Speech of French President Emmanuel Macron at the 74th United Nations General Assembly (New York, September 24, 2019) [fr]
Thank you very much, Madam President,
Ladies and gentlemen heads of state and government,
Ladies and gentlemen ministers,
Ladies and gentlemen ambassadors,
We are here for this General Assembly, with the Secretary-General having chosen what is such an important topic, the climate, and we had a meeting on this issue yesterday, at a time when impatience is being expressed everywhere and when everything in the world around us – at any rate, many things – might make us pessimistic.
We have not met our strict targets, the goals we set ourselves in the battle against global warming and for biodiversity. There are many tensions, at an unprecedented level in certain areas of the world, when you see what has happened again in the Gulf over the past few days, and when you see the challenges facing many of our friends here now, particularly in the Sahel – whose friendly faces I recognize here – and in so many other regions. These conflicts are increasingly tough, painful for civilians, humanitarian personnel, human rights defenders. As David Miliband says, the age of impunity has dawned. Trade tensions are increasing and there are growing concerns about technological changes and their consequences. I do not want to paint a pessimistic picture here, and I know you are tired – you have been listening to many speeches since this morning – so I shall spare you the litany of reasons to despair.
Nevertheless, we have got everything we need to respond to these challenges – everything – and in an unprecedented way. Firstly, we have got the knowledge. Never has world science come together in such a way to describe the challenges we have and anticipate the means of responding to them, from the IPCC to IPBES, to the extent that we are in the process of building on technological revolutions – this has been spelled out. We know a little more each year. We have got the finance, which is not lacking worldwide. We have got the capacity for unmatched innovation which, on many of the issues I have talked about, is also a means of responding to these challenges, of fighting poverty, of stabilizing, of responding to the major changes I have just mentioned. We have got an unprecedented awareness of these present-day ills, [thanks to] our young people, when it comes to the climate or freedoms, and, I must say, our public at large, which has never been as informed as it is now. And we have got a forum, right here, a forum of free states which recognize one another and are supposed to work for the common good and prepare the future of mankind, respond to the current crises, just as we have regional multilateral forums on many subjects or topics when we are dealing with trade or economic cooperation.
So what are we lacking? How is it that, speech after speech, we make our peoples feel that we will not be able to respond to their fears? Thinking about it, while I was preparing to address you, I was reminded of a text which I have often thought back to, Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard text from 1978 on the decline in courage. We lack courage, a great deal of it, frequently, and basically today I simply wanted to tell you that I would like to launch an appeal for a return of courage, on two subjects, simply, to begin with: the courage to build peace and the courage to shoulder responsibility.
The courage to build peace, first, because we need courage to do it, because building peace is about taking risks every time; it involves not just defending one’s basic interests, or positions which have at times led to escalation or tensions. In every area of the world, building peace is about taking risks, the risk of dialogue, of compromise, of rebuilding trust. And in so many regions, this is what we need. It is what the Middle East, today, needs. It is what the Gulf region needs. Courage is not about tensions, provocations, retaliations. It is about a dialogue which sets high standards and is monitored transparently.
The first time I spoke to this assembly, I said I firmly believed, on Iran, that the strategy of exerting pressure vis-à-vis the Iran nuclear issue could lead only to a heightening of tensions in the region if it did not, basically, above all, have a clear prospect of a diplomatic solution. In 2018, after the US pulled out of the 2015 Vienna agreement, I proposed a comprehensive framework allowing us to protect the JCPOA and complement it with a wider approach enabling us to address the issues posed by the post-2025 Iran nuclear programme, Iran’s role in regional crises and its ballistic programme. What point have we reached today? To America’s strategy and the desire of Europe, Russia and China to protect the 2015 Vienna agreement, Iran responded with a strategy of maximum pressure on its regional environment. In this context, tensions have risen constantly over the past few months and the attacks on 14 September against Saudi Arabia were a game changer. Following on from that, today the risk is one of conflagration on the basis of a miscalculation or a disproportionate response. Peace is at the mercy of an incident which degenerates, and the consequences for the whole region and beyond would be too serious to induce us to live on the brink of the abyss. So what do we do? I wholeheartedly believe that, more than ever, it is time for negotiations to be resumed between the United States of America, Iran, the signatories to the JCPOA and the powers in the region first affected by its security and stability.
