UN system will protect future of rich and poor: German President

Wednesday March 18 2020

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier addresses the opening speech of the 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on February 14, 2020. PHOTO | CHRISTOF STACHE | AFP


German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has criticised global powers which have been withdrawing from international bodies, saying the move risks slowing down cooperation against common problems.

Ahead of his visit to Nairobi on Sunday, Mr Steinmeier said the world will be better if countries defend the UN and other regional cooperation blocs because no country can handle all its problems alone.

"Withdrawing in order to concentrate on a narrowly-defined national interest harms us all. It casts us back to a world in which everyone seeks to enhance their own security at the expense of others," he told the Nation in a pre-tour interview.

"Such a rejection of international cooperation also prevents us from coming up with convincing answers to the issues and problems that no one, not even the biggest nation-state on Earth, can solve alone."


The German President thinks countries should be thinking of fortifying international cooperation through bodies such as the UN and the EU, in what is often known as multilateralism.


"It (withdrawal) damages the institutions and instruments we absolutely need to tackle the major issues facing humanity, issues specified in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

"Climate change mitigation is but one of them. Here, though, it becomes clearer by the day that the repercussions are not only felt by small states. A blinkered or short-sighted national view will cost even the biggest of us dearly.

"All over the world, our children’s and grandchildren’s generations will pay a high price for our failure to act and for nations going it alone, undermining joint action."


Germany is currently a member of the UN Security Council, the most powerful UN body but which has lately been victim to political interests of permanent members US, France, China, UK and Russia.

But Munich says it has used its position to show leadership.

"We used the first year of our membership to further intensify the cooperation between the United Nations and African partners.

"For example, we are the only Western troop contributor supporting the joint UN-AU peace mission in Darfur. This mission can be a blueprint for the future of cooperation between New York and Addis Ababa: African solutions to African problems with the support of the international community. Germany is the largest European troop contributor in the UN peace mission, Minusma, in Mali.

"Moreover, we are engaged in the fight against Ebola, not only bilaterally but also within the UN framework. Together we are working to advance Silencing the Guns in Africa."

Mr Steinmeier said his country would like to strengthen multilateralism and the rules-based world order in cooperation with African partners also in the security council.

He said that as such, the German Government has established an Alliance for Multilateralism aimed at finding practical new forms of cooperation for fulfilment of common interests.


The Federal President will be the highest ranked German politician to visit Nairobi since Chancellor Angela Merkel did in 2011.

He says his visit is meant to boost business ties with the East African region and has carried with him a huge business delegation.

Nairobi is an important regional centre for major UN organisations, for example the UN Environment Programme (Unep) and the UN Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat).

"Kenya is a key partner for us in the worldwide campaign to find joint solutions in the age of the Anthropocene, in which, for the first time, humans have fundamentally changed the living conditions on our planet with their own actions," Mr Steinmeier said.

But his tour comes on the backdrop of Brexit, which saw the United Kingdom exit the European Union.

That left Germany as the biggest economy in the EU and the European body somewhat politically weak.