Crisis Prevention: Preventing Violent Conflicts from Erupting

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

In 2008, there were more than 40 wars and armed con­flicts being fought around the world, claiming hun­dreds of thou­sands of lives, and injuring and dis­placing millions of people. War can reverse de­cades of deve­lop­ment in a country or region. The aim of crisis pre­ven­tion is there­fore to pre­vent vio­lent con­flicts from erup­ting.

Accurate information about the causes of the crisis and the inter­action between them is essential as the basis for crisis preven­tion programmes. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) commissions various organi­sa­tions to produce the relevant analyses. Since the late 1990s, the BMZ has set up its own early warning system: a list of indicators was developed for the Ministry, which can be used to collect crisis-related information. With the help of these indicators, experts analyse the situation on the ground in partner countries once a year. This information can be used as a basis for decision-making on development policy strategies.

Fields of work for crisis prevention projects include:

  • Democracy, the rule of law, good governance and human rights

  • Economic development

  • The environment and protection of natural resources

  • Education

  • Strengthening civil society

Democracy and the rule of law

Often, neither the justice system nor the police or the military are neutral institutions; instead they are misused to keep the ruling elite in power. Nepotism, corruption and a lack of legal certainty undermine people's confidence in the state and its institutions, and prevent them from shaping their own destiny and future.

Germany is therefore committed to the establishment of demo­cratic principles: free elections, transparent governance and an independent judiciary. Within the framework of cooperation, advice and training programmes are provided for state institu­tions and authorities. Security sector reform is supported in order to promote democratic control of the security forces. This includes fostering the principle of transparency in the preparation and management of budgets.

An important aspect of work in this area is the promotion of decentralisation processes. Decentralisation helps to scale down the decision-making processes by transferring political responsibi­lity to local levels, thereby giving ordinary people greater oppor­tu­nity to participate in political processes.

Economic development

Inequitable distribution of wealth and resources, poverty and unemployment are among the economic factors which can cause conflicts and exacerbate crises. Within the framework of its development cooperation, which is geared to the long term, Germany supports its partner countries in improving access to resources, diversifying the economy and establishing vocational training opportunities for young people.

Private-sector companies are important partners in crisis prevention. The involvement of the corporate sector through investment and trade, job creation and know-how transfer can have a considerable peace-promoting effect. Germany supports voluntary codes of conduct which reflect this corporate social responsibility. One example is the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which aims to improve the transparency of financial flows in the extractives sector. Similarly, the German government has supported the Kimberley process, an initiative to stem the flow of "blood diamonds".

Environmental and resource protection

The importance of environmental policy as a crisis prevention tool is often underrated. However, worsening environmental pollution, inequitable resource distribution and the increasing water scarcity caused by climate change are causing a deterioration in the conditions of life in the developing countries – and are thus a major potential source of conflicts.

Transboundary and regional environmental projects therefore form part of Germany's peacebuilding activities in the development sphere. They include programmes to promote renewable energies and projects aimed at improving water resources management.


First day in school for a group of girls in Afghanistan. Copyright: BMZA lack of pros­pects is one rea­son why young men in par­ti­cular join up with groups pur­suing dubious aims and turn to fighting as a way of making a living. Edu­ca­tion is the best way out of this vicious cycle of hope­less­ness and vio­lence. Ger­many is there­fore suppor­ting edu­ca­tion pro­jects in conflict-torn and post-conflict countries such as Afghanistan, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Rwanda and South Africa. Support is provided for basic education, peace education and conflict prevention programmes as well as political education, and trauma counselling and reconciliation projects. A particular priority is to ensure equal access to education for women and girls.

Strengthening civil society

The peace potential available within society can only be har­nessed in cooperation with the local population. Germany is there­fore providing support for civil society groups and local NGOs which are actively engaged in peaceful conflict resolution activities.

Women are an important target group for crisis prevention measures. They are most severely affected by conflicts. Most refugees are women and children, and women and girls are often the victims of sexual violence. However, women also play an important part in the quest for peaceful solutions. In conflict situations, it is usually women who ensure the survival of their families and are the driving force behind reconstruction once the conflict has ended. In order to harness women's peace potential, special programmes have been developed that make use of women's positive role while offering them better protection and promoting gender equality.

The Civil Peace Service is an important instrument in German development cooperation with the civilian population. For more information please click here.

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