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Germany was a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council from 1 January 2019 till 31 December 2020. This was Germany’s sixth term on the Council, assuming particular responsibility for peace and security around the world and striving to strengthen the international order at a time when the multilateral order, with the United Nations at its heart, has come under tremendous pressure.
With its five permanent members and ten non-permanent members elected for two-year terms, the UN Security Council is the only UN body whose decisions are binding under international law. As a Security Council member, Germany had the opportunity to constantly take a stance on key peace and international security issues, to respond to current crises and to put its priorities, such as strengthening the role of women in peace processes and addressing disarmament, on the agenda.
We look back here at the most important issues.
- Libya: Good news from Libya has been rare in the past years, but several recent developments give grounds for hope. Germany has continued to work alongside the UN Special Envoy for Libya to launch a political process aimed at stabilising the country. The Berlin Process, through which Germany is supporting the UN’s peace efforts, is crucial here. At the start of 2020, a major conference was held in Berlin at the invitation of UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and brought supporters of the parties to the conflict around a table. The aim was to reduce external influence and thus enable an intra-Libyan political process under the auspices of the UN. In February 2020, the Security Council affirmed its support for the outcomes of the conference in Resolution 2510. As chair of the Sanctions Committee to oversee the UN arms embargo against Libya and EU operation IRINI, Germany played an important role in the concrete implementation of the arms embargo. A nationwide ceasefire is now in force in Libya. Since early November, 75 Libyans have been negotiating in Tunis on the country’s political future and free elections are planned for December 2021.
- Syria: Following long and tough negotiations, the cross-border resolution was extended, thus ensuring access for deliveries of humanitarian assistance to Syria. As co-penholder with Belgium, Germany worked hard to achieve this result, ultimately suggesting a compromise in order to maintain aid to millions of Syrians.
- The Sudan: Since the overthrow of dictator al-Bashir, there is a sense of a new beginning in the Sudan and the country is undergoing a transition process, which Germany has supported from the start. In June 2020, Germany co-hosted a Sudan Partnership Conference with UN Secretary‑General António Guterres in order to mobilise political and financial support. Germany and the UK called in the Security Council for a new UN mission in the Sudan. From 2021, the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) will replace the previous UNAMID mission and support the transition to democracy.
In addition to its work on current crises and political issues, Germany has also put its priorities on the agenda.
- The Women, Peace and Security Agenda: All over the world, sexual violence is increasingly being used as a weapon in conflicts. Germany is striving to change this through Resolution 2467, which was adopted under its presidency of the Security Council. Building on the Security Council’s Women, Peace and Security Agenda, Germany is putting the focus on the victims of sexual violence. In the future, perpetrators are to be held to account to a greater extent.
- Disarmament/non-proliferation: The issues ranged here from small arms to nuclear disarmament. In April 2019, Germany put nuclear disarmament back on the Security Council’s agenda for the first time in over seven years as a priority of its month-long presidency. Although the Review Conference on the Non-Proliferation Treaty had to be postponed until 2021 because of the pandemic, these topics remain high up on the agenda. Initiatives to relaunch nuclear-disarmament efforts were proposed in February 2020 in the Berlin Declaration signed by the 16 Stockholm Initiative countries. Particularly in view of the end of the INF Treaty and the current uncertain future of New START, this remains an urgent concern for the German Government beyond the country’s Security Council membership.
- Climate and security: Climate change is becoming increasingly important in the work of the Security Council. It is triggering new conflicts and exacerbating existing ones, for example in the Lake Chad region, the Sudan or Afghanistan. Despite resistance, Germany thus put the topic on the agenda. A newly created informal expert group will ensure that this issue remains firmly on the Security Council’s agenda.
Alliance for Multilateralism
More than 100 resolutions were adopted during Germany’s membership of the Security Council, and it became clear that progress can only be made through international cooperation and that urgent global issues – from climate change to digital transformation – can only be resolved together. In addition to its work in the Security Council, Germany therefore set up the Alliance for Multilateralism, which fosters international cooperation and forms a major counterweight to national unilateralism. Sixty countries support this initiative.
The COVID-19 pandemic shows particularly clearly once again how vital multilateral cooperation is. Viruses do not stop at borders and no one is safe until everyone is safe. Medicines, equipment and vaccines must therefore be distributed fairly. Germany has also championed this belief in the Security Council. In Resolution 2532, which was adopted in August 2020 under the German presidency, the Security Council called for a global ceasefire in order to give people affected by conflict a respite during the pandemic.
Continuing our work in the Security Council
Germany wants to continue playing its part in preserving global peace – as a permanent member of the Security Council. “We have shown over the past two years that we are capable of filling a seat on the UN Security Council in the long term,” said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. “We therefore want not only to stand for a non-permanent seat again in eight years’ time, but also seek to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council before that date.”