Guidelines for Dealing With Fragile States Focus on Networked Approach
When states disintegrate, it affects not only the people who live in them. Wherever lawlessness becomes the norm, there is nothing to stop the illegal trade in people, weapons and drugs. International terrorism can also easily find safe havens. Such “fragile” states pose a considerable threat to regional and international security. Examples for countries that are home to violent conflicts and in which the state is partly or completely unable to maintain order are Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Mali – different as they may be.
Enlarge image Development Minister Niebel, Defense Minister de Maizière and Foreign Minister Westerwelle (© picture alliance / dpa) Under the leadership of the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Government has produced guidelines for dealing with such countries.
Together with Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière and Development Minister Dirk Niebel, Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle presented the guidelines to the press in Berlin on September 19. A networked approach in foreign and security policy is their focus. When crises escalate in certain countries, the participating Federal Ministries intend to establish task forces dedicated to countries or regions in order to allow for quick, coordinated action. These task forces will be headed by the relevant Regional Directors of the Federal Foreign Office. Past examples for such interministerial pooling of expertise are the task forces for the Sudan, Syria and the Sahelian zone.
Tasks and guiding principles
Enlarge image Young Somali boys sit in front of a building damaged in decades of the civil war in the capital Mogadishu. (© picture alliance / dpa) The task forces will analyse the situation, distribute information to all relevant offices, set clear goals for Germany’s involvement, coordinate the efforts of the ministries and oversee international cooperation. The Federal Government wants to follow clear guiding principles. For example, it intends to involve local elites and core groups in accordance with local traditions.
“You cannot ensure stability in fragile states if you see everything from our point of view,” said Foreign Minister Westerwelle at the presentation of the guidelines.
The search for solutions must take into account ethnic and religious factors, he said. With regard to the countries affected, the Federal Government wants to support long-term reform processes, strengthen the role of regional organizations and consult its international partners.
Setting realistic goals
It is very important to influence the societies of weak states. “For too long, national stability has been taken to mean governmental stability,” said the German Foreign Minister, adding that stabilizing societies was the main thing. This, he went on, was the lesson learned from the Arab Spring. Western countries also had to be realistic in their expectations towards development in fragile states, he warned. “Good enough governance” – not ideal conditions – must often be the goal, he said. Still, he added, we should not cease to consistently uphold our own values.
Defense Minister de Maizière agreed that German policy must be both driven by the country’s interests and informed by its values.
The guidelines have their origins in the coalition agreement. They are the product of close cooperation between the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry of Defence and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Members of the German Bundestag and academics were also involved in the consultations.
The guidelines are part of a series of strategy papers on Africa, Latin America and relations with the new players on the global stage. These documents reinforce the Federal Government’s commitment to consistent policy positions.