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Germany and the United Nations (July 7, 2005)

As part of the process of reforming the United Nations, the red-green government strove to acquire a permanent seat for Germany on the U.N. Security Council. This reform failed, due in part to resistance from the United States. Shortly before the decisive negotiations, arguments were made for and against Germany’s inclusion in the Security Council.

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Should Germany Have a Seat on the U.N. Security Council?
Pro: Matthias Nass. Contra: Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff

Pro: Berlin is a reliable partner and has earned a permanent seat on the Council. By Matthias Nass

In a few days the U.N. General Assembly will vote on the expansion of the U.N. Security Council. Germany has come together with Brazil, India, and Japan to form the “Group of Four” (G4) and is campaigning for a permanent seat on the United Nations’ most important body. It is, in the words of Volker Rühe, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag, “the right moment and the right goal.”

Reform – years overdue – is in sight. For the composition of the Security Council mirrors the world of 1945, not the political reality we face at the beginning of the 21st century. For 60 years, its core has always consisted of the “Permanent Five”: the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, and China – the victors of World War II. Whole continents, Africa and Latin America, for example, are not represented by permanent members. With only one seat, prospering Asia is woefully underrepresented. In its present form the Security Council is an anachronism.

Without representativeness there is no legitimacy. This, however, is needed by a Security Council that according to the U.N. Charter has the last word on war and peace. And which increasingly determines international law. After the 9/11 attacks, the Council gave all member states concrete responsibilities in the fight against terrorism, especially with regard to the screening of international money transfers. The Council must be expanded, its legitimacy must be strengthened – not to satisfy the ambition of Great Power wannabes, but because a global threat assessment dictates it.

An expert committee put in place by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has identified two criteria for the expansion of the Security Council: first, all regions of the world should be represented on it; second, it should include the nations that “make the largest contributions to the United Nations – financially, militarily and diplomatically.” Without a doubt Germany belongs to this group of nations. It contributes to closing “the gap between hopes and performance” (Annan). Germany contributes 8.6 percent of the U.N. budget, making it the third largest contributor behind the United States (22 percent) and Japan (19.4 percent). It is ahead of permanent Security Council members Great Britain (6.1 percent), France (6.0), China (2.0) and Russia (1.1). Germany has always been a reliable contributor.

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