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We Germans have learned our lesson from history: Only if our neighbours, friends and partners thrive as we do, we will do well in the long-run. In Africa, this is called Ubuntu, writes Martin Schäfer.
There are some
things one simply cannot do alone. Winning the Rugby World Cup, for example. As
much as we have been admiring Siya Kolisi and Duane Vermeulen's performance in
Japan, I think we agree that neither of them would be able to bring the Cup
home on their own.
Not even the
great Jonah Lomu was able to win it all alone against a passionate Springbok
defence in the 1995 World Cup final in Ellis Park Stadium. It's a team effort
and I wish the Springboks all the best for this team endeavour next weekend against
Wales. #GoBokke. One for all. All for one.
politics is not that different to rugby. No country on its own is able to
tackle the many challenges we face as a world community. We will only get ahead
through cooperation, coordination and joint efforts.
easy to see why: In the age of globalisation, almost all countries on earth are
interconnected. Conflicts raging thousands of miles away may have a direct
impact on people's lives in South Africa, through migration or changing trade
patterns, for example. Climate change causes problems that do not stop at any
borders. Science does not have any borders anyway. Cumbersome negotiations on
Brexit have a direct and very concrete impact on jobs in South Africa. That's
why team work, or in the world of diplomacy – multilateralism – is more
important than ever.
field of foreign policy, multilateralism means that states refrain from
pursuing their own interests with no regard, respect or empathy for other
countries. This is not something they do out of a sense of charity, but in the
enlightened and rational pursuit of their own interests. They do this because
they know that, ultimately, all states reap the greatest gains if they work
together. Such cooperation relies on certain principles and rules that are being
shared by all.
have learned our lesson from history: Only if our neighbours, friends and
partners thrive as we do, we will do well in the long-run. In Africa, this is
South Africa strongly believe in the values of multilateralism. We have been pushing
this agenda as non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council –
on issues ranging from peace and security to the crucial role of women in
strongly believe that a purposive system of multilateralism is necessary to
deal with the global challenges we face." That's how Naledi Pandor,
Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, put it in her speech at
the UN General Assembly last month. "We are all inter-dependent in an ever
globalising world and can ill afford the pursuit of narrow self-interests."
Pandor was one of more than 50 ministers who joined German Foreign Minister
Heiko Maas at an event in New York to boost the alliance for multilateralism – a
new network of countries working together in a wide range of policy areas that
is committed to further developing our rules-based order. The aim is to bolster
the values of the UN, strengthen cooperation, enhance the legitimacy of fair
rules and tackle the challenges of the future together.
Why do we
need such an alliance now?
to say that the multilateral order is experiencing its perhaps gravest crisis and
most serious threat since its emergence after the Second World War. It has come
under pressure from critics who find compromises too laborious and who believe
that things can also be achieved by going it alone. The "my country first"
brigade is very loud. I believe this is extremely short-sighted and dangerous.
more, not less, of a multilateral order. We need to defend international rules
and institutions, particularly when they are coming under attack. The nuclear
deal with Iran and the Paris climate agreement are some examples. That also
holds for our human rights architecture, the humanitarian system and the
crumbling agreements on arms control.
threats don't stop at national borders
But we must
also strengthen international cooperation where new challenges demand new
answers. Climate change, migration, religious intolerance and cyber threats don't
stop at national borders. So we need to address them jointly. And we can.
with our South African partners that we need to reform international
institutions like the United Nations. These must reflect the world as it is now
and not 75 years ago. They must espouse the realities and priorities of our
century. This is not just a matter of fairness. It is a matter of credibility, representation
that multilateralism is under attack should neither frighten not stop us – to
the contrary. Coming back to the rugby comparison: Would the Springboks throw
the towel when facing the massive scrum of the All Blacks in the final? Or
would they give their all as a team to fight the challenge? Looking back to the
1995 World Cup, it was a joint team effort that brought about that glorious
that the sports allegory only goes that far. Contrary to the Rugby World Cup,
multilateralism is not a one-off event that takes place every few years. It is
a continuous endeavour. There neither is a medal to be won – no fame, no glory.
But I firmly believe that multilateralism is our best and only shot at tackling
our global challenges.
trophy is the path to peace, security and a better future for our children, we
should all join hands and reach for it. Crouch, bind, set!
- Schäfer is the German ambassador to South Africa.
Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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