WILPF Germany’s statement on the new Coalition Agreement of the German Government (2021-2025)
The new federal government of Germany has taken up its work and is celebrating itself as a progressive alliance. The cabinet has (almost) equal representation of men and women and for the first time, the federal government has a female foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, from the Green Party. But how much progress can really be expected in the areas of foreign and security policy and which questions or contradictions remain open?
WILPF Germany took a closer look at the coalition agreement of the SPD (Social Democrats), Bündnis90/Die Grünen (Greens) and the FDP (Liberals) – from a feminist- peace policy perspective.
FEMINIST FOREIGN POLICY
For the first time, a German coalition is striving for a feminist foreign policy in its foreign policy objectives. The new German government has set itself the goal of „strengthening the rights, resources and representation of women and girls worldwide and promoting social diversity“ (p. 114). Furthermore, the Coalition Agreement promises that „more women will be involved in international leadership positions“ (p. 114). This is an important step, but a consistent implementation of a feminist foreign policy involves more than just a higher representation of women. A structural change is needed that questions existing patriarchal and colonial power relations in international politics, challenges them and centers the needs of the most marginalised groups globally in all foreign policy decision-making processes.
A feminist foreign policy should also include a comprehensive disarmament policy – increased defence spending, arms exports and the deployment of US nuclear weapons in Germany contradict a consistent feminist foreign policy. More information on what constitutes a comprehensive feminist foreign policy in practice can be found in our publication „Practicing feminist foreign policy in the everyday – a toolkit“ .
DEFENCE POLICY AND BUNDESWEHR
We support the Coalition Agreement’s provision to keep soldiers under the age of 18 from obtaining skilled weapons training. However, we criticise the „further measures to enhance the attractiveness of service in the German armed forces“ (p. 149). We criticise this increasing normalisation of militarisation as well as the promised funding of personnel, material and financial resources the coalition plans to allocate the German military (p.148).
The Coalition Agreement promises adjustments to service and labour laws to make it easier to dismiss people with extremist views from service in the Bundeswehr/ in the armed forces(p.150). Yet, a concrete conceptualisation of how these adjustments would look like and a transparent debate of how previous right-wing extremist cases and structures in the Bundeswehr will be dealt with, is sorely missing.
Moreover, the federal government aims to invest 3% of the gross domestic product in „international action“ (p. 144). This would cover diplomacy and development policy as well as „fulfilling commitments made to NATO“ (p. 144). This wording seems to indirectly refer to NATO’s 2% target. We criticise this development as it blends the funding for development and diplomatic goals with NATO military strategies. Militarisation is thereby further normalised and defence spending further increased – in favour of NATO.
A positive development are the Coalition Agreement’s aims towards a more restrictive arms export control and to „advocate for a national arms export control law“ (p. 146). This would further restrict the proliferation of German arms internationally and enable stricter control. Nevertheless, the law itself and the nature of its binding force will remain to be seen. Moreover, we expect such a law to be gender-sensitive and aware of the export’s consequences: On the one hand, especially various globally marginalised groups are affected by the German arms export and on the other hand, German weapons promote gender-based violence in exporting countries to a great extent. In the long term, we reject arms exports to all countries.
The Coalition Agreement promises to strengthen international disarmament initiatives and a commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons. Upon closer inspection, however, we find that the new federal government continues to adhere to the „maintenance of a credible deterrent potential“ (p.145) within the framework of supposed obligations as part of NATO. From a feminist perspective, the mutual threat of mass destruction through nuclear weapons can only be considered a perpetuation of patriarchal power dynamics and the neglect of humanitarian effects. A credible nuclear disarmament policy would both abandon the concept of deterrence and be oriented towards the demands and needs of survivors and those affected by nuclear weapons use, nuclear weapons testing and the consequences of uranium mining as well as the entire nuclear production chain. Gender-specific impacts of these weapons should be taken into account. These elementary components of a credible disarmament policy remain unfulfilled.
Nevertheless, the Coalition Agreement has made incremental steps in the right direction: the federal government has announced observer status for the upcoming Conference of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) (p.145). This makes Germany – after Norway – the second NATO state to move closer to the treaty. However, further concrete disarmament efforts must follow: the withdrawal of the US nuclear weapons stationed in Germany as well as full accession to the TPNW through ratification. In particular, we vehemently object further financial resources flowing into the successor system to the Tornado fighter aircraft (p.149) – a truly feminist foreign and security policy does not invest in military but in civil capacities.
