#LearningforPeace: The Future of Crisis Prevention and Peacebuilding

22 June 2021   ·   PeaceLab editorial team

After the German government published its implementation report on progress in the area of “Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts, Building Peace,” PeaceLab hosted three events on lessons learned and future priorities. Participants from the policy, civil society, and research communities discussed European crisis engagement, the climate-conflict nexus, and early action.

In its report on the implementation of its guidelines “Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts, Building Peace,” the German Government set out four priority areas for its future engagement. In May and June 2021, PeaceLab hosted an online event series #LearningforPeace, with each event focusing on one of those priorities: European crisis engagement, climate change and crisis prevention, and linking early crisis detection with prevention. 

1. What Next for European Crisis Engagement?  

While the German government has reviewed its toolbox for crisis prevention, stabilization and peacebuilding in its implementation report, the EU’s External Action Service is also undertaking an internal process to review its crisis engagement. What are the main lessons and how do they compare? What should be priorities for making the EU a stronger actor in violence prevention and peacebuilding? Participants discussed these questions in a webinar organized in cooperation with the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office (EPLO), moderated by Julia Friedrich (GPPi). Speakers included Minister of State Niels Annen, the European Union External Action (EEAS) Secretary General Stefano Sannino, Sonya Reines-Djivanides (EPLO), and Erwin van Veen (Clingendael Institute). 

Participants reflected on Germany’s main takeaways from the first four years of implementing its guidelines, as well as recent developments in the EU’s crisis engagement. They also discussed the European Peace Facility and the EU’s new mediation concept. While highlighting progress, they also considered challenges and debated how the EU’s crisis engagement can become more impactful. 

2. Climate Change, Crisis Prevention and Peacebuilding: Policy Recommendations  

Taking stock of its engagement in crisis prevention, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding, the German government identified climate-related conflicts as one of its priorities for the upcoming years. In a PeaceLab webinar, organized in cooperation with the Advisory Board on Civilian Crisis Prevention and Peacebuilding and facilitated by Marie Wagner (GPPi), participants set out to develop policy recommendations for the nexus of climate change and conflict. They discussed how the German government can adapt existing tools to new challenges and how it can better support regions affected by the impacts of climate change. The workshop built on a recent study on climate change and conflict and a PeaceLab blog debate on the nexus of climate and conflicts. 

As keynote speakers, Minister of State Niels Annen, Christophe Hodder (UNSOM), and Dr. Kira Vinke (Advisory Board and PIK) gave insights into Germany’s commitment to the climate-conflict nexus and how its engagement may be expanded in the future. In the following breakout sessions, experts and participants developed actionable policy recommendations for the German government and its partners. A discussion on the linkages of environmental peacebuilding and crisis prevention was facilitated by Janet Edmond (Conservation International). After her input statement, participants emphasized the importance of cross-silo cooperation and recommended that EU and UN missions provide more resources to counter environmental crimes. 

Regarding the inclusion of climate data into early warning systems, Barbora Sedova (PIK) presented the Weathering Risk initiative. Recommendations include, for example, that climate scientists and conflict analysts should clearly distinguish different conflict types and actors in order to suggest more tailored policy responses and interventions. 

To better understand the implications of climate security threats in Central Asia and Afghanistan, Hans-Joachim Giessmann (Berghof Foundation) presented research on the current situation and future risks in Afghanistan. The group discussed that the German government should actively support Afghanistan’s peace negotiations and encourage the conflict parties to collaborate on climate change impacts to foster peace. 

Lastly, Andrew Harper’s input (UNHCR) focused on the nexus of climate change, humanitarian crises, and displacement. Participants of this group recommended that climate researchers should provide analysis in policy relevant timeframes to make their findings more actionable. Moreover, climate security analysis must include local knowledge and expertise of affected and at-risk persons, and build on regional instruments and structures. 

More detailed recommendations of all working groups can be found here

3. Bridging the Gap: From Early Warning to Early Action  

In the past years, the German government refined its early crisis detection instruments. However, an effective translation into crisis prevention remains a challenge. What are the lessons learned from the German government’s recent innovations? What else can Germany learn from other countries and international organizations? During the third event, experts discussed how early warning can be linked to early action more effectively. Speakers included Minister of State Niels Annen and Cornelius Zimmermann (Federal Foreign Office), Paul B. Stares (Council on Foreign Relations), Christoph Meyer (King’s College London), as well as Marie Wagner, Philipp Rotmann and Sarah Bressan (GPPi). Participants reflected on recent successes and challenges of the German government’s crisis early detection and prevention processes and lessons from the United States’ approach. The discussion also included lessons from forecast-based humanitarian action and from research on how to effectively warn about conflicts and crises.