Congratulations! What can I add to the amount of comments, discussions and papers written about this occasion?

My life in connection with the history of the UN

Let me begin with some very personal remarks which I hope will give an insight into what the UN can represent to a French citizen and diplomat, of my generation and age, who can look back with a certain nostalgia, to dreams, to utopia, and to youth now forgone. An insight to be shared, moreover, because by chance a good part of my life was often quite intimately linked to the development of the world body, thus enabling me to draw parallels which can provide you with some lively pictures.

I was born just one month and one day before the coming into force of the Charter of October 24th 1945. My birthday, 23rd September, has often coincided with the opening of the annual session and debate of the General Assembly which by tradition was planned for the Third Tuesday of September autumn time, the sign of Libra, the search for harmony, compromise, virtues or values of Diplomacy. Therefore when I began to attend these August meetings, which I did five times, I always had the pleasure of arriving in New York on the shores of the Hudson River along which the “Transparent House” had been built, on the day of my birthday - which was a good present for me.

When I was five years old, the fifth year of the UN, the Korean War broke out. And in that year, because of the impossibility of the Security Council to reach a decision, the General Assembly adopted the famous declaration called Acheson, 377(V), named after the American Secretary of State, allowing it, (the General Assembly) to bypass the Security Council by adopting no binding resolutions to restore peace. I can remember the occasion because one of my uncles died in Korea as a war correspondent. My mother was very affected and crying she told me “he was contributing to restore world peace”. World peace - what a noble aim! Was it also for this reason that I chose to study and to enter into the diplomatic service?

When I was ten years old, the UN was marked by a first spirit of cooling off in the tensions of the Cold War. The word “détente” entered common usage - it was refreshing to see a French word used in a predominantly Anglo Saxon arena, followed by the promising “communiqués” which announced the arrival of peace on earth. Peace and security. One of my mother’s best friends was an interpreter to one of these conferences and summits. I always remember her more for the fact that she brought me back some stamps from her time attending the summit in Geneva. I was proud of her achievement. A few years later we visited the “Palais des Nations “ in Geneva where the League of Nations was based. A French writer and, former international civil servant to the League, Albert Cohen, wrote one of his best love novels “ Belle du Seigneur” which describes the daily work of a bureaucrat.

My goodness how the pressure of work has changed since then. But I did not know that I would later spent six of my summers on the shore of the wonderful Lake of Geneva attending the summer session devoted to economics as well as the social session which took place in New York in May. At that time the talk was on the revitalization of the ECOSOC.

At secondary school in 1960, at the age of 15 years, I remember witnessing on television the first broadcast of the famous 15th Assembly which was marked by the adoption of the famous resolution 1514 about the independence of non-sovereign states. A bearded man Fidel Castro harangued people in New York. Nikita Khrushchev took off one of his shoes to make himself heard in the chaotic atmosphere of the General Assembly.

Lord McMillan the British Prime Minister at the time, had this wonderful reaction: “Interpreter please!”

A French Nobel Prize winner of literature Albert Camus once: “Why do the French go to the theatre, when they have Parliament”? This was during our IV Republic.

But later, I must confess I received much entertainment seeing some of these great leaders performing on the world Stage of the UN, and being taken very seriously. A stage which does not cost that much. Madeleine Albright drew our attention by saying that the UN budget, 1.3 billion dollars represents 32 hours of the Pentagon budget and that its staff is equal to that of the city of Stockholm. Why Stockholm? Because of the Hammarskjöld Plaza in front of the UN on the 42 Avenue, or the syndrome? She could not predict that the Chairman of the 60th Assembly would be Swedish.

I was twenty when the first and the last time the Security Council as the main body in charge of preservation and restoring world peace and security was enlarged from 11 to 15 .And UNDP was founded, one says when one has twenty years one love 40 years one love twice.

In 1967 (1965) when I passed my exam in political sciences, the teacher who was head of the UN department of the Ministry, department I later joined, was asking us questions and disappeared to answer the phone. We were in the middle of the Sixth Day War. He was asking me a question on Peace in the Middle East when the guns were speaking and I heard their sound through the distance. The UN once more was pursuing me.

