Germany’s two-year stint on the United Nations Security Council has been constructive and bruising in equal measure. German diplomats have made significant contributions to Council debates on issues ranging from the future of Sudan to the security implications of climate change. But they have also clashed with China, Russia and, most strikingly, the United States.
It has been Germany’s misfortune to serve on the Council during one of the more dysfunctional periods in its post-Cold War history. The Trump administration has aimed to marginalize the UN on most security issues. Taking advantage of this U.S. disengagement, Russia and China have become increasingly assertive. The COVID crisis created both practical and political headaches for the Council, too. Diplomats had to learn how to negotiate over the internet, while Chinese and U.S. officials traded accusations over the origins of the pandemic.
The German mission in New York responded to these challenging circumstances quite boldly. Rather than avoid friction with the Security Council’s most powerful members, Germany has aimed to play a central role on difficult situations, including Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Iran. It has also emphasized themes – such as the Women, Peace and Security agenda and climate change – that were bound to create arguments with the Americans, Chinese and Russians.
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Richard Gowan, UN Director. Originally published in Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung