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Official speeches and statements - April 22, 2020

Published on April 22, 2020

1. COVID-19 - World Health Organization (WHO) - Reply by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to a question in the National Assembly (Paris - April 21, 2020)

The World Health Organization is currently the only global health organization. It’s one of the pillars of the multilateral system created after the Second World War - hence the surprise at hearing certain voices express the desire to suspend their contribution to that World Health Organization.

What would we do tomorrow without a global organization, in the face of a pandemic which, by its nature, is global? It’s absolutely contradictory.

So France’s position is very clear: we support WHO and will continue to do so. I note that we’re not the only ones to think this way: you referred earlier to the Alliance for Multilateralism. Indeed, a few days ago my colleague Heiko Maas and I convened a meeting of this Alliance, and together we expressed our desire to continue our support for the World Health Organization.

Having said that, this pandemic nevertheless requires that we reform the multilateral health system, in particular by strengthening WHO’s normative role. There’s an international health regulation which dates back to 2005 but doesn’t have the resources to be set in motion and implemented; strengthening WHO’s action, too, by giving it more independence and financial autonomy to play its warning and detection role, for example, and by creating, in full transparency, a global authority for human and animal health, which could play a scientific warning role, as the IPCC does for the climate. Finally, by innovating on the essential coordination between the tools that currently focus on public health: I’m thinking of vertical funds like the [Global] Fund to Fight AIDS [Tuberculosis and Malaria], Gavi [the Vaccine Alliance], Unitaid, and the Gates Foundation, because this also concerns private organizations.

We must ensure there is coordination between all these players.

That’s the wish of the French President, who hosted a meeting of all those organizations a few days ago, to overhaul global health security, under the guidance of WHO.

2. United Nations - The Great Lakes Region - Statement by the Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council (New York - April 22, 2020)

Mr. President,

I would like to thank the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General Huang Xia for his briefing.

I will very quickly underscore three points.

First of all, we welcome the positive developments that have taken place over the past six months. It is crucial to continue to build on the encouraging momentum that followed the election of President Tshisekedi, in order to further reduce tensions, build confidence and achieve progress on the other fronts. In particular, we commend the involvement of Presidents Tshisekedi and Lourenço, which has been crucial in fostering a promising dynamic towards a reconciliation between Rwanda and Uganda, leading to renewed commitments through the finalization of an extradition treaty. We welcome such a significant development, in accordance with the objectives of the Peace and Security Framework.

Indeed, in several areas, less progress has been recorded and the situation remains of concern -continued violence in the East of the DRC, violations of human rights, humanitarian situation, including an additional 1 million displaced persons in the DRC: the Secretary-General described in his report the scale of the remaining challenges, and I shall not go into it again. I would in particular like to express France’s vigilance with regard to the situation in Burundi, recalling that it is paramount that, given the choice of the Government of Burundi to go ahead with the elections in the current context, to ensure a free political space and that all actors refrain from any action that could jeopardize the holding of peaceful, inclusive and credible elections, as these would contribute to the region’s path towards political stability and peace. The confidence of Burundi people in the ability of the Justice system to respond to the victims’ aspirations and prosecute crimes in an independent way is key to serve the long term objectives of unity and stability.

Secondly, we share the concern expressed by everyone here about the threats that the COVID-19 pandemic poses to the region, in a context where the Ebola virus, in particular, has still not been eradicated. Countries of the Great Lakes region remain vulnerable to large scale pandemics; in particular due to the high level human displacements induced by the persistence of hostile groups operations. They do also have lessons learnt from past experience (Ebola, Marburg outbreaks) and the world community would benefit from it. I welcome the measures taken by national governments to combat the spread of the epidemic in accordance with WHO recommendations and I recall that it is fundamental that their implementation respect human rights.

