25 September 2012 - 67th United Nations General Assembly - Speech by Mr François Hollande, President of the French Republic
Representatives of your states,
This is the first time that I have spoken at this forum at the United Nations. It’s with some emotion that I do so because I’m aware of what the UN does for our world, what it has been for our history. I also do so with a sense of responsibility, because France is a permanent member of the Security Council and therefore has obligations. I’m also here to reaffirm values that don’t belong to any one people, that aren’t the property of any one continent, that are not the privilege of any one fraction of the population. I’m here to uphold the universal values that France has always proclaimed, the rights to which all human beings should be entitled wherever they live: freedom, safety and resistance to oppression.
These values and these rights are still being flouted all too often in our world, which is facing three major threats we must deal with.
The first is the threat of fanaticism, which fuels violence. We’ve seen this violence yet again in recent days.
The second is the global economy, which has been affected by a crisis that is fuelling unacceptable inequalities.
The third is climate change, which is threatening the very survival of our planet.
The United Nations’ mission is to overcome these challenges and to find, together, fair and strong solutions. Fair solutions, because force without justice is blind. And strong solutions, because justice without force is powerless.
I’m also here to express the confidence that France has in the UN.
Over the past few years, we’ve been able, together, to put an end to deadly conflicts and prevent clashes.
But while we’re sending 100,000 blue helmets who take action on behalf of the UN – and I want to pay tribute to them – the UN is, at the same time, as a result of division, deadlock in our own institutions and inertia, unable to prevent war, atrocities, and violations of the rights of peoples. So on behalf of France, I draw this conclusion: if we want to make the world safer, it’s up to us to assume our responsibilities.
First, by reforming our organization, the UN.
The Security Council must be able to better reflect the reality of today’s world. That’s why I reaffirm once again that France supports the demand for expansion put forward by Germany, Japan, India and Brazil. She also supports a greater African presence, including among the permanent members. Having a seat on the Security Council doesn’t mean benefiting from a privilege in the name of history, any more than it means achieving an ambition linked to economic power. Having a seat on the Security Council means making a commitment to take action to promote peace across the world.
Because we have a duty to take action. To take action together and to take swift action, because it’s a matter of urgency.
The first matter of urgency is Syria.
The UN Assembly has on several occasions denounced the massacres perpetrated by the Syrian regime, demanded that those responsible for the crimes be brought to justice and supported a democratic transition. But the human suffering is still continuing today. 30,000 dead in 18 months. How many more deaths do we need before we take action? How can we accept the UN’s paralysis?
I’m certain of one thing: the Syrian regime will never regain its place within the community of nations. It has no future among us. That’s why I have taken the decision on behalf of France to recognize, once it’s formed, the interim government representing the new Syria. This government will itself have to provide guarantees that every community will be respected and allowed to live in security in its own country.
And so, right now, I demand that the United Nations immediately provide the Syrian people with all the assistance, all the support they’re asking for, particularly for the liberated areas to be protected and humanitarian assistance provided to the refugees. As for the leaders in Damascus, they must understand that the international community will not stand idly by if they take the unfortunate step of using chemical weapons.
There’s also an urgent need to combat the greatest threat to global stability: I mean the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
For years now, Iran has been ignoring the international community’s demands, has avoided IAEA inspections, and has not kept her word or complied with the Security Council resolutions. I myself hoped that negotiation could really take place and that targets would be set. Once again this negotiation did not succeed. France does not accept this violation, which is a threat to regional security and, as we know, a threat to global peace. So I want to say here again that we’re ready to impose new sanctions – not to punish the great people of Iran but to say to their leaders that they must resume the negotiations before it’s too late.
The third matter of urgency is to finally resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The status quo that we’re familiar with is not an answer. It’s a situation of deadlock. France will once again – and I give you my word on this – do everything in her power to help restore the groundwork for negotiations that should lead to the coexistence of the two states, which we all know is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region.
The last matter of urgency – and perhaps the first one we should deal with this week – is the Sahel. The situation created by the occupation of a territory in northern Mali by terrorist groups is intolerable, inadmissible and unacceptable, not only for Mali, who is directly affected by this terrorist evil, but for all the countries of the region and, beyond, for all those who may one day be the victims of terrorism. The African Union, which I salute, and ECOWAS have said they are ready to take courageous decisions. The authorities of Mali have just brought this matter before us. So there is no time to lose. I want to announce that France will support all initiatives that enable the Africans themselves to resolve this issue in accordance with international law, with a clear mandate from the Security Council. Yes, Mali must regain her territorial integrity and terrorism must be banished from the Sahel region.
