffering and help people. We do this out of a sense of international and humanitarian responsibility. But that is not the only reason. We also do it with our own country in mind because the thousands upon thousands of people who have sought protection here from war and violence mean that the crises have long since arrived on our doorstep – in our communities, companies, schools and kindergartens. And we know that we will only reduce the number of refugees in the long term if people have a chance of a secure future in their homeland. That must be our aim. And this is why we use the entire policy toolbox in our crisis-support work.

***

Let’s start by looking at crisis prevention – and that brings me to the nurses in the border region between Mali and Burkina Faso. Since 2008, we have been supporting the African Union in Kossi-Tominian, an area where people have not always lived together peacefully. Disputes often broke out there simply because the border wasn’t marked. And there is a further problem on both sides of the border: the lack of healthcare. We helped to solve both problems in Kossi-Tominian. The border is now marked, and a new health centre – the first of its kind in Africa – has been built right on the border. It is jointly operated by the two nearby villages in Mali and Burkina Faso. In this way, doctors and nurses foster reconciliation in the region on a daily basis.

Our work in Mali also shows the very wide range of areas covered by German crisis management – not only on the border to Burkina Faso. In other parts of Mali, German police, civilian aid workers and Bundeswehr soldiers are helping to maintain the fragile peace and to stabilise the country. That is what I mean when I talk about a comprehensive approach!

Here in the Federal Foreign Office, our Review 2014 process led us to set up a new directorate-general, with the aim of strengthening this very approach and of pooling our crisis-management tools and expertise so that we can make a real impact faster and more flexibly.

***

This also goes for our work that comes into play when prevention is no longer feasible and crises have become acute.

Finding political solutions to these acute crises is how I currently spend a large part of my days, whether this involves talks on Ukraine, Syria or Libya.

However, we are also trying to make progress in resolving many other crises that one does not see in the news every day, crises that do not dominate the headlines. The constitutional crisis in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is one example. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which played a large role in my visit to the Caucasus just last week, is another, as are our endeavours in the peace process in Colombia. In each of these challenges, it is clear to me that we need political dialogue. We cannot give up searching for solutions, even if it is not easy!

We made a conscious decision to take on more responsibility in this area – particularly in these turbulent times.

That is why we will apply once again for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council – the key global crisis manager – in the 2019-2020 term.

And that is why we took on the chairmanship of the OSCE – a unique forum for dialogue and cooperation – this year.

Believe me when I say that I really don’t want to think about where we would be today without the OSCE’s experts. Many observers in eastern Ukraine have given me impressive reports on their work. Working under the most difficult conditions, they help to make the situation there more stable and secure so that people’s lives can improve tangibly. A young observer once told me: “Our role here is to reduce tensions and facilitate dialogue. But this only works if we make it our priority to listen to people!”

***

Ladies and gentlemen, political mediation, which is simply another name for good old diplomacy, is certainly the discipline par excellence of our conflict-prevention and resolution work. However, our credibility as a mediator is also based on our concrete work on the ground. This is why we back up our political mediation attempts with stabilisation measures. What matters to us is that people have a secure environment and can start the process of reconstruction soon after hostilities have ceased.

And that takes me to Tikrit and to Ayad, who owns a café there. When IS captured the city, Ayad and his brothers were forced to flee and to give up their café. Now the café is a place where neighbours meet once again. They come here to drink tea and play backgammon. This is possible because a stabilisation facility co-funded by Germany enabled Ayad and his brothers to take out a microcredit and to take part in the cash-for-work programme. Along with these brothers, 500 young people receive a regular income through this programme.

But that is not all. We also helped to rebuild hospitals, schools and the water-supply system in Tikrit so that people could return to their homes. We hope this will also be possible in Fallujah in the near future. We will provide additional funding of up to 30 million euros for the most urgently needed measures in the areas formerly controlled by IS. 

***

What gives people hope in these cities in Iraq is, unfortunately, still not possible for many people who have fled Syria, as war and violence are still raging in their homeland.

But Syria also needs people who will rebuild their country once this is feasible and contribute their knowledge, commitment and skills. And that brings me back to the Federal Foreign Office – to our colleagues from the Federal Agency for Technical Relief who are presenting their expertise in the Blue Hall.

***

Ladies and gentlemen,

Mali, Tikrit, Ukraine, Syria, the Federal Agency for Technical Relief in Berlin.

Prevention, conflict management, stabilisation.

I firmly believe that we are most successful when our tools dovetail. I am not just referring to our tools here in the Federal Foreign Office, but also to cooperation with the ministries and the large number of intermediary organisations. And I am referring to activities both by the state and civil society. I would like to thank all those involved for their hard work.

***

We are making an important contribution in many areas. But our goal is to become even better. This is why we are launching a process today aimed at preparing new guidelines for the German Government in this important field. These guidelines are to form the future basis for our endeavours to prevent and resolve conflicts, as well as for our long-term peacebuilding work. All of us know that agreeing a ceasefire and signing a peace agreement, is just the first step. Sustainable peace requires more, namely long-term commitment aimed at fostering social stability – food, protection against violence, medical care, economic development, jobs.

How can Germany help here? We need you, ladies and gentlemen, in order to answer this question. We need your critical questions, experience, ideas and suggestions. We should talk frankly about where we are doing well and where and how we can become even better and more efficient. There will be a large number of PeaceLab2016 events in various locations all over Germany and online.

We look forward to the results and to the discussions at today’s conference. Thank you very much.

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