Paradigm Shift in German Peace and Security Policy

The EU security policy represents a paradigm shift from a policy of defense to one of intervention. This, in turn, affects policies of the member states. In Germany the armed forces are currently being restructured to become a rapidly deployable intervention army, the “Quick Reaction Force,” which has been deployed in Afghanistan since July 2008. Here, too, the focus is on “the fight against international terrorism.”

Back in December 2002, the Defense Minister at that time, Peter Struck, provided a vivid description of this change, when he stated, “the security of Germany will also be defended in the Hindu Kush.” Thus the Bundeswehr, too, is blurring the boundaries between civilian and military missions and extending its sphere of operations into civilian areas, development and foreign policy. This, with the problematic consequences described above, happens against a background of a lack of expertise in gender relations. All of this is evident in the deployment of German troops in Afghanistan.

German soldiers in Afghanistan make up part of the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), and the German KSK (Special Commando Forces) was active in the US-led “War on Terror.” The former were part of the NATO mission for peacekeeping and peacebuilding, while the actual activities of the KSK were unclear. Not even a parliamentary inquiry was able to shed light on this situation.

The violence Afghan women experience both at home and in public is as extreme as before. Yet the predominantly male troops deployed still have little awareness of it. They are not in the position to enact gender-appropriate measures that also enlist men to support women’s participation in the public arena or to protect threatened women. If Afghan men publicly beat their wives on the street, the Bundeswehr is explicitly not allowed to intervene. Women’s rights advocates or journalists who are being threatened are not protected by the German ISAF troops. The intervention forces also lack instruction that would raise their awareness. These issues are not part of the training for foreign deployment and are definitely not part of the deployment strategy.

» Read Civil-Military Cooperation in Afghanistan

The fact that women have now joined German combat units has had little or no effect on traditional patterns of masculinity in the German armed forces. This seems to be a foregone conclusion, as, from the very beginning, the objective was that equality of the sexes will be achieved when combat units consist of 15 % women... The “critical mass” of a 30 % “minority” required to bring about qualitative changes is not even pursued.

An exception to the mostly military German security policy is the "Action Plan for Civil Crisis Prevention, Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding” passed in 2004 by the coalition government of Social Democrats and Greens. It focuses on civil conflict management, with a strategic emphasis on promoting the rule of law and democracy in crisis countries. It expressly mentions the necessity of women’s participation “in power structures and their full inclusion in all efforts surrounding crisis prevention and conflict resolution“ as a prerequisite for the peaceful reconstruction of a constitutional democracy. It calls for measures to increase the participation of civil society and especially gender sensitive non-governmental organizations. In contrast to German military, the Action Plan has included gender-sensitive behavior as a target for the training of police forces. This at least is a positive starting point for gender-oriented approaches; it also makes reference to UN Resolution 1325 and stipulates that civilians and their expertise are being used. Yet without adequate funding, none of this will have any impact.

» Read Action Plan for Civil Crisis Prevention and Institutions of Civil Conflict Management

That the Action Plan has little actual political significance is made clear by its funding. In 2007, the Green parliamentary group estimated that spending on the military compared to that for civil conflict management, at 3.2 versus 24 billion Euros, i.e. the latter was almost eight times higher – and that considering that some rather doubtful items were classified as expenditure for civil conflict management. There were new developments, however: For the first time that year, the Council on Civil Conflict Prevention, received a budget of ten million euros that was used for small reconstruction projects in northern Afghanistan.

In the summer of 2008, the federal government submitted its second report on the implementation of the Action Plan. More interesting than its content was what was not reported. A study on cooperation between the ministries somehow vanished, apparently because the results showed significant deficiencies. In particular, because of departmental bickering and jurisdictional squabbles, cooperation between the Foreign Ministry and the Development Ministry has been difficult for many years. The working group on Economic and Civilian Crisis Prevention had stopped functioning in late 2007, according to the report, because its goal as determined by the Action Plan, to define “the role of the private sector in promoting peace,” was “difficult” to achieve.

The reason for this is not mentioned in the paper: In many cases the private sector actually exacerbates conflicts, for example by exporting weapons, or by European industrial fishing fleets that ruin West African fishermen. The report also says nothing about the actual weakening of structures for civil conflict management, although the international situation requires the opposite. In fact, even the military is increasingly voicing its demands for civilian measures. Indeed, the former crisis manager of the Foreign Office resigned in early 2008 because he felt that he was not getting enough support from the higher-ups. At the Ministry of Defense civil crisis management is still poorly supported. In the 2006 White Paper of the Ministry of Defense, the Action Plan is seen as just one “building block” among many.