We reject that the arming of drones of the Bundeswehr will be made possible in the new legislative period. The coalition justifies this acquisition with the „protection of soldiers on foreign missions“ (p. 149). We hoped that the acquisition of armed drones would be neither supported by the SPD which describes itself as a “peace party”, nor by the Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, a party firmly rooted in the peace movement.. Particularly since a project group initiated by the SPD came to the conclusion that there are more effective ways to protect soldiers., The constant threat experienced by affected populations, furthermore, hinders collaboration and the achievement of common goals. Likewise, a trend towards fully automated weapon systems (see below) becomes more likely.
US-research on the use of drones has revealed that many civilians are killed „by accident“ (so-called collateral damage). The use of armed drones also reproduces gender-specific and racist prejudice. For example, during the mission in Afghanistan, it was mainly individuals read as male and of military age who were targeted by drones. Such aspects and their effects must be taken into account by the new federal government when drafting conditions for the use of armed drones.
AUTONOMOUS WEAPON SYSTEMS
We support the German government’s rejection of „lethal autonomous weapon systems that are completely beyond the control of humans“ and its intention to actively promote „international condemnation“ (p. 145). However, this does not go far enough. We need an internationally binding law that bans autonomous weapon systems rather than mere condemnation by the international community.
We fear that the algorithmic bias of these weapons will exacerbate existing power imbalances as people are targeted and killed based on certain gendered and racialised characteristics. Moreover, accountability is highly problematic when weapons kill without human control. This is already a highly debated issue surrounding the use of drones.
For several years, Germany has been involved in the co-financing and development of the EU armament project Future Combat Air System (FCAS). One component of this involves swarms of drones that accompany combat aircraft which are supposed to act autonomously. A consistent rejection of autonomous weapon systems, as formulated in the Coalition Agreement, would contradict a continuation of this project. Such projects must be stopped immediately by the new federal government.
It is gratifying that the Federal Government speaks out in favour of a „peaceful use“ (p. 146) of cyberspace. At the same time, it is questionable what the „ambitious cyber security policy“ (p. 149) will entail. Strengthening the Bundeswehr as an actor in cyberspace (ibid.) carries the risk of this space beingmilitarised even further. The Bundeswehr should refrain from offensive cyber operations without exception, as these can have consequences that are difficult to assess, such as damage to vital civilian infrastructure (hospitals, electricity and water supply).
An important project is the strengthening of „norms for responsible state behaviour in cyberspace“ (p. 146). Although the norms have lacked a gender perspective so far, they are a suitable means to bring, amongst others, a more considerate handling of malware and surveillance software. We expect the export of German surveillance software to be completely banned in the future. From a feminist perspective, this is an important step, as it is used to monitor civil society, activists and journalists.
CLIMATE JUSTICE AND MILITARY
The Coalition Agreement clarifiesthat the new government is pursuing a foreign climate policy that centers climate justice in bilateral and multilateral agreements“ within the framework of the European Green Deal, the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement“ (p.143).
Although the Coalition Agreement states that the government will work to „revitalise international disarmament and arms control“ (p.143), the new German government ignores the link between demilitarisation and climate justice. From our point of view, it is crucial to link demilitarisation, denuclearisation and decarbonisation within the framework of a feminist foreign policy and climate foreign policy in order to ensure ecological peace, gender justice and sustainable development. This means, amongst others, more transparency about the greenhouse gas emissions of the German armed forces – especially since the disclosure of CO2 emissions by the German government is voluntary under the Paris Climate Agreement. Furthermore, disarmament should be understood as a measure to achieve climate protection goals instead of offsetting the CO2 emissions of arms production, testing and export.
CIVILIAN CRISIS PREVENTION AND PEACEBUILDING
We welcome that the agreement mentions the „Guidelines on Crisis Prevention, Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding“ and the associated goal of improving the interdepartmental handling of international crises. It is also an improvement that more human and financial resources are to be made available for the implementation of the guidelines. However, it remains to be seen whether the new federal government will pay more attention to the early detection and prevention of crises and armed conflicts and will consequently react earlier than the previous one.
The massive consumption of resources by industrialised countries like Germany, unfair trade agreements with states in the global South, support for authoritarian leaders and arms exports exacerbate crises and armed conflicts as well as social inequality, including gender inequality. Accordingly, the guidelines should be used to question one’s own political actions and be able to modify them on shorter notice if goals are not achieved. In principle, the new German government should make more use of the expertise of (feminist) civil society and academia in Germany and fragile states in order to implement the guidelines more successfully than the previous government.
