Same as last year, a visit to the “German House” was part of our program. At our arrival it became obvious that many German Delegations took the opportunity to get to know “their” representation at the United Nations. The briefing was held by Mr. Dirk Rotenberg. In the introduction he briefly presented the institutions in the “German House”: the German General Consulate and the Permanent Mission to the United Nations. A total of 15 diplomats, one of them Mr. Rotenberg, work for the Permanent Mission.
In his briefing Mr. Rotenberg talked about the role of the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly. He pointed out how significant the last two years have been for Germany (2003/2004), as it occupied a non-permanent seat on the Security Council. Referring to the work at the United Nations, he emphasized the importance of creating alliances with other Member States. He warned us not to underestimate the influence of Non-Governmental Organizations on the decision making process at the United Nations. In regard to the European Union Mr. Rotenberg stressed the importance of a common foreign policy. As far as the General Assembly is concerned, efforts have already been made to speak with one voice. This does not only offer the advantage of harmonizing EU-policies, it also conveys larger bargaining power on the common position. To close off his lecture, Mr. Rotenberg directed our attention to the topics currently discussed at the Security Council: weapons of mass destruction, the so called “failed States” and the diverging perceptions on human rights. Our speaker pointed out the critique coming from some States that standards applied to human rights violations vary between the members of the Security Council and other States (the so called “double standards”).
A vivid discussion followed the lecture. In answering the question concerning the various interests of the developing and the advanced countries, the speaker pointed out the differences in the perception of threats. Whereas industrial countries, such as Germany or the United States, are primarily worried about threats arising from weapons of mass destruction, developing countries are preoccupied with the struggle to survive despite poverty, epidemics and displacement. He drew attention to the fact that the members of the Security Council, hence the ones deciding on intervention, mainly come from „the North“, whereas most mandates of the blue helmets are exercised in “the South”.
Following the various questions from the plenum, Mr. Rotenberg gave us some information on the reform of the Security Council. We were especially interested to find out what kind of strategies Germany plans to apply in order to gain a permanent seat on the Security Council. Our speaker pointed out that Germany must cooperate with like-minded partner States. Such a cooperation already exists with Brazil, India and Japan. Furthermore, the weight of the financial contributions to the United Nations has to be highlighted and the promises made with regard to the payment of development aid need to be realised.
With regard to the question if it is at all sensible for Germany to gain a permanent seat on the Security Council, our speaker stressed that as this matter is constantly raised, it is important for Germany to promote the advantages of its membership. Mr. Rotenberg underlined that in his view the German participation would be beneficial to the United Nations as it would contribute to a better decision making within the Security Council. Our speaker explained that the fear of additional duties frequently raised in Germany is partially justified. Additional costs are to be expected and commitments that are unpopular domestically might become necessary, for example regarding the deployment of German troops.
To conclude the session, Mr. Rotenberg gave us a short overview on the everyday life of a German diplomat and the recruitment practice of the German Foreign Affairs Office. We wish to cordially thank Mr. Rotenberg for giving us the possibility to discuss the current German foreign policy.