75th General Assembly of the United Nations, a major international event
This year, for the first time in the history of the United Nations, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations General Assembly will take place virtually, without travel of the Heads of State and Government of Member States. Despite this particular context, the program of the 75th session will be dense, around high-level events in which Heads of State and Ministers will participate via VTC and pre-recorded videos, in particular during the high-level week which will take place between 22 and 26 September, as well as 29 September.
22 September 2020
"The pandemic must be a wake-up call for this organization, and a moment of redemption".
President of the General Assembly,
Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Heads of State and Government,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Last year, we met in New York for the General Assembly, and I called on all of you to have the courage to build peace and carry out our responsibilities together.
This courage, I must say, has severely tested by a health, economic, social and security crisis of an unprecedented scale and which became instantly global, never before seen since the UN was created 75 years ago. This courage came first and foremost from those who were on the frontline from the beginning, all around the world, and who are still there today, providing medical treatment, food, and physical and moral support. Our healthcare workers are also humanitarian workers.
With these opening words, I wish to place them in our thoughts. They are relying on us to commit to and build tangible solutions together. This crisis, perhaps more than any other, requires cooperation and requires us to invent new international solutions.
First of all, I believe in science and knowledge, and humankind will defeat this pandemic; a cure will be found. But in the meantime, and nobody knows how long that will be, each of our countries have no other choice but to learn to live with the virus, and the world will have to learn to live with this new reality that we cannot escape, revealing our weaknesses and places us before our immediate responsibilities.
This new global reality is clear, brutal and certainly dizzying, and we must confront it without falling into despair and despondency; we must be clear-headed. All of the challenges that we faced were intensified and worsened in the space of a few months.
The successes achieved were hampered and setbacks accumulated. Years of progress in the fight against other infectious diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, which we believed we could eradicate, have been hampered and progress delayed, and sometimes worse. More than 37 million people have fallen into – or fallen back into – extreme poverty. Food insecurity is a serious threat, and it has worsened.
More than a billion students were affected by schools closing in more than 160 countries. Forty million children were deprived of their first year of education. Women were on the front line, and experienced an accumulation of multiple forms of sexual, domestic and gender-based violence.
Confronted with these and many other consequences caused by the pandemic which struck our planet and which continues to affect every continent, our means of collective action fractured at a greater pace. While the only solution will be found through our cooperation, the international organizations that we crucially need, such as the World Health Organization, have been accused by some of complacency, while others manipulate them.
Trusted third-party scientists and journalists, which are so essential to our understanding and ability to efficiently respond to the crisis, have been undermined by state propaganda, and by misinformation epidemic.
The United Nations itself risked powerlessness. The United Nations Security Council, which guarantees peace and stability, struggled to agree on a humanitarian truce, which we supported with all our strength. Just imagine. We struggled so much to agree on so little.
But the permanent members were unable, in such exceptional circumstances, to come together as we would have liked, because two of them preferred to declare their rivalry than to work together effectively. All of the fractures that existed before the pandemic – the hegemonic clash of powers, the undermining and the instrumentalization of multilateralism and the trampling of international law – accelerated and deepened due to the global destabilization created by the pandemic.
We can no longer keep our heads in the sand. We no longer have the opportunity, or if I may say luxury, to sit on the fence. The pandemic must be a wake-up call for this organization, and a moment of redemption. It is possible, because in this challenge, we have seen signs of hope.
The European Union, which many predicted would become divided and powerless, made a historic step thanks to the crisis towards unity, sovereignty and solidarity – the choice of the future.
It was Europe that, with its African partners, took the initiative at the G20 to help the most vulnerable countries to tackle the pandemic and lighten the load of the debt that weights on economies, endangering the future of the continent. For the first time at a G20 Finance Track, we agreed on a moratorium on the debt of the poorest countries in Africa.
It was Europe that, with its partners, created the ACT-A initiative so that resources to combat the pandemic would be accessible to all. Thanks to Europe, along with others, the World Health Assembly decided to learn lessons from the pandemic and improve early warning, alert and response systems to better prevent such crises in the future.
It was Europe that, with other partners in Asia, America and Africa, had the energy to build, propose and back tangible solutions through cooperation, solidarity and action.
