Germany prepares for UN Security Council membership | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 29.12.2010
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Germany prepares for UN Security Council membership

As of January, Germany will take one of the ten seats on the UN Security Council reserved for non-permanent members. It will focus on the Afghanistan conflict and hopes to push climate change onto the council's agenda.

View of Security Council chamber in New York

As of January, Germany will help man the Security Council

Given the magnitude of conflicts that end up on the table of the United Nations Security Council, Germany hopes it can help defuse or even settle at least some of those conflicts when it joins the body for a two-year term in January 2011.

"We want the council to not only deal with the fallout of a given crisis, but put more effort into conflict prevention," said Germany's ambassador to the United Nations, Peter Wittig.

"In other words, we want the Security Council to become active long before any reports about the first casualties come in."

Germany will above all be responsible for coordinating the international community's military and development efforts in Afghanistan. It's also likely to be in charge of the Council's al Qaeda sanctions committee which oversees travel restrictions that have been imposed and the freezing of assets held by Taliban supporters.

Squaring the circle?

Yet the sanctions in place have proven to be an obstacle to bringing Taliban leaders to the negotiating table in a bid to incorporate them in the peace process in Afghanistan - and compromises will be required to get out of the dilemma.

Close-up of Germany's ambassador to the United Nations, Peter Wittig

Peter Wittig has represented Germany at the UN since December 2009

But former German UN ambassador Guenter Pleuger is confident that Germany can make a difference.

"Individual members of the council can be quite influential," he told Deutsche Welle. "You just need to present good arguments and a good course of action."

New strategic alliances

Germany is also poised to use its tenure to convince others of treating climate change as a potential security issue. What it has in mind is the expected impact of global warming on available resources and the fate of many small island states threatened by rising sea levels.

Motorcyclist on a thoroughfare on Sao Tome and Principe

Sao Tome and Principe is one of the island states threatened with disappearance

"If Germany wants to make headway, it has to focus more on talks with individual countries, including rapidly industrializing nations," Susanne Droege from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs told Deutsche Welle.

"It cannot count on the backing of the United States in this field. It'll be like walking the tightrope – seeking support from countries in Africa and Asia without alienating itself from its traditional allies in the west."

Germany was once before a non-permanent member of the Security Council between 2003 and 2004 when it was among those refusing to give their backing for the US-led invasion of Iraq.

That earned it a good deal of harsh criticism from the US administration – and admiration from others. The Iraq war was unleashed nonetheless, mercilessly highlighting the limited powers of the United Nations' most important body.

The Security Council also failed to prevent the genocide in Rwanda, the civil war in Somalia and the political chaos in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Higher ambitions

Germany's renewed membership is seen as an important milestone in Berlin. But plans to become a permanent member of the council will also be pursued, along with a general overhaul of the body to reflect modern-day realities.

Brazil, India, South Africa and Japan have also been struggling to join the body on a permanent basis to give their regions a greater say in world affairs.

It is widely felt that the current composition of the Security Council made up of the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China reflects an outdated post-World War II scenario.

Author: Hardy Graupner
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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