Bridge builders: A German and Kenyan agenda for change

This year, the two countries are celebrating milestone anniversaries of their UN memberships and 60 years of diplomatic engagement characterised by strong engagement at UN forums, underpinned by shared international priorities.

Kenya and Germany have often driven their UN policy agendas in close collaboration. This was particularly tangible when the two nations succeeded each other as non-permanent members of the UN Security Council in 2019-2022.

In their engagements, the two countries have propagated UN priorities including peacebuilding, development, climate action and the reform of international institutions, including the international financial ones.

Our two nations prioritise the fight against the foremost and existential threat of climate change. Germany is a driving force of the G7 initiative of a Climate Club intended to advance ambitious climate action and support a just transition. Kenya is set to join the Climate Club as the first African nation. This will help leverage the Club as a format that brings together countries from different continents in their joint fight against climate change. Kenya's target to attain 100 per cent clean energy by 2030 makes it a model for other countries.

As evidenced by the successful Inaugural Africa Climate Summit held in Nairobi in early September, Kenya is coalescing an ambitious pan-African position that is shaping the global green growth agenda. Underlining Africa's potential as a green powerhouse, the Nairobi Declaration has been an important step on the road to COP28 to be held in Dubai.

Further, Kenya has been playing a leading role in regional and international peace building efforts including in South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, DRC, and is set to lead the Multinational Security Support to Haiti. This underscores Kenya's understanding of her international responsibility and leadership which stretches well beyond the African continent.

Kenya and Germany act as anchor states in their respective regions and as middle states in the global arena. The two countries have a role in stabilising the intense strategic competitions currently emerging in the world. The future outlook is bright as their political and leadership roles and potential in their respective regions to build bridges between the respective continents are well articulated. These bridges must be built on mutual trust and willingness to truly listen to each other and create mutual partnerships.

It is this understanding that informs the Munich Security Conference (MSC), scheduled for Nairobi between 15 and 16 October, this year. The conference brings together leading voices from Africa, Europe, and the US to discuss the state of security in the Horn of Africa region, and its impact beyond. It will be hosted in close partnership with the Kenyan government, a fact that the German government applauds.

But listening alone won't be enough. A transcontinental agenda for change will have to deliver on three key dimensions.

First, Berlin and Nairobi can and must be drivers when it comes to designing an international order that more countries can subscribe to. This order, anchored in the principles of the UN Charter, must be more inclusive and representative of today's political and economic realities. This applies to international financial institutions where adaptation of the quotas and voting shares is long overdue, as much as to the broader UN system.

Calls for a reform of the UN Security Council have gained new momentum as reflected in the speeches at this year's UN General Assembly. Since Kenya and Germany are part of different reform initiatives, a joint approach could help build a broader compromise.

A possible pathway to reform could be a new category of semipermanent seats like in the UN Human Rights Council, allowing members to serve for more than two years and be regularly re-elected. For Germany, strengthening the voices of those underrepresented, including from Africa, should take precedence over pursuing its own ambitions for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

Second, Kenya and Germany must be frontrunners in forging economic partnerships that are mutually beneficial. Richly endowed with natural resources and minerals needed for green technologies, the energy transition provides African countries with ample opportunities and makes them key partners for Europe and the US on the path to net zero. The transatlantic partners must ensure that their cooperation models promote a sustainable, inclusive growth track. This includes upholding high environmental, social, and governance standards and supporting African countries' efforts to build local value chains.

Finally, forging partnerships based on trust and solidarity will require all sides to deliver on their international commitments. For the transatlantic partners, and high-income countries more broadly, this includes keeping the promise to support less wealthy nations in climate adaptation and mitigation by channeling $100 billion a year to them.

Moreover, they need to step up efforts to foster the SDGs and work towards solutions for nations confronted with mounting debt burdens, including by offering debt relief and broader access to emergency financing. Both countries in the Global North and South need to live up to their commitment to improving and safeguarding good governance principles, civil liberties, and political rights.

Kenya and Germany can be a driving force for change - advancing cooperation between African countries and transatlantic partners and boosting rules-based multilateralism. Given the magnitude of challenges, we have to join forces now. To close with the words of President Ruto addressing the UN General Assembly: "We must start right away, for we have no time to lose".

Dr Heusgen is chairman of the Munich Security Conference and former National Security Advisor of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Dr Juma is National Security Advisor and Secretary, National Security Council, Kenya.