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Panel Speech on Transatlantic Relations in Atlanta, Georgia, Carter-Centre, December 3, 2003

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Guests,

First, I would like to thank the organizers for having put together such an interesting program and for allowing us to discuss some important international and transatlantic issues here in Adianta. I would like to draw your attention to the arguably most important international institution, the United Nations, and especially to Germany’s role in the UN and our view of the United Nations future.

The two German states became full members of the United Nations in 1973. Since 1990, the Federal Republic has been active in the UN under the name „Germany“. We have thus experienced and shaped a major and decisive part of our post-war history as a member of the United Nations. Along with the early moves towards European integration and accession to NATO, the involvement in the UN system was part of a policy that from the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany was always geared to multilateralism. This commitment to multilateralism is the historic, logical development of German post-war history. It could be said that our sovereignty is rooted in multilateralism and integration. The Charter of the United Nations also has a historic link to Germany since it was drawn up in the final months of World War Two. The main aims of the Charter were and remain:

  • preventing armed conflicts,
  • guaranteeing human rights and
  • promoting social progress.

Given the developments in National Socialist Germany from 1933 to 1945, with tyranny, massive violations of human rights and war, this was the international community’s response rooted in peace policy which remains valid to this day. Never again war, never again fascism. This conviction has determined post-war policy in Germany ever since. Today the values and principles anchored in the UN Charter form the solid foundation of the Federal Republic. The universal importance of human rights is firmly rooted in public awareness. We are surrounded by friends who trust in our will for peace. The crisis scenario which forms the basis of the UN Charter no longer seems to apply to us. But it still very much applies, and this brings me back to the current international debate, to many states and regions of the world. And in our globalized world, this has a direct impact on us.

Some months ago, we remembered the victims of 9/11. Immediately after the attacks in New York and Washington, Germany showed deep sympathy for and solidarity with the American people. But only the United Nations can give international legitimacy to the response to terrorism. Given our experience in Afghanistan and given the latest developments in Iraq, we must recognize that the threat posed by international terrorism is more present than ever. The United Nations itself is also a target for terrorist networks. This was shown by the criminal attack on United Nations headquarters in Baghdad on August 19, 2003. The threat posed by international terrorism makes clear that the work to create a just and sustainable global system is not merely a moral imperative but also a necessity in security-policy terms. A policy of prevention and comprehensive security cannot, however, be implemented unilaterally. It needs broad international consensus. The forum in which to create consensus is the United Nations. It alone provides the necessary international legitimacy to act against those wanting, also using terrorist means, to attack and destroy the values and foundations of the United Nations.

This also holds true for the role of the United Nations in Afghanistan. More than 20 years of civil war have led the country to a humanitarian disaster which formed the breeding ground for al-Qaida and the Taliban regime. It is not just a matter of combating the remaining al-Qaida and Taliban supporters. Afghan society must be put in a position to deal with such threats on its own. Implementing rights for women and children, improving healthcare, guaranteeing day-to-day security through a functioning civilian police force, re-establishing the education system – these are only the most important prerequisites. Afghanistan shows us how quickly the task of combating terrorism which initially seems to be a purely repressive task must be coupled with steps towards comprehensive reconstruction. The entire spectrum of United Nations instruments must be used to guarantee success. Germany takes an active approach to this challenge. We are very much involved in the reconstruction process and the establishment of stability and security within ISAF. But if we want to stabilize the peace process, we must gradually establish security also beyond Kabul. Therefore, we not only supported the extension of the ISAF mission but provided a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kunduz and agreed to take part in the preparations for the elections in Afghanistan in 2004. We want the United Nations to be successful in Afghanistan because we think that stabilizing this country is of paramount importance for the international community.

Germany has held a non-permanent seat in the Security Council since the start of 2003. Since then, Iraq has been the clear focus of Security Council debates. You know that the German position did not prevail here. Nevertheless, we now must work to help Iraq on its path to become a democratic and stable country and a peaceful member of the community of nations. Germany has thus granted humanitarian aid and, under certain conditions, is prepared to do more. Critical as the situation currently seems in Iraq, one prerequisite has already been fulfilled. The issue of Iraq is again on the agenda of the Security Council immediately after the critical phase of the conflict. We believe that the main priority must be the fastest possible rebuilding of Iraqi sovereignty and authority. While this process is underway, the United Nations should play the central role in the transitional period. Furthermore, we feel it is essential to involve moderate Arab and Islamic states in the region, both in the question of reconstruction and the question of security.

German foreign policy aims at playing an active role in strengthening and extending the UN as the central forum for solving international conflicts. The United Nations as the most important forum for global rule-setting must be reformed to respond to its structural deficits. Germany is prepared to play an active role in this process because we need a system of global cooperative security. Creating such security is a central political task that can only be solved multilaterally, that is in cooperation between the nations. We want to strengthen the United Nations capacity for action. If we succeed in this, we will see that the United Nations has ultimately emerged from the Iraq debate with greater strength. I am convinced that the United Nations is today more important than ever. Without the approval and legitimation of the United Nations, world peace can be neither credibly won nor preserved. Human rights, peace missions, the fight against poverty, the rights of women and children, international environmental protection, and disaster prevention – these are only the central fields of the work of the UN today. And thus, ladies and gentlemen, let me assure you that Germany will do all it can to maintain and strengthen the authority and legitimacy of the United Nations. Thank you.