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Official speeches and statements - November 17, 2021

Published on November 17, 2021

1. Children’s rights - Standing up for children’s rights in the digital environment - Call to action (Paris, 11/11/2021)

The digital world is now an essential aspect of the living environment of children.

We recognize that digital technology can help them fully realize their human rights, in particular concerning the rights to education, freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly. It opens new avenues for them to engage in social relationships with their peers, access to information and participation in public decision-making processes.

We also note that in the digital environment, children can come across harmful and violent content and manipulation of information. Just like adults, children have rights to privacy, which should be respected. Online interactions can, in addition, expose them to threats amplified by technology, including cyber bullying and cyber harassment, online abuse, including sexual abuse, exploitation and prostitution, technology facilitated solicitation and grooming, cyber procuring, human trafficking, sexual and gender-based violence or violent online radicalization.

We call upon all governments, online service providers and relevant organizations to stand up for children’s rights in the digital environment, to make their safety and security in this environment a priority, and to participate in the ongoing work undertaken on a joint declaration for the protection of children’s rights in the digital environment.

We reaffirm our commitment to the rights of the child and their promotion, as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols, and in relevant regional human rights and child rights instruments in the digital environment, including by:

1. Better educating children on digital environment and developing child-friendly digital tools

As digital tools can be of great use to children, especially but not exclusively for educational purposes, we aim at giving them access to these tools and the Internet and to work with all relevant partners to bridge digital divides, including gender and socio-economic digital divides, and to encourage the safe development of their skills while avoiding over-exposure to screens at a young age.

We aim at facilitating access to adequate digital literacy and education for all children from an early age, in order to empower them to use digital tools autonomously, to acquire skills to explore, create and interact online safely, and with an understanding of the digital environment, its prospects, its opportunities and its risks. Media and information literacy is especially important, so that they are equipped to navigate safely and then become empowered citizens in an increasingly digital society.

We will reinforce our support to parents, caregivers and educators in acquiring digital literacy and awareness of the risks to children in order to help them assist children in the realization of their rights, including to safety, and to help them protect children facing those risks, in relation to the digital environment.

2) Protecting children effectively against online threats

We call for closer cooperation between governments, online service providers and relevant organizations to protect children’s rights online.

We express our determination to a zero-tolerance policy towards online child-related abuses and will therefore commit to take necessary measures, through efficient cross-sector partnership with private and non-private organizations, to fight against online child sexual exploitation and abuse, to support victims of online abuse and to facilitate the prosecution of perpetrators. We commit to fight against any form of economic exploitation, including child labor, online as offline, and therefore to exercise the utmost vigilance regarding the new forms of forced child labor in the digital environment.

We are committed to taking necessary measures to enable children to use digital technologies more safely, without being exposed to cyberbullying, cyber harassment or any other kind of online abuses such as hate speech. We ask online service providers to commit to the implementation of safety and privacy by design products into the platforms to minimize the potential harm caused to the children.

We also call upon online service providers to exercise the highest level of vigilance regarding all forms of online threats to children and to address these issues, including by conducting child rights due diligence. In particular, we call upon an increase in the development of child rights-respecting parental control tools installed by default on devices and operating systems to better protect children against harmful content, as well as measures ensuring the fast and effective removal of child sexual abuse material or cyber harassment material, while fully upholding international human rights law. We also call upon the refinement of algorithms that may push harmful content to children.

In order to advance these issues,

- We collectively commit to finalize our work on a “Declaration on the rights of the child in the digital environment", for its earliest endorsement by all willing countries;

- We collectively call upon online service providers and relevant businesses to maintain high standards of transparency and accountability and support this initiative on the rights of the child in the digital environment, including by developing or expand their own initiatives, by setting up relevant working groups and by committing resources towards expediting their efforts;

- We collectively call upon civil society to work on these issues including through offering expert advice on how to improve children’s rights in the digital environment.

- We collectively commit to build a momentum and widen support for children’s rights in the digital environment. In order to follow-up on the progress made by governments, by online service providers, and on the mobilization of civil society, we agree on reconvening a meeting at the next Paris Peace Forum in 2022 and, beforehand take stock of our efforts in early 2022 to further structure our collective action.

- We collectively call on all interested and relevant parties, governments, companies, nongovernmental organizations alike, to join this call for action./.

