Address by Federal Minister Steinmeier at a luncheon with representatives of the Group of African States on 27 September 2007 in New York

27.09.2007 - Speech

Dr Migiro,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me warmly welcome you to the German House. Our invitation has already become something of a good tradition, and that is why I'm pleased that so many of you have come here today - especially as I'm aware that, due to Ramadan, this is not such a simple matter for some of you.

I'd like to extend a special welcome to Dr Migiro, the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. Herzlich willkommen, wir freuen uns auf das Gespräch mit Ihnen.

I'm sure you will agree that the motto of the current General Assembly, “Responding to Climate Change”, touches upon one of the basic questions of our times. Climate change and security of energy supply have become a question of life or death which directly decides whether we, and the generations to come, can live in safety in this globalized world.

Who is more aware of this fact than the peoples of Africa? We all have in our minds the dramatic images of the flood disaster currently raging from east to west across the continent. Over 1.5 million people are directly affected, their villages destroyed and their fields flooded – indeed many of them have lost their lives.

We know that in the Sahel region rainy and dry seasons have always been highly variable. But even the oldest people in these areas cannot recall ever seeing such rainfall.

Experts fear that this extreme flooding, like the longer drought periods during the rest of the year, the increase in desert coverage or, elsewhere in the world, the unprecedented melting of the polar icecaps, are the results of climate change taking place today, before our very eyes.

It is clear to all of us that we can only succeed in combating climate change together. This is why, for me, the UN is still the best framework for our efforts towards progress. I also hope that this General Assembly will send a message for the climate change conference in Bali, where we want to agree on a climate-change regime for the post-Kyoto period.

Climate protection is of course also a question of solidarity, and in the fight against global warming the industrial countries will have a special role to play. Precisely because of this, as you know, we fought for and achieved ambitious EU climate targets during our EU Presidency.

As I know Dr Migiro will go into the theme of climate in greater detail, let me now put forward two other fields which should feature prominently on our common agenda.

First, the theme of peace and security in Africa. Crises like the conflict in Darfur require urgent joint action. The combined UN/AU mission is a major challenge for both organizations. We know what hopes the people in Darfur place in this protective force, and how important it is to bring the political process now initiated to a successful conclusion in order to create the conditions for lasting solutions to the conflict.

It is clear that, to be able to prevent and tackle conflicts like this in the long term, we need an effective African security architecture under the auspices of the AU. As you know Germany actively supports the creation of the necessary structures and has advocated this during its G8 and EU Presidencies.

By the way, the theme of security cooperation, like climate protection, is one of the strategic issues which led Germany, as EU Presidency, to undertake great efforts to finally bring about the first EU-AU Summit for seven years. I hope the meeting, now scheduled for December in Lisbon, will lead to substantial results.

The UN is the highest authority when it comes to peace and security. We must make sure that it can do its job. This means, among other things, a new reformed Security Council which is more transparent but above all more representative. We hope we can stake out the framework for a negotiation process on this issue during this General Assembly. We should also stay in close touch on this.

Allow me very briefly to touch upon a second field worthy of our joint attention – education and culture. There is a Kiswahili proverb which says – and I hope Dr Migiro forgives any mistakes – “Jambo usilolijua ni kama usiku wa giza.” – Ignorance is like a dark night. I am sure many other African languages have similar proverbs.

But the message is correct – globalization is to a large extent competition between minds. Education and training, as well as mutual understanding beyond cultural and religious borders – these are the tools people need today, in Africa and in Europe. That is why we want to do more to promote schooling in Africa, and why we need more scholarships for further training. Progress and development are only possible if we invest in minds! For that reason we also want to close the gaps in our network of German schools abroad and cultural institutes.

Ladies and gentlemen,
This is the end of my introduction. I am pleased to see you here today, and I am looking forward to our conversation.

Dr Migiro, let me now hand over to you.

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