Official speeches and statements - July 10, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has already claimed the lives of more than 470,000 people and is challenging our societies, requires increased international cooperation and global solidarity. It is a reminder of how crucial multilateral institutions are to our collective health, prosperity and security.
We fully support the World Health Organization (WHO) to coordinate the public health response, and more generally the United Nations and the other international and regional organizations to implement a coordinated and coherent global response to the broader socio-economic repercussions of the crisis.
We support in particular the work of the WHO, multilateral health funds (GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, Unitaid, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria), and other public and private actors, in order to accelerate the development and ensure equitable and universal access to therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines, as well as the strengthening of health systems, especially in the most vulnerable countries, thanks to the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator initiative.
We also agree on the need to learn all the lessons from collective management of the current health crisis and to take the necessary measures to strengthen the multilateral health architecture and ensure that the world is better prepared for the next pandemic.
In this context, we welcome the decision taken with the "COVID-19 response" resolution adopted by consensus at the Seventy-Third World Health Assembly to initiate, at the earliest appropriate moment, and in consultation with Member States, a process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation to review experience gained and lessons learned from the international health response, looking in particular at the effectiveness of the mechanisms at the WHO’s disposal and the functioning of the IHR (International Health Regulations) and the status of implementation of the relevant recommendations of the previous IHR Review Committees.
While awaiting the results of this evaluation, we wish to begin to reflect on concrete proposals to improve collective preparedness and capacity for action in the management of health crises and effectively strengthen the coordinating role of the WHO.
We agree to work on the following priorities:
- Strengthening health systems at the national level, in order to ensure better resilience of countries to health crises and maintain access to essential health services.
We support the WHO transformation agenda to strengthen the 149 WHO country offices to help countries, starting with the most vulnerable, develop their health systems. We reaffirm the need for collective mobilization to ensure universal health coverage (UHC) which contributes to better resilience in the face of health crises. We agree on the importance of reflecting on how to direct more stable resources towards strengthening health systems, preventing pandemics and maintaining essential services, in particular for the least developed countries. In this respect, the alignment of donors with national strategies and coordination between donors are priorities, particularly in the context of the Providing for Health network (P4H) and the UHC 2030 platform involving the WHO and the World Bank.
- Strengthening the implementation of the IHR and the accountability of States Parties which are responsible for their implementation.
The International Health Regulations (IHR) are the main tool available to the international community to prevent serious public health risks which are likely to spread across borders and pose a threat to the entire world. However, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted their uneven implementation by the 196 States Parties and that they are subject to varying interpretations. Today, many States Parties to the IHR do not fully comply with them and do not have the capacities to prevent, detect and respond to a major health risk. Strengthening the WHO’s capacities relating to the implementation of the IHR should be explored, particularly the possibility of giving the WHO the capacity to verify implementation of the IHR.
- Improvement of the public health risk notification system, as required by the IHR.
The current system does not have a sufficiently graduated alert level. Notification may be inadequate, and sometimes come too late, due for instance to the differing capacities among States. The WHO does not have verification powers to ensure that States notify it within the stipulated 24-hour period. We call for exploring all possible avenues to make the current system more efficient, such as strengthening the Emergency Committee’s remit or creating an intermediate alert level to trigger earlier funding or deployment of personnel, as recommended by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board in its first report, dated September 2019. A maximum level of alert could also be created to provide a legal basis for the term "pandemic".
We support, in this regard, the adoption by the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly of the resolution "Strengthening preparedness for health emergencies: application of the International Health Regulations (2005)", which requests the Director-General of WHO to explore, in consultation with Member States, complementary mechanisms to warn the international community of the severity and / or scale of a public health emergency with a view to mobilizing essential aid and facilitating international cooperation.
- A comprehensive approach to global health, taking account of the increasingly strong links between human and animal health, in the context of the biodiversity crisis.
According to the WHO, 75% of new human infectious diseases are of zoonotic origin. To reduce the risk of new viruses emerging and of transmission from animals to humans, we call for addressing root causes of zoonotic diseases to prevent future pandemics. Further large-scale loss of biodiversity threatens the vital contribution of nature to people and planet and fundamentally increases the risk of emergence, transmission and spillover to humans of infectious diseases in wildlife and domestic animals.
We recognize that human, animal, plant and ecosystem health are interdependent and reaffirm the value of the "One Health" approach, an integrated approach that fosters cooperation between environmental conservation and the human health, animal health and plant health sectors as outlined in the Berlin Principles on One Health developed in October 2019. We support the joint work of the WHO, the FAO and the OIE in this regard and welcome their"Tripartite Guide to Addressing Zoonotic Diseases in Countries". This tripartite work should be enhanced further and have more visibility.
- Improved financial margin of manoeuvre for the WHO.
The WHO is highly dependent on voluntary contributions from its member States and from non-State organizations. We reaffirm the need to reflect on how to mobilize more sustainable resources for the WHO and for preparedness and response to health emergencies.
Building on the work priorities defined in this declaration, we intend to participate constructively in the upcoming discussions on strengthening the multilateral health architecture, at the next General Assembly of the United Nations and the next session of the World Health Assembly, as well as in all other relevant international fora.
