Trip to promote multilateralism – Foreign Minister Maas in Geneva

Lake Geneva at dawn

Lake Geneva at dawn, © Florian Gaertner/photothek.net

24.02.2020 - Article

From human rights to global health, multilateral cooperation is at the heart of Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’s visit to Geneva. After co-opening the 43rd session of the HRC, Maas will attend a meeting of the Alliance for Multilateralism with focus on combatting impunity for international crimes.

Working together for human rights

From 2020 to 2022, Germany will assume special responsibility for human rights. Germany was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council in October 2019, thus becoming a member of this vital organisation, which works worldwide to protect and further develop human rights, for the fourth time.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas will co-open the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva today with its President, Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and others. The right to water and sanitation, the fight against human trafficking and the protection of privacy in the digital age are only some of the priorities that Germany intends to pursue as a member of the Human Rights Council.

Alliance for Multilateralism

A common motto will run through the day, namely the conviction that problems can only be solved by working together internationally. That is why a meeting of the Alliance for Multilateralism will also take place in Geneva. Foreign Minister Maas co-founded the network with France, and a large number of Foreign Ministers attended its meeting on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2019.

Maas will co-open the meeting in Geneva with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian. The focus will be on the humanitarian situation in Syria and the Alliance against Impunity, which works to ensure that international crimes are prosecuted and aims to strengthen international law.

Multilateralism will also be the priority during the rest of the week. On Tuesday, Maas will host counterparts from all over the world at a discussion on disarmament. This topic will then be continued in the Security Council during his visit to New York on Wednesday and Thursday.

WHO: coronavirus and Ebola

Maas will also meet Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), in Geneva. WHO is currently facing two major health crises – the outbreak of the novel coronavirus and further cases of Ebola in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Germany is the largest donor to the WHO Contingency Fund for Emergencies, which WHO is currently using to finance its activities to combat the coronavirus. Maas will discuss these topics with WHO Director-General Tedros. The agenda for their talks will also include health aspects of the situation in Syria.

WTO – promoting strong joint trade policy

During Maas’s meeting with Roberto Azevêdo, Director-General of the WTO, the focus will be on international trade policy and in particular on WTO reform. There are currently numerous trade conflicts around the world, as well as a revival of protectionism. In this situation, the international community is more dependent than ever on a functioning WTO that is in a position to resolve trade disputes.

The talks with Azevêdo will therefore also address the situation in the WTO Appellate Body, whose operations are currently suspended.

In addition, Maas will meet Gerhard Adrian, President of the World Meteorological Organization, in Geneva. Their talks will focus on climate issues, water and security.


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