At twenty five, (1970) the UN adopted the strategy of development and the target of 0.7% of the GNP of developed nations as the official target for ODA. France has pledged to achieve it in 2012 - the year for reaching the target has been set for 2015 by the recent summit.

At thirty (1975) I had already been a member of the Foreign service for three years and my second assignment was the Economic Division Department of the United Nations (economic division). So, I arrived in New York on the eve of Labour Day in September that year the first to attend the 11 special session on development. My first professional contact with the UN. Already I had thought to myself “Doesn’t the world body need a forum to deal with the global economic questions at the highest level?”. I do not wish to sound arrogant, but this idea was proposed by France. France is requesting the creation of a body capable to examine the questions related to globalisation.

In 1980- 35 years on- the UN has entered its round of global negotiations which lasted not long; a last attempt tries to find common solutions to the North -South drift. That is within the UN framework which is not that of the IMF, WB or WTO.

In 1990 - (45 years) The Security Council adopted a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq who had aggressed Kuwait. The art 51 “legitimate right of individual or collective right of defence was rightly and fully applied”.

Namibia became independent, ending the longest judicial struggle of the history of the UN. People tend to show the failures of the UN: such as with Congo, Somalia, Rwanda..but forgot always to look at the very successes. Those who have studied international law could probably remember that the first judgment to the ICJ about Namibia, former South West Africa, hence SWAPO, case put forward by the two African States independent at that time, Liberia and Ethiopia - was issued July 11th 1950. I met the president of SWAPO, Sam Nujoma in Belgrade, I never knew that I would be appointed as second French Ambassador to this newly and last independent country in Africa which could have become the 6th Province of South Africa. Some Fijian policemen and soldiers have served in Namibia during the transition period under GANUPT.

In 2000- 55 years, the Summit of Head of States has adopted the Millennium development Goals MDG -which I am sure are familiar to you - the eight goals.

So here we are. The UN has just celebrated its 60th Anniversary by hosting the greatest assembly of heads and government of humans throughout history. Let me now turn to France and the UN.

France and the United Nations

Every nation has brought something to the development of international cooperation - multilateralism. Let me mention some remarks about ours .When people speak about everlasting peace, a dream, an ideal towards every human being which, nations and leaders should aspire and work towards, one tends to refer to the work of the German philosopher Emmanuel Kant who wrote in 1795.

Kant who lived in Koenig berg, now Russian territory (Kaliningrad) used to go for a walk every morning. On one occasion he interrupted his walk when the news of the French revolution was brought to him. What an announcement for a philosopher of his magnitude. I say this to remind you of the motto of our Republic and I stress here the difference between a Republican and a Democrat, (which has nothing to do with the American parties).

LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY are always of full modernity, their strength is ever inspiring; one can find them in the report of Koffi Annan.

The Abbey of Saint -Pierre in Sully, has already proposed plans about eternal peace. This great tradition of lawyers, publicists, has always been alive in France.

In 1945, Professor Paoli was appointed Director of the department in search of war criminals. François de Menthon, public prosecutor of the Nuremberg Tribunal and Professor René Cassin, respectively the spiritual fathers and main authors of the Human Rights Convention of 1948 of December 10, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1968. A sShort text of 30 articles which I encourage you to read. Article 28 is somewhat powerful and I quote: “Every person has the right, at the social and international level to dispose of an order allowing the rights and liberties defined in the present declaration to have their full application”.
Who does not know about “Medecins sans frontières” or French doctors without borders who are also Nobel Peace prize winners. Not to mention the “Reporters sans frontières” or Reporters without borders.

The famous right to intervene in case of humanitarian or natural disasters is the brain child of two Frenchmen, Bernard Kouchner and Mario Bettati .The first created an international committee to deal with great humanitarian crises (a genocide?) in Biafra (Nigeria) in January 1969. The resolution 43/131 was adopted by the General Assembly on 22 November 1988 and in 1990 the General Assembly adopted a second resolution about humanitarian corridors.

I would like to recall that France is the depositary of some conventions such as the one adopted in 1925: the Convention prohibiting the use of toxic gases, and the Convention adopted on 15 January 1993 prohibiting the use of chemical weapons. The World Trade Organisation in Geneva with its unique tripartite system, associating representative of States, employers and workers, is the brain child of the French thinker and politician Léon Bourgeois who coined the philosophy of “solidarity”, already a third way between harsh capitalism and centralist socialism.

