"Enough is enough" in Syria, President tells UN
71st session of the United Nations General Assembly – Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic – General debate of the United Nations General Assembly
New York, 20 September 2016
It’s always an honour to speak to the United Nations General Assembly. Yet it’s also a responsibility, particularly given the serious, worrying situation the world is experiencing.
Paris climate agreement/ratification
I stand before you on behalf of France to issue several appeals: the first is to ask you to do everything in your power to implement the historic agreement signed in Paris on 12 December 2015. The agreement was historic because the conference was being held when France – Paris, its capital – had been struck by terrorist attacks. The agreement was historic because, for the first time, the assembled international community agreed to make a commitment to reducing global warming and mobilizing finance allowing the most vulnerable countries to ensure the energy transition.
And yet, standing before you, let me state once again that despite the momentous nature of the agreement, there’s no time to lose. The past two years have been the hottest known to mankind since records began. Admittedly, in April 2016, right here with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, an agreement was signed with 175 countries. But everyone here knows that it won’t come into force unless it’s ratified by 55% of countries representing 55% of greenhouse gas emissions. The United States and China have announced their decision to ratify – that was very important, and nothing would have been possible without the participation, the commitment of those two countries, which are the biggest emitters of CO2. France itself will notify the United Nations tomorrow that its [ratification] procedure has ended, but I call on every country which is a member of the United Nations to speed up their ratification procedure so that everything is concluded by the end of the year.
COP21 was a conference of decisions. COP22, which will be held in Marrakesh, must be one of solutions. We need to implement the International Solar Alliance, combat desertification, protect the oceans and set a carbon price. But the appeal I want to issue to you here, following this climate agreement, is an appeal for Africa. Africa is a continent full of promise, but its development may be hindered by climate change, migration, conflict, war and terrorism. That continent, which has a bright future, may also be the one which causes growing insecurity – of which, incidentally, Africans would be the first victims. So on France’s behalf I’m proposing a 2020 agenda for Africa. This plan must allow all Africans to gain access to electricity. Two thirds of Africans today are deprived of it; it’s an injustice, but above it hinders sustainable growth in Africa. The challenge, therefore, is to respond to the needs of 15% of the world’s population. The challenge is to enable African countries to benefit from huge potential for development. The challenge is to reduce population displacements, i.e. migration, which is destabilizing both countries of origin and also host countries. So in Paris, during that conference, I launched an African Renewable Energy Initiative. Ten donors – and I want thank them here – pledged to pay $10 billion by 2020. France will foot 20%, i.e. €2 billion. Europe has decided on an external action plan which could reach – this is still with a view to providing Africans with electricity – nearly €40 billion, which may be doubled if EU member states contribute as well. So my appeal still stands for all the countries represented here, an appeal to join this momentum. It’s not solidarity I’m asking for, it’s a mutual investment benefiting the whole world that I’m calling for here to be achieved as soon as possible.
But there will be no development in Africa without its security being guaranteed. France was conscious of its responsibility when I committed it to Mali. Terrorist organizations had to be prevented from taking control of a whole country and destabilizing a whole region. Today, that threat has been contained. Mali has had its territorial integrity restored. But other organizations are emerging – Boko Haram, al-Qaeda – which, once again, are undermining the security of many countries of West Africa, the Sahel and Lake Chad. So, here too, France is there to support the armed forces concerned in order to train them, exchange information and support them in the fight against terrorism; this is what we’re doing for Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Benin and Cameroon, and we must take this action even further with the United Nations and the African Union.
But let’s be crystal clear: Africans’ security must come from Africans themselves, if we want to avoid external meddling and interfering. And the appeal I’m issuing for development and renewable energy is also an appeal for Africans’ security, so that we can equip their armed forces and give them the means to take action, and so that these African nations can organize their development freely and in a sovereign way.
The final and perhaps most moving appeal I want to issue here concerns Syria. The Syria tragedy will go down in history as a disgrace for the international community if we don’t end it quickly. Aleppo today is a martyred city, which nations will always remember as a martyred city. Thousands of children have been pounded by bombs. Whole populations starved. Humanitarian convoys attacked. Chemical weapons used. Well, I’ve only one thing to say: enough is enough. As in February, the ceasefire held only a few days. It shattered right after it was announced – without us, moreover, knowing what it contained. The regime is responsible for its failure and it can’t exonerate itself because of mistakes that may have been made by others. And I say to its foreign supporters, whom everyone here knows, that they must push for peace, otherwise they will bear responsibility with the regime for partition and chaos in Syria. The Security Council must convene as soon as possible and not be a "fools’ theatre", i.e. a place where everyone passes the buck and where some people hinder the Security Council’s work supposedly to protect a regime, even though they should be seeking a solution with us.