In the future, we will need to take into account these new balances that are currently taking shape. We will need to rely on the strength of good will. Because the world as it is today cannot come down to simple rivalry between China and the United States, no matter the global weight of these two great powers, no matter the history that binds us together, and especially to the United States of America.
The crisis, the collapse of our cooperation frameworks, the weaknesses that I have just mentioned, mean we must rebuild a new order and mean Europe must accept its share of responsibility. This means upholding its values and its affinity for the future, and building new solutions because we are not collectively condemned to a dance of power which would, in a way, reduce us to being the sorry spectators of collective powerlessness.
We have room to manoeuvre; it is up to us to make use of that space and to define the priorities that will be ours in this environment. We need to establish our choices clearly and build new alliances.
In the coming weeks and months, there will be fundamental choices to be made, decisions to be taken before our peoples and the international community. These choices will have an immediate impact on the life of our nations, the existence of our citizens, and the global march.
We must not shy away from them, because it is precisely when things become shaky that we must get back to what’s important. And I deeply believe that since the beginning of this COVID-19 crisis, it is not simply a box that can be opened and simply closed and put away again.
It is the continuation of a world hit by deep crises which are also caused by our interdependence. There will certainly be a cure to the pandemic one day. But there will be no miracle cure to the destructuring of the contemporary order. Nor will there be a miracle cure to this sort of paradox in which we are immersed.
Never have our societies been so interdependent. And right when all of this happens, never have we been in so much discord, and so misaligned and incapable of providing fast, constructive solutions. Never have we been in such a situation that we ourselves are capable of destroying the cooperation frameworks that we built in recent decades.
That is why I wanted to say this before the Assembly: The five priorities that will be the basis on which France will build – with its European partners first and foremost, but also with all willing powers, which means all of those who are ready to commit – the foundations of a new contemporary consensus which will enable us to take solid action in the world as it is today.
The first principle, or goal, is the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and against the terrorism that threatens our collective security, first and foremost.
The maximum pressure strategy that has been applied for several years has not yet brought an end to Iran’s destabilizing activities, nor has it reassured us that Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons. That is why France, as you will recall, was not the country to initiate negotiations at the time, nor did it draw up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
But France, alongside its German and British partners, will continue to demand that the 2015 Vienna agreement is fully and comprehensively implemented, and will not accept violations committed by Iran.
Notwithstanding, we will not compromise on the activation of a mechanism that the United States, on its own initiative in withdrawing from the agreement, is not in a position to activate. This would undermine the unity of the Security Council, the integrity of its decisions and it would risk worsening the tensions in the region.
We must build a lasting and practical framework for action, which I mentioned at the General Assembly more than two years ago, which means expanding on the 2015 agreement. First of all in terms of time, to ensure that over the long term, Iran will never obtain nuclear weapons, but also by ensuring that we will provide answers to Iran’s ballistic activities and its destabilizing activities in the region.
On North Korea, we supported the efforts made by the United States of America to engage negotiations. While tangible results have not yet been produced, these initiatives were important and now we are awaiting concrete commitments from North Korea. It must comply with the Security Council resolutions and swiftly engage in good faith in a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization process. That is the only way forward to reach a political solution and sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula. It is vital for regional stability and security, and for international peace and security.
Similarly, we will not tolerate chemical weapons being used in Europe, Russia or Syria. For the sake of our collective security, I repeat once more to Russia the need for full light to be shed on the murder attempt on a political opposition figure using a nerve agent, Novichok. This clarification must be swift and unfailing, because we will ensure our red lines are respected. On that topic, France has always ensured that the red lines we have drawn are respected, since I became President of the French Republic.
Our collective security is also the fight against terrorism wherever it is necessary. Several years ago, France suffered repeated terrorist attacks on our soil, on our flesh and blood, with terrorist acts sometimes plotted at the very heart, the epicentre, of Islamist terrorism. I particularly have in mind the 2015 attacks which were planned in Syria.
That is why France will always be highly active in the Levant, will support Iraqi sovereignty and will stand alongside its partners in the Sahel. In the Levant, we will remain active within the International Coalition. We have won an initial victory by ending the territorial caliphate. But this victory does not mean the end of the war in the region.
