Official speeches and statements - February 23, 2017
Two hundred and thirty million children live in countries or areas experiencing armed conflicts. Fifteen million of them are directly affected by the fighting, and 1.5 million risk dying of hunger unless we intervene. Violence has always been with us. Sadly, over time it has neither changed nor diminished. It’s still the same: murder, mutilation, conscription, attacks on schools and hospitals, sexual violence and abduction.
Those who attack children are attacking what is most sacred about humanity. To kill and brutalize children is to deny civilization. However, as I speak, I also want to emphasize some hope. In the 1990s—and we’ll have testimony to it here—, Liberia and Sierra Leone were plunged into civil war. Thousands of child soldiers were forcibly drugged, they killed or were killed, or they were reduced to slavery.
In 1997, the United Nations created the post of Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. It was a first major step. And then, here in Paris 10 years ago, in 2007, we adopted the Principles and Commitments for peace, and today we’re celebrating that event. Those two diplomatic breakthroughs enabled us to begin the long struggle to liberate child soldiers. (...)
Our duty today, now we’re gathered—governments and non-governmental organizations—is to help you wage that struggle. France, as a permanent member of the Security Council, has been in the vanguard in terms of getting resolutions passed and ensuring, in 2005, that a Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism for the Secretary-General was voted for, whose scope has been broadened. This mechanism has brought several results.
Firstly, there’s a working group at the Security Council which conducts visits on the ground, gathers testimony on children who have been conscripted and prepares concrete recommendations so that warring parties can draw inspiration from them and, finally, so that there can be exemplary punishments for all those who violate children’s rights.
Today our conference is meeting to define the action we’re going to take in the next 10 years. I see four priorities when it comes to mobilizing the international community.
First of all, to further children’s rights in armed conflicts. To date, 105 states—and here I thank their representatives—have endorsed the Paris Principles. Our goal is to promote universality, i.e. for all states to be able to sign and rally together.
I thank Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Burma (Myanmar), Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iraq and Jordan, which have decided to join us. Taking the law forward also means combating impunity. In 2012, Thomas Lubanga was sentenced for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. He had taken part in conscripting and mobilizing children under 15 years old. For there can be no lasting peace unless there are exemplary punishments for torturers.
Second priority: to increase financial resources in order to improve conditions for children experiencing crisis situations. Laetitia Casta, you’re a UNICEF ambassador. You’ve been to the shores of Lake Chad. You’ve seen the abject poverty there, the drought, but also what terrorism can do to an area like that. Several suicide attacks have been carried out around Lake Chad by that barbaric group [Boko Haram].
You’ve understood, and above all you’ve said, that development must take place. We’ve heeded you. The French Development Agency, with the European Union, has decided to commit itself even more to Lake Chad, to enable people—particularly children—to return and, above all, live there. Thanks to this experience, we’ve been able to create a special facility for vulnerable countries which has funding of $euro;100 million a year, is operational and will be able to support disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation processes.
In 2015 and 2016, France contributed $euro;30 million to UNICEF’s activities and, Executive Director, we’re going to take part in the action you’ve started in north-eastern Nigeria, in line with what I’ve said for Lake Chad.
The third priority is access to education and health. There too, France will contribute to the Education Cannot Wait initiative, because it’s not simply about disarming, demobilizing and rehabilitating but also educating those children who have experienced horror. There too, I pay tribute to UNICEF’s work, and we’ll be helping to finance this programme.
A few months ago I went to Lebanon, to visit refugee camps. The first request expressed by the humanitarian organizations hosting those families—more than a million in Lebanon—was education for the children. There are experiences there I won’t forget: women and men supporting very young children and teaching them their own language but above all the essential tools to live decently. So we decided that out of the $euro;100 million in humanitarian aid France is providing to Lebanon over the period 2016-2018, $euro;50 million—i.e. half—will be devoted to education.
Finally, France will support maternal and child health programmes in countries emerging from crises. We must do this for girls as well, because not having access to sex education also means a risk to their own future.
There’s another phenomenon, sadly also tragic, which is galvanizing the international community. It’s about refusing to allow hospitals and schools to be targeted by terrorist groups or by states, because this too can happen—we saw it in Aleppo. That’s why a declaration on security in schools was initiated in Geneva in 2015, and France will support this initiative.
Ladies and gentlemen, setting an example means defending children’s rights everywhere and under all circumstances, in times of both war and peace, in both the South and the North. Setting an example means respecting the fundamental right to asylum, and particularly for children. France is playing its part in the European effort. It also expects its partners to do the same, especially when it comes to unaccompanied minors. I call on the United Kingdom to shoulder its responsibilities to the teenagers currently in France who have families across the Channel. We’ve made the effort to shelter them, to take them in; they want to go to the UK; we have agreements with that friendly neighbouring country; they must be fully complied with.
