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Germany's big plans for UN Security Council

Friedel Taube
January 1, 2019

Germany is once again occupying a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council. How does it plan to use it — and what is the country's current involvement in UN missions?

UN Security Council meeting
Image: Reuters/C. Allegri

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas' business trip to New York in June has borne fruit. He had long made the case for Germany to have a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Read more: Bundeswehr floats idea of recruiting EU citizens

The decision to award the Germans a seat alongside the five permanent members — the United States, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom — and nine other nonpermanent members was a clear one: 184 votes out of a possible 193. Germany took its place on January 1.

Germany is seeking to implement several plans over the next two years. At the UN General Assembly in September, Maas advocated strengthening multilateralism, which has come under pressure from, among other things, the "America First" policies of US President Donald Trump.

"The United Nations is at the heart of the multilateral system," Maas said before departing for New York earlier this year. "We are living at a time when we need more international order, more reliability, more confidence in our common rules. The United Nations is as strong, just and effective as its members make it."

Heiko Maas at the UN
Maas and Germany are pushing for more multilateralism at the UNImage: picture alliance/dpa/K. Nietfeld

Germany also intends to advocate for a strong UN and a strong role for the European Union in various UN bodies. Over the next two years, Germany's main concern will be to try to ensure that the European Union as a whole is given a permanent seat. After Brexit, the only EU country represented on the Council will be France.

Opposing medium-range missiles

Crisis prevention is also on the agenda. The German presence on the Security Council will aim to ensure that the body gets involved earlier than it has done up to now in crisis regions. Germany also has some ideas about how to foster peace. The German ambassador to the UN, Christoph Heusgen, has announced that he wants to recruit more women for conflict resolution. "Women bring in different life experiences and perspectives from men, and this can help find compromises, reconcile enemies and make peace," the diplomat said.

But peacekeeping should also happen on one's own doorstep. At the end of December, Foreign Minister Maas made it clear that if the 1988 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between Russia and the US, which bans medium-range weapons, were to collapse, Germany would want to use its seat to oppose the deployment of medium-range missiles. "Any stationing of new medium-range missiles would come up against widespread opposition in Germany," Maas said.

Bundeswehr troops in Mali
The deployment in Mali is among the eight UN missions German troops are involved inImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler

This is the fifth time that Germany has been invited to be a guest on the Security Council for the two-year term. Many observers say it should have a permanent seat — not least because the country has gained worldwide respect and recognition in recent years by participating in UN security missions, which the UN Security Council issues mandates for.

Read more: Germany may increase troop numbers to 203,000 by 2025

Germany's soldiers and police officers are currently involved in eight of the UN's 14 missions. The biggest deployment of Bundeswehr soldiers is in Mali, where they're part of the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission. Around 110 Germans are helping to support the domestic peace and reconciliation process in the country. The hope is that this will also help to stabilize the whole West African region.

In Lebanon, Germany is involved in United Nations Interim Force, one of the longest-standing UN peacekeeping missions. German forces are also active in Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Western Sahara, Libya and Haiti. In all of these missions, Germany not only contributes personnel, but supports the peacekeeping process with mobile training teams, as well.

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