40th Anniversary of Germany at the UN: Statement by Ambassador Wittig
(Statement as delivered by Ambassador Wittig at a celebratory event, marking the 40th anniversary of Germany's accession to the United Nations)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me extend a warm welcome to all of you! I am delighted and honored that you are celebrating Germany’s 40th anniversary as a UN-member with us today! I am particularly grateful to BMW North America who is supporting this event today through its generous sponsorship.
When I mention the 40th anniversary event to UN insiders, most give me a look of surprise. Then they start counting. Going back four decades doesn’t take you to the year 1945 when the United Nations was founded amidst the ruins of World War II. It also doesn’t lead you into the 1950s when Germany regained its limited sovereignty. The logic of the Cold War still prevented both German states from joining the UN. It required Chancellor Willy Brandt’s and Foreign Minister Scheel’s policy of détente and Ostpolitik to pave the way for German UN membership.
Finally, on 18 September 1973, both German states were admitted as UN member number 133 and 134 and two German flags were raised just a few meters from here.
Since then, Germany’s engagement in and with the United Nations has evolved exponentially. The notion that the UN is a central pillar of German foreign policy is part of our diplomats’ genetic code. Six memberships of the Security Council, two German Presidents of the General Assembly, Germany’s important financial commitment to the UN and its funds and programs, as well as its active engagement in the UN’s human rights bodies testify to our strong conviction: the United Nations are and have to remain the guardian of universal peace, prosperity and human dignity!
Dignity, freedom, and the hope for a better life were the also key drivers of the peaceful revolution in 1989. It swept away the Berlin wall, ended the artificial divisions between East and West in Europe and led to German reunification. It also enabled Germany to become an active contributor to UN peacekeeping. Over 6,000 German soldiers, police officers and civilians are currently serving in UN mandated peace-keeping missions, from Mali to Afghanistan and from Kosovo to Darfur.
Cooperation and friendship have replaced confrontation in Europe. The continent is experiencing its longest period of peace and an unprecedented degree of prosperity – despite the current crisis. We know, however, that this historic fortune also comes with a great responsibility: the duty to stand up for those around the world who are suffering from the scourges of war, from political oppression, from hunger or disease. This commitment binds us to the UN.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
An anniversary is not only a moment for retrospective, but also an opportunity to ask: “What are the challenges lying ahead of us? How can we address them?”
The multi-polar, inter-connected world of the 21st century has not become a safer place, as predicted by many scholars and politicians in the 1990s. The massive changes in the Arab World as well as ongoing conflicts in Africa and other regions demand our full attention. The bloody civil war in Syria and the atrocities committed against the civilian population call for a strong, swift and united reaction from the United Nations.
At the same time, we are confronted with the spread of international terrorism, the proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction, piracy, cyber-attacks, and the large-scale displacement of people from areas of conflict. Climate change threatens the existence of entire countries. Economic growth and sustainability still need to be reconciled if we don’t want to compromise the lives of future generations.
These global challenges demand multilateral answers. They require the functioning “cooperative order” that Foreign Minister Westerwelle called for in his speech to the General Assembly last September.
Mr. Secretary-General, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Germany is convinced that a strong UN with representative institutions is best placed to provide that order. You can count on Germany as a driver of UN reform, a promoter of political solutions to global problems, a model for peaceful regional cooperation, a responsible donor of development assistance, an advocate for disarmament, a pioneer in green energy and climate change and a strong voice for freedom, democracy and human rights.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
An anniversary usually means exchanging gifts. The biggest gift you could offer us is your presence here today.
There is a gift, however, that I would like to make to the UN. Jean Monnet, one of the fathers of European integration, once famously said that it is better to argue around a table than on a battle field. In that same spirit, it is my privilege to hand over to you, Mr. Secretary-General, the “Quiet Room” which has been renovated and refurbished by Germany. Somewhat contrary to its name, it serves as a space for lively internal discussions and briefings among Security Council Members and non-member states: in essence, as a market place for diplomacy and the peaceful exchange of ideas. Today it will be open to all of us and I invite you to discover it together with me and the Secretary-General in a few minutes.
Thank you once again for your attention and for joining us today!