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Guidelines on Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts, Building Peace



"Conscious of their responsibility before God and man, inspired by the determination to promote world peace as an equal partner in a united Europe … Basic Constitutional Law for the Federal Republic of Germany

“Peace is not everything, but without peace, everything is nothing”. With this succinct phrase coined in a speech in 1981, former Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt encapsulated an insight which has particularly arisen as a result of 20th-century German history, and has remained a permanent reminder and mission for our country.

"We, the people of the United Nations – determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind … Charter of the United Nations

Against the backdrop of our own historical experience, the promotion of world peace is one of the key national objectives that German Basic Constitutional Law has specified with regard to German policy. It is our duty to advocate crisis prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding all over the world out of a moral obligation, as well as for the sake of our own interests. Our efforts are guided by a long-term vision of positive peace which encompasses far more than the mere absence of war. It is a vision that focuses more on the structural causes of violent conflict, such as poverty, social inequality, human rights violations, and restrictions on political participation.

Conflicts are a natural part of social processes of change. However, peace and development are dependent on the ability to resolve conflicts constructively and without resorting to violence. This is precisely where the Federal Government’s peace efforts come into play: to prevent violence as a means of resolving conflicts, to reduce fragility as a breeding ground for violence, and to create opportunities for long-term development. The Federal Government recognises the reciprocal effects between peace and development as most recently stipulated by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Respect for and protection and fullfilling of human rights, social and political participation, gender equality, social cohesion, and the rule of law are of key importance in this regard.

During the first half of 2016, almost 66 million people all over the world were fleeing from war and violence. This is the highest figure since the end of the Second World War. Almost two thirds of them found refuge as internally displaced persons within the borders of their native country. Some 24 million people had no choice but to look for protection elsewhere, the vast majority of them in developing countries. In 2015, some 1.3 million asylum-seekers also came to Europe, bringing home to us the dramatic consequences of violent conflicts at the gates of Europe and beyond.

Crisis appears to have become the norm in many parts of the world: since 2011, the uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria has turned into a bloody civil war in which regional and superpowers have intervened and which has already cost hundreds of thousands of lives. In Libya, militias and the transitional government have been fighting for supremacy since the end of Muammar Gaddafi’s rule. Iraq has remained troubled since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. In all three countries and beyond, the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) has made skilful use of the reigning uncertainty, the religiously and ethnically charged differences and the chaos, and has succeeded in instituting a reign of terror in various parts of the country. In Yemen, too, the hopes raised during the 2011/12 revolution have remained unfulfilled. In this country, which is already the poorest in the Arab world, large sections of the population are facing starvation; over ten thousand people have fallen victim to the acts of war. In Mali, a Tuareg rebellion and a military coup led to the collapse of state structures in 2012; despite international stabilisation efforts, conflicts are still ongoing. In South Sudan, after decades of struggle for independence the establishment of a new state was followed by a power struggle which has claimed tens of thousands of casualties. On our own continent, in Europe, the violent conflicts in Eastern Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 have shaken the foundations of the European peace framework which has been upheld since 1945 to the core.

What we are seeing now is a world that “seems to be unravelling”. There is hardly any crisis whose effects will not also be felt in Europe and in Germany at some point. Civil wars, ethnic and religious conflicts, the suppression and violation of human rights, as well as poverty, lack of prospects and lack of access to natural resources provide fertile ground for ideological radicalisation and terrorism. In many cities in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, the threat of targeted killings, car bombs and suicide attacks has meanwhile become an everyday concern for the population. The attacks in European cities in recent years – even in Germany – have shown once again that these threats do not stop at the borders of our continent. At the same time, secular liberal democracy in many states of the European and transatlantic community of values is faced with unprecedented internal challenges. Britain’s impending withdrawal from the European Union is putting the most important peace project of the last century to a gruelling test. However, isolation will not make our world a better place, and it will not help preserve our prosperity. Germany is globally connected like no other country.

Our prosperity is based on free and fair world trade. Even today, our future depends largely on our ability to attract the best ideas and brains to our country through international exchange. The quest for peace not only reflects our fundamental values – it is actually in our own best interest.