But let us jump to the question of the day: UN reform

Let me tell you that France has within the UN, the second national contingent after the Unites States with 7.3% of its staff and 6¨% of its administrators. Its presence in the Peace keeping operations, the so-called 70, 000 blue helms is increasing from 2.7% of the soldiers and others at the end of 2004 to 3.3% today. It is also a Frenchman, Jean-Marie Guehenno, who for the second time after Kofi Annan, heads this department.

How can we, particularly in the French perspective, bring better solutions to the alleviation of poverty and a better security for all? Security in its fullest meaning: absence of war and violence, respect of the dignity of the human being, development, both economic and sustainable, justice, cultural identity and other values, principles and prerequisites.

Anybody will recall the intensive discussions which took place at the beginning of summer 2002 regarding the Iraq war, the famous speech of the French Minister of Foreign Affairs (who is now Prime Minister) on 24 February when attending the world summit from 14-16 September.

So without any sense of pride were able to assert that the movement for reform which never ceases in the UN was given a decisive impulse by the French stand, the French attitude and concept of a world governed by law, ideals of peace, justice, equitable development, preservation of human rights and cultural diversity .

France is a nation of thinkers, intellectuals compared with the pragmatism of our Anglo Saxon friends. We like to speak of grand schemes, great ideas, and generous plans. And let us get credit for that. So during the summer of 2003, France began to voice its concern about the necessity to preserve the spirit and practice of multilateralism, through the presence of the UN, the sole body guaranteeing the legitimacy of any military intervention. Paris has also raised many other issues: the struggle against terrorism, our laws were already among the toughest before September 11, against HIV-aids (in fact the virus was discovered by a French team under the leadership of professor Montagnier of the famous Pasteur Institute), the protection of cultural diversity, the appeal for the elaboration of ethical norms to accompany scientific developments, the idea of an economic and social security council, the enlargement of the G-8 meeting to the states of the South which took place for the first time in Evian in July 2003.
These ideas begun to take shape during the intervention of the French President on 23 September 2003 who stated: “There is no alternative to the UN; no one can act in the name of all others. Multilateralism is essential, efficient, modern... “. In his speech Jacques Chirac asked 4 questions:
i)How can the General Assembly be revitalised?
ii)How to make the Security Council more representative?
iii)How can one give to the UN all its weight in human rights? Does this mean the strengthening of the UNHCHR?
iv) How better to master globalisation, rendering it less in egalitarian in many fields from environment to financial stability?

This would require the creation of a new political body in charge of economic, social, and environmental governance. And the French president to make a proposal “convening a world summit in 2005 to draw a first appraisal to the accomplishment of MDGs.”

One year later just before the High Level panel of 16 people -which included M. Robert Badinter, former Minister of Justice, and former High Court Judge, famous to have abolished the death penalty in France in 1981, (Russian, Jewish family), and the French president spoke again in the General Assembly debate in 2004: “A globalisation which tolerates the
(predation) and the taking of its fruits by a minority has no future. A globalisation which would destroy the social and environmental equilibrium, crush the weak and deny human rights has no future. It is up to us to stop these types of results. By giving globalisation a conscience, a social ethic to render it its full legitimacy and its purpose to the service of mankind. And to request a “new vision of international solidarity”. Remember Léon Bourgeios, where “the dignity and the hope of a better life are the best ‘antidotes to the poisons of violence and fanatics”. Egoism creates revolts. And to conclude: “Let us benefit from the year to come to deepen our thinking and to build the necessary political consensus”.

French ideas, French proposals began to emerge, to take shape. They can be summarized under 4 main chapters:

1- Questions of peace and security.

