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The Responsibility to Protect and Germany’s 2013 Election
Genocide Alert
September 2013
The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) or “Schutzverantwortung” has made significant inroads in terms of cementing itself on the German domestic political scene. With the elections just ten days away, how do the major parties plan to deal with the principle? How does it figure, if at all, in their policy platforms? What can we expect from the major parties regarding their support for RtoP for 2013 and beyond? (…)
The Political Parties of Germany
Germany has five major political parties likely to win a significant percentage of the vote on 22nd September 2013.
1) The Christian Democrat Union (CDU) along with its sister party, the Christian
Social Union (CSU), is the country’s main conservative party and picked up 33.8% of the vote in the 2009 election.
2) The Free Democratic Party (FDP) is a classical liberal party and the junior partner in the current ruling coalition with the CDU/CSU, having received14.6% of the vote in 2009.
3) Alliance ‘90/The Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), formed in 1993 from the merger of the two political parties following the end of the Cold War, is Germany’s green party and typically sits on the centre left of the political spectrum but does not always permit such easy categorisation. It represents a perhaps more pragmatic and centrist line than many Green parties and 2009 saw its biggest election success to date with 10.7% of the ballot.
4) The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) is a traditional centre-left party with its roots in, and much of its support coming from, the labour movement. It is presently the largest opposition party having picked up 23.0% of the vote at the last federal election.
5) The Left Party (Die Linke) is a recent amalgamation (since 2007) of a breakaway left wing faction of the SPD and the post-communist ruling left wing party of East Germany. It is an outright left party and received 11.9% of the ballot in 2009.
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU)
The CDU has not had much to say on RtoP, which is unfortunate considering its position as the senior partner in the current ruling coalition. There is no explicit mention of the concept in its 2013-2017 policy platform and it seems reluctant to take a leadership role on the issue, both domestically and internationally.
The party tends to take a more indirect approach, implicitly touching on notions including human rights and political freedom as well as the prevention of genocide and crimes against humanity. (…)
The Liberal Democrats (FDP)
The junior partner in the current ruling coalition has been a little more proactive on the matter, even including a brief mention of RtoP in its policy platform, Bürgerprogramm 2013, p.88:
“We want a further strengthening of the international criminal jurisdiction such as, for example, strengthening of the International Criminal Court. Under the auspices of the United Nations, we want to define and further develop the human rights notion of 'Responsibility to Protect'. Under the pillars "to prevent, to react and to rebuild", the strengthening of prevention should be of particular importance.”
(…) Wanting Germany to be a good international citizen, it supports the notions of human rights, international application of criminal law, etc. but does not make RtoP a major part of its foreign policy platform. Its focus lies on prevention, indicating an unspoken cautious attitude towards violations of sovereignty and military applications of RtoP. (…)
The Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen)
The Greens have no doubt taken the lead on RtoP in Germany. To this end, they have devoted almost four pages of their 2013 policy platform document to the theme under the heading “A World of Peace and the Responsibility to Protect”.
Whilst accepting that such a world must ultimately be reached politically, their conception of RtoP recognises that military force may sometimes be a necessary emergency measure to halt genocide. (…)
Further to the extended clarification and discussion of their own party position in the lead up to the election, the Greens have sought to have the matter debated in greater detail at a federal level. This culminated in the submission of a motion to the Bundestag on 9th May 2012 entitled “Developing and Effectively Implementing the Responsibility to Protect”. (…)
The Social Democrats (SPD)
(…) The SPD has included a somewhat cautious mention of RtoP in its election policy document Regierungsprogramm 2013-2017, p. 113:“We stand for a strengthening of the United Nations system. (…) The principle of Responsibility to Protect must primarily focus on civilian measures.”
(…)The SPD exhibits clearly defined support for the principle of Responsibility to Protect and its correct application through UN procedures. It is perhaps a little wary of explicitly defining how it sees the military application of RtoP and its election platform calls for an interpretation focusing on civilian measures. (…)
The Left Party (Die Linke)
Die Linke stands firmly opposed to the principle and has, perhaps for this reason, not included any reference to RtoP in its election programme. It tends to take a strictly pacifist line regarding international relations and sees such discussions through a classical left-wing lens of international class struggle and the assertion of power and will by the strong on the weak. (…)
Post-Election Coalitions
It is highly unlikely that any party will secure enough of the vote to form government itself, which makes a coalition almost certain. There are essentially four plausible configurations, usually discussed in Germany according to the colours of the respective parties:
- The Grand Coalition (CDU/SPD) (…)
- The Christian Liberal Coalition (CDU/FDP) (…)
- The Red-Green Coalition (SPD/Greens) (…)
- The Black-Green Coalition (CDU/Greens) (…)
(…) As the issue continues to advance on the international arena, Germany and its political parties have the option of being at the forefront of the discussion or watching as the debate is led by others. Its position as a major European power dictates that it should not be content with allowing the latter.
Read the full policy brief. 

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