Peace Is a Long Way Off - Peace Report 2023 Presented

The latest edition of the annual peace report of the leading German peace research institutes was presented yesterday at the Federal Press Conference under the headline "Still no peace". The addressees of the annual recommendations of the peace researchers are the German Federal Government and the German Bundestag, as well as the German public. This year's publication comes at a remarkable moment. The German government's long-announced new security strategy and a China strategy to be formulated under the auspices of the Federal Foreign Office are still in the works.  At the same time, against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there is a public debate on security policy issues. The peace research institutes involved know that these issues are currently on everyone's mind.

Against the background of security policy uncertainties in politics, the recommendations of the peace research institutes can expect a certain increased attention. Nicole Deitelhoff (HSFK Frankfurt), for example, has been a guest on the TV-program "Anne Will" on several occasions. She presented the Peace Report together with representatives of the other participating institutes: Prof. Dr. Tobias Debiel (INEF - Institute for Development and Peace, University of Duisburg-Essen), Prof. Dr. Conrad Schetter (BICC - Bonn International Centre for Conflict Studies), and Prof. Dr. Ursula Schröder (IFSH - Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg).

At the BPK, however, the scientists present also used the opportunity to warn against the security policy appropriation of humanitarian aid. In the current situation, security policy arguments quickly become effective in seemingly neighboring fields of political action, and it is a question of long-term credibility whether one gives in to this conflation of aspects. Conversely, the researchers see fields of relevance to peace policy, such as economic and trade relations, in which interdependencies have a fundamentally conflict-blocking effect. Here, therefore, a constructive contribution of the peace and security policy view would be possible. The authors formulate a remarkably pragmatic, strategic position here:

... it is problematic to pursue diversification and flexibilization via friendshoring because it could ... unleash exclusion dynamics.
In view of this initial situation, in which central raw materials or components cannot be obtained in geographic or political proximity on reasonable terms, or in which they themselves have a conflict-driving effect through exclusion processes, controlled de- and interdependence does not need friendshoring, but rather making-friends-shoring. In a phase of increasingly large power rivalries and general polarization at the global level, it is imperative in terms of peace policy to send integrative, cooperative signals. This suggests a strategy of seeking trade agreements and partnerships with states of the Global South in key areas and for strategic raw materials, i.e., promoting interdependence, even if these are not democracies. (118)

The Peace Report itself strives for a view of the current situation without illusions and asks about the options and scope for action of a peace policy in times of change.

First and foremost is the conviction that an arms race must be prevented at all costs. An arms spiral has not yet been set in motion, but it is a "virulent danger" (Deitelhoff). There is also massive rhetorical armament (Debiel). There is agreement that new actors, especially the BRICS states, must be included in disarmament negotiations and corresponding post-bilateral control regimes.

The fact that new challenges lurk here is made clear by a journalist's reference to the German defense minister's recent trip to India. Arms cooperation with opponents of a rules-based order is problematic (Schröder), and recognition of emerging countries via arms deals would be problematic in general (Debiel). In a phase of increased capacity building in the European arms market, the introduction of an arms export control law becomes all the more urgent, which researchers have been calling for for over a decade and it still does not look like this is being actively pursued (Schröder).

Not only the failure of missions in Afghanistan or Mali (Schetter), but also the difficulty of politics to adequately counter current conflicts and to communicate this appropriately, provide, in the view of the scholars, a strong argument for the creation of a body that coordinates and integrates German security policy in Europe. Whether this has to be a National Security Council, which does not seem to be the case at the moment, remains an open question. However, examples such as the intolerably imprecise handling of the Iranian Republic, which weakens the credibility of feminist foreign policy, the unclear arms export criteria mentioned above, and the German government's China strategy, which is more or less in line with the EU, show that a body is needed at the interface between political analysis, expert assessment, and executive power that bundles this diversity of tasks and integrates the action-relevant aspects of peace and security policy within a European horizon.

Martin Wolf