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7 December 2009 - Statement and press briefing by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner following his meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon


I congratulate the Secretary General for his concern and his leadership on climate change. His fight is coming from far and we are now a bit more optimistic on getting a political statement at the end of the Copenhagen conference. The political statement is very important of course, but the implementation of this statement is up to the Secretary General and the UN system.

That is why it was so interesting, considering the state of the developing countries. They are hoping to get specific help for their development after the Copenhagen conference. This is a goal that was set by the millennium goals and this issue is close to climate change.

We are facing these additional burdens and this is why we are talking about innovative sources of financing, this initiative coming from France and the 59 countries which are working on this international contribution, an international solidarity contribution. We are also talking about this idea of controlling carbon emissions and it would be up to a sort of World Environmental Organization.

We also talked of other issues during a quick and difficult review of international policy topics. There were some concerns particularly on Sudan and Afghanistan of course, but also on Guinea.

I would like to thank you, Mr. Secretary General for your commitment and our friendly conversation. I pay my respects to you. We are strongly behind the efforts of the Secretary General before Copenhagen, during Copenhagen, and certainly after Copenhagen: financing poor countries, the developing world and also monitoring the promises made. Thank you very much.

Press briefing

I met with the Secretary-General, my good friend and colleague. We talked about his commitment and I congratulated him for his leadership on climate change. We’re now going to Copenhagen. Remember that two months ago it was a disaster in the making and today it is seen as a coming success. Let’s hope, we’ll see. But of course with all respect, I consider the people, all the countries and the Heads of State are coming to Copenhagen, in order to develop a political statement first.

But after it will be up to the UN system to implement and control, to follow the progress. That’s why I was talking with the Secretary-General about our proposal on innovative sources of financing, including precisely this international contribution of solidarity. We have been developing this idea with a group for one year, mainly since the last General Assembly, with 59 countries working on that, delivering a report at the beginning of the year, plus a group of nine international experts in banking, economists and politically involved people. They are exploring a lot of avenues and they will offer us the result of their experiences and concerns. Our idea for the time being, it has not been accepted, some people are talking about the former Tobin tax. This is completely different. The Tobin tax was offered as a sort of "rebalancement" of the currencies - 1%. We are talking about a general contribution on all financial movements, a contribution of 0.005% that is to say, impossible to feel. A thousand dollars or euros will produce 5 five cents if it is accepted. It will provide funds for the third world for the Millennium goals, because we are talking in his house, in the UN system, we are talking about the Millenium goals offered in 2000, which are not fulfilled because we have no money, not enough money. It will be worse with the climate change but we are still talking about the same goals. Health, education, development - to fund this necessary progress we were talking with the Secretary General about the necessity of proposing a tax to the General Assembly, because it will not be possible out of the Copenhagen conference to ask people and to offer them a contribution and not a tax. A contribution is a very important word, to be underlined. A contribution for financial innovative sources. But it must out of the UN system.

It was the first topic and the Secretary-General was in agreement about this perspective. I hope it will be really mentioned in the text of Copenhagen. As a perspective, there was a conference in October in Paris with 59 countries and a group of experts and a reduced number of 13 countries working in permanent contact across the world.

Second point. We talked of the perspective of having a World Environment Organisation, not a large one, not a stratification on top of other agencies, no! A devoted and precise control of the carbon emissions to control the effectivity and the so-called promises, because countries from China to US, from Europe to Asia, they all propose to reduce their emissions with a very good percentage. So what about the rest, what about the following of that? It is up to the UN system.

And of course we discussed some very difficult problems: Afghanistan, Sudan, Guinea…

I tried to summarize and to reduce to the minimum a very interesting, friendly and confident meeting with the Secretary General, and of course I gave him the support of my country and very friendly salute coming from President Sarkozy.

Q: The ten billion dollars that we talked about, is it a real figure, can this figure be increased before December 18 ?