Setting an example also means rejecting the violence of which children are victims, including in countries which know only peace. That’s why, in January 2016, France ratified the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which enables individuals to submit communications to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in order to protect them [children].
So it’s very important that we have international institutions, that we also have major organizations like UNICEF, and that the UN can play its full role. I’m speaking at a time when this idea of international life is being called into question, when multilateralism is being challenged, when the notion of «everyone for himself» could prevail, when the contributions of major countries—including the most major one for the international organizations, particularly the UN—could be called into question.
It’s very important, through this initiative, for us to recall the nature of an international community which must act together and where there must be forces, instruments, institutions that take action on behalf of the world. That’s why, beyond the League of Nations, we were unable to promote a strong idea of the international community after the First World War.
After the Second World War, it was the UN system that was finally established and imposed, necessarily with its limitations. Today we must defend this UN system, these institutions, these organizations, because—as we see here in concrete terms—we can act in this way for the sake of human rights, and that’s why it was so important, 10 years after the Paris declaration, for us also to launch this appeal here for children and, more broadly, for international law and the institutions that uphold it. Thank you for your contribution.
(Check against delivery)
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all I’d like to thank Premer Li very much for his welcome. Today I’m very pleased to be starting a three-day official visit to China on his invitation, with two stages: in Beijing and Wuhan. This visit follows Premier Li’s visit to France at the end of June and beginning of July 2015 and is part of the especially busy schedule of Franco-Chinese bilateral visits that our two countries have seen in recent years. My presence here today testifies to the importance France attaches to its relations with China, whatever the constraints of the political calendar. That’s why I wanted a large delegation of ministers, members of Parliament, business representatives and institutions to accompany me.
This first day has provided an opportunity for very constructive talks with Prime Minister Li which enabled me to see once again how excellent and strong our bilateral relations are, as well as our broadly similar views on the issues we focused on.
It’s an inescapable fact for everyone that China and France are two great countries.
And that’s true first of all politically and economically. Developing the comprehensive strategic partnership between France and China is a priority goal of our foreign policy. France is convinced that trustful dialogue between our two countries—which are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and nuclear powers—is essential to international peace, stability and prosperity. Strengthening cooperation between our two countries is more important than ever, in an international context of unprecedented uncertainty and common challenges to our security, be they terrorism, proliferation or climate disruption.
I remind you that our trade has doubled since 2005, although it’s still very imbalanced. I therefore discussed with Premier Li the importance of rebalancing our trade «top down», which remains a priority. Only trade relations based on openness, balance, reciprocity and mutual benefits will shelter our economies from future crises and protectionist temptations.
France and China are also two great countries in terms of industry and energy—two key sectors for the planet’s future. Our discussions enabled us to deepen our cooperation in the nuclear and aerospace sectors and give an additional boost to partnerships in sectors with prospects for the future such as agrifoods, sustainable cities, health and care for the elderly, and financial services. Many contracts which have just been signed, in our presence, demonstrate the potential of our relations in all these areas.
Franco-Chinese cooperation on civilian nuclear energy, which is long-standing and strong, has just passed a milestone with the signature, earlier today, of a framework industrial and trade cooperation agreement between Areva and CNNC.
Regarding the Franco-Chinese partnership on third markets, which is a promising new focus of our economic partnership, we agreed on two initial projects in Africa and Asia: one is for a household waste incinerator in Phnom Penh in Cambodia, the other for a wind farm in Namibia. They testify to what can be expected of these partnerships: projects conducted by French and Chinese businesses and the authorities of the countries concerned, showing high social and environmental standards, in priority sectors such as environmental protection and renewable energy.
Our two countries also share a primary concern for young people, culture and openness to the world. In this regard, several agreements signed today will enable us to increase human exchanges between France and China: without understanding between peoples, there can be no lasting ties between two countries.
The agreement on the mutual recognition of driving licences, which, when it comes into force, will increase the mobility of people from both our countries; and a letter of intent initiating a programme of mutual visits by high-level young researchers, which opens up new prospects for cooperation on science, technology and innovation.
The renewal of the agreement on the mobility of student interns and young professionals in 2017 should enable a larger number of our young people to carry out internships in our two countries.
