Holding a permanent seat is a responsibility, not a privilege [fr]
Purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations in the maintenance
of international peace and security
Statement by Mr François Delattre,Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 21 February 2018
I would like to begin by conveying the call made by Mr. Emmanuel Macron, President of France, for a humanitarian truce in Syria. France firmly condemns the current bombing of eastern Ghouta, where the civilian population are the principal victims, and calls for the Council to adopt the draft resolution prepared by Sweden and Kuwait as soon as possible, in order to enable a cessation of hostilities in Syria. The need for it is urgent and total, since the situation there is as dire as it has been since the tragedy in Syria began.
Let me thank the Kuwaiti presidency of the Security Council for having convened this debate on a topic that we hold dear, namely, respect for the purposes and the principles of the Charter of the United Nations as a central element of the maintenance of international peace and security. This debate is being held at a particularly salient moment — 27 years after the liberation of your country, Kuwait, Mr. President, in which France is proud to have participated. Your presence, Sir, marks the importance of this meeting. Although our Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, could not attend, he has asked me to convey to you that he welcomes and fully supports your initiative. I also welcome the Secretary-General and thank him for his briefing. As well, I welcome Mr. Ban Ki-moon and thank him for his briefing.
The maintenance of international peace and security is the primary purpose of our Organization, as enshrined in Article 1 of the Charter, which for more than 70 years is the framework that brings us together and the founding cornerstone of our action. The Charter is the heart and the origin of our system of global governance, which is the foundation for multilateral order — built on the rubble of the Second World War with the universal ambition, from the beginning, of sustaining peace through a realistic system of rules applicable to all. To quote President Macron in his statement before the General Assembly in September, “in today’s world, nothing is more effective than multilateralism.” (A/72/PV.4, p. 8) Our greatest challenges — the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, climate change, migration, unequal development, massive violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law and the new challenges posed by technology — are global and can be addressed only globally on a multilateral basis. It is France’s deep conviction that, each time that we accept that the resolution of international crises is taking place outside of the multilateral framework and the system of rules we adopted in 1945, we are allowing the law of the jungle to prevail.
More than 70 years after the signing of the Charter, which instructs us to “take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means”, the Council must continue its efforts to fully utilize the tools that the Charter provides us to enable us to fulfil our primary responsibility, namely, the maintenance of international peace and security. In that regard, I would like to highlight three main areas for our current and future work.
First of all, we must make our peaceful settlement of disputes more effective by making conflict prevention a reality. The peaceful settlement of disputes is one of the principal tools of the Charter, as set out in Chapter VI. It plays a key role, particularly when the States involved are willing and able to engage in sincere and constructive dialogue or to resolve their dispute through an independent and impartial body. It may seem self-evident, but Article 33 of the Charter helpfully reminds us that negotiation is one of the main tools for the peaceful settlement of disputes. It regularly yields concrete results in the maintenance of peace and in all domains of international affairs. As a product of long and complex negotiations and fruit of the perseverance of those involved, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, approved by the Council in resolution 2231 (2015), regarding the Iranian nuclear question, is an excellent example. The Colombian peace process is another case in point, in a different framework, of success as a result of the patient work of negotiation and mediation. Indeed, the Charter identifies mediation and conciliation among the tools at our disposal.
In that regard, we welcome the efforts of the Secretary-General to strengthen that dimension of his work by making full use of his good offices, as well as the mediation mechanisms and expertise in the Secretariat, which France wholeheartedly supports. That mobilization depends on the ability to anticipate and act prior to crises, through early warning and action. The establishment of a High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation is likely to further strengthen the Secretary-General’s capacity for action. In many of the issues on the Council’s agenda today, the Special Representatives and Special Envoys of the Secretary-General have the primary function of being mediators for complex but necessary negotiations. That applies particularly to Syria, Libya and Yemen today.
Mediation is one of the ingredients of what should be, more generally, a priority — prevention. As the Secretary-General has emphasized since the start of his mandate, we must, collectively, be more effective in preventing the deterioration of situations and the outbreak of conflict and its recurrence. We must mobilize to make that goal a reality. That implies having a proactive and global vision. Mediation can help ease political tensions, but beyond that, we must take into account the multiple factors of fragility, foremost among which are human rights, the economic and social dimensions and the impact of climate change.
