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Official speeches and statements - July 27, 2020

Published on July 27, 2020

1. Lebanon - Statements by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, at his press conference with Mr. Nassif Hitti, Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs (Beirut - July 23, 2020)

Mon cher Nassif,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’m really very pleased to be here with you today. I’ve come to Lebanon for this second visit as Foreign Minister, at the request of President Emmanuel Macron. I’m here, ladies and gentlemen, first of all to say that France stands and will always stand by Lebanon and the Lebanese people. As you know, we have a very special bond with this country. There’s a shared history between us, and this year we’ll also be celebrating the centenary of the proclamation of Greater Lebanon. There are also very strong human ties between us which permeate our two societies.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the name of those ties I’ve also come here to send a message of truth. These are serious times. Lebanon is in a very worrying situation. The economic and financial crisis is raging. It’s having tragic practical consequences for Lebanese people, who are growing poorer by the day.

What we want to avoid is this crisis undermining the model of tolerance and openness on which Lebanon was founded and which is central to its identity. So I’ve come here to signal our determination, France’s determination, to remain alongside the Lebanese people, in particular in these difficult times.

The solutions for the country’s recovery have already been known for a long time. During the CEDRE conference we proposed a "confidence contract" to finance development projects in exchange for the necessary structural reforms. Everyone is aware of the need for change. And this demand for reforms - which I reiterated in Paris last December in the framework of the International Support Group I had convened - is also fully in line with the Lebanese people’s expectations.

Lebanese people strongly expressed their legitimate aspirations through the mass demonstrations begun last October. They took to the streets to show an entire people’s thirst for change and its desire for transparency, for efforts to fight corruption and for better governance. Unfortunately, that call has not yet been heard.

Today it’s urgent and necessary to make a concrete start along the path to reforms. And that’s the message I’ve come to send to all the Lebanese authorities and all the political parties. And the expectations I’m expressing are not merely France’s. They are, first and foremost, the Lebanese people’s, and they’re also those of the whole international community.

I’m thinking in particular of the resumption of negotiations with the IMF, particularly through the actual implementation of the Banque du Liban’s audit. Let’s be under no illusions: there’s no alternative to an IMF program to enable Lebanon to get over the crisis.

I’m also thinking of electricity sector reform, which is an iconic project. I want to say clearly that what’s been done in this field so far is hardly encouraging.

Finally, I’m thinking of the fight against corruption. And President Aoun spoke to me about it in strong terms this morning. I’m thinking of the fight against corruption; I’m thinking of the fight against smuggling which is crucial to Lebanon’s future. And in the same spirit, the independence of the judiciary and the strengthening of transparency are essential.

France is ready to play a fully active role alongside Lebanon and mobilize all its partners, but serious and credible recovery measures must be implemented to that end. Concrete actions have been expected for too long. And as I said recently to/in the French Senate, "help us to help you!" That, ladies and gentlemen, is the watchword of my visit to Beirut.

So the message I’ve come to send Lebanon is twofold: France’s stringency and expectations regarding the reforms the authorities must implement, and support for the Lebanese people’s concerns. France steadfastly stands by the Lebanese people to enable them to tackle all the challenges they face.

Since the beginning of the health crisis we’ve been coming to Lebanon’s assistance. In particular, our support has taken the form of medical equipment deliveries. These assistance measures have benefited a limited number of countries, but we’ve directed them towards Lebanon as a priority. In addition to this support in the form of equipment, there’s been financial support in the health field.

France is also taking humanitarian action targeted at the most vulnerable populations. Our direct humanitarian support this year will amount to euro50 million. We’re mainly supporting basic public services, particularly health systems. But it’s first and foremost up to the Lebanese authorities to put in place social safety nets, which Nassif has just talked about - they’re currently non-existent - and provide Lebanese people with public services and infrastructure.

I also came here, ladies and gentlemen, to signal France’s support for young Lebanese people and the education sector. The consequences of the pandemic have been terrible for the million schoolchildren in Lebanon who, like many young people all over the world, have been deprived of lessons for several months.

