How can Germany improve its policies on conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding? Over the course of 2016 and 2017, the German government posed this question to experts in Germany and abroad to inform the development of new guidelines for “Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts, Building Peace.” The resulting debate – titled “PeaceLab2016” – was one of the most comprehensive policy discussions on peace and security in Germany for many years.
PeaceLab2016 inspired more than a hundred articles, which were published on the specially created PeaceLab blog. In addition, in over two dozen events, it brought together officials from the German foreign, development, interior and defense ministries, as well as members of parliament from all political parties, civil society, academia, implementing organizations, the media, the private sector, students and individual citizens to consider questions of peace and security.
This article reviews the debate during the PeaceLab2016 process and two more years of discussion on the topics of security sector reform, rule of law assistance, and transitional justice on the PeaceLab blog. It evaluates the attempt to create a more open, more controversial, and ultimately more influential political debate in Germany on issues of peace and security. As facilitators of the PeaceLab2016 process and heads of the PeaceLab blog’s editorial team at GPPi, the authors played a central role in this effort.
They conclude that both the debate and the guidelines themselves demonstrate a lack of strategic thinking in the German peace and security community. Neither the government nor most of the contributors to the debate suggested specific goals, described clear priorities, or outlined strategies for specific countries or thematic areas. To address this lack of strategic thinking, the German government should use the development of the next guidelines and white paper on security policy as an opportunity to create a combined strategy document for Germany’s foreign, defense and development policy. This could also help foster engagement between the German peacebuilding and strategic communities and shape a joint debate.
The full publication is available in German.