We will continue to fight all terrorists as part of the International Coalition and alongside our regional partners. I would like to recall the role played by Kurdish combatants in Syria alongside the coalition against Daesh and the terrorists. I would also like to recall the essential role that Iraq and Iraqis have had, and continue to have, in this fight. This is why France firmly supports all initiatives that Iraq is currently taking and will continue to take for its sovereignty and its role in the fight against terrorism.
As you know, France is heavily involved in the Sahel, mainly alongside five Sahel States, and the Summits in Pau and then Nouakchott laid the foundations for a coalition to strengthen the fight against our two enemies in the region: Islamic State and Al-Qaeda. In recent months, both these organizations have suffered unprecedented setbacks. The goals set out in Pau to focus on the three-borders region and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) have so far produced tangible and unparalleled results.
We are continuing this work with the support of Barkhane and our European and US partners, the G5 Sahel armies have regained the upper hand and have won back the positions which had been lost. We must continue in this direction. This is the true purpose of the coalition which we are putting in place.
Events in Mali in recent weeks also remind us of an obvious fact: democracy and counter-terrorism go hand in hand. These two fights cannot be separated. And only democracy, justice, the rule of law and development will restore sustainable peace to the Sahel. Those who have seized control in Mali in the name of these principles must not now betray them. They must set Mali on the irreversible path to a return to civilian rule and the swift organization of elections.
Like its African partners in particular, France can only remain committed if this condition is met. As I have said and as I will repeat very clearly, France is only present on Malian soil, and that of other countries in the region, at the request of sovereign States and regional organizations.
As soon as these states would like us to leave or believe that they can combat terrorism alone, we will withdraw. That was why I asked for confirmation of this request, this need, our commitment, at Pau and then in Nouakchott, and which was also confirmed by the junta in Mali. And we will remain extremely vigilant regarding this issue.
I believe in the sovereignty of peoples and I think that our action against terrorism can only been useful and sustainable if it is combined with respect for this sovereignty, effective democracy and a genuine development policy, which we have designed with the Sahel Alliance and with which, with our European and African partners and the World Bank, we continue to develop useful action on the ground.
In my view, the second priority is the demanding construction of peace and stability while ensuring equal sovereignty for peoples.
The grammar of peace and stability must be redefined because the lines have shifted radically as a result of the crisis, but in fact, well before the crisis, due to the withdrawal of the US, which had been the guarantor of last resort in a now overwhelmed international system. The hegemonic affirmation from other powers due to this disengagement, the projection of China outside its borders, the strengthening of European sovereignty. All these substantive trends should lead us to rethink the forms of our joint action to ensure peace and security.
The action principles in this area must be clear and we must no longer hesitate to implement them. Compliance with the sovereign rights of peoples, consolidating the rule of law and its means of implementation, the requirement and responsibility for the effective implementation of decisions taken under the United Nations.
This is exactly what we are doing in Lebanon, where the aspirations of the Lebanese people must be met, heard and supported, despite the unacceptable transgressions of the Lebanese political class. I would like to reiterate my full support for the people of Lebanon and my determination to take action from where I am and in full respect of Lebanese sovereignty, but as a demanding friend, as I have often said, so that Lebanon can get back on its feet. So that life can improve and the road to a calm environment and more effective democracy can be found. But Lebanon is a treasure for all humanity because it is a form of exception, with democracy and pluralism in a region impacted by terrorism and hegemonic powers.
As it has been this summer and over the long term, the United Nations must remain visibly active alongside civil society and NGOs to tackle the immediate needs and begin reconstruction. And there too, we will be fully committed.
In Syria, the resumption of talks in Geneva under the United Nations is a positive step, but this process cannot be confined to drafting a new Constitution. It must take place through free, fair and transparent elections in order to respect the aspirations and the sovereignty of the Syrian people. France and its European partners will thus continue to base the financing of the reconstruction and the normalization of relations with Damascus on the implementation of a credible political solution, which is the only sustainable solution and the only one which will eradicate terrorism in the region.
