French President addresses UN General Assembly
Sixty-ninth session of the United Nations General Assembly/opening debate – Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic
New York, 24 September 2014
Ladies and gentlemen delegation leaders,
Algeria/French hostage’s murder/Daesh/Iraq/Syria
You will understand if I am expressing myself here today with particular emotion, because one of my compatriots has just been cravenly murdered in Algeria by a terrorist group linked to Daesh. His name was Hervé Gourdel; he was an enthusiastic man who loved mountaineering and, in travelling to the Djurdjura, in Algeria, was following his passion. He was captured and he was beheaded. That’s what terrorism does. And it doesn’t just do it to France. A few days ago, it was the Americans and the British who were subjected to the same barbarity.
These groups and that particular group, Daesh, do not strike only those who think differently from themselves. They strike Muslims, they strike civilian populations, they strike minorities. They rape, they kill. That is why the battle that the international community must wage against terrorism knows no borders. And it must carry the same flag, that of the United Nations, that of the values on which this organization was founded: human dignity, freedom, the vision we must have of the world of tomorrow, a world of justice.
France is fully engaged in this battle. That was the case in Africa, when it was called to Mali, where it was joined, fortunately, by many African and European countries and now by the United Nations. France engages whenever there is a risk. Now this threat is in Iraq and Syria. But it does not concern that region alone, for Daesh has decided not only to conquer territory, imagining that it will found a state. This group threatens the entire world by provoking attacks, organizing kidnappings and recruiting fighters from around the world to train them and show them the barbarity of which it is capable, so that they may reproduce this horrific terrorist movement in our own countries.
It is because this threat menaces not only the region but the world that France responded to the Iraqi authorities’ appeal to provide them first with military aid through the delivery of weapons this past August, and then with air support to keep Daesh from continuing, from being able to continue its progression.
We want to weaken it. We want to quash it, but we also know that as long as there is no resolution to the Syria crisis, all of our efforts may be undermined, so the challenge is not only to act against Daesh but also to achieve a political solution. We, France, support the Syrian opposition, the democratic opposition. We consider it the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. And here too, we will not back down; we will not compromise because of threats. Bashar al-Assad’s regime deserves to be condemned all the more as it is complicit in what has been going on in Syria for the past three years: 200,000 deaths and so many displaced persons.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This is a sad time for France, with the death – the murder – of one of our citizens, but France will never give in to blackmail, pressure or barbarous acts.
On the contrary, France knows what is expected of it. France knows that it upholds values, that it has a role to play and will never abandon it, and that the fight against terrorism will be continued and expanded as much as necessary while respecting the law and countries’ national sovereignty, for we make no mistake when we act; our actions always abide by the principles of the United Nations.
I also wanted to talk to you about other regions of the world that are also facing threats to our own security. I wanted to talk to you about the Ebola epidemic because I know how much it is affecting our African friends. But again, let’s look beyond those who are affected.
Does anyone believe that the epidemic will remain confined to a few countries if we don’t intervene? This is also a global threat. Again, the response must be a global one. And so France, Europe, the world must provide the countries that are affected by this epidemic with the medical care they need, the essential protection and the economic assistance that is expected, because again, if there’s the slightest weakness, the slightest failure to show solidarity, all of our countries will be affected.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I also came here to talk to you about what is happening in Europe, next to Europe, about what has happened in Ukraine, where the principles of international law have also been flouted. But what’s at stake today, even in Europe, is peace and ensuring that the ceasefire can lead to a lasting settlement of the conflict. No continent is safe from any kind of threat. Everything is fragile, everything is precarious, everything is vulnerable. We need to have the same awareness of the risks, the dangers and the perils as we did after the Second World War. We have to believe that it’s not simply a matter of a duty to remember but a duty to look toward the future. To know what sort of world we want.
The world we want – and this is the last point that I want to mention here – must take climate change into consideration. Because the current disruption doesn’t just threaten our generation but also, of course, the next generation; it threatens our security, because more people are now being displaced because of climate disruption than because of the wars on our planet that are, unfortunately, so intense and so deadly.
Here again, France has assumed its responsibilities. It decided to host the climate conference in December 2015. I welcome the fact that, thanks to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, there was a summit here that enabled us to raise awareness, mobilize states, financial institutions, businesses and civil society; numerous demonstrations have taken place. Because the Paris conference must succeed, not because it’s in Paris but because it’s an appointment that the world has with itself. There are times, periods in history when we can decide, not just for ourselves but for humanity. That time has come. In Paris, we have to do everything possible to reach a global agreement, an agreement that can be binding, that can be differentiated according to levels of development, to ensure that we will have the Green [Climate] Fund, to which France has dedicated $1 billion over the next few years. I hope that other countries will follow us, because we need this Green Fund to enable countries that don’t have the same level of development to be able to ensure their growth and at the same time make the transition to other forms of energy.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This is a sad moment for me on behalf of France and a sad moment for the French people, but it’s also a wake-up call and a time to assume our responsibilities. For the world, for the planet, we must fight against terrorism. We must take action for peace. We must reduce inequalities. We must also do our duty for future generations, ensure that Paris is a success for the climate and ensure that the UN can be faithful to the mandate entrusted to it following a war, a terrible war. But there are still challenges that lie ahead. We are certain that we can overcome them if we can unite and work together and thereby be victorious.