Willy Brandt School’s Oluwatosin Fatoyinbo reports on a Study Trip to Berlin by students of the Conflict Studies and Conflict Management Program:
Students of the Conflict Studies and Management track of the Willy Brandt School, under the mentorship of Prof. Dr. Solveig Richter, opened 2018 by going on a Study trip to Berlin for two days (January 17 – 18, 2018). The aim of the trip was to provide CSMP students with first-hand information on Germany’s role in international crisis management by meeting and engaging with policymakers responsible for the analysis and execution of Germany’s policy in international conflict situations.
The trip began with a visit to the Willy Brand Forum Berlin. As you may know, Willy Brandt was a German statesman who served as the leader of the Social Democratic Party between 1964 and 1987 and as German Chancellor from 1969 to 1974. He is the eponym for the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy; it was, therefore, interesting for many of us to learn more about him, in addition to what we had learned about him in Erfurt. At the Willy Brandt Forum, we were welcomed by Dr. Wolfram Hoppenstedt, the Managing Director of the “Bundeskanzler-Willy-Brandt-Stiftung”. Dr. Hoppenstedt took us through the exhibition and presentation of Willy Brandt’s role in reconciliation and international peace. Particularly, we learned of his Ostpolitik agenda for the reconciliation of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), in addition to efforts to mend relations with Eastern Europe. Another interesting point from the exhibition and the life of Willy Brandt was his gesture of humility (famously referred to as the “Kniefall von Warschau”) in Warsaw acknowledging Germany’s role in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Although this was heavily criticised back in Germany at the time, it played a key role in the reconciliation process. On a lighter note, did you know that Willy Brandt’s birth name was Herbert Ernst Karl Frahm? Quite a mouthful but good information to know!
After the exhibition, we had dinner at “Que Pasa”, a Mexican restaurant located in the former Jewish district in Oranienburger Straße. We spent time getting to know one another better, of course over good food and beer!
The next day began at the German Federal Foreign Office, where we were hosted by Mr. Mirko Schilbach, the Head of Division for the Steering Group, Policy Issues, and Fragile States Department of the Directorate-General for Crisis Prevention, Stabilisation, Post-Conflict Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Assistance. Mr. Schilbach explained to us the role of Germany in fragile states around the world, noting that the Directorate works on different projects including stabilization efforts in post-conflict regions, geared at ensuring the immediate and short-term stability of the region post-conflict. These stabilization projects can sometimes include rebuilding schools and health facilities damaged during a crisis or restoring power infrastructure. He noted that German post-conflict stabilization efforts are designed to deliver short-term impact and long-term adaptability and are usually carried out in conjunction with the GIZ. Post-Conflict Peacebuilding efforts can include assistance towards security sector reforms, promotion of rule of law and good governance, mediation, capacity building, peacekeeping, and monitoring. Interestingly, we were informed that the Federal Republic never ‘goes solo’ in these efforts and always works in conjunction with regional and international organizations and bodies on the ground in the relevant region.
From the German Federal Foreign Office, we proceeded to the Ministry of Defence where we had some form of ‘military drill’ while waiting for verification to enter into the Ministry building. By military drill, I mean waiting in the car park as heavy snow rained down on us and receiving military-style instructions to switch off all mobile devices and obey all rules. Our host at the Ministry of Defence was Mr. Holger Kasch, the Deputy Head, Security and Bilateral Relations Europe and America. The core of his talk related to the challenges of preventing conflict and managing conflict situations. He noted that the world is now interconnected and thus conflict in one region or country would likely have effects on others. He further explained that Germany is often under pressure to react to conflict in countries/regions surrounding or bordering Europe. We learned that, prior to the deployment of German troops, parliamentary approval must first be sought and obtained and this process takes time. He also stated that Germany has a multilateral approach in cooperation on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. He confirmed that there has been an incremental budget for defense in order to enable the German military take on more responsibilities in conflict zones abroad. From questions posed to Mr. Kasch and Mr. Schilbach of the Foreign office by CSMP students, it was interesting to learn that Germany has no plan, at least for now, to push for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.
The final meeting of the day was at the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF), where Mr. Tobias Pietz, the Deputy Head of Analysis introduced us to the work of the ZIF. The ZIF, amongst other roles, is responsible for preparing and analyzing policies for peace operations abroad, recruiting and training personnel for peace operations and reviewing the success or otherwise of the operations. Mr. Pietz provided interesting responses to questions asked by CSMP students on issues such as the duty of care, UN recruitments for peace operations, and the discipline (including the name and shame style) of peace operatives.
From the ZIF, we went to the German Bundestag where we watched a life parliamentary debate on ‘Digitalization in Agriculture’. A tour of the roof-terrace of the Bundestag (with an amazing view of the city) was the final event for the day, even as we learned that we could not return to Erfurt that night as planned, as trains were canceled due to a storm.
Here are some of the reviews from CSMP students:
“The trip to Berlin gave me valuable insight into the different roles that Germany plays abroad and watching the debate in the Bundestag was a great ending to an educational experience” – Andrew Colclough, USA
“It was indeed a good trip with colleagues as this could be the last trip together as a set of CSMP student of the 2016 set. The highlight of the trip for me was the visit to the Ministry of Defence and ZIF which gave me exposure to the German government policy on peacebuilding” – Adedamola David Adejobi, Nigeria
“The CSMP Berlin trip was highly informative and adventurous. The opportunity to interact with diplomats/officers who directly deal with peace operations abroad helped me understand Germany’s stand on various issues. I enjoyed the time in Berlin, with the storm giving us an extra day to explore Berlin” – Georgy Varghese, India
“The trip to Berlin was easily the best experience I’ve had so far as part of the WBS. The schedule was hectic and the weather was anything but congenial; however, we were able to consolidate an impressive array of meetings into a single day. Our first impression upon emerging from the U-Bahn was the Brandenburg Tor, a spectacularly lit icon of heritage and prominence. Our meetings during the next day were equally inspiring, gaining first-hand insight of the priorities of two of the country’s most influential ministries. Striding through those institutions of power was uniquely encouraging. Culminating the day’s events by climbing to the top of the Bundestag dome to survey the urban sprawl filled me with an unparalleled sense of privilege and prospect.” – Chris Ehling, USA