Peace in the Middle East remains a necessity, first and foremost for Israelis and Palestinians, but also for us all. I welcome the fact that Israel has been recognized by more Arab countries. This is legitimate recognition. It is also a pledge of hope for the future. But for fair and lasting peace, there must first be a path back to decisive negotiations which will allow Palestinians to finally exercise their rights.
There is no alternative to courageous negotiations which will require agreement on the most difficult issues while observing each party’s legitimate aspirations to full recognition of security and sovereignty. I do not believe in peace built on hegemony or humiliation. Even if financial compensation is provided. Because we know all too well that money cannot compensate for the humiliation of a people. It is up to us, together, to build this ambitious solution.
In Libya, the crisis is now severely impacting regional stability and has been exacerbated by increased outside interference. In my view, Libya is the perfect example of the mistakes which we ourselves could make if we fail to respect the sovereignty of peoples.
No power can seek the good of a people unless the people agree to it and have built it themselves through their chosen paths of transition. So today, we have no choice but to take very concrete action. That is what Europe is doing to effectively and universally enforce the arms embargo decided by the United Nations. This embargo is currently being violated by several powers. This situation is not sustainable.
Several powers have also chosen to continue importing combatants from the Syrian theatre, exporting terrorism to the region and disregarding the interests of Libya, its neighbours in the Sahel and Europe. Collectively, we have not sufficiently spoken out against these actions and we must take a much harder line in the coming weeks. We are working together with all our partners in the countries neighbouring Libya to achieve a sustainable ceasefire and then to begin a process enabling a political resolution to the conflict under the United Nations. This is the initiative which France wants to undertake in the coming weeks along with the UN Secretary-General. We must bring together all the neighbouring countries to reach a solution for Libya. This renewed involvement from Libya’s neighbours is essential and must be sustained.
In the Eastern Mediterranean, we must resume effective and clarified dialogue to avoid a new area of confrontation and the undermining of international law. The Mediterranean countries of the European Union expressed this clearly a few days ago in Ajaccio.
We respect and are prepared to dialogue with Turkey, but we expect Turkey to respect European sovereignty, international law and to provide clarification concerning its activities in Libya and Syria. Insults are ineffective. These words and actions have no place in responsible relationships between States. Nor can they hide Europe’s call for accountability. As Europeans, we are prepared to dialogue, for the essential construction of a Pax Mediterranea, but not through intimidation or a bullying mentality; international law must be complied with, and there must be cooperation and respect among allies. These are non-negotiable principles.
In continental Europe, regarding the Ukrainian crisis, this year the Normandy Format allowed us, along with the Federal Chancellor of Germany, to make some initial progress. But the situation in Belarus could lead to further division within our continent. The courage of the people of Belarus commands all our admiration. Their aspirations must be fulfilled and we stand alongside them. I cannot stress this enough. National political dialogue must be established, and all outside intervention avoided.
With the German Chancellor and the President of the European Council, we held discussions with President Putin, in which we advocated the mediation proposed by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). We see no other way forward: neither interference nor guilty silence is a solution. Europe, in this area as well, will deliver with respect to its responsibility, its history and its geography. But believing in peace and stability in our region also means wanting to build new ground rules for continental Europe, in a way, for lasting stability. This cannot just amount to historic agreements or, basically, the dismantling of these agreements that has occurred in recent years.
When we speak of peace and stability, collective security for Europe, I cannot remain silent about the fact that we are living in a situation in which our security and stability greatly depend on agreements signed in the past between the United States of America and the USSR and that these agreements have gradually been dismantled over the past decade.
The end of the INF Treaty marked an important step that we should not remain silent about. That is why I hope that we, Europeans, can re-engage the framework of comprehensive and ambitious discussion with all our neighbours with respect to our collective security and build a new framework that takes into account the end of these historic treaties. I also want to be very clear when I say that we will not delegate our collective security to powers other than Europe.
Thirdly, we must protect our common goods. This is all of our responsibility, as it goes beyond our national interests and regional balances. Protecting our common goods is not contradictory with exercising our sovereignty. On the contrary, it is the only way of truly preserving it by maintaining control over our futures.
