Why Germany wants to strengthen the UN
Germany marks 50 years of UN membership, emphasizing commitment to international order and responsibility to strengthen the UN Charter
Fifty years ago, on September 18, 1973, two German States joined the United Nations (UN). This event was the result of a brief General Assembly resolution. However, it was anything but routine business in the world of diplomacy. Almost three decades after the end of World War II that Germany had begun, and the genocide of Europe’s Jews that had brought immeasurable suffering to millions of people, this day marked a return of the “defeated enemy nation” to the international community. We remain grateful for this return today – and we see it as an obligation.
Germany’s accession to the UN came 28 years after the organisation was founded. This accession stands for our acknowledgement of German culpability and our commitment to the principles of the UN Charter, to a world that relies on the strength of the law and not the tyranny of the strong. And September 18, 1973, stands for a deeply rooted understanding of German diplomacy; that German foreign policy must never limit itself to the protection of German interests. For 75 years, our Basic Law has imposed the requirement for our policy to “promote world peace [...] in a united Europe”.
This task and our 50 years of UN membership are more important now when fundamental principles of the UN are being eroded. That is why we joined over 140 States in the General Assembly in advocating for the people of Ukraine and for the principles of the Charter. Under the UN Charter, every state has the right to live in peace, without having to fear that a stronger neighbour will attack.
It is clear that we are living in a different geopolitical reality than in the days of the Cold War. The opposition of an eastern and a western bloc is, fortunately, a thing of the past. Instead, a new multi-polar reality is emerging in which we must organise cooperation. More and more States with differing views want to help shape the international order. And rightly so. It is time that their voices are heard more clearly.
We, therefore, seek to strengthen our partnerships with all the States around the world that value an international order based on rules and the law.
This order is no “western ideology” as some assert. On the contrary, it is rooted in the UN Charter and thus in the universal conviction that all States and all human beings have equal rights, regardless of how powerful they are, and that no State must ever again be allowed to attack a neighbour. For us Germans, these principles are also a lesson learned from World War II and the atrocities Nazi Germany inflicted on its neighbours.
We, Germans, therefore have a particular responsibility to strengthen the UN Charter. It is for this reason too that we are seeking to gain a seat on the Security Council for the year 2027/28.
Those who are calling into question this order have thus far failed to indicate what principles a better, more just order should be built on. We want to build on what was created in 1945 and has been continuously developed since then. We know that this order is imperfect and that we must adapt it to our new world.
That means finally organising our international financial institutions, health agencies as well as the UN Security Council in such a way that our partners in Africa, Latin America and Asia have a suitable voice there. It means putting the Sustainable Development Goals at the heart of the UN. It means showing more ambition in efforts to curb the climate crisis, the greatest threat of our time, with a clear roadmap for phasing out fossil energies and with solidarity for the most vulnerable States that are particularly hard hit by the effects of the climate crisis.
But honest partnerships also mean critically examining our own actions. This is why Germany has initiated the return of artefacts looted during the colonial era. Doing so will not heal the wounds of the past. But it is an important step in the efforts to address our dark colonial history. With our accession 50 years ago, we, Germans, made a promise to take on responsibility for the UN. Today, we do not merely stand by this promise. With our partners, we seek to find new ways to fulfil it in a changed world with courage and confidence, for a strong UN and a better, more just future for everyone.
Annalena Baerbock is the foreign minister of Germany. The views expressed are personal