Speech by Gabriel to the UN General Assembly: cooperation rather than rearmament

22.09.2017 - Article

In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called for global disarmament and warned about “national egoism”.

In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called for global disarmament and warned about “national egoism”.

Foreign Minister Gabriel adressing the General Assembly
Foreign Minister Gabriel adressing the General Assembly© photothek.net

In his speech to the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday (21 September), Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called for a comprehensive disarmament initiative and more international cooperation. “The motto ‘Our country first’ not only leads to more national confrontations and less prosperity. In the end, there will only be losers,” he said.

Conflict with North Korea shows that cooperation is vital

Foreign Minister Gabriel referred to German history in his speech, saying that Germany only became strong and prosperous after it learned to see its former enemies as neighbours and partners following two terrible world wars. The nuclear dispute with North Korea made it drastically clear that the current conflicts in the world make multilateral cooperation more vital than ever. “It cannot be that striving to build up a nuclear arsenal leads to success on the international stage,” Gabriel said.

The Foreign Minister underlined that the international community must stand together and implement the sanctions agreed by the Security Council swiftly and completely in order to de‑escalate the nuclear dispute with North Korea. At the same time, diplomatic means must be sought to defuse the situation and prevent further escalation in the future.

Stopping nuclear armament

We currently spend just under 1.7 trillion dollars each year on arms around the world. In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of the United Nations, i.e. to eradicate extreme poverty in the world by 2030, we would need only ten percent of that.

Gabriel had a packed schedule in New York
Gabriel had a packed schedule in New York© photothek.net

With regard to the control and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, the General Assembly dealt with a further problem, namely the growing concern that the United States might turn its back on the nuclear agreement with Iran following US President Trump’s harsh criticism of the deal at the beginning of the week. In his speech, Gabriel made an urgent appeal not to jeopardise the diplomatic success of the agreement, which he said was working and had been effective in preventing a dangerous escalation in the region. Failure of the agreement would also send a fatal message for mediation initiatives in other conflicts. “This is not only about Iran. This is about the credibility of the international community,” Gabriel said. The enormous sums of money invested in armament worldwide could be used far more intelligently to help resolve problems on a permanent basis if a mere fraction of these sums were used for development aid.

Security Council reform needed

Further key topics in the Foreign Minister’s speech addressed Germany’s role in humanitarian assistance and the reforms needed in the United Nations system. Gabriel focused on the need for Security Council reform, which many countries are demanding. The Security Council reflects the balance of power of the world around 1945 and not of today. Gabriel promised that Germany will continue championing reform.

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