Any Effective International Order Needs to Reflect the World’s Multipolarity

Published on 13th June 2023

Speech by Olaf Scholz, Chancellor  of the Federal Republic of Germany at the Global Solutions Summit on 15 May 2023 in Berlin

Professor Snower,
Mr. Walker,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It’s great to be back at the Global Solutions Summit!

It’s great because our public debates are too often focused on the problems and not on the solutions.

And even more often, we’re looking at them from a very domestic perspective.

In our inter-connected, inter-dependent world, this is simply not enough.

That’s why a summit like yours, focusing on both – the solutions and their global nature – is so useful.

No matter where you come from or which field you work in – climate action, global governance or migration, fighting poverty or advancing human rights – all of these pressing challenges have one thing in common.

We will only be able to address them successfully if we find new ways of global cooperation.

The international order as we know it faces tremendous challenges.

Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine might be the most brazen and outrageous attack on it. But it’s by far not the only one.

  • International law and rulings by international courts are being ignored.
  • Universal human rights are being dismissed as “regional inventions”.
  • Nuclear proliferation poses a growing threat in East Asia and the Middle East.

I could go on with this list…

So, the million-euro question before us is: How can we maintain an international order based on the UN Charter and on international law in the 21st century?

Now, we’re here to talk about solutions.

And for me, the first part of the solution is this: any effective international order needs to reflect the world’s multipolarity.

The unipolar or bipolar world of the past might have been easier to organise – at least for those who held the power. But it’s not the world we are living in anymore.

Countries in Asia, Africa and the Americas have growing populations and economies. Hundreds of millions of people globally have lifted themselves out of poverty and joined the middle class.

They have every right to aspire to the same level of prosperity, participation and global influence that citizens in Europe and North America enjoy.

That’s what a global order in the 21st century needs to reflect.

The good news is that an overwhelming majority of countries in the world agree on the principles that such an order must be built on.

With some notable exceptions – Russia being one of them – we all agree on the prohibition of the use of force in international relations. We want to see the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of other states respected.

This view is also shared by those countries which were not sitting at the table in San Francisco in 1945 when the UN Charter was adopted.

Only ten years later, in Bandung, Indonesia, many of those countries from Africa and Asia raised their voices for self-determination, territorial integrity, sovereignty and a world without colonialism and imperialism.

What else are we trying to achieve when we support Ukraine against Russia’s attack?

But why then, some of you might ask, do some of these countries hesitate to criticise Russia more openly?

Why did influential countries such as India, South Africa or Viet Nam abstain from the relevant UN resolutions calling on Russia to end its illegal invasion?

These questions deserve an answer.

When I talk to leaders from those countries, many assure me that they are not questioning the underlying principles of our international order. What they are struggling with is the unequal application of those principles.

What they expect is representation on equal terms – and an end to Western double standards.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that all of these claims are always justified. But we must address them if we want to encourage the powers in Asia, Africa and the Americas to join us in building and defending a stable global order.

So, what does that mean in practice?

First, we need to substantially broaden the scope of our engagement with the Global South.

If countries get the impression that we only approach them because we’re interested in their raw materials or because we want their support on a UN resolution, it shouldn’t surprise us that their willingness to cooperate is limited – at best.

Rather, our focus should be on what we can offer them and where our interests converge.

One example is regional integration.

No other region in the world is as closely integrated as the European Union – with its single market, its freedom of movement and its strong political institutions.

Countries in Africa, South-East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean have embarked on a similar path – with the African Union, ASEAN, Mercosur, CELAC and other organisations.

We as Europeans should offer them our unique experience and our support. That’s what I did in my meetings with the African Union in Addis Ababa last week.

Another huge opportunity to bring about a new relationship between Europe and the Global South is the transition towards renewable energy.

Within two decades, we’ll be living in a solar, wind and hydrogen-powered world. For many countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas which were once importers of fossil energy, this creates an enormous opportunity to boost their own carbon-free industrial development and in some cases even become energy exporters.

This success lies in our very own interest.

After all, one key lesson from Russia’s war against Ukraine is that we have to avoid one-sided dependencies and diversify our energy supplies.

