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Crisis Early Warning and Foresight in Peace and Security Policy: Earlier, More Resolute, More Substantial Action! By Winfried Nachtwei

It is not long since Joachim Gauck, the then President of Germany, called for “earlier, more resolute, and more substantial” action in the Federal Republic’s foreign and security policy. Since the 2014 Munich Security Conference, this remark has become an axiom for Germany’s new security policy. Winfried Nachtwei has an intimate knowledge of politics in Berlin. In his essay, he investigates what this call means for (civilian) crisis prevention and the early recognition of crises. He begins by briefly listing surprises in world history over the last thirty years. Not infrequently, these have also triggered security policy crises. The author then outlines the need for a crisis early warning system, to contain the potential for surprises in a world shaped by increasing uncertainty. The German federal government, too, has recognized the strategic foresight method. One of its goals is to develop and link competences in this field. Based on extensive research in the individual institutions, Nachtwei provides a snapshot of the status of foresight and crisis early warning in the individual ministries (development, defense and the German Federal Foreign Office). He also looks at how they are linked together (the German Federal Academy for Security Policy BAKS, is mentioned in particular). Both in terms of expertise and in the degree of networking, the author points out that Germany has a fair amount of catching up to do.

In the second part of his essay, Nachtwei looks at the stumbling blocks to crisis prevention. These often lie between an early, precise analysis and security policy-makers in executive matters and legislature. As a member of the German Bundestag for many years, Nachtwei offers insights – some of them quite alarming – from his extensive experience in security policy. The personal tone of this section and the glimpse behind the scenes of the Berlin Republic are of great value to the interested reader.

The article ends with a plea for strategic foresight, and with recommendations – highly worthy of consideration – for a more solid implementation of its methods. This would make international crisis prevention and peacebuilding generally more effective, and the world, perhaps, a little more peaceful.

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