“The state of the multilateral rules-based order” – Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the Ambassadors Conference of Finland

24.08.2021 - Speech

Dear Pekka,


Dear friends,

Let me start by doing something that I have never done before in a speech: quoting former President Trump.

When California was hit by devastating wildfires in 2018, he pointed to Finns who allegedly spend lots of time “raking their forests”.

“Rake America great again” soon became a popular slogan in Finland.

And while I don’t want to speculate whether raking is a Finnish hobby or not, I know one thing for sure: Raking won’t help us combat the effects of man-made climate change.

Only international cooperation will. And Finland is an example of that, a true champion of multilateralism.

You, dear Pekka, have proven this – for example with your engagement as envoy of the European Union to Ethiopia. You have put yourself at the service of the European Union. In doing so, you also set an example for how to render European foreign policy more effective. For how to strengthen European sovereignty and defend the rules-based order.

Our two countries are “samanmielinen” – like-minded – in this regard. We are committed to a foreign policy based on values and human rights. Therefore we welcome and support your candidacy for the Human Rights Council for the 2022-2024 term.

From the beginning, Finland has been a strong supporter of the Alliance for Multilateralism – which we set up when multilateralism itself was threatened.

Germany recently published its White Paper “A Multilateralism for the People”. Its leitmotif is a “proactive multilateralism”. This refers both to our own commitment and to enabling the multilateral system to tackle global challenges more effectively. From the outset, your ministry showed a great interest in the entire process of the White Paper – including active participation in our outreach.

But active multilateralists don’t stop at words, they act. Together, we have stabilised the multilateral system, for example by upholding the JCPoA, or by strengthening our commitment to the Paris Agreement. And, fortunately, things have become a lot easier in the past six months – with the United States back at our side.

But, dear friends, we must not let up in our efforts.

What has happened in Afghanistan in the last few weeks was a blow also to multilateralism. After twenty years of intense international engagement – by the United Nations, NATO and the European Union – the results are devastating. And they call for a deep and serious process of reflection.

Because, in order to be credible, multilateralism must be self-critical.

If we don’t fix the mistakes of the past, we won’t be able to counter future attempts to undermine the international order.

Russia has proven over the past few years that it does not respect the European peace architecture and international law. And China uses its power to drum up support for an order that contradicts our democratic values and disregards human rights and individual freedoms.

To counter these challenges, multilateralism must prove that it delivers for the people.

And three areas will be crucial in this regard:

  • First, global health: To overcome the pandemic, we must ensure fair access to vaccines, especially in developing countries. Germany is the second largest donor to ACT-A, with 2.2 billion euro. Furthermore, we will donate at least 30 million vaccine doses by the end of the year, primarily via COVAX. This is a matter of saving lives. But it’s also a matter of saving multilateralism.
  • Second, climate protection: June and July have seen record average temperatures all across Finland. In Germany, we suffered devastating floods. Time is running out, and the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow is right around the corner. As multilateralists, we need to make Paris work. For example, by developing multilateral funding instruments to support developing countries and emerging market economies. And by making climate diplomacy an even more central part of European foreign policy.
  • And, finally, peace and security: President Niinistö has called for a revival of the Helsinki spirit of dialogue and trust. Germany supports that call. And we applaud the outreach undertaken by President Biden towards President Putin. But Europe’s role as Russia’s immediate neighbour cannot be to watch that engagement from the sidelines. We need to find ways to engage with Russia ourselves – on global issues that lie in our joint interest: disarmament, energy policy, climate change or the Arctic, for instance. Finland, with its special geographic location and its long history of political dialogue and mediation, can play a key role here – also within the European Union.

Dear friends,

Raking won’t make multilateralism great again. Only results will.

It is up to us to prove that multilateralism leads to a healthier, more sustainable and more peaceful world. That task requires commitment and leadership – just like Finland shows to the world. And it requires skilled diplomats – just like you are.

Thank you for being that strong and reliable partner to Germany and to the world. Together, we can make multilateralism great again!

Thank you.


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