How it all began


On 22 November 2019, the Civil Peace Service celebrated its 20th birthday. On this day in 1999, the first CPS experts were sent to work in crisis and conflict regions in order to support committed local people and organisations in their peace work.


The Civil Peace Service - How it all began

In 1999, the first CPS experts travelled to the former Yugoslavia, Guatemala, Romania, Zimbabwe and the Palestinian Territories. Since then, the Civil Peace Service has become a successful model for preventing violence and promoting peace worldwide.

When the wars in disintegrating Yugoslavia shook up Europe in the 1990s, the idea for a Civil Peace Service was born in church and civil society circles in Germany. From 1993, a “Civil Peace Service” discussion forum of interested persons and groups developed the concept of professional peace work  similar to the development services, and started political campaigning for it in 1995. In 1997, numerous political and cultural figures signed the “Berlin Declaration for a Civil Peace Service in Germany”. From 1996, regular qualification courses were offered to men and women with professional and life skills, and hundreds of experts have participated so far. In the same year, a continuous exchange of experience and ideas between the involved peace groups and the German development services was inititated under the name of the “Civil Peace Service Consortium”.

After the change of government in 1998, the implementation phase could begin: what had been a mere idea until then took on the real form of a joint effort by German peace and development organisations and the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The number of partner countries, approved projects and seconded experts quickly increased with public funding. The Consortium transformed itself from a theoretical initiative for the future into an operational platform that now comprises nine German development and peace organisations. In the course of this, the first specialist publications and common standards for qualification and project work were created. Together, the members of the CPS Consortium underwent a major evaluation from 2009 to 2011. This resulted in suggestions for improvement, among other things to strengthen public relations. These were then implemented in a joint reform process.

Twenty years after its foundation, the CPS's concerns could not be more topical. Armed conflicts are spreading worldwide. The Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research counted around 359 political conflicts in 2020, of which 220 were armed conflicts. These mostly take place within fragile states and create the violent hatred between population groups which the CPS is working to overcome.

Since 1999, around 1,700 CPS experts in around 60 countries have successfully participated in peaceful conflict management. Around 370 international CPS specialists are currently working in about 45 countries. Since 2019, the CPS receives around 55 million euros per year in funding from the BMZ.

The effectiveness of civilian peace work can be illustrated by practical examples: The process of dealing with the war-torn past in Guatemala led to high-ranking military officers being brought to justice for the first time in spring 2016 for violent crimes during the civil war. In former Yugoslavia, reconciliation initiatives emerged from trauma work with war veterans; supported by the CPS, former soldiers address young people as contemporary witnesses so that there is no resurgence of the cruel past. In Colombia, CPS experts work together with local journalists to promote sensitive media reporting that de-escalates rather than exacerbates the conflict. Many more examples can be found on this website.

Author: Tilman Evers - social scientist and consultant in the field of development policy and conflict management. He has supported and accompanied the CPS from the beginning, including as a board member of the forumZFD.