A: 10 billion dollars? Several numbers are flying around. I don’t know, the hundred billion was coming from the EU, more or less. With this idea of international contribution of solidarity it goes 0.005 %, almost nothing, and would provide between 30 to 40 billion euros. But it’s up to the Group to offer another percentage or to double to reach the number that you are talking about. I don’t know. I can’t really be completely serious about the number. But we know very seriously that the developing countries are facing a daily difficult life, and you cannot ask the developing countries, those who are suffering from starvation, to control their emissions because they want wood to cook what they have not to cook. So the most important problem of the Copenhagen conference, apart from this huge and so serious problem of climate change, is how to find how to control, rebalance in a better way the difficulties in the daily life and the huge differences between the rich and the poor countries. So, yes, we are talking about the same numbers. This is very difficult, if we are talking about energy, just the production of energy in Africa, we are getting back once again to the Millennium goals. Were we successful in the goals? No we were not. We are now facing the necessity of saving the planet… yes. This is also to save poor people on the planet, mainly, much more than the rich.

Q: How much does the e-mail issue of tampering with the evidence on climate change, how much do you think this will affect the Copenhagen conference? And my second question is about France’s position on Afghanistan. Do you think there will be a troop increase after the international conference in January?

A. On the first question, I don’t know exactly. We have to face all together the funding of the half or the third of the whole world, developing countries, this is not only the goal of Copenhagen, but you’ll notice with me that it was not the same problem in Africa or in some part of Asia and the rich part of the world. And this is key, not only to give confidence to these people, but to be with them, because we are sharing the world, how to balance the responsibility, how to share, in a new and more balanced way our common world.

Second question, Afghanistan. As you know, we supported the excellent speech by President Obama. Politically are involved in Afghanistan, we are not withdrawing our troops. We’ll follow the same line, but for the time being we have a mission, and the mission is to take care of two big valleys in Kapisa and Surobi. And we’ll see if there is a change in the strategy and the mission. According to our opinion, this is not only a problem of numbers of soldiers, but a problem of missions. And so for the time being, as we change the format of our engagement, even last September, for the time being we are not sending troops because our mission is still the same and we have a significant number of soldiers to implement this mission. But of course, after, we’ll see.

Q: I was wondering if you could tell us what are the major obstacles, who is opposing this idea of a tax on financial transactions? Are the big banks and financial companies against it ? And what is the opposition to the creation this World Environment Organisation?

A : On the first point, all these people theoretically in charge of liberalism are a bit reluctant, if I may respectfully say so. And for the rest there is no big obstacle. All the people of the world will accept this kind of contribution. It will be done, believe me it will be done. I don’t know when, but I know that we are to rebalance the responsibilities and suffering in this world. And it will be done; if it comes through this conference it will be a big benefit. I don’t have to convince people here, and I was not convincing Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He was already convinced. We started in September to offer the results of our calculations and thought and works.

On this idea of World Environment Organisation, I think it will be developed before the Rio+20 Conference. Obviously we need results, not only talks. Talks are very important to get results.

Q. With regard to Copenhagen, how can you seal the deal without a legally binding document? Secondly, concerning the communiqué of the European summit regarding the Palestinian question, we heard some controversy about the wording, concerning East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian State, or Jerusalem as the capital for the two countries. Does France consider Jerusalem as an occupied territory?

A. My position is exactly the same as it was when President Sarkozy delivered a speech at the Knesset and in Ramallah, in the same words: Jerusalem, capital of the two States.

Q. Yes but my question is about East Jerusalem.

A. No, I was answering your question, my position, the French position is clear : Jerusalem the capital of two States. Two States capital, clear. So there is of course a difficulty, will it be easy to get a consensus in Brussels I don’t know but the French position is clear.

Regarding the first question, we will not get a legally binding document in Copenhagen, but after Copenhagen certainly, yes. Some people were out of the Kyoto agreement. Others were not. So we are obliged to follow what we accepted in Kyoto. Others are not. How can you make a deal in such an imbalanced position? Let’s make a deal. Seal the deal is a slogan, make a deal is a political concern and burden.

Thank you very much.

(Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

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