The EU’s Integrated Approach and the German Guidelines ‘Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts, Building Peace’

07. März 2018   ·   PeaceLab editorial team

On 31 January 2018, Rüdiger König, Director-General for Crisis Prevention, Stabilisation, Post-Conflict Management and Humanitarian Assistance at the German Federal Foreign Office discussed the new German guidelines on “Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts, Building Peace” at the Permanent Representation of Germany to the EU in Brussels.

On 22 January 2018, the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council agreed on “Council Conclusions on the Integrated Approach to External Conflicts and Crises” – a key concept of the EU Global Strategy that is also reflected in the German Federal Government’s crisis engagement. How should this Integrated Approach be translated into concrete actions? What are the respective challenges and obstacles? These questions were at the heart of Rüdiger König’s introductory remarks and the subsequent discussion with ca. 90 participants from various EU institutions, diplomatic missions and civil society organizations. The debate was moderated by Sonya Reines-Djivanides, Executive Director of the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office (EPLO).

Many to-dos in the Integrated Approach and the new German Guidelines

In his opening remarks Rüdiger König emphasized that no individual nation in today’s world could pursue effective engagement on conflict prevention or stabilization unilaterally. He welcomed the policy review processes conducted both in Germany and at the EU level over the past few years, including the development of the EU Global Strategy and the new Guidelines on “Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts and Building Peace” in Germany. The German document had been developed jointly by the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development as well as the Chancellery. The drafting process was accompanied by a consultation process under the heading “PeaceLab2016”, with  the participation of representatives from civil society, the scientific community, and partners abroad. The PeaceLab-debate covered a number of key questions on challenges, opportunities, interests, values, key fields of action and instruments of German policy, government structures and partners. As König pointed out, the results of the numerous in-person and blog discussions, are still publicly available on the PeaceLabBlog.

König highlighted key points in the German guidelines that reflect important elements of the EU’s Integrated Approach, starting with the realization that conflict prevention, stabilization and peacebuilding will always require a mixture of instruments from diplomacy over mediation to stabilization, and, at times, military means. The guidelines underline that all instruments have to be synchronized, harmonized, and used in support of either a political process or a strategy that leads to such a process. Another point included in both the Integrated Approach and the German guidelines is that analyses of conflict dynamics need to take into account the local, sub-national, national, regional and international levels in fragile situations.

Lastly, in order to achieve peace and make political processes work, one needs as many partners as possible. This means working in close cooperation with the European Union and other partners such as the US, Australia, Canada and Japan – but also with non-traditional partners such as China.

König acknowledged that the Council Conclusions from 22 January have placed many additional tasks on the to-do lists of both member states and EU institutions at the strategic level: To better define the nexus between humanitarian assistance and development cooperation, to improve conflict analysis, to invest more in mediation capacities, and to enhance early warning and early action. Strengthening CSPD, among other things, by working towards an ambitious Civil CSDP Compact and further testing of “Article 28-measures” to boost EU capacities in crisis contexts were further tasks on the to-do list of EU institutions and member states.

Complex challenges from early warning to evaluating stabilization efforts

The ensuing discussion covered a broad range of questions related to EU and German policies on conflict prevention, stabilization and peacebuilding ranging from how to monitor and evaluate stabilization measures most effectively to productive inter-agency coordination, the humanitarian aid-development nexus and the question of how to make the case for early prevention to the broader public.

With regards to monitoring and evaluation, Rüdiger König emphasized that evaluating stabilization measures required a new model of evaluation – one that the German Foreign Office was still developing and one that would take into account the very political core of stabilization projects. On the humanitarian aid-development nexus, König underlined Germany’s commitment to the humanitarian principles. Referring to a related question about the danger of mixing instruments and approaches, König cautioned that while an integrated approach required using different instruments for the purpose of a common strategy, this would not mean mixing instruments or blurring the lines between them. He also emphasized that the use of “military means” should not be equated with sending in “thousands of troops” but that there was a broad range of tools available to the military, including offering trainings and sending advisors. On the question of how to best incentivize inter-departmental and inter-agency work, König highlighted the importance of budgetary incentives and the creation of mutual dependencies. He used the example of his own Directorate-General in the German Foreign Office, which relies on the expertise and analysis of regional desks while those  have to rely on his directorate for project funds. This incentivizes departments to work closely together.  

On early action, König said that Germany and the EU needed to become quicker and more decisive. He also highlighted the importance of prioritizing and establishing a division of labor between international actors. He pointed to the successes of the African Union in addressing conflicts in the past few years.

Re-Launching “PeaceLab”

Lastly, on the topic of communicating the need for more preventative action to publics at home, König highlighted that the German Foreign Office was using social media, public debates, and constant discussions with parliamentarians to engage – but that like any big bureaucracy, the Foreign Office could still work on communicating faster. He stressed that it was important to convey not only how complicated crisis management is, but also to emphasize that even the best efforts can – and will – often fail.

In the end, König pointed to the PeaceLab process as an example of how to engage more effectively with expert communities and publics on conflict prevention and peacebuilding. With this event in Brussels “PeaceLab is coming alive again”, as he put it. He stressed that the PeaceLab2016 process, functioning as an important mechanism of consultation for the German government, is a form of interaction with civil society crucial to modern governance. The approval of the new German guidelines should be seen as the starting point for re-newed civic engagement, König said, including with the strategic community in Brussels.