This crisis is also a crisis for French-speaking and French schools, because France and Lebanon share an extraordinarily rich history in this area. Sixty-one thousand children study in the 52 French schools throughout Lebanon, in addition to the 300 French-speaking Christian schools which cater for 190,000 children of every faith. Amid the crisis, we’ve been totally mobilized, at the French President’s request. The emergency plan for French teaching abroad includes a specific programme for all the families of the 52 institutions in the French schools network in Lebanon.

We’ve also decided to speed up the creation of a foundation for Eastern Christian schools that will support all the French-speaking institutions in Lebanon and the region, which, as everyone knows, has a tradition of welcoming children of all origins and faiths. So I want to reiterate the importance of this Francophonie we share with Lebanon, a model in terms of support for education, multilingualism and respect for diversity.

Lastly, Minister, cher Nassif, we’ll continue our support for the Lebanese army, the backbone of this State, and for the security forces as a whole, which play a crucial role in guaranteeing the country’s stability and security. It’s essential for the Lebanese State to assert its authority and control throughout the country, and it’s essential for all Lebanon’s leaders to respect and protect this principle of the country’s dissociation from the crises facing the region.

I can’t talk about the difficult regional context Lebanon is in without mentioning the war in Syria. Lebanon is hosting on its territory - very generously, I must emphasize - a very significant number of refugees. We’re aware of this, and I want to pay tribute once again to the Lebanese people’s efforts to make this hospitality possible and assure them that our efforts to enable the safe and dignified return of refugees to Syria will not flag. (...)

Ladies and gentlemen, you may be familiar with the French expression "help yourself and God will help you".

What I want to say today to Lebanon’s leaders is: "help yourself and France and its partners will help you".

Thank you.

2. Environment - Alliance for Rainforests - Joint communiqué issued by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and the Recovery (Paris - July 24, 2020)

The mobilization of the Alliance for Rainforests, announced by the President following the catastrophic fires of 2019 in several regions of the world, must lead to the protection, sustainable management and restoration of one of the ecosystems fundamental to maintaining the planet’s equilibrium.

Following a negotiation process which was begun at the G7 Biarritz summit, then at the United Nations General Assembly, and spearheaded by our country, France and its partners, countries in the Amazon Basin, Congo Basin and South-East Asia, and European donor countries agreed on the text of a Charter establishing the Alliance for Rainforests:

France’s Permanent Representative to the UN handed the document to Mr. António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, yesterday, informing him that it was open for signature by the relevant countries.

The Alliance is an open coalition of countries sharing the same ambitions for forests; it will evolve and bring together all those who share its goals. It aims to talk to and act closely with the relevant sectors of civil society (indigenous peoples and local communities, NGOs, businesses, agricultural organizations, women’s associations, researchers and research centers) and local authorities in the countries concerned, in view of the continuing, even intensifying deforestation activity.

To achieve its goal of mobilizing to protect tropical forests, the Alliance will have three concrete, priority tasks:

  • to serve as a political platform between donor countries and major forest countries in order to exchange good practice and get a shared vision of their own particular issues;
  • to list all the public and private initiatives concerning forests so they are consistent with the objectives set out in the Charter;
  • to head off crises affecting forests (fires, epidemics etc.) by preparing forest countries, particularly the most vulnerable, to respond to them more quickly thanks to better structured and thus more effective international solidarity and, with the support of all the Alliance members, implement agreed policies promoting better protection for rainforest ecosystems.

In order to contribute fully to the Alliance’s objectives, France has committed itself to and decided to get involved in several concrete projects. In particular, it is contributing to the Natural Capital Lab, a trust fund hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), focused on financial innovation for biodiversity and the fight against deforestation.

