Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the Alliance for Multilateralism event at the Paris Peace Forum “Innovative partnerships for digital governance”
As the French President made very clear in his speech: global challenges have a local impact. Often, however, it isn’t possible to tackle this local impact locally or regionally or even nationally any more. Rather, the only way we can do it is to work together. And he summed this up well when he said that we’re living in an era in which we need more rather than less international cooperation.
In order to resolve problems together we need strong international organisations and a readiness to cooperate. Our founding of the Alliance for Multilateralism demonstrates our willingness to work together.
I’m especially pleased that many of you here today were at the meeting of the Alliance for Multilateralism in New York this September when we really got this network up and running.
I’m pleased that this wasn’t a one-off and that we have met regularly within the EU framework as well as here today at the Peace Forum. I believe this provides an important opportunity to continue exchanging ideas.
We met just a few weeks ago at the Indo-German intergovernmental consultations in New Delhi, where we also discussed multilateralism. We want to embark on a journey together and India is a very important partner, so it’s great that we’re meeting again today at this forum. The world’s largest democracy has a major role to play.
For one thing should be clear to us all: despite all the crises in the world, the rules-based international order has brought us peace and prosperity on a level unprecedented in humankind’s history. Just a few days ago, on Saturday, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. As President Macron has already mentioned, today we often hear many people saying that everything is worse nowadays. That there are crises and conflicts everywhere. But when I think back as we celebrate the fall of the Wall, I recall that Germany was divided 30 years ago. 16 million Germans were denied their freedom. The peoples of Eastern Europe were denied their freedom. After the fall of the Wall, the Iron Curtain in Europe fell. Europe grew together in a way that we had never experienced before. During this time, and in the preceding time, we achieved much at international level. The foundation for this was international cooperation. We now have to preserve and protect this order from a dynamic of disintegration and disregard. However, that also means that we have to adapt it to the new challenges – the digital revolution and many others. What’s more, we have to reform the international order, making it more inclusive and representative. And, as many rightly claim, it also has to become more effective.
The question as to what framework conditions should apply to the development and use of the technologies of tomorrow is – and this is no exaggeration – one of the major issues affecting the future of humanity.
Time is running out – and has been for a long time now. For “tomorrow” has long since become “today”. As Jean-Yves has already said, it’s therefore only natural that we want to principally focus on these issues in the Alliance for Multilateralism.
Our main task – but not our only task – in the sphere of digital technology is to form networks, new networks, namely those that go beyond the national level. We have to involve partners from the business community and civil society in the dialogue if we are to build frameworks geared to the challenges we face and which will prove effective. To my mind, President Macron spoke very fittingly about this, too. The path of dialogue with all stakeholders embarked upon here in Paris at the Peace Forum is not only right but, indeed, the only right way to deal with all the challenges ahead.
We have to find answers as to how we can ensure the integrity of elections in future ...
... how we can establish who was responsible for a cyber attack and make it clear that malicious conduct has to have consequences even in cyber space, including international consequences;
... how we can deal with vulnerabilities in the cyber sphere in a way that prevents new damage being done time and again. Existing security gaps must be dealt with quickly and effectively. That’s only possible if we work together at international level.
We have to ensure that even in the age of artificial intelligence, the individual remains the focus of critical decisions and AI systems are made trustworthy and also comprehensible.
Furthermore, we have to protect ourselves more effectively against digital attacks on our democracy and take more resolute action against disinformation campaigns, which we all face.
All of these questions will therefore be one of the priorities of our EU Council Presidency in the second half of 2020.
If we work together pragmatically, in flexible formats – as we have done here at the Paris Peace Forum and in our Alliance – then I believe we have long since reached the critical mass required to be truly effective.
Let’s work together to build “the future we want” – the motto of the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations, which we need more than ever at the present time. I want to cordially invite you to join me and to thank all those who have worked so hard for this Alliance during the last few weeks and months.
Thank you very much and a very warm welcome to you all!