PO Box 10372
FALL, 1999: Volume 4 Issue 3
The Civil Peace Service in Germany: June, 1999 by Helga Tempel, Chairwoman of the Forum ZFD
The Forum Ziviler Friedensdienst (Civil Peace Service Association) has been a non-profit organization since 1996. It is an association of various German Peace organizations, church groups, and other NGOs aimed at creating and strengthening nonviolent conflict transformation and setting up a Civil[ian] Peace Service (CPS) as an instrument of civil policy. For the last 5 years the ZFD has been trying to get public support including funding for a Civil Peace Service run by well-trained volunteers.
ZFD runs a small office in Cologne with one full-time and one half-time employee. The eight members of our board are working as hard as they can, some with the support of their employers (e.g., Pax Christi and the Protestant Church) and some, like me, as volunteers without any payment at all. The Religious Society of Friends, Germany YM, is very much in favor of these endeavors. As a Quaker I am working for the CPS as a representative of the Quaker Peace Committee with spiritual and financial support—covering my expenses—of our Yearly Meeting. Together with a colleague from Pax Christi, I serve as the chair of our association. My husband, Konrad Tempel, is responsible for the training program and has worked out a one- year´s training program which has been the basis for the present courses for peace volunteers.
Since 1997 the ZFD has received public support for offering 4-month training courses (including language training) for German participants as well as for men and women coming from the conflict region itself. So far, 37 volunteers who have gone through this training have been sent abroad. The men and women are paid basic stipends by a number of different organizations cooperating with the ZPD and with local partners mostly in the former Yugoslavia. A new course, the fourth one, will start in the end of July 99.
Some places where ZFD/CPS volunteers (we call them “peace professionals”) are working: Croatia—work with traumatized children and other refugees; Osijek, Croatia, Center for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights—reconciliation, cooperation, communication; Jaice, Bosnia, youth center; Tuzla, Bosnia—work with returning refugees, multiethnic understanding; Bosnia, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe—monitoring compliance with peace accords; Sarajevo, Bosnia—peace training, intercultural and interethnic understanding; Pristina, Kosovo, Human Rights Watch. (This is a very, very rough summary of the work being done. The reality is much more complicated and the work can’t concentrate on only one field.)
Our intensive lobbying, together with a rather wide-spread discussion by church agencies and political parties, led to a the declaration of the new “red-green” (Left-Green coalition) government saying that they are going to build up a Civil Peace Service including an in-depth training for “peace professionals” (Friedensfachkräfte). The budget for 1999 contains 5 million DM [~US$2.5 million] for this purpose. The Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development was asked to be responsible for working out the concept and practical setting of CPS.
Under these circumstances it has not been easy to ensure the independence of the ZFD and make clear that we want to have a real Non-Governmental Organization working on a purely civilian level.
The ZFD has only just begun to run our own programs in conflict areas, (previously, we have given all our support to our member organizations by training the volunteers they sent out within their own projects) but we are hopeful to be able to do so more intensively in the fall. The ZFD took the initiative to build up an European Network for Civilian Peace Services (ENCPS) which until now gathered Civilian Peace Services from Austria, Germany, France, Hungary, Norway, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, plus the Helsinki Citizens´ Assembly. The ENCPS took part in the Hague Appeal for Peace and offered a workshop “Creative in Conflict” there.
The idea of creating new instruments for non-violent conflict transformation and the necessity of setting up professional training for the volunteers is spreading rather quickly round Germany and other European countries. In 1998 a German Platform for Peaceful Conflict Management was founded as a counterpart to the European Platform on Conflict Prevention and Transformation. Currently in Europe there are many conferences, seminars, research meetings, and other events which stress the necessity of alternatives to military interventions. Some progressive newspapers and monthlies publish supporting articles, but radio and TV react very reluctantly. In many institutions different sorts of trainings from some two or three days to some weeks are offered. The 4-month course which is organized by the ZFD is the longest one. On the other hand, the military thinking is deep rooted and widespread—as the war in the Balkans has shown—and the funding for our work is less than a peanut compared with the resources for the military. But it is a beginning “to turn the screw the other way round.”