2. Belarus - Reply by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to a question in the National Assembly (Paris, 16/11/2021)

This is about nothing more or less than large-scale human trafficking. It’s intolerable, unacceptable. Lukashenko is organizing migratory flows. Lukashenko is exploiting migratory flows. Lukashenko is manipulating migratory flows. And all this for domestic political purposes on the one hand, but also with a view to destabilizing and disuniting the European Union.

And yesterday, the European Union foreign ministers held a meeting, about this issue in particular, and we decided on four principles. First of all, a principle of unity, and we were united in very firmly condemning these shameful operations, and united in taking a whole series of measures. First principle: unity - publicly displayed, expressed.

Second principle: support. Support for the Polish authorities in their desire to protect their borders, which are also the European Union’s borders. Support also for humanitarian aid, and support also for initiatives taken to respect the need for protection and the need for asylum. In this regard, it’s also wholly necessary for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help, be useful and provide protection, including for migrants in Belarus.

Thirdly: firmness. The Prime Minister recalled earlier that the European Union foreign ministers decided on sanctions measures, which are not sanctions of political convenience, which are operational sanctions against individuals - several dozen - and commercial entities operating in the field of transport, and in particular air transport.

And finally, in addition to firmness, effectiveness: we took measures to deter, communicate, shed light on people smugglers and dream sellers in the countries concerned, to prevent the flows recurring, and that’s starting to produce results./.

3. Armenia/Azerbaijan - Deterioration of the security situation at several sections of the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan - Statement by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign affairs spokesperson (Paris, 16/11/2021)

France expresses its strong concern regarding the deterioration in the security situation at several sections of the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the alleged use of heavy weapons, which have caused many casualties, particularly on the Armenian side.

It calls on the parties to observe the ceasefire to which they committed themselves at the end of the trilateral declaration of 9 November 2020.

France, Co-Chair of the Minsk Group, recalls the statement by the Co-Chairs on 15 November calling for a swift de-escalation of tensions, and emphasizes the need to continue dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan on all unresolved issues linked to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

France emphasizes that the delimitation and demarcation of the border must be made through negotiation, far from any fait accompli on the ground. It recalls that it is fully ready to contribute to this process./.

4. Migrants - Calais - Reply by M. Gérald Darmanin, Minister of the Interior, to a question in the Senate (Paris, 10/11/2021)

For a long time the Republic has exercised its duty of fraternity.

For example, since 1 January this year, the Republic has housed 12,000 people with public money, even though very many of them are, as you know, staying in France illegally. Every day the State distributes 2,200 meals in Calais, which represents euro4 million of public money. Every day we intervene to rescue migrants trying to cross the Channel.

But there’s one word you didn’t utter a single time in your speech, which shows, in my opinion, a slight bias in your thinking: namely “smugglers".

Yet we’re talking about criminals who exploit women, children and men, charging them a lot of money to take them across the Channel while promising them Eldorado. But a very large number of children, women and men die during the crossing, because we’re sadly too naïve and because, by using language like yours, we let those criminals exploit human misery.

If we let the jungle become established again in Calais or elsewhere, not only will it create absolutely shameful living conditions for migrants and local people, but above all we’ll be putting into the hands of criminals - I emphasize this - people who want to cross to the other side of the Channel, under absolutely unacceptable conditions.

70% of the migrants currently in Calais have come from Belgium or Germany. France, by virtue of its geographical position, must be both fraternal and firm, and combat the criminals which the smugglers are.

So yes, of course we’ll support the migrants; it’s France that subsidizes the voluntary organizations, pays for the meals and enables its police and gendarmes to rescue migrants at sea every day, risking their lives; but not for a single moment do we want to encourage those criminals which the smugglers are, solely in order to have a clean conscience./.

5. United Nations - Peace and security through preventive diplomacy: a common objective to al UN principal organs - Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, permanent representative of France to the United Nations, to the Security Council (New York, 16/11/2021)

=Translation from French=

Mr. President,

I would like to thank the Mexican Presidency of the Security Council for organizing this debate, as well as the other four heads of UN Organs for their presentations.

Preventive diplomacy is everyone’s responsibility at the United Nations.

The authors of the Charter gave the Security Council a clear mandate in this area.