In times of growing uncertainty, Germany remains firmly committed to European integration. It is only through unity and solidarity of action with our European partners and our allies that Germany will find solutions to address the challenges of our time. This includes the preservation of our liberal pluralist model of society against attacks by extremist movements. A state governed by the rule of law must find ways to respond to new threats which will address our citizens’ need for security while safeguarding the principles of our fundamental free democratic order. However, finding answers on the domestic front is not enough. Instead, we must tackle the causes of conflict at their root. This includes creating new opportunities for economic and social participation. This involves containing the risks of climate change. This includes global commitment to peace and security, development and human rights. This also includes international engagement for preserving and strengthening a world order based on international law. Stable and sustainable peace regimes throughout the world will not only guarantee the safety of people in Germany, but will also ensure the prosperity and economic opportunities of tomorrow.

International engagement for crisis prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding is a lengthy and laborious task. However, perseverance and a long-term approach will pay off in the long run. After a decade of war and genocide, it was finally possible to put an end to unresolved territorial conflicts in the states of former Yugoslavia. The societies of these countries are increasingly orienting themselves towards Europe. The states of West Africa have overcome bloody civil wars and laid the foundation for an economic upturn. They have repeatedly demonstrated that democratic elections and peaceful changes of government are possible even in the direst of circumstances. In 2016, Colombia saw one of the longest civil wars in recent history settled by a peace treaty. If there is one thing all of these countries had to learn, it is this: the road to sustainable and stable peace frameworks is long and arduous. Setbacks are possible and even likely. We are moving in the right direction, however, and the aim of achieving sustainable peace is worth all the effort. Germany is making its own contribution to peace and development, both in Europe and around the world.

Promoting peace abroad requires the concerted efforts of foreign, security and development policy as well as contributions in an international context from educational, cultural, trade, environmental and economic policy. In July 2016, the Federal Government published a White Paper on Security Policy and the Future of the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) promoting a comprehensive approach to address the security challenges of our crisis-ridden world. The Federal Government is now putting forward the present Guidelines in an effort to further elaborate on the connections between peace, security and development and to further expand on the comprehensive approach. These Guidelines complement the White Paper on Security Policy with a comprehensive toolkit for the pursuit of these goals – from crisis prevention to stabilisation, from peaceful conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction all the way to long-term peacebuilding and sustainable development. They stress the need for coherent political strategies to prevent the outbreak of crises, to resolve acute conflicts and to support sustainable peace frameworks. In line with the White Paper, these Guidelines prioritise preventative measures over crisis management measures. At the same time, they go beyond mere interventions in acute crisis situations and aim at designing stable peace frameworks. These Guidelines are supplemented by the 2017 Development Policy Report of the Federal Government of Germany, which describes the full breadth of development activities relevant to crisis prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding in more detail than the present document.

These Guidelines serve to reaffirm the declared commitment to a comprehensive political approach to peacebuilding, which was first formulated comprehensively in the Action Plan for Civilian Crisis Prevention, Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding of 2004. At government level, the measures provided for in the Action Plan have given rise to an efficient infrastructure for peacebuilding all over the world. They complement civil society’s multifaceted engagement for peace and provide the basis for fruitful cooperation between government and civil society. With its interministerial Guidelines for a coherent policy towards fragile states of 2012, the Federal Government drew on the first lessons learned from the implementation of the Action Plan and from its involvement in crisis hotspots all over the world in order to develop coherent strategies for peacebuilding. The Action Plan for Civil Crisis Prevention and the Fragile States Guidelines will be superseded by the document at hand.

The new Guidelines aim to set a new strategic course. In its vision statement, the Federal Government has committed to upholding the highest standards. Particular emphasis is laid on the further development of tools for which Germany possesses special expertise and which are of outstanding importance in the context of crises. Last but not least, the Guidelines serve to examine the structures and processes of the comprehensive approach, and to realign them to cope effectively with the new challenges.

The drafting of the new Guidelines was accompanied by a policy dialogue entitled “PeaceLab2016: A Fresh Look at Crisis Prevention”. At 27 events with over 1,800 participants, and online on the PeaceLab blog, interested citizens, academics, organised civil society, and participants from the world of politics and business engaged in discussion and either reaffirmed previously adopted paths or contributed ideas for improvements. Key statements by the participants are quoted on the following pages. They illustrate the diversity of the discourse, without the Federal Government embracing every single aspect.

It was impossible to incorporate every single idea from the PeaceLab process into these Guidelines. However, they will continue to inspire the processes sure to follow, as well as the application of these Guidelines. After all, these Guidelines are not the end of a process, but instead mark the beginning of a new phase in Germany policy of promoting peace.