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Cairo is a vantage point. It overlooks not only the Middle East, but also the entire African continent. So, if we consider today’s crises that stretch from Syria to Sudan, then Cairo is a good choice for the first of this year‘s Core Group meetings – particularly in the year of the Egyptian Presidency of the African Union.
Crises in the Middle East and Africa are taking place in Europe’s immediate vicinity. Therefore it lies also in Germany‘s genuine interest, and is part of our responsibility as a reliable broker, to foster peace and stability. As a partner and outspoken advocate for a rules-based international order, Germany stands ready to support wherever we can add specific value. This is true for the area of humanitarian assistance – Germany remains one of the largest bilateral donors – as well as for the tools of conflict prevention, mediation, stabilisation and post-conflict rehabilitation.
Germany’s primary point of reference has been and will remain the United Nations. Unilateral measures not embedded in a multilateral plan of action are not the way to go. Instead, – together – we need to develop a common vision for the different crises and conflicts – and we must take collective action to realise that vision.
Allow me to focus on two current crises – Libya and Sudan – which are good arguments for multilateral actions and why Germany wants to act as an honest broker and facilitator:
In Libya, we have seen conflict escalate into fighting. Left unattended to, the conflict will most likely become even more drawn out, divisions will increase, and stability of neighbouring countries and the whole region will be put at risk.
The question we must ask ourselves is: What can and should we do as neighbours, partners and international community as a whole? Where can we add value for a peaceful settlement?
For Germany, the answer has always been clear. We have to give the UN and Ghassam Salamé our full support in his tireless efforts to find an inclusive political solution. A few months ago, when he asked us to take on a politically more prominent role, by initiating a tailored consultation process, the German government wholeheartedly agreed. Together, we are currently working on practical conditions for a ceasefire, including all critical aspects. Prominent amongst those we intensively consulted is our host, Egypt.
In the meantime, Ghassan Salamé will work with the Libyan parties and actors to restart the Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process. We strive for progress on both of these tracks – they lead in the same direction, and have the same goal in mind. Only by supporting multilateral action can we strengthen the rules-based international order. The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative deserves all our trust.
Ladies and gentlemen, what can happen when national political will for change meets honest multilateral efforts is shown by the case of Sudan. After a decades-long civil war, there now seems to be a real prospect for peace. Of course, the passionate calls for a peaceful political transition came from the Sudanese people themselves. But a peaceful transition needs international awareness to not lose momentum. Fortunately, this is the case, on a number of levels:
First of all: Politically we see a lot of international support for a peaceful transition: We are proud that Germany‘s Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas was the first high level visitor to Khartoum after the political agreement as a visible political signal of support.
At UN level, Germany and many of our international partners are committed to UNAMID and UNISFA.
At a multilateral level, Germany has worked on building up effective international coordination by initiating the “Friends of Sudan” format, thereby preventing the risk of possibly detrimental unilateral activities.
At a bilateral level – aiming at complementing the multilateral framework – we have made offers of support, ranging from humanitarian assistance, development measures and economic expertise to political mediation support and constitutional advice.
Ladies and gentlemen, given the large number of conflicts, it is of course not enough to only focus on putting out fires that have already flared up. We absolutely need to - firstly - invest in regional multilateral structures and - secondly - tackle the root causes of conflict in order to create sustainable peace:
What can we do to support regional structures?
We believe that a strong African Union as our close partner is of utmost importance – especially in the longterm. Over more than a decade, we helped it build and strengthen African capacities, also by providing support for the African Peace and Security Architecture both politically and financially.
How can we tackle root causes?
The Horn of Africa is a prime example of the need to address the root causes of conflict and new conflict drivers. When we talk about climate and security, or climate and demography, we are also talking about conflicting interests and about distribution struggles: Who gets access to scarce resources such as pasture and farmland – and, above all, water?
Ladies and gentlemen, Germany is convinced that solutions will be found only through multilateral cooperation and with strong institutions that carry cooperation forward in a rules-based international order. An order that we cannot take for granted and that currently is under tremendous pressure. It is our common responsibility to defend it and strengthen its resilience.
This is why, at the last Munich Security Conference, Foreign Minister Maas together with partners called for a renewed global commitment to multilateralism. Since then, the Alliance for Multilateralism has gained cross-regional support, including from many African countries.
Let me focus on one of the six initiatives that Germany has been advocating for several years in the UN Security Council and that is of particular importance to your region – because we’re speaking about conflict drivers: Climate and Security.
You know better than I do that climate change is having a major impact in your region. Shrinking water resources and more crop failures due to persistent drought can easily serve as catalysts for conflicts.
The link between climate and security cannot be denied. It can also not be contained with half-hearted or unilateral action. It is for questions like this – of global importance – that we all need to come together. We need to make a united and concerted effort.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me end with a positive outlook on the future of effective multilateralism: A month ago at General Assembly, of the United Nations in New York, one phrase by a Munich Young Leader from South Africa particularly stuck with the audience: “For Africa, multilateralism is a continental imperative.”
I couldn’t agree more and would like to expand on that: For us all, multilateralism must be a global imperative.