We know that investing in the early stages of conflict is the best way to save lives. At the Council, we focus on open conflict situations, and significant efforts have been made in recent years to do more upstream work and target the root causes of crises.

I welcome the Secretary-General’s push for "peace diplomacy". I am thinking of the strengthening of mediation capacities. I am also thinking of the monitoring and early warning system entrusted to the country teams, or the Secretary-General’s special advisors on the prevention of genocide and on the responsibility to protect. I would also like to mention the Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia as a successful example in this regard. It has helped strengthen dialogue and coordinate responses to challenges that are common to the states in the region: the terrorist threat, the crisis in Afghanistan, as well as drug trafficking and water management.

But we must do more.

The Security Council should take better account of the global challenges that could undermine international peace and security. It should get a complete picture of the risks to international security posed by climate change, pandemics and misinformation. We must also promote the meaningful participation of women, youth and civil society in mediation and prevention processes.

The Peacebuilding Commission could do more to address conflict-prone situations and make recommendations to the Security Council in this regard. The Peacebuilding Fund has demonstrated its ability to carry out cross-border projects, as in the Sahel. In his report entitled "Our Common Agenda", the Secretary-General calls on States to devote more resources to the Fund. France has responded to this call. It has quadrupled its contribution to the Fund this year.

The Security Council’s action in the area of preventive diplomacy must be coordinated with that of other bodies and organizations.

The respective missions entrusted by the Charter to the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council complement and reinforce each other. The warning role of the Secretary-General under Article 99 of the Charter remains essential. The jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice contributes not only to the apeasement of relations between States, but also to a better understanding and thus to the consolidation of international law, which is the pillar of this preventive diplomacy.

We must work even more closely with regional and sub-regional organizations.

The partnership with the African Union is being structured. The United Nations must continue to support the "Silence the Guns in Africa" initiative and the achievement of the African Union Agenda 2063’s objectives, in particular the treatment of threats such as terrorism and violent extremism. We must also fight together against the resurgence of the scourge of mercenaries, which is a destabilizing factor. We will also be attentive to the implementation of the African Union Peace Fund, which should include a component devoted to mediation and preventive diplomacy.

Finally, I would like to salute the growing role of the International Organization of la Francophonie in conflict prevention in the French-speaking world. Under the impetus of Secretary General Louise Mushikiwabo, several observation, assistance and good offices missions have recently been dispatched to Haiti, the Sahel and the Gulf of Guinea. The aim is to support political transition processes and strengthen the rule of law. The United Nations would benefit from taking greater advantage of the expertise gathered by La Francophonie, especially in electoral matters.

Mr. President,

Prevention in all its aspects remains a central issue at the United Nations, and in particular at the Security Council. For it is on our ability to anticipate risks, to prepare for them and to provide sustainable, credible responses focused on the needs of populations, and on which our capacity to maintain international peace and security will depend. This is our responsibility.

Thank you./.

6. United Nations - Question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters (point 123) - Statement by Mr. Brice Fodda, deputy legal advisor of France to the United Nations - General debate - General Assembly (New York, 16/11/2021)

=Translation from French=

Thank you Mr. President.

Every year, many of us speak out to stress the importance of Security Council reform. In the declaration adopted on the occasion of the seventy-fifth anniversary, our authorities called on us to instill new life into the discussions. France is fully committed to this objective.

The IGN must lead to tangible and substantial results. When it resembles a circular process, it loses the confidence of States. We saw this during the past session. The positions are well known and the diagnosis is widely shared. What we need is to start real negotiations.

To achieve this, we must establish a framework. In this regard, we welcome the early appointment of co-facilitators for the session, and we wish Ambassadors Al-Thani and Hermann every success. They should now be given a clear mandate. We continue to support the proposals for greater transparency in the debates. For example, the interventions of those States and groups of States that wish to do so could be collected and made freely available.

Above all, we consider, as do a large majority of delegations, that the negotiations should start on the basis of a draft text. This familiar process is used systematically within our organization. It will allow us to avoid endlessly repeating speeches we have already listened many times.

We recognize that this task is extremely difficult, but we are not starting from scratch. Successive co-facilitators have indeed redoubled their efforts to ensure the adoption of useful documents. At the 75th session, Ambassadors Wronecka and Al-Thani submitted a synthesis, which updates the 2019 elements of convergence and divergence. Together with the 2015 framework document, this synthesis forms the basis for our discussions. The goal now is to arrive at a single document.

