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Crisis prevention: Nipping conflicts in the bud

United Nations' General Assembly in the UN headquarters in New York

In 2017, there were 31 armed conflicts and wars according to research conducted by the Working Group on Causes of Armed Conflicts (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Kriegsursachenforschung, AKUF) at Hamburg University. Since the late 1990s, violent conflicts within countries have become much more frequent than wars between countries. Most of these conflicts are taking place in developing countries.

War can reverse decades of development in a country or region. The most serious consequence of war is the immeasurable suffering that it causes; the worse the suffering has been, the more difficult reconciliation will become. Moreover, recovery and reconstruction require enormous levels of resources. Wars do not only destroy buildings and roads, they also destroy the social fabric and cultural life.

Thus, preventing violence from erupting in the first place is an important objective of German and international peace and development policy. For such crisis prevention to be successful, actors must be able to identify the factors that may lead to conflict in a given country, such as extreme disparities in incomes and assets, unfair distribution of scarce resources, and human rights violations.


BMZ early warning system

Detailed information about crisis and conflict potential is an essential prerequisite for development-based crisis prevention programmes. Since the late 1990s, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has had its own early warning system. A list of indicators was developed for the Ministry, which is used to record crisis-related information. With the help of these indicators, country experts analyse once a year whether prevention work is needed in any of the BMZ's partner countries. Based on these analyses, appropriate development strategies are drafted.

In 2018, the BMZ accorded 65 of the 94 countries evaluated the status "fragile". 43 per cent of the countries were deemed to have an "acute potential for escalation" (the most serious category) and another 27 per cent had a "high potential for escalation".


Areas of intervention

Crisis prevention projects can address all thematic areas of development cooperation. Important areas of intervention for crisis prevention work include:


One important instrument in German development cooperation is the deployment of peace experts through the Civil Peace Service. More information on this subject can be found here.


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