Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the Forum of Small States: “The UN Charter at 75: Multilateralism in a Fragmented World”

10.06.2020 - Speech

(Video conference)

One of the founding fathers of the European Union, Paul-Henri Spaak, once said:

“There are only two types of states in Europe: small states, and small states that have not yet realized they are small.”

Germany might not be a typical candidate to speak at the Forum of Small States. But I think Paul-Henri Spaak was right. In our globalised, interconnected world, no country is big enough to tackle global challenges all by itself.

So, I am delighted to join this discussion, and I thank Singapore for the invitation.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not just the biggest test of our generation. It is the most serious challenge to our multilateral system, founded 75 years ago. The reason is not that multilateralism is failing. But that some of us are failing to support multilateralism.

It should be clear that a virus spreading all around the world must lead to global cooperation. However, the confrontation between China and the United States is complicating that global response, for example in the Security Council. And the US decision to withdraw from the WHO is one that we deeply regret.

But we should not let ourselves be discouraged. The past weeks have also shown how much we can achieve if we act together:

  • In May, 9.8 billion euro were pledged at a conference, co-hosted by the European Commission, to provide global access to tools against COVID-19.
  • The GAVI replenishment conference last week was another important step.
  • Germany has increased its humanitarian assistance to the UN’s COVID-19 Response Plan by 300 million euro.
  • And countries around the world have increased their support to the WHO. Germany alone has provided an additional 200 million euro.

Our priority at this point must be to win the fight for human lives. Of course, at some point, we will also need to draw lessons from the current crisis. And we should do this in a constructive spirit. The Alliance for Multilateralism has taken up this task.

Many of you have already signed the Alliance’s declaration on the fight against COVID-19. It calls for universal access to an eventual treatment and vaccine, as a global public good. Their fair distribution will be key.

And I would like to use this opportunity to invite you to the next meeting of the Alliance on 26 June, which will discuss ways to strengthen the Global Health Architecture.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In a crisis of this magnitude, every country in the world is a small country. But together, we can overcome even the greatest challenges. That radically simple idea lies at the heart of the United Nations, founded 75 years ago.

Today, it is more important than ever.


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