We also share the value of solidarity between generations. This is why the adoption of a Statement of Intent regarding cooperation on policies to provide care and support for elderly people must allow us to develop cooperation to face up to the challenge posed by ageing populations in our respective countries. I told Premier Li that France hoped China’s new legislation on foreign NGOs, which came into force on January 1, 2017, won’t undermine the many forms of bilateral cooperation we maintain with China and that French NGOs can continue contributing to China’s economic and social development.
France loves China, and China loves France.
This is borne out by the fact that France is a favourite destination of Chinese tourists: 1.6 million Chinese tourists visited France in 2016. You can now get a visa for France in 48 hours—and even 24 hours when you travel in a group. The opening in 2016 of nine new centres now makes it possible to apply for a visa without having to go to one of our five consulates general. All the necessary steps are being taken to give them the warmest welcome and ensure maximum security for them during their stay.
I’m looking forward to the next part of my visit, during which I’ll have other opportunities to speak to you and your colleagues.
Tomorrow I’ll be meeting President Xi Jinping and the Chairman of the National People’s Congress to discuss our bilateral relations and international issues.
The following day I’ll be going to Wuhan, where I’ll meet the Hubei authorities and where many innovative French companies are located. Among other things, I’ll visit the Franco-Chinese eco-city project [overall planning for which has just been passed] in Caidian district.
I’ll also be visiting the P4 biocontainment laboratory, which is becoming operational after more than a decade of cooperation and illustrates the relationship of trust between our two countries. This new structure opens up new prospects for scientific cooperation in the crucial fight against emerging diseases.
(Check against delivery)
France would like to see discussions between the European Union and China stepped up on the economic and trade fronts, but also on political and security issues. France welcomes the projects strengthening this link between Europe and Asia, particularly China’s New Silk Road initiative.
Bilaterally we must consolidate this momentum, based on shared interests and our mutual trust, because our two countries’ economic interdependence is now especially strong.
France is China’s third-largest trading partner within the European Union and China is France’s sixth-largest trading partner. Our trade doubled between 2006 and 2015, reaching $euro;62.4 billion in 2016. It has gone beyond a straightforward buyer-seller relationship to take the form of solid, long-lasting industrial partnerships based on the complementary nature of our businesses. Some, when it comes to civilian nuclear energy and aerospace, are long-standing and continuing to grow. The opening of an A330 completion and delivery centre in Tianjin in September this year is a perfect example of this, as is—in the civilian nuclear energy sector—the construction of new EPRs in Taishan, China, and Hinkley Point in the UK.
These partnerships are being implemented in several other sectors with future development prospects, such as sustainable urban development—with the sustainable city project in Wuhan, where I’m going tomorrow—and also agrifood and health.
We must also create export partnerships. By combining their technology, experience, trade networks and access to finance, our companies can conquer new markets together in Africa, Asia and other parts of the world. In 2015, we agreed that our projects will be environmentally-friendly and respect the social norms and needs of the countries concerned. Last year we set up a joint fund intended to finance their launch. And today we’ve just decided on the first two projects to support—one in Namibia, the other in Cambodia.
As with French investment in China, Chinese investment in France is continuing to grow. It is of course welcome. France is one of the countries in the world which attracts the most foreign investment, so much so that one in seven French employees works for a foreign company. The only necessary condition for Chinese investment, like investment from other places, is that it respects our national security and comes with a form of reciprocity for our own investment.
Indeed, France has many strengths in terms of attractiveness: it has a geographically central position in Europe, effective infrastructure and networks, a set of innovative companies in many sectors and a highly qualified workforce, which is one of the most productive. It also offers foreign companies and their staff competitive energy prices, a healthcare system accessible to everyone, a high-level scientific environment, a good quality of life and an exceptional wealth of cultural activities.
Of course, like all countries, France has challenges to meet in order to create the conditions for sustainable economic growth. What’s more, some aren’t very different from yours. We’ve got to encourage our businesses to innovate and move upmarket, because their competitiveness no longer depends on product prices alone. We’ve got to face up to challenges linked to the environment and rethink the state’s role in the economy. Some challenges, admittedly, are more specific to France. For example, to attract foreign investment we’ve got to simplify our regulatory framework, among other things.
Since 2012 we’ve been getting down to the task of meeting all these challenges and, today, the results of our policy are clear to see. Private investment went up more than 4% in 2016. We’ve created 300,000 market-sector jobs since spring 2015, an achievement unequalled in 10 years. Furthermore, everything points to economic activity in France speeding up in 2017. Growth bounced back in the fourth quarter of 2016. The business climate and household confidence are at their highest in spite of the uncertainty generated by certain political circumstances. (...)