What must the terms, the objectives of these negotiations be? Firstly, complete certainty that Iran never acquires nuclear weapons. Secondly, an end to the crisis in Yemen. Thirdly, a regional security plan including the other crises in the region and the security of maritime traffic flows. Finally, the lifting of economic sanctions. I am not being naïve in any way, and I do not believe in miracles either. I believe in the courage of building peace, and I know that the United States of America, Iran and all the signatories to the agreement have this courage.
It is with the same firm belief that we shall continue our work – discussed at length in recent weeks and during the G7 Biarritz summit – on Syria, Libya and the Sahel.
On Syria, I want here to welcome yesterday’s encouraging announcements made by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, and a decisive step forward in the formation, at last, of the long-awaited constitutional committee. We are all keeping a close eye on the humanitarian situation in Idlib. We are all committed to the stability of all Syria’s regions and to the protection of all its people, and we shall continue working to build an inclusive, lasting political solution in Syria. This has to involve the work of the constitutional committee, at the same time Syrian territory has to be made safe and secure so that refugees may return voluntarily and in complete safety. It also has to involve a free electoral process which will have to include all Syrian citizens.
With respect to Libya, the G7 summit reaffirmed our goals and our convictions. I genuinely believe that we now strongly need an inter-Libyan conference on reconciliation and the strong commitment of the African Union alongside the UN in order to achieve this. Many initiatives have been taken; I pay tribute to Germany’s commitment; I pay tribute to the commitment of all stakeholders who want to build peace. But lasting peace can only be built based on reconciliation between the Libyan people.
With respect to the Sahel, as you know, France’s commitment is unwavering and has been renewed. Here too, the future depends on the development of lasting cooperation in the region between the five member countries of the G5 Sahel, the commitment of our armies, UN involvement and the need we now have to change MINUSMA’s mandate and to be able to fully integrate our goals – the fight against terrorism, lasting security in the Sahel – into the missions that we have given ourselves. Placing MINUSMA under Chapter VII mandate, continuing to deploy all armed forces in the region, recommitting all the security forces in the region to this fight against terrorism, and devoting our energy to development and stabilization are essential.
These are all situations in which dialogue and the development of political solutions are key to success. We have witnessed this courage to build peace take shape over the last few months in an unexpected, inconceivable way in Sudan thanks to the strength of the Sudanese people, thanks to the capacity for dialogue between the army and the people, thanks, here too, to the work of the African Union and the role of Ethiopia, whose vision and commitment throughout the region I wish to commend.
It is this same courage to build peace that is now required in Ukraine. President Zelensky has taken the first steps, President Putin has responded to him, progress has been made over the last few weeks. We know our goals and the next steps: the Minsk accords and the capacity to finally build lasting peace on the ground. In the next few weeks, we will therefore have a summit in the Normandy format at the level of heads of state and government.
With respect to each of these issues, the question we are asked each time is: how can we recreate an effective framework for cooperation between states? I think that it is possible. I do not think that the problems we now have can be resolved by diluting responsibilities or by creating a form of globalization that overlooks the people, and in this respect, I agree with what President Trump said this morning. And I also do not think that the crises we are experiencing can be resolved more effectively by retreating into nationalism. I truly believe in patriotism as long as it is based on love for one’s country as well as universal aspirations. I believe deeply in sovereignty as long as it is based on self-determination as well as on the need for cooperation.
What we need to do now, is reinvent what I described in my last speech to you as strong multilateralism. This doesn’t mean that our multilateralism is tired, that we are not listening to ourselves anymore, that we are no longer effective, no. It means acknowledging that we will not find a solution by retreating into nationalism, that we will not find a solution without cooperation. This cooperation must however produce concrete results, engage new stakeholders. We have demonstrated the effectiveness of this strong, modern, multilateralism. I think we did so with respect to climate when, following the American decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement we launched the One Planet Summit together with the UN and the World Bank. This allowed us to preserve our cohesion, to engage new stakeholders, new investors, and businesses. We saw this again yesterday at the summit organized by the UN where we engaged new actors, generated momentum, resisted disintegration. In this respect, the announcement yesterday of Russia’s ratification of this same agreement is a form of success in terms of these initiatives; what we have been able to achieve with the coalitions on numerous issues is also a sign of success. This is the same strong, pragmatic multilateralism that we adopted to combat terrorism on the Internet through the Aqaba Process, the Christchurch Call on 15 May in Paris; and I would like to pay tribute to the commitment of King Abdullah II of Jordan and the Prime Minister of New Zealand.