Recognizing such a global dramatic new challenge, France expresses once again its solidarity with the countries of the region, which can count on its support. France has mobilized €1.2 billion to sustain African countries efforts in fighting the pandemic: the sanitary threat needs to be addressed now to strengthen barrier measures in order to prevent the spread of the Corona virus, but also in the long-term to refocus support on enhancing African capabilities in the health sector. Beyond, there is no doubt that the disruption created by the pandemic will have a significant socio-economic impact which needs to be anticipated. It is the reason why President Macron has been strongly advocating for a collective effort leading to a rescaling of the public debt of African countries. We welcome therefore the endorsement by the G20 of our proposal for a moratorium on that debt.

Thirdly and lastly, I would like to stress that the context of the epidemic further reinforces the need for regional cooperation. At a time when borders are closed, communications disrupted, and attitudes of mistrust are spreading, the epidemic complicates regional cooperation; but it remains absolutely necessary because it is the only way to address the root causes of the conflicts that undermine the Great Lakes, from armed groups to the illicit exploitation of natural resources. The countries of the region are facing a common test: by supporting each other in a shared struggle, they can build the foundation of mutual trust that will be decisive for the steps ahead.

The Special Envoy and its office must take all necessary initiatives in this perspective. In this regard, France reaffirms its support to the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and recalls that it stands ready to continue to assist him in the fulfilment of his mission. The regional peace and security strategy will constitute a useful tool and a roadmap to build upon to identify and implement concrete measures to strengthen political stability and peace in the region. We stand ready to actively participate in the shaping of this new collective peace and security instrument and we look forward to its timely elaboration.

I thank you.

3. United Nations - Virtual event on "2020 A Year for Nature and Biodiversity: All Together to Act" - Statement by the Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations (New York - April 22, 2020)

Good morning Excellencies, Professors, dear all,

I have the pleasure to co-host today with the New York City Mayor’s Office for International Affairs this virtual event on the theme "2020 A year for nature and biodiversity: All together to act", on the occasion of Earth day.

I would like first to start by expressing my warm thanks to the team of the New York City Mayor’s Office for International Affairs and in particular to Commissioner Penny Aberwardena for this great partnership and collaborative work in the organization of this event. This will hopefully be the first of many events that we will be able to host together.

I also would like to thank the panelists for sharing their time and their expertise with us and all of you for dialing-in and joining us today. We are pleased to see so many of you join in this unique period.

Staying focused on climate and biodiversity issues in the context of a global health crisis.

Nature and the environment are facing huge challenges such as loss of biodiversity, the degradation of ecosystems, climate change, deforestation, pollution. These challenges are all linked to public health. The coronavirus outbreak stresses the need to urgently address threats to ecosystems.

We also need to stress the need to act urgently and at local and global levels for nature and biodiversity.

2020 was supposed to be the "super year" for nature and biodiversity. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, most of the major meetings on these topics were postponed to 2021. However, 2020 can and should remain a crucial year to make progress on the climate emergency and halt the loss of biodiversity. The IPBES report of May 2019 tells us that it is not yet too late to act but only if we start to act now, at all levels, from local to global.

The States and the United Nations have a key role to play in this project and I can’t emphasize enough the importance of international cooperation and multilateralism to address these challenges.

Protecting the environment is one of France’s main priorities and France remains fully mobilized to protect biodiversity. French President Emmanuel Macron has committed that by 2022:

  • 30% of French territory will be considered as protected areas
  • and 10% will be placed under strong protection

Taking care of nature and respect biodiversity is a key part of our response to the current crisis. This is why it will be important to incorporate environmental issues in our recovery plans.

I will finish by quoting the report presented by the UN Secretary-General on March 31 entitled "Shared responsibility, global solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19". This report states clearly that "we must seize the opportunity of this crisis to strengthen our commitment to implement the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. By making progress on our global roadmap for a more inclusive and sustainable future, we can better respond to future crises."

I want to thank you all for your attention and I am now giving the floor to Commissioner Abeywardena.