Mr. President,

With regard to the reform as such, France’s position is constant and well known. We would like the Council to take into account the emergence of new powers that are willing and able to assume the responsibility of a permanent presence in the Security Council and that are, in accordance with the UN Charter, in a position to make a significant contribution to the Council’s work.

France is in favor of an expansion of the Council in both categories of membership. We support the candidacy of Germany, Brazil, India and Japan as permanent members. We also wish to see a stronger presence of African countries, among both permanent and non-permanent members.

Thus, an enlarged Council could have up to 25 members. Such an expansion would make the Security Council more representative of today’s world and strengthen its authority, while preserving its executive and operational nature.

As for the question of the veto, we know that this is a highly sensitive issue, and it is up to the States requesting a permanent seat to decide.

In this reflection, the objective must remain twofold: on the one hand, to consolidate the legitimacy of the Security Council; on the other hand, to strengthen its capacity to fully assume its responsibilities in the maintenance of international peace and security. It is in this spirit that France proposed, several years ago, that the five permanent members of the Council voluntarily and collectively suspend the use of the veto in the event of mass atrocities. This voluntary approach does not require a revision of the Charter but a political commitment by the permanent members.

Today, this initiative that we are carrying jointly with Mexico is supported by 105 countries. We call on all Member States that have not done so to support this initiative in order to quickly reach the symbolic bar of two-thirds of the General Assembly. We also reiterate our willingness to continue discussing this proposal with the other permanent members of the Council.

Thank you, Mr. President./.

7. United Nations - Launch of the School Meals Coalition: Press conference by Finland and France - Introductive remarks by Mr Olivier Richard, head of the development and climate unit of France to the United Nations (New York, 16/11/2021)

Good afternoon,

First of all I would like to say how glad and proud the French government is to promote this coalition for school meals. It’s a very important issue for the French government. President Macron is personally committed and he delivered a speech today in Rome for the launch celebration event.

This is a very urgent and timely priority. First of all because school meals are very important for the recovery of our society from the impacts of the COVID-19 because those school meals keep the children at school and they improve their nutrition, their health and their educational performance. School feeding is also part of the French national heritage because it has been for long a key point of education policy in France and still today, French schools deliver 1.1 billion meals per year. This is the reason why President Macron decided, during the crisis, that school meals should be available for all the children at school, and especially for children coming from disadvantaged families, with free breakfasts and 1 euro school meals. It was a very important decision.

I would like also to highlight the importance for local agriculture of school meals program. In France, we make sure that there’s always a strong link between the school meals programs and agricultural local production because it’s a way to strengthen local economies and local communities.

As you know President Macron is committed to keep on engaging stakeholders, governments to make sure that the coalition can grow and he raised the issue at the G20 Summit in Rome recently, he raised again the issue during the Global Education Meeting hosted by UNESCO and I’m sure he will do it during the French presidency of the Council of the European Union starting from January 2022.

So, let me be a little bit more specific about the goals of the Coalition now. First of all, as was said, this is to reestablish school meals programs to their level before the pandemic, because now the schools are open, but also to help reach the 73 million children living in vulnerable settings to have access to the school meals program, those ones who did not have access to those programs before the pandemic. And also to help improve the quality of the school meals because it’s not totally perfect and there’s still a way to improve it.

So, how will we do? France will support the multisectorial financing task force for school health and nutrition. The idea is to help governments to build up fiscal capacities through innovative financing schemes and also to try to better coordinate maybe donors because it’s not always perfect as well. French research institutes are joining the international Research consortium on school health and nutrition to build evidence on the impact of school meals. So, the idea as well is to share the evidence with people in a position to make decisions in order that their decision is leading to a situation where all the children can have access to school meals. We also have our experts of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food who share their national experiences with their counterparts within a peer-to-peer exchange network led by Germany, because Germany is part of it as well.

Today we have over, I think we have 60 governments which expressed their support for the coalition. We have more than 50 stakeholders coming from different background and the idea, again, is to get it bigger and France looks forward to working with all the partners of this coalition in order that every child have an access to an healthy meal in school by 2030.

I thank you./.