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Fellow members of this House,
On 8 June the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations announced that Germany had received 184 yes votes in the election for non-permanent seats on the Security Council. That is an overwhelming majority, and not something that could be taken for granted.
This majority is a reflection of the great appreciation there is for our country’s global engagement –
- as an active advocate of multilateral conflict resolution,
- as the fourth-largest contributor to the United Nations and a major troop contributor,
- as a committed member of the Human Rights Council,
- and as a generous supporter of the United Nations humanitarian system and development agencies.
I want to pass on the profound gratitude extended to us to you here today. Because our engagement in the United Nations is only possible thanks to the cross-party support of the German Bundestag!
However, our election to the Security Council is not only an expression of recognition of what we have already achieved. During my three visits to New York, it was made clear to me that there are high expectations of us. People trust Germany to be a force for reconciliation, a defender of the rules-based global order, a voice of reason in an increasingly radicalised world.
These are high demands. And we want to live up to them, ladies and gentlemen!
For multilateralism is in danger.
Sixty years ago, the then UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld, spoke of “a time of peace which is no peace”.
The challenges facing us may have changed since then, but still today we sense that our peace has no guarantee of permanence. We can see that conflicts in the world touch us in Europe, too, and that the global order is undergoing huge shifts.
Major players are turning their backs on the multilateral system. Just think, for example, of the US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council. Other countries are using their veto to block agreements aimed at settling international conflicts, or are violating international law – like Russia, with its illegal annexation of Crimea or its conduct in eastern Ukraine.
Our response must be the same one Dag Hammarskjöld gave: more than ever, we need a strong United Nations. And, at the heart of the international security architecture, we need a Security Council with the ability to act.
Whilst some of the criticism is justified, there is one thing we must not forget: last year alone, 61 resolutions were passed, 59 of them unanimously. This proves that the Security Council makes a crucial contribution to peace and stability!
When we take up our seat on the Security Council in 2019, one third of its members will be EU member states. We want to make use of this “European moment”. European foreign policy worthy of the name has to be pursued in New York too, where the big questions of war and peace are at stake.
What focuses can we set?
Clearly, the work of the Security Council is determined first and foremost by the crises of the day. And, difficult as it will be to make progress towards resolving the conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, South Sudan or Yemen, we want to play our part –
- by using our Security Council membership to launch political initiatives and
- by trying again and again to break through existing obstructionist deadlock.
We have at our disposal some useful tools: a global diplomatic network, but also reliable channels of communication with the five permanent and nine non-permanent members. And we can build on the tremendous trust expressed in the 184 yes votes we received.
Where it is necessary to secure peace, we are also ready to engage militarily, as we have demonstrated in recent years, in Mali, for example.
However, it is also clear that the Security Council must not wait until there is a full-blown crisis before taking action. It must prevent crises! And to that end it needs to focus on those who fan the flames of conflict.
As called for in the motion tabled by the CDU, CSU and SPD, we therefore also want to use our presidencies in the Security Council to put human rights violations, the effects of climate change and health crises like Ebola on the agenda. Because we know that development and respect for human rights are prerequisites for lasting peace.
Further, even more attention needs to be paid also to the vital contribution made by women to peace and security.
Crisis prevention is one of our strengths. We will feed in our experience, our ideas and our capacities when it comes to stabilisation, mediation and post-conflict peacebuilding whenever and wherever countries are in danger of slipping into conflict.
Another factor that exacerbates crises is the uncontrolled proliferation of weapons, particularly small arms. Here we want to work with the United Nations to improve the situation for people in trouble spots.
And, in the light of global rearmament, I emphatically welcome the fact that Secretary-General Guterres has put disarmament and arms control back on the UN agenda.
Finally, I would like to mention another issue raised in the motion tabled by the parliamentary groups supporting the Government, namely: how can we enhance the effectiveness and legitimacy of the United Nations?
One approach is to make the Security Council more inclusive – you might say finally bring it in line with 21st-century realities. Germany is prepared to take on permanent responsibility in a reformed Security Council.
As well as reforming the Security Council, however, we also need to make progress on reforming the UN development system and management structures. In this context, the Bundestag’s broad support for an increase in Germany’s voluntary contributions within the scope of existing budget possibilities gives us momentum.
This is an important and necessary signal, particularly at a time when even in Germany there are some people evoking the demise of the multilateral global order. The more widely multilateralism is challenged, the more resolutely we must defend it. We must seek more international cooperation, not less. Especially now.
Fellow members of this House,
I look forward to working with you to shape Germany’s membership of the Security Council as committed multilateralists and as a strong voice for peace.