  • Restore the international consensus about the use of force.
    To reaffirm the principles of the Charter is a first fundamental step. But to define the principals ruling the use of force as it was proposed in KA report “ “seems far fetched for France. It could impede the action of the Security Council. But France could accept simple basic principles enabling it to enrich and guide Security Council deliberations.
    In a word not too much guidance.
  • Create a Peace building Commission: PBC
    A French proposal which was endorsed by the SG’s report. France proposed also the setting up of a fund for peace consolidation - an idea which has not been accepted.
  • Strengthen the international struggle against terrorism

Global strategy
Definition of terrorism

  • Strengthen the struggle against proliferation of AMD

2- Development and economic and social questions

  • Bring an answer to the question on financing the MDG

Experts agree: to reach the MDG an additional amount of 50 G $ per year is requested. How does one achieve this?

Three ways are possible: increase ODA, British proposal of an IFF (international financial facility) and international solidarity contributions (in particular taxation):

The latter French proposal with 5 other states (Germany, Brazil, Chile, Spain and Algeria) has been adopted in the form of a tax on airline tickets: 5 euros economic class, 25 euros first and business, which could if expended to the 360 millions travels bring 10 G euros yearly. More than 66 countries have given their support for this pilot project.
To compact HIV aids our contribution to the Global fund will reach 300 millions euros in 2007.

  • Reaffirm special attention to the specific needs of Africa
  • Create a political body in charge of the economic and social governance

Many countries were speaking of just revitalizing the ECOSOC
The French idea was not accepted

  • Promote the creation of an UN Organization for environment: to transform the UNEP in Nairobi into UNOE;
    Today there exists more than 500 conventions which of any coordination!

3- Human rights and humanitarian questions.

  • Promote the principle of “Responsibility to Protect”.

The idea to protect the populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity is largely a French one and we are happy that it has been endorsed.

  • Reinforce the international setting for the promotion and protection of human rights

The Franco-German proposals have been endorsed by the Panel and we are particularly glad that the decision to strengthen the Office of the UN HC for Human Rights has been taken.
Also we welcome the decision to establish a standing Human Rights Council, as a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly to be based in Geneva, in replacement of the Commission of HR.
But our idea was to create a universal body open to all; the protection of HR is universal.

  • Reinforce the role of the Security Council for the protection of human rights
  • Reinforce the capacities of Acton to meet humanitarian crises

4- Institutional reforms

  • Enhancement of the role of the General Assembly
  • Promote the reform of the Secretariat
  • Enlarge the Security Council to new members in the two categories permanent and
    non- permanent

Towards a better future, is it possible to build the « United Nations « of the third generation as proposed not long ago by former Secretary General, Boutros Boutros Ghali.
After all, the Preamble states that it is people and not only states. Here we can draw a parallel with the evolution of the churches. Those who have read the Sunday Post of October 16 could easily catch it. The Church is the great “C”, not the church with a small “c”. The former is the Congregation, the assembly of believers, the Body of Christ. The latter is the building, the material structure. Has the Church been founded to maintain the political and social survival of their hierarchy? So one could argue that the United Nations has not been created only to preserve the Sovereign right of the states, but also of the peoples’, hence the recognition of the right to intervene. Of course we are still far away from this concept, this reality but we are moving toward it slowly, with care.

Many generous proposals have been voiced including that of French thinker Regis Debray who suggests the resettlement of the UN in Jerusalem, Africa or Latin America, nearer the main crises spots. Others speak and dream of a universal organisation whose central purpose would be the definition and defence of the public good of the people. Such a body could comprise 4 main organs:

- A General Assembly representing the States;
- A second Assembly representing the people, not with NGOs but delegates of national Parliaments chosen proportionally to the population.
- A Council composed of 25 members in charge of non-military prevention
- Another Council, also 25 members in charge of intervention in case of breach of peace.

The Secretary-General should be responsible to the two assemblies; the ICJ and the International Penal court should be merged and their competence compulsory.
Mankind during its history has tried four times to reorganize the world ; by the Westphalian Treaty in 1648 after the Thirty year war ; at the Vienna Congress after the Napoleonic wars; in Paris and Versailles in 1919, and in San Francisco in 1945.
At San Francisco as stated later by the American ambassador to the UN Henry Cabot Lodge: “The world organization has been created not to bring us to paradise, but to save us from hell”. And as the French philosopher Pascal wrote, man is neither angel nor beast, but those who want to be angels easily turn to beasts.

Published on 27/11/2008

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