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After 103 resolutions, we look back on two years in the UN Security Council

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New York, 31 December 2020 - December 2020 marked the end of Germany's two-year membership in the United Nations Security Council. From the Berlin Process on Libya to a new political mission in Sudan and the campaign against sexualized violence: a look back at two eventful years.

In 2019 and 2020, Germany had a seat in the Security Council of the United Nations.
In 2019 and 2020, Germany had a seat in the Security Council of the United Nations.© picture alliance/dpa / Johannes Schmitt-Tegge

Germany had been a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since January 1, 2019, and its two-year membership ended at the end of 2020.

For the sixth time, the Federal Republic had assumed responsibility for peace and security in the world in this role and advocated a strengthening of the international order - at a time when the multilateral order with the United Nations at its heart has come under enormous pressure.

With its five permanent members and ten non-permanent members elected for two-year terms, the UN Security Council is the only UN body whose decisions are binding under international law.

As a member, Germany has had the opportunity to continuously position itself on central issues of peace and international security, to react to current crises and to set its own priorities, for example in strengthening women in peace processes or on the issue of disarmament.

A review of the most important topics

Libya: Good news from Libya has been rare in the past years, but several recent developments give grounds for hope. Germany has continued to work alongside the UN Special Envoy for Libya to launch a political process aimed at stabilising the country.

The Berlin Process, through which Germany is supporting the UN’s peace efforts, is crucial here. At the start of 2020, a major conference was held in Berlin at the invitation of UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and brought supporters of the parties to the conflict around a table.

The aim was to reduce external influence and thus enable an intra-Libyan political process under the auspices of the UN. In February 2020, the Security Council affirmed its support for the outcomes of the conference in Resolution 2510. As chair of the Sanctions Committee to oversee the UN arms embargo against Libya and EU operation IRINI, Germany played an important role in the concrete implementation of the arms embargo. A nationwide ceasefire is now in force in Libya.

Since early November, 75 Libyans have been negotiating in Tunis on the country’s political future and free elections are planned for December 2021.

Syria: Following long and tough negotiations, the cross-border resolution was extended, thus ensuring access for deliveries of humanitarian assistance to Syria.

As co-penholder with Belgium, Germany worked hard to achieve this result, ultimately suggesting a compromise in order to maintain aid to millions of Syrians.

Sudan: Since the overthrow of dictator al-Bashir, there is a sense of a new beginning in the Sudan and the country is undergoing a transition process, which Germany has supported from the start.

In June 2020, Germany co-hosted a Sudan Partnership Conference with UN Secretary‑General António Guterres in order to mobilise political and financial support.

Germany and the UK called in the Security Council for a new UN mission in the Sudan. From 2021, the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) will replace the previous UNAMID mission and support the transition to democracy.

Own political accents of Germany

The Women, Peace and Security Agenda: All over the world, sexual violence is increasingly being used as a weapon in conflicts. Germany is striving to change this through Resolution 2467, which was adopted under its presidency of the Security Council.

Building on the Security Council’s Women, Peace and Security Agenda, Germany is putting the focus on the victims of sexual violence. In the future, perpetrators are to be held to account to a greater extent.

Disarmament/non-proliferation: The issues ranged here from small arms to nuclear disarmament. In April 2019, Germany put nuclear disarmament back on the Security Council’s agenda for the first time in over seven years as a priority of its month-long presidency.

Although the Review Conference on the Non-Proliferation Treaty had to be postponed until 2021 because of the pandemic, these topics remain high up on the agenda. Initiatives to relaunch nuclear-disarmament efforts were proposed in February 2020 in the Berlin Declaration signed by the 16 Stockholm Initiative countries.

Particularly in view of the end of the INF Treaty and the current uncertain future of New START, this remains an urgent concern for the German Government beyond the country’s Security Council membership.

Climate and security: Climate change is becoming increasingly important in the work of the Security Council. It is triggering new conflicts and exacerbating existing ones, for example in the Lake Chad region, the Sudan or Afghanistan.

Germany has therefore put the issue on the agenda, even in the face of resistance: Through a newly created informal group of experts, the topic will be permanently anchored in the Security Council.

Alliance for Multilateralism

Germany’s Security Council membership saw the adoption of 103 resolutions, with several more possibly to be added by the end of the year.

It has already been shown that progress can only be made through international cooperation and that urgent global issues – from climate change to digital transformation – can only be resolved together.

That is why, in addition to its involvement in the Security Council, Germany has created the Alliance for Multilateralism, which promotes international cooperation and provides a clear counterweight to unilateral national action. 60 states support the initiative.

The COVID-19 pandemic shows particularly clearly once again how vital multilateral cooperation is. Viruses do not stop at borders and no one is safe until everyone is safe. Medicines, equipment and vaccines must therefore be distributed fairly.

Germany has also strongly supported this conviction in the Security Council: with Resolution 2532, adopted in August 2020 under the German chairmanship, the Security Council called for a global ceasefire to give people affected by conflict a breathing space with a view to Covid-19.

Continuing our work in the Security Council

Germany wants to continue playing its part in preserving global peace – as a permanent member of the Security Council.

In this respect, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said:

We have shown over the past two years that we are capable of filling a seat on the UN Security Council in the long term. We therefore want not only to stand for a non-permanent seat again in eight years’ time, but also seek to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council before that date.

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