This is precisely what the crisis we are experiencing has indisputably shown once again.
The health of one in the face of an epidemic is the health of all and we have a unique opportunity to make the means for fighting the pandemic into global public goods to which everyone should have access. That is the meaning behind the action we are conducting to achieve ACT-A and that we will consolidate in the coming months with respect to all the pillars, particularly the strengthening of health systems.
Health, a global public good, is a fight that we have been waging throughout this past year, that we have also been waging in Lyon, mobilizing the international community once again to finance the fight against historic epidemics. That is what we will continue to do and we need to step up our efforts in the months ahead.
Now more than ever, the climate and biodiversity must be central to our collective agenda. Not in words, but in actions. In December, the Paris Agreement will be five years old, and we already know that the goals that we set together will not be achieved.
The response to the pandemic can help us change course. The massive recovery plans adopted in all countries provide a historic opportunity for change in our economic and development models. This must be a core element of the European Union’s ambition, and I would like to thank the President of the European Commission, who has strongly committed to it. It must be a core element of the work undertaken by the G7 and the G20. It is vital.
That is also why, to mark the five-year anniversary of the Paris Agreement, I would like France to mobilize the international community once more, so that each and every one of us can take stock of our commitments – without changing the measure and without muddying the waters – but by reviving the commitment of all of our countries and regions in total transparency, with a determination that needs refreshing.
In the coming weeks, I am determined to see Europe reach an agreement to step up its ambition to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050. The President of the European Commission has set the target for greenhouse gas emissions reduction to at least 55% by 2030. This means we need to move more quickly and intensely towards an ambitious ETS, a carbon price floor and a carbon inclusion mechanism at the borders. All of these measures form a whole. Alone they will not be as effective.
On this basis, and alongside our British and European partners, we will seek out, one by one, the commitments of the major emitters ahead of COP26, and we will stand by our partners, in particular our African partners, to achieve our common goals. Along this path, the December meeting will be essential. In November, we will host a summit of development banks in Paris to ensure that all financial flows contribute to an ecological and inclusive recovery, in line with the Paris Agreement.
On biodiversity – which, we now know, has a clear link to climate change and human health – in the coming months we will be organizing a One Planet Summit in Marseille with the United Nations and the World Bank, which will enable us to build an agenda of tangible action for protected land and marine areas, agroecology, biodiversity financing and the fight against deforestation, and the protection of ecosystems and species.
The oceans, the poles and rainforests are part of the common heritage of humankind. It is our duty to protect them, and we will do so ahead of the key events for the United Nations including COPs on climate, biodiversity and the fight against desertification. To show our commitment, I propose that we organize a summit next year in New York, ahead of the three COPs, to give decisive impetus and produce tangible results.
The digital space is also a common good, a unique common good, open and trustworthy, which requires a new type of governance so that it is not picked up, hacked into, and exploited by some to their own ends. That is the meaning behind the initiatives that we are championing as part of the International Partnership on Information and Democracy of the Christchurch Call and the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence.
We need to consolidate each of these partnerships and take the Aqaba Process forward and I would like to thank the New Zealand Prime Minister for her commitment and the King of Jordan for his to the agenda. We need tangible solutions, now especially, not just commitments but actions of major stakeholders, actions of major platforms and a commitment on all of our part to establish legislation and regulations in our regions if they are unable to honour the commitments made.
The fight against hate, the fight against terrorism, and basically the creation of a common public order for the Internet are as important as technological innovation and freedom because there can be no freedom without public order. It is up to us to create it through international action. I do not believe that the protection of the freedom of expression can tolerate the discourse of terrorism, hate speech and an anonymity that in a way permits the loss of inhibitions and is a cover for the violence thereby caused. This agenda is vital to us all; we will continue to take action with determination.
Finally, and I say this in a context of the epidemic that I just mentioned: education is an essential common good on which we will continue to work in the years ahead. Hundreds of millions of our young people dropped out of school because of the epidemic, but education, particularly the education of girls and young women, continues to be a priority, especially in Africa.