France has four demands. First of all the ceasefire, in line with the decisions taken. That’s the precondition. Secondly, to ensure the immediate delivery of humanitarian aid to Aleppo and the other martyred towns and cities. That’s the urgent thing. To enable political negotiations to resume according to the principles of the transition that were established back in 2012. That’s the solution. Finally, to sanction the use of chemical weapons. That’s justice.
Ladies and gentlemen, to resolve nothing, to take a laissez-faire attitude and let things happen, is to play into the hands of the forces that want to destabilize the world, and particularly the terrorists. France never gives up, even if it’s difficult – especially if it’s difficult. And that’s why it has taken the initiative of contributing to the search for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Admittedly, no one can impose a solution on the parties. But there too, making do with the status quo means taking the risk, letting settlement activity take place once again. It means providing an intolerable, unjust, unacceptable basis for certain acts of violence. So the aim is to convene a conference by the end of the year, to give the Israelis and Palestinians the ability and the responsibility to negotiate.
It’s this same spirit which has driven Chancellor Merkel and me to find a solution for Ukraine. It was the invention of the so-called Normandy format that enabled an agreement to be reached in Minsk. Today we must do everything to implement that agreement, otherwise there will be violence again, and the war may even resume. Let me remind you that it has claimed more than 6,000 lives. So the German Chancellor and I have taken the initiative of bringing together the Russian and Ukrainian presidents in the coming weeks to make progress and implement the Minsk agreements. We won’t abandon that goal; we’ll give up on no initiative if it may be useful.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve mentioned terrorism. It threatens every country in the world. Moreover, the list of all those hit is long. In Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe. And I’m not forgetting even Oceania. No country can say it will be forearmed against this scourge: Islamist terrorism, fundamentalism, fanaticism, which have taken hold of individuals lost in our societies and radicalized them. No sea, no wall will be able to protect a country from this dramatic situation, from this tragedy, from this scourge of bombings, attacks and aggression. This terrorism thrives on conflicts which have been started and have remained unresolved for too long. It sparks waves of refugees; it drastically alters the international situation, borders, which we thought were established, the law, which we thought we could enforce, and collective security, which was the very principle of the United Nations. In the face of these perils, France turns once again to the United Nations.
It [the UN] showed its effectiveness through the adoption of Agenda 2030 on development and the Paris Agreement, which many people thought impossible. The United Nations has been engaged in an unprecedented number of peacekeeping operations. But if we want to eradicate terrorism, if we want to act, we must take decisions and not merely speak the language of solidarity when an attack is carried out against a friendly country, or compassion towards the victims. We must shoulder responsibilities whenever it’s effective. That’s what France does. Not because it’s attacked – as I’ve said, today every country is the target of terrorism. No, France does it because it’s a permanent member of the Security Council and because its role isn’t to block but to act. France does it because it has an idea, a great idea for the world, the one it’s upheld throughout its history: freedom, democracy and justice. Because France puts its policy at the service of a single goal: peace. And because France talks to all those involved. Because France is an independent nation that respects the law. Because France has no other enemies than the forces of hatred and intolerance which use a betrayed religion to speak fear. Because we must fight the populists who exploit distress to divide, separate, stigmatize, and pit religions against one another, risking a confrontation that would be terrible for our societies’’ cohesion. France is a laïc [secular] (1) country, which proclaims itself as such but which speaks to every religion and ensures freedom of worship on its soil, because France has no other interest in the world than stability, development and the future of the planet.
That’s why France is as committed to the United Nations as it demonstrates every day. I want to pay tribute to the President of the General Assembly; I want to pay tribute to all those who dedicate themselves to the United Nations, beginning with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon , who for 10 years has led this difficult mission on everyone’s behalf and enabled us to make progress. And that’s also why I expect the United Nations, and particularly the Security Council – in the face of the major challenges I’ve mentioned, especially those of Syria and the fight against terrorism – to shoulder its responsibilities. There’s a time for every generation, every public leader, [when] the only valid question is: have we taken decisions? Have we taken the right decisions? There are countries here of different sizes, different levels of development, different sensitivities and beliefs, but which must have only one goal, only one demand. The world must rise to the challenges of the planet.
That’s why I wanted to issue these appeals. An appeal for us to implement the Paris Agreement on the climate. An appeal for Africa, so that all Africans can have electricity and a level of development. An appeal for peace in Syria, because it’s a matter of urgency. That’s why I believe in the United Nations, and that’s why France and I are sending a universal message.
(1) laïcité goes beyond the concept of secularism, embracing the strict neutrality of the state.