Meeting of the Alliance for Multilateralism – Speech by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (24 Feb. 21)



The multilateralism we’ve gradually built since 1945, the multilateralism we currently uphold, isn’t just a modus operandi, it’s a set of values. It’s a certain idea of humanity, a certain idea of dignity. And that’s why, this year, we wanted to ensure this new meeting of our alliance coincided with the opening of the Human Rights Council, as we did last year. In the space of a year, while the pandemic crisis has taken centre stage, there have been considerable setbacks. And the role of this Council therefore remains absolutely essential, and we must all support it. And France is proud to have a seat there again, alongside some of your countries. We perfectly appreciate what a major responsibility this is, and we intend to shoulder it fully by taking very concrete action worldwide to promote respect for human rights.

So today we’ll begin by discussing a few of the new threats posed to human rights.

I’m thinking, first of all, of the challenge of the digital revolution. Fighting for the universality of human rights today means, in particular, fighting to ensure that the right to privacy, freedom of expression, and the freedom to inform and be informed does not stop where cyberspace begins; and fighting all violations of these, even those committed using digital tools, is essential. The virtual world is now fully part of our reality; if there was ever a need, this meeting confirms this to us. A growing part of our existence is now played out in cyberspace. So it can’t consist of lawless areas, especially when it comes to basic rights.

This is why an effective multilateralism that serves the values bringing us together is a multilateralism that works to develop and enforce new regulations in this area – new regulations for the responsible use of artificial intelligence, in line with the recommendations made by UNESCO and the avenues opened up by the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence that we launched in June 2020; and also new regulations to ensure the media can continue playing their full role as a pillar of democracy, despite the economic and technological changes currently revolutionizing their operating model. And this is one of the challenges of the [International] Partnership on Information and Democracy that we created with our partners in the Alliance for Multilateralism, and Christophe Deloire, Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders, will come back to this.

As you said a moment ago, Heiko, climate disruption is also a new threat to human rights. It’s unfortunately an environmental reality; but this environmental reality is all the more formidable because it will be combined – and sometimes already is being combined – with social realities. At the same time, the battle for the climate must always be a battle for humanity: not only for future generations but also, right now, for the most vulnerable people in our societies; that’s the purpose of the Feminist Action for Climate Justice Action Coalition, formed in the run-up to the Generation Equality Forum to be held this year; we’ll be returning to that in a moment.

In the second part of this meeting, we’ll also be taking stock of our collective response to the health crisis. We’ll be discussing not only the short-term challenges, in particular the issue of universal access to the global public goods that vaccines must be, but also the battle we’re fighting to achieve this in the framework of the ACT-A initiative. Heiko has already laid this out fully, just now. And we also need to think and act together on reforming the multilateral health architecture, which involves several very concrete areas: strengthening the role of the WHO, in particular by improving its alert system; having available the scientific expertise needed to take action, in particular through the One Health High-Level Expert Council, whose creation was approved at our last meeting in November; and sending on-site verification missions.

These are three initiatives, three very concrete projects where we must make active efforts. They’re the issues on which we must act together to find avenues to more effective collective action. (…)./.

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