The current confrontation of irreconcilable concepts of global order poses a serious threat to international cooperation in crucial areas of global governance. German foreign policy faces many challenges in an international system characterised by “comprehensive globalisation”. This global constellation however also implies the great opportunity to establish new patterns of cooperation via transformative alliances with emerging actors of international politics. In this way, Germany could play a substantial transformative role in the global agenda for sustainability.
Cooperation among countries to deal with climate change and other global challenges seems almost impossible. However, recent research in the behavioral and evolutionary sciences suggests that people cooperate willingly and perhaps even naturally. Why the contradiction? In this paper we call for the need to think about international relations beyond the assumptions of rational choice and narrow self-interest. We suggest that seemingly intractable international challenges are not only the result of power struggles, but may also reflect the under-provisioning of the key enablers of cooperation—what we call the “cooperation hexagon”: reciprocity, trust, we-identity, enforcement, communication, reputation and fairness.