Yesterday, we marked a milestone: 50 countries have joined this initiative; platforms have been set up to handle operational protocols and remove terrorist content. We will do more, but we have a concrete, genuine response. We must continue to develop this capacity to move, innovate, respond to contemporary challenges. This is the spirit of the Partnership for Information and Democracy. We must now create this in the area of security.
The major problem we now have is that we no longer know how to ensure the stability of a world that is increasingly marked by conflict, while we have moved away from the duopoly in which we had lived for decades. There’s no longer anyone we can turn to as a last resort to guarantee essential balances. Turmoil is prevailing and we are often too slow to tackle issues effectively. I truly believe that this courage to build peace requires us to reaffirm our values, the values of human rights and the dignity of the human person which must not be undermined by any form of contemporary relativism. Concrete recommitment is needed on all the theatres of operation I have just mentioned in order to build peace and stability and propose concrete solutions to peoples.
And the courage to assume responsibility with respect to many of our challenges: when we talk of contemporary common goods, climate, education, inequality, we can say that we know, we see. We now have many experts who can tell us about and describe in unprecedented detail the situation of our world. If we have grown weaker, it is because we have decided, too often, to challenge the truth, to contest the facts, to take a short-term view, to protect certain interests at times, and this has led to a loss of meaning.
But the reality is that inequality in our world has again increased between countries, within our countries. Our contemporary capitalism has started to malfunction, leading to an unprecedented level of inequality. We are no longer able to address extreme poverty or the new forms of inequality; inequality of opportunities, gender inequality, unequal access to education in the poorest regions, inequalities in healthcare in terms of access to necessary treatment, climate inequality with respect to the most vulnerable countries or the poorest regions that are even more adversely affected by global warming and the loss of biodiversity.
On all these issues, last year I presented to you the proposed G7 agenda and the determination to make the fight against inequality central to this agenda. I wanted to give you a very brief overview of this and I think that in this respect this is a contribution that we can make collectively in order to allow a response to emerge, so that we can support the collective commitment that has already been made within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals. It means looking beyond the short term, it means deciding to change our system.
First, we are collectively committed to a very proactive agenda for Africa and for the Sahel, for its security, stability, and development, and more broadly, for a substantive security, development and reciprocity agenda with Africa. That is why next June France will host a France-Africa summit based on economic partnerships and the involvement of civil society, in a spirit of true reciprocity.
It is also a gender equality agenda. In Biarritz, we launched the €251 million AFAWA initiative to support female entrepreneurs in Africa, and we will work with Angélique Kidjo to make sure these projects get under way very quickly. This is an initiative proposed by African women and run by the African Development Bank, and the major economic powers have decided to invest in it, to show their support. We supported Dr Mukwege’s fund to protect the victims of sexual violence and launched the Global Partnership for Equality, which we expanded for this General Assembly, and which consists – for those states that are joining it – of adopting at least one measure at the national level to support women’s rights, drawing inspiration from best practices worldwide. This fight for male-female equality is crucial. It is crucial because it is not a given in our societies; because women continue to be murdered in France, as in so many other nations. This matter must be given a legal status, and we must work effectively to eradicate this phenomenon, particularly as we have not yet done so. Because in so many nations, we are seeing gender equality lose ground, and the right of women to control their own bodies and the gains of past decades challenged. Because wherever inequality between men and women takes root, civilization retreats, obscurantism grows, terrorism increases, education declines. And growth also declines, because each of these nations is deprived of half their potential wealth. That too is why we strongly support the UN when it comes to this agenda. On the basis of these three principles for action – emancipation, protection, a guarantee of true equality – we will take action ahead of the Generation Equality Forum that will be held in Paris in July 2020, 25 years after the Beijing Declaration, which was a milestone in the history of our organization. Going backwards is out of the question. We must take a new step forward.
