Statebuilding is one of the central tasks facing the international community at the start of the 21st century. The most extensive statebuilding operations so far have been carried out in Kosovo as well as in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, East Timor and Haiti. In the examples mentioned, external actors interfere deeply with state sovereignty, they (temporarily) take over a number of state functions. They fill the gaps left by the lack of state structures in these countries with their own military, police and civilian personnel and take on important functions in local institutions. These protectorate-style arrangements not only entail risks for the external parties but also require that extensive personnel and financial resources be made available for quick and reliable deployment. The real strategic challenge, however, lies in acting preventatively — that is, in identifying and stopping impending processes of disintegration in fragile states. A more broadly conceived policy debate is therefore urgently needed. The study intends to push the debate in precisely this direction by posing the following questions: What distinguishes statebuilding from other, similar concepts? What are the typical dilemmas and difficulties facing international statebuilders? What strategies and approaches are currently being discussed and pursued internationally? And finally, what do the answers to these questions imply for German foreign policy, and in particular, for how the government apparatus can improve its own capacities for action and formulate a coherent policy for dealing with fragile states?