It is also contributing to an ambitious project from the NGO Conservation International entitled “Our Future Forests". It consists in strengthening the Amazon rainforest’s land management by relying on indigenous peoples, in particular through monitoring systems, increased capacity and the development of protected areas. It is also mobilizing the French Development Agency’s tools and the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM), several actions of which will help strengthen participatory forestry and make it more innovative, to the benefit of the local communities living on the edge of protected areas in the Congo Basin and socio-environmental resilience, through the management of protected areas in Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso.

Finally, France is also supporting indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin affected by the COVID-19 health crisis. €5 million of funding has been mobilized for this purpose to benefit several local authorities in Brazil, particularly in the State of Amapá, which borders the territorial collectivity of Guiana, and the Rainforest Foundation, for the Coordinating Body for the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin.

For further information:

3. United Nations - Climate and security - Statement by the permanent representative of France to the United Nations at the Security Council (New York - July 24, 2020)

[Translation from French]

Mr. President,

First, I would like to command Germany for considering the links between climate change and security as one of the main priorities of its mandate in the Council.

I would also like to command Mr. Jenca for his briefing, and those of the speakers who followed it.

At a time when the response to the global health crisis of COVID-19 is mobilizing all the attention, it is important not to forget the threats to international security linked to environmental risks, and, in particular, to climate change and the destruction of natural biotopes, and to strengthen our collective action on this matter.

As, indeed, a world in a state of climate emergency, like ours, is an endangered world exposed to increased security risks and new threats.

It is to anticipate, prevent and limit these effects that the international community must act.

In this context, I would like to share with you three convictions:

The first one is that the repercussions on international security of climate change and the collapse of biodiversity must imperatively become a key element of the conflict prevention agenda.

The second one is that a rigorous and regular analysis of these risks is necessary and of international public interest; the United Nations must play a central role in this regard.

The third conviction is that this risk analysis must be accompanied by preventive measures that would be implemented by national governments, regional organizations, development partners and United Nations agencies.

Based on these convictions, France wishes to work with all member states on several proposals that we have already shared, including these two main ones:

The first proposal aims to adopt a collective tool which would analyze and give early warning of the impacts of climate change on international peace and security. Some data and analytic tools exist. But they are dispersed, between States and even within the United Nations between its various agencies, in think-tanks. It is about bringing them together in a unique document and giving them a real echo. What is missing is a whistleblower, as the IPCC does for climate change. In that regard, France wants the Secretary-General to play this role by presenting every two years to the General Assembly and to the Security Council a report that takes stock of the risks to peace and security posed by the impacts of climate change, in all regions of the world, and at different time horizons.

This is the only way to put in place truly adequate responses to the threats now happening in the Sahel, parts of Asia or island states.

It is also the only way to anticipate the threats of tomorrow and to help the most vulnerable countries cope with the pressures they will face in the decades to come.

The second proposal concerns the role of the United Nations in developing recommendations for concrete actions.

Faced with these security risks, we must indeed mobilize a wide range of tools and strengthen the capacities of the secretariat, in terms of climate expertise and coordination. In some cases, such as after an extreme weather event, emergency humanitarian measures will be required, to save lives, ensure security, but also provide the means for reconstruction. In other cases, it will be necessary to help communities adapt to the inevitable rise in water levels and soil degradation. Sometimes, it will be necessary to anticipate by providing small producers with insurance mechanisms that will allow them to restart economic activity quickly after a climate disaster rather than having to migrate to other areas.

In this framework, the work of the climate and security mechanism is invaluable, but it must be strengthened, in particular with the appointment of a Special Envoy for climate security.

In any case, the United Nations must play an important role in developing these recommendations, and then in coordinating the efforts that must be implemented as a matter of priority by national governments, regional organizations and international partners.

Faced with these certain risks, we cannot take refuge in denial or disinformation. We can anticipate and respond to these risks and prevent conflicts.

We must act now, this is the role of the United Nations and the Council and it is France’s commitment, which is why we support the idea of a resolution to the General Assembly aimed at implementing the proposals made today.

I thank you.

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