For that, countries in the Global South must have access to the technology and the capital that is needed to develop climate-friendly energy and industry sectors. Access that we can provide.

This is one of the key issues we’ll be addressing in the international Climate Club that we founded during our G7 Presidency last year.

Chile has recently joined Germany as co-chair. And I’m delighted that other emerging market economies have also decided to come on board, for instance Indonesia, Colombia, Kenya and Argentina.

Dependencies don’t only exist when it comes to energy. Many critical minerals are essential for the global transition to a climate-neutral future.

Right now, a handful of countries control most of the market – simply because the raw materials are being processed there and not in the countries of origin.

The countries of origin have every interest in changing that. And we have every interest in diversifying our supply chains.

So, why are we not working together to locate more processing steps where the raw materials come from?

That way, we would not only create greater local prosperity. We would also ensure that our economies have more than just one supplier in the future.

If that means adjusting EU trade policies and agreements, we should be open to doing so.

This could serve as a model for fair and mutually beneficial trade partnerships in the future.

This leads me to the second point we need to address: representation – or rather the lack thereof.

As long as the emerging powers feel that they are overlooked and underrepresented in the international system, they won’t fully commit to defending it.

That’s a question of buy-in and inclusivity.

Fixing this will require institutional reforms.

Germany explicitly supports Africa’s demand to have more seats and also permanent members on the UN Security Council.

I also agree with the Chairman of the African Union that the AU should join the G20 as a formal member.

And I hope that the G20 Summit in Delhi in September will formalise this important step.

The Summit can also be instrumental in making our International Financial Institutions fit for the 21st century.

Given the magnitude of the transformation ahead, we need them to boost private sector investment.

The World Bank in particular could be a frontrunner: by advancing the global transformation towards climate neutrality and continuing to fight poverty.

How to get there is part of the discussions that we’re having ahead of the G20 Summit in Delhi.

And there’s more we can do. Not every step towards greater inclusivity requires cumbersome institutional reforms.

As you might know, we used our G7 Presidency last year to include leaders of the Global South in our discussions: Indonesia as the then chair of the G20, India as the incoming G20 Presidency, Senegal as head of the AU, South Africa as Africa’s voice in the G20 and Argentina as chair of the Latin American and Caribbean states.

And the results of our meeting reflect that inclusivity.

  • We set up the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment as a sustainable development offer to the world.
  • We established the Global Alliance for Food Security to protect people from hunger and malnutrition.
  • We launched the Global Shield against Climate Risks together with the Vulnerable 20, the group of countries most affected by the impact of climate change.
  • And we concluded new partnerships with Indonesia, South Africa and Viet Nam to help their societies and economies in a just transition towards renewable energies.

And I’m glad that the Japanese G7 Presidency intends to build on these achievements at our upcoming Summit in Hiroshima at the end of this week.

In Hiroshima, the G7 will

  • assure Ukraine of our unwavering support for as long as it takes,
  • take steps towards creating secure and resilient economies, based on partnerships with the Global South,
  • and act on the challenges faced by developing and emerging markets, ranging from the urgent threat of the climate crisis to their critical need for infrastructure.

I will also remain personally committed to working towards a more inclusive, more equitable global order – particularly when it comes to our neighbouring continent, Africa.

That’s why I will invite African leaders and other global representatives to join me here in Berlin on 20 November to advance the G20 Compact with Africa.

The Compact’s goal is to stimulate economic growth and to encourage private investment in Africa. It remains as valid as ever.

Its potential though has only grown, as I witnessed first-hand during my trip to East Africa last week. Because of Africa’s young and growing population. And because many African countries are embracing the energy transition as an opportunity for them. 

So, here’s my conclusion.

Yes, there are many challenges to our existing international order – probably more than ever before in the past eight decades.

And at the same time, the potential for global cooperation on equal terms was never greater than today.

That’s the dichotomy of our times.

Our focus should be on unlocking that potential – just like you’re doing through your work.

So, thank you for being part of the global solution.

And now I’m looking forward to our discussion.

Courtesy: Bundesregierung

This article has been read 900 times