Shaping a multipolar world through “new paths of cooperation”

Federal Chancellor Scholz addresses the World Economic Forum in Davos Shaping a multipolar world through “new paths of cooperation”

The World Economic Forum in Davos was dominated by the war in Ukraine, the climate crisis, the energy crisis and increasing food shortages. In the face of this turmoil, Federal Chancellor Scholz appealed for greater multilateralism and more international collaboration, stressing the need for globalisation to be sustainable, smart and in solidarity.

Federal Chancellor Scholz addresses the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“Deglobalisation is not the right way to go!” stressed Federal Chancellor Scholz in Davos.

Photo: Bundesregierung/Steins

“Yes, the world is going through a ‘turning point’, a time of turmoil,” said the Federal Chancellor, acknowledging the guiding principles of this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos. In his speech, Scholz argued that it was apt to speak of a turning point, as Russia’s war of aggression not only disregarded Ukraine’s sovereignty but also “a system of international cooperation that arose from the ‘Never again!’ of two terrible world wars.” 

This year’s meeting of the World Economic Forum took place under the motto “History at a Turning Point: Government Policies and Business Strategies”. Due to the pandemic, the event was initially held online in January, but made up for that with almost 2,000 participants attending the meeting in Davos now.

“You can rely on Germany!”

The Federal Chancellor described how the G7, NATO and the EU had responded with determination, imposing “sanctions that are tougher and further-reaching than any previously imposed on a country of Russia’s size.” Scholz also noted that for the first time ever, Germany was supplying arms to a war zone, including heavy weapons. At the same time, Scholz stressed that Germany would do “nothing that could make NATO a party to the conflict.” The Federal Chancellor reaffirmed the aim of making it clear to Putin that “there will be no victor’s peace. Ukraine will not accept that – and neither will we.” 

He added that Germany had performed an about-turn on defence policy, with 100 billion euros to be made available for the modernisation of the Federal Armed Forces. Scholz stressed that the security of Germany was at stake, but that he had an unequivocal message for Germany’s allies: “You can rely on Germany!”

Climate neutrality goal: more significant due to war

Scholz reaffirmed that Germany and Europe will end their dependence on energy imports from Russia. He acknowledged that no matter what efforts were made, this would have an impact, citing energy prices as an example. Scholz also accepted that this posed a particular challenge for countries like Germany, which “is an industrialised nation and plans to remain so.”

For this reason, he pledged that Germany would invest billions in the transformation of its economy. The Federal Chancellor spoke of how the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2045 had been given an additional boost by Putin’s war. The motto was, “Now we have even more cause to do it,” Scholz stressed. Scholz underlined how the 2020s would be years of “change, renewal and rebuilding.” 

Shaping a multipolar world

In addition to Russia’s war, another turning point was taking place in the creation of a multipolar world, in which very different countries and regions were demanding greater political participation in line with their growing economic and demographic influence. The Federal Chancellor was emphatic that this “does not pose any threat.”

Yet where there was a shift in the balance of influence and global power, it would also inevitably affect the political order, he said. Scholz said the crucial question was “how can we create an order in which very different centres of power can interact reliably in the interests of everyone?” Scholz accepted that there was no historical precedent for this, yet he remained convinced that “it can succeed – if we explore new paths and fields of cooperation.”

International solidarity is vital

Even though the war in Ukraine is a long way from the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, Scholz accepted that its global consequences were all too close, “in the form of looming hunger, commodity and inflation crises.” 

Scholz stressed that if there was a desire to work with these countries in future to defend freedom and justice, “we have to show solidarity with their concerns.” In other words, he went on, in a multipolar world, this kind of international order would not be achievable without international solidarity. 

This was why Germany was investing in new partnerships, particularly in the countries of the Global South. Many of these countries are democracies, a term that had for too long practically been equated with “the West”, he said, stressing his aim to work together with these new partnerships to make progress on issues that will define the future. His message was clear: international cooperation provides answers, and he reaffirmed that “Multilateralism works.”

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is a not-for-profit foundation. It was set up in 1971 by the German economist Klaus Schwab. Each year leading international economics experts, politicians, intellectuals and journalists meet in Davos to discuss current global issues with the goal of balancing economic profit and social equity.

“Deglobalisation is not the right way to go!”

Scholz accepted it was natural that many states would review and reduce their strategic dependencies, but what was needed was “greater economic resilience” in this multipolar, crisis-prone world. And here, too, the answer had to be diversification, he said. However, he warned that this could not become “an excuse for isolation, customs barriers and protectionism.” “Deglobalisation is not the right way to go!” said Scholz. It was the enterprises, employees and consumers in our countries who would pay the price of customs duties and trade barriers, he said. 

Scholz also recalled how international task-sharing, knowledge exchange and global economic connectivity in recent decades had enabled billions of people to find their way out of poverty.  

Making globalisation sustainable and smart

Scholz called for globalisation to be measured against four criteria in future. It would have to be sustainable and resilient, taking into account natural resources and the needs of future generations. It would have to be based on solidarity which benefits all citizens in all parts of the world. It would also have to be smart, with modern rules and new kinds of cooperation.

Areas for cooperation: climate, food, health

Scholz cited the international Climate Club as an example of this kind of cooperation. “This club is open to all countries – provided they are prepared to commit to certain minimum standards. In this way, we can create a level playing field and prevent different rules in different countries from distorting competition. At the same time, the Climate Club countries will further develop climate-friendly technologies with one another and work together even more closely.”  

The Federal Chancellor also pointed to the Alliance for Global Food Security, which Germany has established along with the World Bank as part of its G7 Presidency, along with the G7’s commitment to open agricultural markets. This, Scholz said, was an example of good international cooperation against the background of current crises and wars.

A third area in which Scholz called for better international cooperation was in how the world would deal with future health crises. He cited the support for global vaccine provision to fight the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as an example of this, along with combating other diseases in future. One example of what cooperation between policy-makers and business could achieve was the development of global vaccine production, he said.

“We stand for the future!”

The Federal Chancellor concluded his speech by appealing to the “spirit of Davos.” If some wanted to lead us back to the age of nationalism, imperialism and war, he said, then our answer was: “Count us out! We stand for the future!”. A multipolar world should spur us on, Scholz said, to even more multilateralism and more international cooperation.

This year’s World Economic Forum was dominated by the war in Ukraine. The forum focused on the recovery of the global economy following the coronavirus pandemic, how to deal with climate change and changes in the employment market. The Federal Chancellor was just one of a succession of prestigious speakers. The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, addressed the conference via video link. He used his opening address to call for more sanctions against Russia, arguing for an embargo on Russian energy suppliers.
Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Robert Habeck had previously called for greater European determination to impose an oil embargo. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also addressed the attendees, as did NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, the director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva and many European heads of state and government.