Accepting Responsibility for World Peace - Interview with Ambassador Peter Wittig
Enlarge image Ambassador Peter Wittig (© German UN Mission) An interview with Ambassador Peter Wittig on Germany’s role as a non-permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations and the objectives pursued by a reform of this important body.
Mr. Ambassador, Germany was elected as a new non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in mid-October. This was preceded by an intensive campaign. Which arguments in favour of Germany do you believe were the most convincing?
We campaigned on our strengths: Germany’s predictable and recognized contribution to peace and security in the world, our sustained and substantial commitment to international development, and our pioneering role in climate policy. This seems to have earned us a lot of support.
It is said that you yourself actually met almost all the 191 UN ambassadors for talks during the run-up to the vote. A diplomatic marathon ...
I did indeed speak to all the UN ambassadors here, although the campaign preparing for this election was spread over several years. During that time we sought support for our cause in many different conversations – in the respective countries, here in New York, but also in direct contacts at a high political level. In this context it was really important for us to be able to draw on our global network of foreign representations. This not only gave us direct access to the respective decision-makers on the spot, but also credibly underlined the responsibility borne by a country of our size and our importance in relation to the global challenges of our time.
The reform of the United Nations has been an issue for many years. How will Germany use its membership of the Security Council to move reform efforts forward?
In the coming year the permanent members will be joined at the table of the Security Council not only by Germany, but also by the regional powers Brazil, India, South Africa and Nigeria, all of which are regarded as candidates for a seat in a reformed Security Council due to their great regional influence. The world community will be watching very closely to see what effect this constellation has on the work and authority of the Security Council. We believe that successful cooperation over the next two years would be a good sign, indicating that getting all continents involved would benefit all the member states of the United Nations – and this is ultimately the goal of our reform efforts.
In the long term, Germany’s objective is also permanent membership of the highest body in the United Nations – perhaps in the form of a seat for the European Union. Why is this so important?
In our view, the make-up of the Security Council reflects the geopolitical realities of 1945 – and not the realities of today. Neither Africa, Latin America nor Asia are represented; nor indeed are the countries that make the biggest financial contribution to the United Nations after the United States, namely Japan and Germany. The Security Council stands at the centre of all efforts to maintain world peace. We must avoid any and every risk that might impair its ability to fulfil this role and should therefore adapt it to the political balance of power in today’s world. We cannot have an interest in an asymmetry of global governance: on the one hand new dynamic group formats like the G20 – on the other stagnation in the institutional multilateralism of the United Nations. It would be wrong to reduce our call for a reform of the Security Council to our desire for a permanent seat for Germany.
What other issues does Germany specifically want to make progress on during its two-year membership of the world community’s most important body?
The Security Council bears the main responsibility for maintaining world peace and international security. As a non-permanent member, Germany will contribute to this primary task and support the Security Council in its role as an instrument of global crisis response and prevention. But there is more at stake. We believe the Security Council must also take a comprehensive look at the causes of conflicts. For this reason the key elements of German foreign policy – crisis prevention, peace consolidation, combating terrorism, non-proliferation and climate policy – will be reflected in our work on the Security Council. Furthermore, we will seek to focus attention on the protection of children in armed conflicts, because they are the ones who suffer most – and are powerlessly at the mercy of such conflicts.
The work of the United Nations remains abstract for many people. What is it that fascinates you personally about being Germany’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations?
The work is really exciting – but also very demanding. Here you have to move in a very broad spectrum of topics. And what particularly impresses me is that we work and live here in a microcosm that unites all countries, religions and cultures – enabling an understanding of other people’s points of view to grow and flourish especially well.
Interview by Janet Schayan