A little more peace, please

an interview by Christiane Lammers

Une Grande Nation (Issue IV/2017)

The Federal Government of Germany’s vision

Having emerged from the ashes of two world wars and the Shoah, that ultimate betrayal of all civilised values, the Federal Republic of Germany has dedicated itself to the cause of peace. What it means to fulfil this mission for peace laid down in the Basic Law, Germany’s constitution, in these times of countless crises, new geopolitical lines of conflict and the increasing challenge of global and regional governance structures is to take on more international responsibility for peace, freedom, development and security.

Germany is the most populous member state in the European Union and is characterised by a high level of political stability and an active civil society. Germany is well connected and integrated in various ways and at all levels within the international community, and is highly regarded as a reliable partner in many parts of the world.

Germany’s prosperity is based not least on the internationalisation of the German economy. That is why the consequences of crisis and conflict – particularly those close to Europe – affect us directly. Through crisis prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding, the Federal Government is fulfilling its responsibility to protect the security and welfare of Germany and its citizens. (...)

The vision statement lays down the guiding principles for the Federal Government to shape its actions and instruments as well as appropriate structures and partnerships for peacebuilding.

Why we take action: Responsibility for peace, freedom, development and security, Germany’s commitment to fundamental values in its engagement.

Peace begins with the absence of organised, physical use of violence. For peace to be sustainable, however, it takes additional elements such as political and social participation, the rule of law, and respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights. Sustainable peace will prevail wherever people are respected in their inalienable rights, irrespective of their origins and life circumstances, and where they have the freedom to shape their own lives.

The key principles of Germany’s free and democratic order – human dignity, civil liberties, democracy, rule of law, the separation of powers and social responsibility for each other – also form the basis for our engagement in crises and conflicts, and the promotion of peace.

This engagement is based on a solid bedrock of values: German foreign, security and development policies pursue the vision of positive, sustainable peace as expressed in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is this kind of peace that allows a life in dignity, and sustainable development. Only where peace prevails and where people can live on an equal footing and in a secure environment will they be able to realise their potential to the fullest.

Peace is a catalyst for free and unrestricted thinking, political participation, cultural creativity, economic growth, social justice and ecologically responsible action. This applies in the reverse as well: there can be no lasting peace without sustainable development.

This peace must be protected both at home and abroad. We understand peace as the most valuable asset of international relations and believe in the general ban on violence enshrined in the UN Charter as the inalienable foundation of any international order.

The universal and indivisible human rights not only serve to protect the individual from arbitrary government action, they are also prerequisite for the long-term stability of public and social orders. The respect, protection and fulfilling of civil, political, economic, social and cultural human rights is the interdisciplinary task of German policy. (…)

In armed conflicts, Germany defends the unconditional respect and enforcement of international humanitarian law.

Legitimate and effective political orders protecting against arbitrary government action, respecting human rights, and ensuring the participation in and pluralism and transparency of political action are the best institutional guarantee for peaceful, just and inclusive societies as well as for sustainable development.

Social cohesion and the sustainable use of our natural resources are indispensable for peaceful social development.

A united Europe based on shared values and beliefs and served by strong institutions guarantees peace on our continent. That is why Germany’s rootedness in the European Union is a central point of reference for German policy.

Germany has accepted the unique responsibility arising from its history. The avoidance of war and violence in international relations, the prevention of genocide and severe violations of human rights, and the defence of endangered minorities and the victims of oppression and persecution are integral to Germany’s reason of state.

These values are the moral compass which guides us: it is these values by which we align our actions for the prevention of crises, the resolution of conflicts and the promotion of peace – even in places where the full realisation of these values is thwarted by circumstances or where a gradual approach is required.

An excerpt from the Federal Government of Germany Guidelines on: Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts, Building Peace, Chapter 2, pages 44 to 48. The entire document can be downloaded here: https://bit.ly/2HpAmjG

A commentary by peace researcher, Christiane Lammers:

What are these guidelines all about?

It was not something the general public really noticed but in June, with relatively little fanfare, the German government decided on this document, Guidelines on Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts, Building Peace. This document replaces an earlier version from 2004.

What is the German government’s intention with these guidelines?

These guidelines are supposed to mark a new beginning for German peace building policies. They define a framework that basically translates how the German Foreign Office will enact the country’s obligation toward peace-building, as enshrined in the German constitution, into policy. The document is meant to set strategic goals on how to deal with everything from fragile states, nationalism and international conflicts to population dynamics, climate change, flight and migration. It was preceded by a year-long consultation process with NGOs, researchers and ministries.

What’s been the response to the document?

Those who work in peace building and conflict management - whether that is in development, foreign policy, peace movement or human rights - have noticed a change in emphasis: Dialogue with international actors is moving towards the centre.

So what is being criticised?

Clearly formulated strategic steps and consequences are missing. For example, it is unclear what the emphasis on civil peace service is supposed to mean, when there are no well-delineated indicators for its development. Also missing is any examination of how to deal with the military sector and the arms industry. Previously if the federal government wanted to disarm or reduce weapons exports, they made it clearer. Now any criticism of the sector is left to third parties. So that’s a step backwards basically. It’s often said that these guidelines are supposed to complement the new defence policy white paper. So why not outline the difference between military and civilian means properly, instead of just referring back to more amorphous objectives, such as human rights for example? 

What happens next?

Leaving those criticisms aside, these guidelines could open the door to a new culture of peace building that works with the insight that crisis and conflict have societal roots. Those non-binding commitments could be understood as an invitation to civil society organisations to take part in realising this concept. The multiple references to the government’s Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development could also mean that the principle of peace will be spelt out at global, national and regional levels and that it won’t just be about securing our national self-interest. The acid test will come after the elections. Will we see a plan of action with measurable goals? Will budget lines and workable structures be established? That would certainly be a sign that Germany takes its responsibilities seriously and that it will actually implement these new guidelines for peace building. 

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