Alongside Macky Sall, we have committed to the Global Partnership for Education. We have raised fresh funds to finance the actions of this Partnership. Today, the role of the World Bank, the United Nations, the Global Partnership for Education, UNESCO, and also our bilateral actions must be strengthened in order to be more effective in the coming months and years so as to improve education and especially education of girls and young women. This combat is far from over and we cannot forget it. In any case, it is at the heart of France’s engagement in the area of defence and the fight for global public goods.
The fourth priority is the construction of a new era of globalization.
The first era of globalization began with the voyages of Christopher Columbus, and Magellan. It was one of discovery – and the first invasions as well – an era of trial and error, of a sort of fascination or at times of mutual misunderstandings.
The second era was that of colonial empires and the Industrial Revolution of the19th century. It was globalization through trade, the first efforts to open up economies, but also the routes of slavery, exploitation – the development of some, the enslavement of others – the initial movements of people and a reconstitution of our world in terms of these dominating powers.
The third began in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the opening of borders and the emerging belief that the movement of goods and persons and then the widespread use of the Internet could lead to a convergence of interests, values and ideas.
Ultimately, it is in this era of globalization – and I am rushing through this, we could separate each of these eras from other periods. However, it is this third era that has been called into question over the past ten years because there has been a deep conviction – and the sense of purpose that accompanies it – that this globalization would be a globalization of peace, a coming together of values, and a universalization of respect for the other. And it was called into question by the financial crisis, the transformations of the world, the return of peoples, national consciences, and lastly, the global pandemic. It was also called into question by an extensive crisis, the crisis of Western middle classes that began doubting what this new order – what some called positive globalization – could do for them. These middles classes, who all over the West, were often the variables of economic then cultural adjustments of this world which opened up in this way.
It would be unfounded, in a way, to reject everything that this period enabled us to do, to advance, everything this third era of globalization brought us in terms of prosperity. It brought millions of people out of extreme poverty, precisely through a redistribution of trade and global production, and the opening up generated an awareness of travelling and movement which also pacified our relations to a certain extent.
And it would be dangerous to shut ourselves away in a stutter of history, in widespread protectionism with customs duties and trade wars, in a sort of doubt driving us to isolationism or the logic of powers. Because as we can clearly see, there is a risk of responding to this crisis of globalization with nationalist withdrawal, with the violence of populism – or rather of the extremes – and the return of powers.
But it is clear that global value chains now need to be reviewed, because the crisis has shown that dependencies in strategic sectors such as health, digital technologies and artificial intelligence, not to mention food, can call into question the free exercise of sovereignty in the world as it is today.
But we have also seen that there are good dependencies, and dependencies that weaken us. We need to keep international trade and its openness, because it is good for us economically and socially, because in any case we could not bring everything back internally, and because it brings good dependencies that require cooperation.
But total dependency on certain powers, regarding technology, food or industry, creates vulnerabilities that no longer allow us to maintain the balances that are part of the world order.
Next, the inequalities of this new international order have become unsustainable. We have brought hundreds of millions of people out of deep poverty in certain countries. We have partially reduced North-South inequalities, but we have increased inequalities within our countries. And this new order makes the course of things as they are going democratically unsustainable.
We have created a globalization of consciences that is now a globalization, in a way, not of the knowledge that underpinned the Internet, but one of emotion and resentment. To each of these crisis, we have to find a response. This is the strategy that the European Union is in the process of putting into place, as are other powers.
It is essential for our international rules to take into account these new realities, for us to acquire means for more balanced international cooperation, in keeping with the sovereignty of each and to the benefit of all. In this respect, the fight against inequalities will very clearly have to be central to this rethought globalization. France has launched initiatives that have produced results on women’s entrepreneurship, on the Global Partnership for Education, on healthcare for all, and to fight against inequalities of opportunity, but we must go further.
In a way, as you can see, this world in which we have lived was based on an academic consensus that had become a political and market consensus, what has often been called the Washington Consensus. It has had its day. Together, we need to lay the foundations for a fairer, more balanced, more equitable and more sustainable globalization. We need to conceive the parameters of a globalization that accepts to come back to and rethink the terms of a fair sovereignty and of fair exchanges; that incorporates, at the heart of its model, the fight against all forms of inequality, including gender and economic inequalities, and inequalities of condition, as well as the fight against climate change and for biodiversity, and in which it is possible to sustainably achieve the conditions for a new world balance.