Ladies and gentlemen, responding to emergencies is the UN’s role. But it isn’t just about emergencies – we must also rally around an ambition: that of development.
The Rio+20 Conference, which I attended, was one step, disappointing for some, encouraging for others. I believe we now have an agenda that should enable us to combine economic growth, poverty reduction, social progress and environmental protection. This is what we have to do in the long term.
A global climate agreement must be achieved by 2015. I want to announce that at that time, my country is prepared to host the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, because I want us, together, to meet this challenge.
At the same time, one of the disappointments of Rio was that we were unable to agree on the establishment of a UN Environment Organization. The creation of this environment agency remains France’s objective. It would be based in Africa, because that continent has been neglected for far too long, it is facing climatic threats, and also because giving Africa this future global environment agency would be wonderfully symbolic.
Speaking of development, I also want us to take an honest look at reality. We will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals without new resources. We are all aware of our respective nations’ budgetary constraints. That’s why, here at this UN forum, I am issuing a call for innovative financing. It would give our organizations the resources to effectively fight diseases — HIV-AIDS, malaria etc. I want to applaud the success of UNITAID, which was financed by a tax on plane tickets. This is the path upon which we have embarked. Now we must take the next step, which I propose: establishing a financial transaction tax, to which several European countries have already agreed, so that capital movements can be reined in or, if they are not, can – through this tax – finance development and fight threats to public health. France has created such a tax. France has even made another commitment: to earmark at least 10% of this tax for development and for fighting public health threats and pandemics.
That is the message I wanted to send you today: let’s ensure that a global financial transaction tax is instituted and its revenues are allocated to development and the fight against pandemics. It would be a fine example of what I call the globalization of solidarity. It is one of the most beautiful ideas that the world can uphold.
But the UN’s mission isn’t only to combat financial instability or to make development a great cause. It is also to combat all forms of instability.
I am thinking of drug trafficking, a scourge affecting producer, transit and consumer countries. In the face of drug traffickers and their alliances with terrorist networks, the UN must formulate and implement a global strategy to combat drugs.
Arms trafficking, too, represents a very serious threat. France is resolutely committed to concluding a global treaty on the arms trade.
What the United Nations must also defend and promote is a concept of the world based on fundamental rights and freedoms.
The Arab Spring proved these values are universal and apply to all continents and all countries. I want to applaud what took place in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.
It’s true that transitions are not easy; there are risks, there may be setbacks, and violence may be used in an attempt to erase achievements and progress. France will support those countries’ new, democratically elected political authorities in their uncompromising fight against extremism, fanaticism, hatred, intolerance and violence, regardless of the provocations they may encounter, because there is no justification for violence, ever.
France wants to set an example, not to teach others a lesson but because it’s our history, our message. Setting an example in promoting fundamental freedoms is our battle and a matter of honour for us.
That is why France will remain at the forefront of all these struggles: for the abolition of the death penalty, for women’s right to equality and dignity, for the universal decriminalization of homosexuality, which cannot be seen as a crime but – on the contrary – as the recognition of an orientation, and we will continue to fight for the protection of civilians. Let me remind you that this Assembly showed itself capable of reaffirming the principle that states have the responsibility to ensure the security of their civilians. And if they should fail in this obligation, we, the UN, must implement the means to do so in their place. Let us not renege on this promise for the sake of convenience. I am thinking in particular of what is going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where civilians are the principal victims of clashes and where outside interference must end as swiftly as possible.
These are the principles and directions that France will uphold and defend before the United Nations. France has confidence in the United Nations. She knows that no one state, no matter how powerful, can resolve urgent problems, fight for development and bring an end to all crises. No one state can do this, but if we stand together, we will be able to live up to our responsibilities. France wants the UN to be the centre of global governance. But do the states that make up our organization want this to be its principle and its objective?
I say this with deep seriousness, because where there is paralysis, where there is inertia, where there is inaction, injustice and intolerance may take hold.
What I want you to understand here is that we must take action. We must act to shoulder our responsibilities and to resolve urgent problems: Syria, nuclear proliferation, the Sahel. We must act in order to bring about another world, that of development. We must act in support of innovative financing and to fight threats to public health. We must act, act always, and act together. Let us live up to the mission with which we’ve been entrusted and justify the hopes of the world’s people. That is France’s message.