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Updated Feb 4, 2020

Germany and South Africa can become a unique partnership in the defense and promotion of multilateralism and the international rule of law, writes Richard Calland and Melanie Müller for the Mail & Guardian. The two nations are both members of the G20 and are leading economic powers in Europe and Africa, respectively. Within international bodies, they tend to vote in sync on most resolutions brought before the General Assembly. Save for a handful of resolutions regarding Sudan/South Sudan, Western Sahara, and Venezuela, where South Africa either abstained or voted against Germany’s position (in the case of Venezuela), they have both demonstrated similar values in their voting behavior.

German chancellor Angela Merkel’s relationship with US president Donald Trump has soured the traditional transatlantic alliance between Europe and the United States, which pushed her and French president Emmanuel Macron to seek other partners for the Alliance for Multilateralism, launched last year. South Africa would be a welcome partner, and would also move towards Merkel’s desire to strengthen the bonds between the African Union and the European Union. Germany will hold the European Union presidency in the latter half of the year as South Africa steps in as head of the African Union for 2020.

On South Africa’s end, President Cyril Ramaphosa has signaled his intent to recalibrate his country’s foreign policy towards multilateralism and defense of human rights, to correct the direction his predecessor Jacob Zuma’s presidency took by strengthening ties with Russia and China over its traditional Western partners. Germany and South Africa will also be two of the ten temporary members this year on the UN Security Council, which provides an easy avenue for coordinating mutual foreign policy and international governance objectives.

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