We must bring this same fight, and this same courage and responsibility, to health. Here too we have witnessed too many setbacks, too many problems in accessing treatments in certain regions, despite all the efforts that have been made. The Replenishment Conference of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will be held in Lyon on 10 October. It was on this very stage that in 2002, Kofi Annan called for the creation of a global fund to fight inequality in potential cures for fatal diseases. It was subsequently created, with the support of the G8, and the results are there for all to see: 32 million lives saved.
Let me tell you: the elimination of major pandemics is within reach. Sixteen million lives can be saved in the coming years. We must simply tell ourselves that it is no longer possible for people to understand that for financial reasons, for reasons of inequality, it is impossible to access treatments to prevent or cure such diseases, to keep these diseases from regaining ground. That is why we need $14 billion in Lyon. We have three weeks, and we will put all our energy into making sure that the Global Fund once again lives up to our aspirations.
The climate, too, entails a fight against inequality, and it is another issue that demands courage and responsibility. Basically, there is an ongoing paradox with respect to the climate, which we are all getting used to. In essence, we have offered an outlet for our young people’s impatience, we have given them the opportunity to express themselves, we tell them: “We hear you, you’re amazing.” And then, all too often, we continue on with whatever we were already doing. That will not work.
Here I would like to applaud the commitment of the UN Secretary-General and tell you that when it comes to combating climate change and fighting for biodiversity, we need to move even more forcefully towards concrete action and overhaul our collective organization, the system itself – not just seek to compensate for it or correct it – we must change it ourselves with all of our investors, companies, and societies. First, we must expand our goals. This is vital if we want to have a chance at keeping temperature increases below 2ºC by the end of the century. In order to do that, we must take action in 2020.
In Europe, we must take the necessary decisions in 2020 on carbon taxing, with a higher minimum price and taxation at the borders. While we have not convinced certain partners to comply with this agenda, these courageous decisions are necessary, and they are necessary now. All countries must be more broadly committed to a strategy of carbon neutrality by 2050. Several have joined this coalition. President Piñera has just presented it to you. We must continue to convince others and remain committed to this crucial strategy. India has just indicated its wish to sign on to this agenda and join this coalition. I know how much of a proactive effort China is also making on the climate; it has been substantial in recent years. I know that together, if we commit to carbon neutrality, we can make profound changes and meet our goals. In this regard, COP25 in Chile and COP26 in Europe will be decisive events. The second thing is to achieve consistency in our agendas and our efforts. As I said yesterday, we can’t say, “Don’t worry, we’re doing a great job on everything”, while so many countries continue to depend on coal. Everyone – given their constraints and with the help of the international community and good funding, and with respect for every part of our societies, of course – everyone must commit to a strategy of getting out of coal. And major countries must stop funding new polluting facilities in developing countries. Even today, we are still providing export finance and support for projects in so many countries, projects funded by developing countries that involve opening new polluting facilities. In a way, it is like telling developing countries, telling the poorest countries, “Climate change isn’t your problem. You can keep on polluting, it’s okay for you.” That’s inconsistent and irresponsible. Let’s be honest with ourselves.
We must commit all of our development banks, as we began doing on Sunday, to redirect their funding towards sustainable energy everywhere, because in Africa, in Asia, on the American continent, in the Pacific, getting out of coal – no longer depending on coal – is the future of energy production.
Similarly, we need to build a climate fund that is equal to these ambitions. A meeting is planned in a few weeks’ time, again in Paris, for the replenishment of the Climate Fund, and I call on our major partners in this field to make essential financial contributions. Several of us have already doubled our contributions. Make a commitment, make a commitment – it’s essential. Concerning the issue of consistency, as I said yesterday, we can no longer have commercial strategies based on openness and free trade if their agendas do not include climate objectives. They must go together. I believe in openness and free trade, but only if this free trade is rational and includes the goals of zero carbon and zero deforestation. This means that, in each situation, we need to come up with the right solutions. In each situation, we need to find offsetting measures. But we cannot push certain countries to make efforts and then continue to do business with countries that do not. We cannot keep making statements in this forum and continue to import products that contradict these statements. This will not happen overnight. France itself still imports far too many products that lead to deforestation. Major changes are needed. Partnership strategies are required with countries of origin, with businesses and with financiers. I am not telling you that everything is fine in France and that we do everything right – far from it. But if we are not collectively responsible and transparent, and if we refuse consistency between our thoughts and deeds, between our trade and climate agendas, we will never succeed, never. It will take a few years, but we must start now.