Here too, we will need to put forward tangible proposals at the Paris Peace Forum in a few weeks, and the work underway with the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and many other willing powers will be essential in this respect.
Africa will, alongside Europe, be the driver of this redefinition of globalization’s terms. That is why we will continue our efforts within the initiative we have built to help African country address the pandemic from a health, economic, social and humanitarian standpoint. The G20 Summit in November will be decisive for the implementation on the debt moratorium that we have brought about, and to go further.
We also need to better accompany the vast energy of the civil society and the young people of the continent, who are its strength and its future. Such is the aim of the initiatives we will promote in the coming months with diasporas and in support of the African private sector.
Lastly, the fifth objective that I would like here to propose to our assembly, is respect for international law and the fundamental rights of all. For me, this objective is essential for the very survival of our organization. In this respect, we have seen a series of regressions and, all too often, too much silence.
Since the creation by the United Nations of the World Humanitarian Day, 5000 humanitarian personnel have been attacked, and 1800 have been murdered. Last year was the deadliest yet. And my thoughts go in particular to the young French men and women who, within the NGO ACTED were working precisely in this context, in Niger, and were killed atrociously in August.
No, the United Nations cannot remain inactive in the face of such regression. That is why, alongside French NGOs, with our international partners, we are building an initiative to ensure the effectiveness of international law, the protection of humanitarian personnel and the fight against impunity. The humanitarian sphere is a common heritage that we must protect, guaranteeing access to civilian populations and the protection of the personnel who support them.
We have seen inexcusable regressions in this regard. We have seen unacceptable practices, including among permanent members of the Security Council, and particularly in Syria. The neutrality of humanitarian action must be respected, and its criminalization must be curbed. Shouldering our responsibilities in the humanitarian field also means demonstrating solidarity and humanity when it comes to migration.
The situation at Mória in Greece is currently very difficult. France, alongside Germany and its partners, will shoulder its responsibilities to take in refugees, and we must all act together to manage migratory flows, to end trafficking in human beings, the crossings of death, and the roads of necessity. That will be central to the European agenda in the coming weeks. I will come back to this subject. We need to step up the fight against traffickers and be equal to our responsibilities.
Lastly, human rights are not a Western idea that can be treated as interference by those who refer to them. These are the principles of our organization, enshrined in the texts that the United Nations Member States freely consented to sign and respect.
That is why France asked for an international mission under the auspices of the United Nations to be able to visit Xinjiang in order to address the concerns that we share as regards the situation of the Uyghur Muslim minority. And it is because we cannot tolerate, a quarter of a century after the Beijing Conference, that women’s rights worldwide are seeing such deep regression, that we will organize next summer the Generation Equality Forum alongside UN Women and civil society, to promote the empowerment of all women, girls’ education, and real and effective respect for human rights.
Those are the five principles on which France wants to rebuild, with you, the foundations of the international order, so that the fundaments of our organization are not swept away by the pandemic. On the contrary, we must take change by the hand before it takes us by the throat, as Churchill said.
In terms of method, that requires the establishment of functional international cooperation based on clearly defined and universally respected rules. Multilateralism is not just an act of faith; it is an operational necessity. No country can overcome this challenge alone. International cooperation may be difficult, but it is objectively essential. Nonetheless, we can no longer settle for a multilateralism of words, which merely serves to agree on the highest common denominator, as a way of hiding deep divides behind a façade of consensus.
We need to find a new method, reverse the terms of the contract, and ensure our voice is heard loud and clear when others pride themselves on signing up to alliances and their principles, organizations and their principles, just to trample them in reality. Let us be honest, clear-headed and demanding amongst ourselves. Modern multilateralism must also bring together international organizations, private stakeholders, businesses, NGOs, researchers and citizens so that everyone can play a role in the actions undertaken. It will be built on a foundation of solid agreements that are complied with and verified among partners of good faith, based on clear goals and rules, and with genuine responsibility and accountability mechanisms.
