Welcome Statement by Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on the occasion of the Conference “UN at 75: Effective Multilateralism and International Law”

09.10.2020 - Speech

I would have liked to greet you in person, here in Berlin. But the pandemic forced us to change to this digital format.

Our hope is that this will allow for even wider participation. Because we need your global expertise - these days more than ever.

Of course, we have come a long way since Plato first warned us that we cannot “expect justice where might is right”. But it took humankind over two thousand years, countless wars and immense suffering to translate that idea into binding law. This is what makes the UN Charter such an invaluable achieve-ment. Today, its promise remains as valid as in 1945: A more just and peaceful world is possible!

However, the Charter’s principles and purposes - even the idea of international order itself - are being challenged.

The 21 months of Germany’s membership of the UN Security Council have brought some sobering experiences in this regard.

  • The growing competition between the great powers is taking its toll – including on the day-to-day work of the Council.
  • Vetoes are even used when life-saving operations are on the line, for instance in Syria.
  • And respect for international humanitarian law is crumbling before our very eyes, as hospitals and schools are being attacked.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is not the time to sit back.

It is our duty to call for accountability whenever the law is broken. And I am delighted that German courts are among the pioneers in conducting trials against international war criminals.

At the same time, global challenges such as the pandemic call for more international cooperation, not less.

Together with my French colleague Jean-Yves LeDrian, we have therefore set up an Alliance for Multilateralism to defend and strengthen the international order.

Within two years, participation has grown to over 70 countries. 70 countries which share the belief that international law is the DNA of global order.

In order to survive, that DNA must be dynamic. International law must adapt and capture new challenges – for instance in the digital world.

And I am glad that you will be taking up this task at our conference today.

So, thank you once again for joining us! And thank you for sharing Plato’s conviction that might doesn’t make right. But that the law remains the bedrock for peace, prosperity and justice.


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