This is the preamble to a wide-ranging charter (see box) on the basis of which more than sixty individuals and thirteen non-governmental organizations (NGOs) came together last November in Bad Honnef to form the `German Platform for Conflict Prevention and Transformation'. After almost two years of preparation, the individuals and organizations concerned were hoping to create a functional network that would both provide support for the various players involved in civilian conflict management within Germany and also make the work these players do with the outside world more effective. The result is a national counterpart to the already well-established `European Platform for Conflict Prevention and Transformation' (EPCP). All the participants expect, and hope, that, by coming together, they will be able to respond in a more co-ordinated way to the promise made in the new German government's coalition-agreement that `greater significance' will be attached to collaboration with NGOs. The attraction exerted by the Platform since its foundation is demonstrated in the sheer numbers of additional organizations and individuals that have joined it since November 1998.
The relatively open structure of the Platform dictated by this approach made the appointment of a fixed executive impossible. At the founding meeting in Bad Honnef, twelve individuals were chosen to form an `initiating committee' to co-ordinate the Platform's work and provide back-up. The twelve concerned were: Dr Jörg Calließ (Evangelische Akademie Loccum); Tobias Debiel (Development and Peace Foundation); Ulrich Frey (Aktionsgemeinschaft Dienst für den Frieden); Dr Wolfgang Heinrich (AG Kirchlicher Entwicklungsdienst); Werner Lottje (human rights section of German Protestant Church's welfare service); Dr Burkhard Luber (Die Schwelle); Jörg Lüer (Justice and Peace Commission); Dr Regine Mehl (Peace Research Unit Bonn); Dr Norbert Ropers (Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management); Dr Arne C. Seifert (Verband für Internationale Politik und Völkerrecht); Uwe Trittmann (Forum Ziviler Friedensdienst). The task of day-to-day administration for the Platform was undertaken--again, with a high degree of personal commitment--by Dr Barbara Müller (see below for address). The Platform--a new feature in the German NGO landscape--has now been operational for almost half a year; the Initiating Committee has held its first two-day meeting; and a first batch of projects have been initiated or implemented.
_ the promotion of academic investigation into the various options for civilian conflict resolution and into the way these progress and the results they produce
_ the further development of ongoing civilian conflict resolution projects and the facilitation of new projects
_ the expansion of institutional back-up and the training of specialists to work in civilian conflict resolution projects
_ the creation of forums in which a dialogue about civilian conflict resolution can be conducted between the world of states and the societal world One important feature of the Platform is that all participants are called upon to take part in the work: the Initiating Committee is not the sole executive body. The `Platformers' seek to realize their objectives in three ways: by learning from one another and by discussing and acting with and for one another. The common Charter cites five objectives to be pursued in carrying out individual tasks. These are set out below, with existing or planned projects classified accordingly: 1. `To expand the fund of information about the field of non-violent conflict management in such a way that the wealth of existing capacities and experiences are utilized more effectively and that exchange between the various fields of activity, and also co-operation between the various organizations, is made easier. (Information function)'
* Compilation and publication of a Directory--Zivile Konfliktbearbeitung deutscher NROs und Einrichtungen, by Cordula Reimann, Berghof Research Center, Berlin 1998-9
* Creation of a German work-group on Kosovo
* Sharing of information about activities relevant to Platform (Development and Peace Foundation website)
* Creation of a data-base to improve networking (Platform secretariat)
2. `To improve the state of knowledge amongst the public about the possibilities of non-violent conflict management and the need for it, and to broaden the social base for peaceful settlement of conflicts. (Public relations/education function)'
* Publication of a press release about the founding meeting (13 November 1998) (with a considerable response beyond the immediate region)
* Maintenance of website with information about the Platform (Development and Peace Foundation)
3. `To work within all opinion-forming and decision-making processes in society to promote non-violent conflict management and establish its primacy, to strengthen its capacities, and to improve its resources, and also to get it established as part of political programmes and fields of action. (Lobby function)'
* Drafting of a position paper entitled `Damit Außenpolitik Friedenspolitik wird' (`Turning Foreign Policy into Peace Policy')
* Work-group on small-arms (preparation of international conference in autumn 1999)
* Lobby work in support of civilian conflict resolution projects (preparation of a collection of projects for referral to relevant political departments)
* Work-group on the creation of a German Peace Foundation
* Organization of two specialist meetings on `effective crisis-prevention'
4. `To promote the exchange of expert advice and support, and to foster the development of standards of quality and the evaluation of plans, methods, and projects relating to non-violent conflict management. (Advisory, support, and training function)'
* Work-group on training/review of current provision (preparation of Directory)
* Evaluation of experiences in civilian conflict resolution, e.g. in transforming societies in the post-socialist area
5. `To establish and foster links with other national platforms, with the European platform, and with international organizations working in the field of non-violent conflict management. (International networking function)'
* Collaboration and contact with European Platform for Conflict Prevention and Transformation
* Possible co-ordination of NGO work--e.g. on Kosovo
* Drafting of contribution to United Nations NGO millennium forum (autumn 2000) in concert with Forum Weltsozialgipfel, NRO-Frauen-Forum, Forum Menschenrechte, Forum Umwelt und Entwicklung, Verband Entwicklungspolitik deutscher NRO, Deutsche Gesellschaft für die Vereinten Nationen.
One highly successful example of the Platform's concern with efficiency and synergy as outlined above was the planning and execution of two specialist meetings on `Effective Crisis-Prevention: Steps towards the Creation of an Infrastructure for Civilian Conflict Resolution'. These meetings, initiated and hosted by the Development and Peace Foundation and the Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management in March 1999, highlighted the kinds of infrastructure-related measures that would be needed in future in order both to improve networking between civilian conflict resolution players and to bolster their work. Bringing together selected experts from politics, the practical domain, and research was crucially important for this. The final stage in this project will be the public presentation, in June 1999, of a policy paper entitled `Effective Crisis-Prevention: A Challenge for Germany and the EU'. It is intended that representatives from the German government and parliament, the EU and European Parliament, and NGOs should be brought round a table to discuss the issues raised.
The Charter states that whatever individual participants are able to do in terms of the aims of the Platform as a whole should be done and should be turned to practical use for other participants. This can be seen as a consciously open offer to all those who have not yet been able to fall in with existing activities or who would like to tackle new projects. The creation and expansion of an effective infrastructure for civilian conflict resolution has only just begun; the chief task now is to press ahead at all levels with the task of bringing politics within the ambit of civil society. The objectives proposed by the current German government need to be translated into reality. Improvements to the infrastructure of crisis prevention and civilian conflict resolution include `not only financial support for peace and conflict research, and the linking-up of existing initiatives, but also improvements in the legal, financial, and organizational preconditions for the training and use of specialist peace-workers and services (e.g. civilian peace service)' (Coalition Agreement XI. 5). The Platform has begun to make important specific contributions to this process.
The next full meeting of the Platform will take place at the end of November 1999 at the Evangelische Akademie in Loccum. It will offer an opportunity for critical appraisal of the network's first year and for plotting future paths. Until then, we have time to carry on our existing activities and embark on new ones, so that--as the Charter puts it--we can pass the fruits of these on for use by others.