Commentaries | Feb 04,2023
Sep 16 , 2023
By Annalena Baerbock ( is the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany. )
Fifty years ago, Germany embarked on a significant journey of transformation and introspection by joining the United Nations. Today, it stands as a testament to the principle that a nation can evolve, take ownership of its past, and carve a path defined by respect for international laws, writes Annalena Baerbock, the minister of Foreign Affairs since 2021.
Fifty years ago, on September 18, 1973, by New York's East River, two German states joined the United Nations (UN). This event resulted from a brief General Assembly resolution – however, it was anything but routine business in the world of diplomacy.
Almost three decades after the end of the Second World War 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 see it as an obligation.
Germany's accession to the United Nations 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. September 18th stands for a deeply rooted understanding of German diplomacy; that Germany's foreign policy must never limit itself to protecting its 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 years of United Nations membership are more important now than ever – at a time when fundamental principles of the United Nations are being eroded. That is why we joined over 140 states in the General Assembly in advocating for the people of Ukraine and the principles of the UN Charter.
Because under this Charter, every state has the right to live in peace, without fearing that a stronger neighbour will attack.
We live 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 multipolar reality is emerging in which we must organise cooperation. More and more states with differing views seek to help shape the international order. And rightly so. It is past time that their voices were heard more clearly.
We, therefore, seek to strengthen our partnerships with all states around the world who value an international order based on rules and the law. This order is no "Western ideology", as some now 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 lessons learned from the Second World War and the atrocities Nazi Germany inflicted on its neighbours. We Germans, therefore, have a particular responsibility to strengthen the UN Charter. For this reason, too, 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 this order is imperfect and must adapt it to our new world. That means finally organising our international financial institutions and 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 (SDGs) at the heart of the United Nations and showing more ambition to curb the climate crisis, the greatest threat of our time. With a clear road map for phasing out fossil energies. And with solidarity for the most vulnerable states, who 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 all of the wounds of the past. But it is an important step in addressing our dark colonial history.
With our accession 50 years ago, we Germans promised to take responsibility for the United Nations. 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 United Nations. For a better, more just future for everyone.
PUBLISHED ON Sep 16,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1220]
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