That is why, at the Paris Peace Forum in November, we will strive with our European and African partners, and all who so desire in Asia, America and elsewhere, to consolidate the foundations of this new international consensus for the future of this organization.
I do not believe that we can rebuild everything in a day. I believe in determined, methodical and rigorous work to build a modern international order that will spare future generations the scourge of war, assert human rights and equality among nations and foster social progress with greater freedom. That is the very thing our charter promises. It is relevant today. I believe in the strength of will and in the value of sincerity and courage.
As I speak to you now, despite the distance and screens between us, a memory comes back to me of a Lebanese child I met a few days ago, who had lost everything, absolutely everything, but had sworn to fight for everything she believed in. And the memory of the young French nationals murdered in Niger because they believed in a world of humanity, solidarity and fraternity. And the memory that many of you certainly have, and should have, which obliges us, which obliges us to act, excludes cynicism and forbids us from losing hope or taking the easy way out.
There are lives, but most importantly there are young girls and boys who, all around the world, take action because they believe in our words, and they live for and by our principles. If we betray them, we are the first to blame for their disillusion, or when they lose everything. So it is up to us to take action. I know we are capable. In any case, we will do everything to take action today and I know that many of my counterparts are ready to take action too. I’m counting on each and every one of you. Thank you.
21 September 2020 :
75th United Nations General Assembly – High-level event for the 75th anniversary of the Charter of the United Nations – Statement by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic (21 Sept. 20)
Heads of State and government,
United Nations Secretary-General,
Ladies and gentlemen,
In San Francisco on 26 June 1945, while the war was still raging in the Pacific, our predecessors agreed on a threefold promise: to protect future generations from the scourge of war; to affirm human rights and the equality of nations; and to support social progress amid greater freedom.
In 75 years of existence, the United Nations Organization, our shared home, has remained true to this promise. In the face of armed conflicts, through the Blue Helmets; in the face of the challenges of atomic and chemical weapons, through the OPCW and the IAEA; alongside refugees through the UNHCR, children through UNICEF and workers through the ILO; and more recently, in the vanguard of the fight against climate change, through the IPCC, the United Nations has, when we’ve given it the means, been equal to the hopes placed in it. And I’m obviously not mentioning many satellite structures and organizations that play an essential role in the United Nations framework.
In addition to the names of those institutions, all awarded the Nobel Prize, are those of the architects of peace who created, led, embodied and championed them. From Cordell Hull to Dag Hammarskjöld, from Kofi Annan to Martti Ahtisaari, as well as the thousands of civilian and military personnel deployed in the toughest terrains, they’ve dedicated and sometimes risked their lives in the service of the United Nations. We’re honoured by their commitment; we owe a duty to their sacrifice. We owe a duty to the sacrifice of tens of thousands of anonymous people.
We owe a duty to face things head-on: our shared home is in a mess, just like our world. Its foundations are being eroded and its walls are cracking, sometimes under attack from the very people who built it. Taboos we thought were inviolable – war by annexation, the use of chemical weapons, mass detention – are being removed with impunity. Rights we took for granted are being trampled on. And our international system, a prisoner of our rivalries, no longer has the strength to punish these abuses.
At a time when the pandemic is feeding a fear of decline and a narrative of collective impotence, I want to say here very clearly: given the health emergency, given the climate challenge, we must act here and now with those who want to and can, by making use of every possible forum for cooperation.
It’s what we’ve done across Europe in recent months, going beyond our own differences in an effort of unprecedented solidarity. It’s what we’ve done with Africa to reduce the debt burden, support healthcare systems and assist the most vulnerable people. It’s what we did at the World Health Assembly, Secretary-General, by unanimously adopting a resolution which paves the way for a more effective response to pandemics.
“It is at night that faith in light is admirable”, wrote Rostand. I, for one, believe in this multilateralism of deeds, more than of words. It is why I’m inviting you to meet in the coming months at the Paris [Peace] Forum, at the World Conservation Congress, at the Generation Equality Forum and anywhere we can usefully work together, to put this multilateralism into practice and live up to the commitments we made at a time when weapons had yet to fall silent on the other side of the world. It is up to us to do so. And we shall./.
Translation courtesy of the French Embassy in London.