“All people become brothers”
These lines from “Ode to Joy” by the world-renowned German poet Friedrich Schiller served as inspiration for acclaimed German composer Ludwig van Beethoven’s iconic 9th symphony.
As we look back on 2019 and ahead to 2020, Beethoven’s 250th birthday, this underlying message is more relevant than ever. We must work together to find solutions to our common problems for the equal benefit of men and women. Translating this message into the 21st century means: effective multilateral cooperation is the only way forward in our increasingly complex world.
This deep-rooted belief in the power of multilateralism and the rules-based international order has guided Germany’s UN membership since the beginning and shapes our sixth term as an elected member of the UN Security Council today.
Without a doubt, 2019 has been a challenging year for the international community. We regularly witnessed the values represented by the UN come under heavy strain. Protracted and new conflicts brought despair to millions of people. The deliberate influx of weapons into these conflicts further worsened existing humanitarian crises. Human rights were systematically violated; freedom of the press was undermined; and progress in gender equality was called into question. Meanwhile the threat to peace and security posed by climate change continues to grow.
But 2019 has also given us reasons for hope and signs of progress made possible because of a firm belief in multilateralism. Despite setbacks, the UN-monitored peace process in Colombia keeps prospects for a peaceful future alive. Beyond the glare of the spotlight, there seems to be hope for a new beginning in Sudan after decades of conflict. And the formation of the Syrian Constitutional Committee is important, but is only a first step towards finding a political solution to the Syrian conflict.
Nearing its 75th anniversary, the UN remains indispensable. As the world’s only truly global organization, it has the legitimacy and possibility to address the pressing challenges of our time. As members, it is important that we all support the UN. As the second largest overall donor to the UN system, Germany fully supports ongoing reform efforts to make the UN more representative, inclusive and effective.
Part of this ongoing process is fulfilling the legitimate aspirations of more than 50% of the world’s population by achieving gender equality. In particular, this means equal participation in decision-making processes. During Germany’s Security Council presidency in April 2019, we saw an unprecedented number of women civil society representatives and human rights experts share their experiences. At the same time, with the adoption of UN Security Resolution 2467 in April, protection from and accountability for sexual violence in conflicts gained further traction at the international level.
2019 also marked the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. World leaders gathered in New York in September to renew their commitment to this central pillar of global development. Meanwhile young people delivered a wake-up call to the world in response to the existential threat of climate change. At the Climate Action Summit in New York in September, Germany reaffirmed its commitment to the COP 21 climate agreement and presented its practical steps to reverse the trend of global warming.
Today’s biggest challenges – migration, terrorism, disarmament, climate change – can be addressed only through joint international action. The firm belief that multilateral solutions are fairer, longer-lasting and more sustainable is a cornerstone of German foreign policy. We have assumed leadership roles in various international fora, most recently when we launched the Alliance for Multilateralism with our close partners. The strong political support for the concrete initiatives it aims to develop and to promote is encouraging. Germany will remain committed to this endeavor moving forward.
All of this brings us back to Beethoven’s 9th symphony which, as the anthem of the EU, carries with it a spirit of multilateralism which accompanies us to the heart of the international human rights architecture when we join the Human Rights Council (2020-2022) and to the heart of Europe when we assume the EU presidency in the second half of 2020.
Here in New York, it is an honor for me and the entire team at the German Mission to support the work of the United Nations as we approach its 75th anniversary, the 30th anniversary of a (re)united Germany and the second year of Germany’s Security Council membership. We look forward to working closely with you.