There are two climate issues I wish to highlight here before concluding. If we are to win this battle, we need to focus on forests and the ocean. Both of these battles are essential in reducing CO2 and preserving the balance of biodiversity. In both of these global issues, we are losing the battle.
As far as forests are concerned, yesterday we jointly committed to taking an important step forward in defending the Amazon and African forests – in other words, our planet’s primary forest reserves. Several countries made commitments, France among them. I would particularly like to acknowledge the major commitments made by Germany and Norway. This involved major countries, international organizations, non-governmental organizations and most of the countries concerned by the Amazon, if I use language appropriate for this forum. All those who wish to join should join, but we need to make progress. Between now and the Conference of the Parties in Santiago, we will develop extremely effective and pragmatic criteria to invest directly in the field and find useful solutions, with a view to encouraging projects in the fields of reforestation, biodiversity protection and agroecology – projects that contribute to the economic development of the Amazon and African forests in the Congo Basin while preserving forests and supporting our fight to protect biodiversity and combat global warming. In this fight for biodiversity, also, there are several upcoming events. Major events in 2020 include the IUCN Congress in France, and COP15 in Beijing, also in 2020. We must take clear action.
Concerning the oceans, the IPCC report is devastatingly cruel. The facts are blatant, obvious. We are losing the battle. In Biarritz, we began building coalitions with major transport companies, which committed to reducing speed. This is just a beginning. We are far from winning. I would like us to commit – as we are doing for primary forests – to defending the oceans, to supporting new financing and tangible actions, so we can win this battle.
For all of these issues, these are just the first changes, the first steps. And I am telling you now: what we are collectively trying to do is essential. We are collectively trying to change our joint political, economic and social structures, to reduce inequalities – or, even better, to prevent them. In my opinion, given today’s growing inequalities, in terms of the climate, opportunities, and education, the right answer is not in the tax agenda in each country. I think the right answer is in education, access to health and inequality prevention policies in each country, as well as in more international cooperation and a robust agenda to fight inequalities. But this requires, fundamentally, an agenda of reconciliation. What we are now seeing is, on the one hand, a constant rhetoric of denunciation – I can hear it. It pushes us to act, but it is no longer sufficient. Denunciation is no longer the issue, we know this. Our forerunners made denunciations 20 years ago; this resulted in groups of experts. So this rhetoric of denunciation is present. On the other hand, among some people, there is a kind of comfort in inaction, a practice of cynicism. And, in the middle, there is a crowded, perhaps clumsy, group of people trying to do things. Let us dare to take strong action. Let us build this agenda of reconciliation together, with our public opinions, with our young people, with our businesses, with our investors and with willing governments, so we can say, “we have the facts, let us continue to look into them and change our practices now” – our practices as consumers, as producers, as investors, as leaders and as citizens, to collectively embark on this agenda of change. But staying within this tandem of denunciation and inaction is pointless. I strongly believe that the courage of shouldering responsibility is about facing facts – saying that there are things that can be done now, and others that will take more time. Because in all of our countries we have producers who are dependent on certain products that are harmful; we have people living in homes that are not fully insulated; people who must travel and pollute while travelling. We cannot blame them. We have to help them change. We have to offer solutions developed through technological innovations, through investment, and through a real agenda to fight social and climate inequalities. This agenda of reconciliation – this is what we need to do. This is what I want to do in France, what we need to develop in Europe, and what we need to build here.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what I wanted to say to you. I believe in courage and responsibility and, more generally, I believe in the return of courage. In any case, I do not think we have any choice. We must work together. The rulebook has changed. It is less simple than before, and requires more commitment. On all topics related to security, inequality, health and the climate, we know that we will be held accountable. But I do not believe in taking the easy road of pessimism; nor do I believe in division. I believe in our ability to make proposals, think, work together, and build this agenda of reconciliation, which will allow us to again look forward to the future. Thank you./.