Mr. President of the General Assembly,
Mr. President of Bosnia and Herzegovina and honorable Ministers,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank the President of the General Assembly, the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide and the Director of the War Childhood Museums in Bosnia-and-Herzegovina for their insightful presentations.
Twenty-five years ago, Europe went through its darkest hours since the end of the Second World War. We will always remember the 8,000 men and boys, who were murdered in Srebrenica in July 1995. France greets with emotion the survivors of this genocide as well as the families of the victims.
Srebrenica remains a painful symbol of our collective failure to protect civilians from mass atrocities. This has left a particular imprint on the United Nations, which has worked tirelessly to be up to its responsibility to protect civilians. We now have better tools. We have given strong mandates to peacekeeping operations. Their performance should be assessed on their capacity to protect civilians. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia whose contribution to peace and stability in the Balkans has been key and whose heritage has to be preserved paved the way for the International Criminal Court (ICC). It is now a pillar of the fight against impunity at the international level. We call on all States to ratify the Rome Statute of the ICC and to support its independence. We have a Special Advisor who regularly sounds the alert on specific situations, when States are complacent or inactive. In this regard, we recall that the primary responsibility to protect civilians, promote human rights and bring justice to victims lies with States. Associations of victims, religious leaders, local leadership, judicial authorities, academics, have a key role to play to enable societies to cope with their past and build their future.
Twenty-five years after Srebrenica, much remains to be done for a harmonious coexistence of communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the Western Balkan region, still marked by the stigma of the conflicts of the 1990s. The past, in its entirety, must be fully recognized by all. There can be no room for any form of negationism, historical revisionism or glorification of war criminals convicted by courts.
Regional organizations such as the European Union have a role to play in supporting efforts towards peace, justice, reconciliation between peoples, freedom and democracy. Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Western Balkans have chosen these values by taking the path of integration into the European Union. The reconciliation between France and Germany can, I believe, serve as an inspiration.
Just today, a summit between Serbia and Kosovo organized by the President of France and the Chancellor of Germany is paving the way for further progress along this path. Throughout the Western Balkans, the work to reconcile communities will help to build a future of peace and prosperity in a united Europe.
We share a common European future. I reaffirm France’s conviction regarding the European perspective of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Western Balkans on the basis of the necessary reforms in the fields of economic and social development, rule of law, democratic functioning and human rights.
[Translation from French]
Allow me to start by expressing France’s deepest condolences to Côte d’Ivoire following the passing of its Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly. At a time when Côte d’Ivoire is engaged in the preparation of important forthcoming elections for the future of the country, France salutes the memory of this great servant of the people of Côte d’Ivoire.
France commends the Special Representative and the team of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) for having sustained their actions in recent months, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic is already having serious consequences in West Africa and the Sahel. We must therefore redouble our efforts to support the countries of the region as they face their challenges, whether they are related to security, respect for Human Rights and fundamental freedoms, humanitarian consequences, economic development, or climate change and its impact on those States’ peace and stability. In this regard, I welcome the statement by Ms. Hindou Amarou, who forcefully highlighted the impact of climate change on peace and security in the Sahel.
The security situation in the area remains fragile, mainly in the Sahel. The Nouakchott Summit of June 30 allowed us to take stock of the situation and the common commitments made in Pau. All the countries of the region and their partners reaffirmed their determination to combat terrorism and to intensify their efforts to achieve lasting stabilization in the region. In the three-border area between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, terrorist groups are continuing their activities, forcing thousands of people to flee the violence. But the military operations carried out since March by France and the G5 Sahel countries have produced results, weakening and disorganizing terrorist groups, whether the Islamic state in the Great Sahara or armed groups affiliated to Al-Qaeda. I recall the neutralization of the leader of AQIM, Abdelmalek Droukdel, on 3 June.
We also note progress in the development and redeployment of the State, efforts that we are accompanying with our partners, in particular those of the European Union. France welcomes the announcements by the Sahelian authorities concerning the opening of investigations into allegations of Human Rights violations, in particular those concerning certain members of their armies, and calls for those responsible to be identified and brought to justice.
On the political front, the current year is decisive for the consolidation of democratic processes. I would like to refer in particular to Guinea and Burkina Faso. In Guinea, the legislative elections and the referendum of March 22 were fraught with tension. Distrust among political actors remains strong. It is essential that an in-depth dialogue takes place. The presidential election in October will be crucial for the continuation of the political process in the country and it is important that it is conducted in a transparent, credible and inclusive manner. In Burkina Faso, we are concerned about the prevailing insecurity in the North and the East, which could hinder the successful holding of the November 22 elections. We encourage the authorities to strengthen the State’s presence in these outlying areas, with a view to restoring basic services and easing tensions. It is important to consolidate the gains made in this country, which successfully completed its democratic transition five years ago. France supports the role of ECOWAS and the Francophonie in supporting political processes in the region.
Lastly, the situation in the Lake Chad basin must be closely monitored. France welcomes the successes achieved by Chadian troops against terrorist groups. We encourage Nigeria, whose role is essential, to capitalize on those successes in order to increase its military effort against Boko Haram. Only the restoration of security will make it possible to redeploy basic services, restart the economy and carry out long-term development actions. It is also essential that the actions of humanitarian actors and international humanitarian law is respected.
I thank you.