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.