HUMAN AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS
Human rights work is not only an important component of German foreign policy. It must also be implemented more ambitiously in domestic policy. The new federal government’s plan to „continue, further develop and financially secure work to combat right-wing extremism and racism“ (p. 107) is favourable. Likewise, a broad spectrum of group-related misanthropy is mentioned that is to be combated: „anti-Semitism, antiziganism, racism, especially against Black people, Islamophobia, misogyny and queerophobia as well as attacks against refugees and dedicated people“ (p. 120). However, at this point, as in previous years, there is no reference to the domestic implementation of Resolution 1325 „Women, Peace and Security“, which was thoughtto build a bridge between the German government’s foreign and domestic policies in the field of human rights work and conflict prevention.
We are very pleased about the abolition of the ban on information regarding abortions (§ 219a StGB; p. 116). Nevertheless, we would have liked the new federal government to go one step further and finally legalise abortions by deleting Section 218 StGB. We hope that the new „Commission on Reproductive Self-Determination and Reproductive Medicine“ (p. 116) will advance progressive regulations.
It is gratifying that the Istanbul Convention is mentioned twice in the Coalition Agreement. In Germany, it is to be implemented by means of a state coordination agency (p. 114), whereby violence in the digital space is also taken into account. The federal government also wants to engage more strongly with the members of the Council of Europe for ratification and implementation of the Convention (p. 147). The commitment to an intersectional gender equality policy at the international level is also to be strengthened through the implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (p. 114). We are curious about the measures that will include an „equality-oriented boys‘ and men’s policy“ (p. 114), as no details are given here. From a feminist and peace policy perspective, it would be crucial to address and problematise militarised masculinity in this context in order to be able to prevent violence and armed conflicts more effectively.
EUROPE AND THE EUROPEAN UNION
The Coalition Agreement contains many commitments to strengthen the European Union and European cooperation. It is irritating that not only the idea of peace, human rights and the rule of law are in the foreground, but also a tendency towards a militarisation of common foreign and security policy is indicated. Thus, the „strategic sovereignty of the European Union“ (p. 7) is to be promoted, amongst others, through „increased cooperation between national armies of EU members willing to integrate“ (p. 135f.). We further criticise the plan to strengthen „armament cooperation in Europe, in particular with high-value cooperation projects“ (p.149). We reject an increasing trend of civil-military cooperation or cooperation projects in the field of arms industry on the European level.
An important step and sensible addition to the national Arms Export Control Act is the announcement of an „EU Arms Export Regulation“ (p.146). Only together can arms exports be prevented in the long term.
We welcome that the Coalition Agreement advocates „ending illegal push backs and suffering at external borders“ (p. 141). However, it does not specify how this should be done. A human rights-based policy at the EU’s external borders must be implemented as soon as possible in order to guarantee people access to their right to asylum. We are sceptical of the fact that the German government continues to rely on cooperation with third countries. We are in favour of a federal humanitarian admission programme for Afghanistan to facilitate, amongst others, the admission of local Afghan forces and their dependents (p. 142).
The progressive objectives in the Coalition Agreement, such as the approach to a feminist foreign policy, the aspired observer status at the first Conference of States of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, a more restrictive arms control law as well as a stronger commitment to human and women’s rights, are well appreciated. They are the result of civil society actors who have been campaigning for steps in favour of these issues for decades. However, many of the plans of the new federal government in the field of foreign and security policy are insufficient from a feminist and peace policy perspective.
The new ‘progressive alliance‘ continues to use a classical, militarised understanding of security, which relies on nuclear deterrence and an increase in defence spending. In the Coalition Agreement, a feminist foreign policy is understood as stronger representation of women, instead of a structural change in foreign and security policy. This structural understanding would include a consistent disarmament policy and a shift away from a military to a civilian understanding of security.
We will critically follow the implementation of the coalition agreement in this legislative period and demand further steps towards a truly feminist foreign and security policy. We expect foreign policy decisions to be made through the intensive involvement of feminist civil society at home and abroad.
by Michelle Benzing, Anna Hauschild, Jennifer Menninger and Leonie Wanner
 Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Germany 2021. Practicing Feminist Foreign Policy in the Everyday – A Toolkit.
 Reaching Criticall Will 2021. Humanitarian Impact of drones.
 Reaching Criticall Will 2020. Autonomous Weapons and Patriarchy.
 Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the Association for Progressive Communications 2021. Why gender matters in international cyber security.
 Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom 2021. Feminist Action for Climate Justice.
 Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom 2022. Mobilising Men for Feminist Peace.