Keynote by Minister of State Niels Annen “Boosting International Cooperation – Alliance for Multilateralism” Club de Madrid Policy Dialogue “Multilateralism that Delivers”

29.10.2020 - Speech

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It is my great pleasure to open this exchange about ways to strengthen and renew multilateralism in the 21st century.

I would like to thank the Club de Madrid and its President Danilo Türk for dedicating this year’s Policy Dialgoue to the important topic of a “Multilateralism that Delivers”.

I am especially delighted to discuss this topic with such a distinguished panel of partners from all over the globe united in the “Alliance for Multilateralism”.

This Alliance launched by Foreign Minister Maas together with his French counterpart and other partners is based on our shared conviction that strong and effective multilateral cooperation is indispensable to secure peace, stability and prosperity and to address the major challenges of our time: from the COVID-19 pandemic to transnational migration, from arms control to climate change and so many more.

The Alliance is also the conclusion we draw from a shared understanding of the challenges that multilateralism is facing in our time.

We observe that trust in the efficiency and legitimacy of multilateral institutions has diminished over the last years – and this, ironically, in a time when the need for multilateral solutions seems to be obvious.

But multilateral institutions are only as effective and responsive to new circumstances and constellations as we, their members and supporters, allow them to be.

Therefore the demand regularly addressed to multilateral institutions and regimes to deliver, to present concrete and timely solutions to pressing questions, is first and foremost a demand to us.

Only a few days ago we commemorated the founding of the United Nations on 24 October 1945, the day the UN Charter was ratified by its founding members: Australia, Canada and India have been among them. Since then the UN have been core and center of our multilateral system.

The Alliance for Multilateralism is designed as an instrument to multiply and coordinate support for multilateral solutions within existing multilateral institutions, especially the United Nations.

And this commitment to the UN that is also expressed in the Alliance’s principles of action, is underlined by the fact that Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations from 2007 to 2016, is joining our discussion today.

Over the last two years, the Alliance for Multilateralism has delivered by mobilizing support for several initiatives, among them the Alliance’s

“Eleven Principles on LAWS” [Lethal autonomous weapons systems] which have since become the basis of the negotiation process on a multilateral regulatory framework for these weapons in the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva or the early and decisive contribution by Alliance-Ministers to the debate about the need for equitable access and distribution of an eventual Covid-19-vaccine.

By doing so, the Alliance has also helped to refute one common assumption about the nature of international relations in our time: that the readiness to cooperate, with its need to find compromises and to act together based on shared interests and common values, was weak or unpopular.

Instead, the response to the call for an “Alliance for Multilateralism” has been overwhelming. Foreign Ministers from over 60 countries, numerous multilateral institutions and international NGOs and also private companies have joined the call to more, not less multilateral cooperation.

They have committed to initiatives and projects, have endorsed declarations and jointly driven forward the message that global challenges can only be solved by working together.

This is a powerful testament to the majority of states - and also the fact that the majority of people in many countries - have a clear understanding that multilateralism is not a relict of the past but a necessity of the future, not a menace to sovereignty and the capacity for action, but indeed their prerequisite.

To strengthen and to renew multilateralism, we need not only a multilateralism that delivers.

We also need a multilateralism that is inclusive and represents the political, demographic and economic realities of the 21th century.

And we need a multilateralism that is adaptive and ready to react quickly to new challenges not anticipated before. This, I think, is one of the central lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic: we have to be more ready for the unthinkable, for challenges that arise quickly and without respect for organizational responsibilities and institutional procedures of our multilateral system.

Therefore the Alliance for Multilateralism should not only garner support for concrete projects and speed up international decision-making but also provide a platform for open debate, for new ideas, for creative responses.

This is why we need to include civil society, NGOs, private actors, local governments or grass-roots initiatives into the new multilateralism of the 21st century.

Our exchange today is a great opportunity to discuss not only challenges to multilateralism, but to identify opportunities and to uncover new potential. As I said before: we have to deliver if we want to strengthen and renew multilateral cooperation for the future. So I am looking forward to your ideas and comments and thank you for your support!

Thank you very much.


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