Germany’s SSR engagement: Wider footprint and new opportunities for promoting peace, security and rule of law

by Viola Csordas; Camilla Arvastson · March 13th, 2020.
Civilian instruments for crisis prevention and peace building have always been high on Germany’s international agenda. In recent years, Germany has increasingly taken on a more proactive role on international peace and security issues, while maintaining its focus on civilian instruments. This has also led to growing support for security sector reform (SSR) as a multidimensional tool addressing root causes of conflict, while strengthening resilience.

Strategic and institutional landscape

The 2014 Munich Security Conference marked a milestone for Germany as a foreign policy actor. At this event, Germany declared its willingness to take on more global responsibilities. To translate this political vision into action, both policy frameworks and foreign affairs institutions have undergone a significant transformation.  

One of the first steps was the establishment of the Federal Foreign Office DirectorateGeneral S for Humanitarian Assistance, Crisis Prevention Stabilisation and Post‑Conflict Reconstruction in March 2015. The Federal Government provides generous funding for a “foreign policy with means”. Its crisis prevention budget has seen a growth from € 250 million in 2016 to more than € 400 million in 2020.

In 2016, the Enable and Enhance Initiative (E2I) was established as a flexible security assistance tool, jointly managed by the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office. This mechanism has nearly doubled its funding since 2016, from € 100 million to € 195 million euro in 2020. Additionally, the long-standing military equipment assistance programme AH-P was complemented with the police training and equipment assistance programme AAH-P in 2017.

These institutional and funding developments were accompanied by policy-level strategic articulations of Germany’s vision and approach for peace and stability on the international arena. The 2016 White Paper on Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr listed measures for crisis and conflict prevention, and amongst its top priorities was Security Sector Governance and Reform.

In 2017, through the Guidelines on Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts, Building Peace, Germany further confirmed its international responsibility for peace, freedom, development and security. In this guideline, Germany reiterates its commitment to the primacy of politics and civilian instruments and conflict prevention over military interventions. SSR was re-emphasised as an important tool to improve human security, framing this approach with a broad interpretation, including transitional justice, mediation, disaster response and Disarmament Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR).

Finally in the fall 2019, Germany further enhanced its international leadership role in the areas of SSR, good governance and conflict prevention through its first dedicated strategy to this area, the Interministerial Strategy to Support Security Sector Reform (SSR) in the Context of Crisis Prevention, Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding.  This strategy is complemented by two other strategies tackling Rule of Law and Transitional Justice. The Interministerial Strategy to Support “Dealing with the Past and Reconciliation (Transitional Justice)”and the Strategy of the Federal Government for promoting the rule of law, were released in conjunction with the SSR strategy.

The new German SSR strategy provides an inter-ministerial framework for the principles and priority areas by one of the biggest donors to SSR. It adopts an ambitious objective for SSR, linking it to societal peace, sustainable development and the reliable safeguarding of citizens’ security. It also directly addresses emerging security and justice challenges, such as organized crime, migration, displacement, climate change, and identifies opportunities for increased engagement and synergies such as conflict mediation, civil protection and civilian CSDP.

Developed with an innovative and participatory open consultation process through the Peacelab blog, the German SSR strategy aims to strengthen linkages between government, civil society and academia, reinforcing it by inter-ministerial cooperation to form a wide-reaching integrated approach to SSR.

Germany also uses its multilateral engagements for strengthening its support to SSR. The 2020-21 United Nations Security Council membership further provides a platform for Germany’s support to civilian conflict prevention, disarmament and addressing climate change.  Similarly, Germany is among the biggest supporters of the civilian Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) at the EU level. The upcoming German EU presidency during the second half of 2020 will also provide an opportunity to strengthen the European conflict prevention approach, especially in European neighbourhoods. To move forward with the implementation of the 2018 Compact on civilian CSDP, Germany initiated the European Centre of Excellence for Civilian Crisis Management in Berlin, as a multidimensional and cross-cutting instrument for civilian CSDP. SSR is relevant to the majority of the Civilian Training areas identified by the EU Civilian Training Group. They are directly related to governance and reform of the security sector, such as change management, military and police reform, rule of law, good governance, state-building, civil administration, building integrity and anti-corruption, gender, human rights, conflict prevention, countering organized crime, border management, countering terrorism and radicalization.  Therefore, the Centre of Excellence under German leadership could provide a unique opportunity to further develop these aspects in SSR policies and programming.

The evolution of Germany’s leading role in supporting SSR as an instrument for conflict prevention and crisis management has brought areas such as mediation and disaster risk reduction as key focus areas. These are areas where operational capacity building of security and justice providers could contribute to holistic objectives of creating resilient and adaptive societies while simultaneously support governance reform.

Looking ahead, the international community could benefit from seeing the emerging German role and their broadening of SSR as an opportunity to further reinforce the potential of including additional areas previously perceived to be limited to crisis prevention or peacekeeping. For Germany, there remains considerable potential for the SSR programming as their influence on the international SSR landscape increases. Traditionally established areas where Germany has built both credibility and thematic knowledge could be better utilised to maximise potential for integrating them to SSR:

Drawing on its leading role on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR): As one of the main drivers of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, Germany has long acknowledged the role of climate change and natural hazards as a real threat to peace and security. Since 2014, Germany has advocated for strengthening the link between climate change and security and encouraged the UN Security Council to address climate change as a security risk. There is an emerging recognition that linking DRR to SSR, conceptually and programmatically, is important as the security sector plays a crucial role in managing and implementing disaster risk reduction and preparedness frameworks, as well as provide high logistical capacity to carry out activities in the event of an emergency. Natural hazards and climate change have a serious impact in fragile states, pushing already weak systems to cope with external threats, potentially leading to violence or conflict. Strengthening security agencies’ capacities for an effective, efficient and accountable delivery of disaster relief and civil protection has therefore the potential to significantly build the legitimacy of State institutions.

Combining SSR with experience on transitional justice and mediation: Germany can draw from its own experience in dealing with the past and the importance of transitional justice to build long-lasting and sustainable peace. Germany bring significant credibility in this area, through a body of knowledge and direct experience of these processes, opening up opportunities with States undergoing cyclical conflict or repeated violence outbreaks. In the German SSR strategy, the link between SSR, mediation and transitional justice has been clearly articulated. The strategy recognizes the harm’ of violence, importance of war crimes prosecution according to rule of law, and the possible unlawful actions committed by security forces against the population. In practice, Germany could better reflect these commitments in SSG/R programming. Transitional justice, as well as other conflict resolution tools such as negotiation, dialogue and mediation are important instruments to tackle root causes of violence and prevent its relapse.

Draw on its support to civilian CSDP: The Civilian CSDP agenda is at the heart of EU Foreign and Security Policy to support countries globally. Germany holds a key position to move this agenda forward, increasing emphasis on the integrative function of SSR and its added value to comprehensive reform. The new European Centre of Excellence established in Berlin and the momentum of the 2018 Compact on civilian CSDP and efforts for its implementation are opportunities for Germany to bring in a stronger stance for SSR as a cross-cutting and multidimensional civilian crisis management tool, creating synergies between its CSDP and SSR agendas. Together with ISSAT’s work on Civilian Coordinators for Training (CCT) this aligns in the creation of awareness that civilian CSDP is in large part SSR related.


This blog was re-published by PeaceLab

Read more about ISSAT's work on Disaster risk Reducation here

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