Promoting sustainable peace following the twin resolutions of 2016 (Council resolution 2282 (2016) and General Assembly resolution 70/262) is essential to meeting that goal. The report of the Secretary-General on peacebuilding and sustainable peace (S/2018/43) is an important contribution to that end, but I also wish to highlight the efforts of Mr. Ban Ki-moon in that connection.
Secondly, we must continue to promote respect for international law and our reliance on international justice, which fully contribute to the peaceful settlement of disputes. In that respect, France underlines the essential role of the International Court of Justice, one of the organs established by the Charter to strengthen the international rule of law. We recognize its formidable contribution to this indispensable framework. Through its work, it helps us understand that the rule of law is not limited to the handling of theoretical concepts and concretely serves the maintenance of peace and international security.
The maintenance of international peace and security cannot be understood without respecting and protecting human rights and international humanitarian law. Yet human rights violations and humanitarian disasters continue in front of our eyes, in an unbearable litany. In Syria, as I stated at the outset, in Yemen, in Burma and in many other armed conflicts, we must take action to ensure respect for international humanitarian law. That is not only a requirement to protect the peoples of the United Nations — as enshrined in the Charter — but it is also the best guarantee that the most reprehensible actions will not be committed during a conflict.
More than ever, we must remember that respect for human rights and international humanitarian law is not a concession or a favour but an imperative. Finally, the fight against impunity is a necessary safeguard to prevent the recurrence of those violations and to ensure that peace and reconciliation are still possible. The international partnership launched on 23 January to combat impunity on the part of those who are guilty of the use of chemical weapons is a reminder of France’s decisive role on that issue.
The mass crimes still being committed today shock our universal conscience and remind us of every principle that inspired the drafting of the Charter. Each of those crimes is a collective failure of our responsibility to protect civilian populations. It is due to those collective security failures that France highlights the role of the International Criminal Court, which is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year, so that victims of mass atrocities can find redress and justice.
But the Council also has a role to play in ensuring that such tragedies do not occur. Since 2013, the French President of the Republic has called for a suspension of the veto for mass atrocities — as an expression of the political, voluntary and collective commitment of the five permanent members of the Security Council with regard to their special responsibility. We have taken that initiative with Mexico and more than half of the States Members of the United Nations support that effort and that ambitious and pragmatic reading of the Charter. It is indeed our duty to stress that holding a permanent seat is a responsibility, not a privilege, and implies the exercise of that responsibility in the light of the purposes and principles of the Charter. Allow me, Mr. President, on this occasion, to warmly welcome your country’s support for this initiative.
Thirdly, and finally, where circumstances so require, the Council not only has the opportunity but also the obligation to use tools to enforce the purposes and principles of the Charter. Foremost among those tools are peacekeeping operations. Since 1948, 3,438 men and women have lost their lives in such operations, and I want to pay special tribute to their sacrifice today. We are all indebted to them for our safety.
The principles by which the nearly 100,000 peacekeepers around the world today operate are at the very heart of the Preamble to the Charter — to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, to work together to maintain international peace and security and to affirm our faith in fundamental human rights. In the face of increasingly complex conflicts, our peacekeeping operations have to carry out difficult yet essential tasks, including, first and foremost, protecting civilians and promoting the political settlement of conflicts. While we have seen peacekeepers succeed in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste, for example, we are aware of the difficulties they have to deal with, and we must work collectively — with troop-contributing countries, the General Assembly, host States and regional organizations — to make peacekeeping an ever more effective tool, strategically and operationally.
In that respect, it is particularly important to support the rise of our regional partners, who have become major players in the resolution of crises. Here again the Charter has proved its foresight, in Chapter VIII. It is through the Council’s consolidated and coordinated action with regional organizations on both the political and operational fronts that we will be able to respond to today’s challenges to peace and security.
Chapter VII of the Charter offers us another tool that does not require the use of force, by which, of course, I mean international sanctions, and here I want to stress that they are both coercive and incentive. They are intended to be reversible once the targeted individuals and organizations no longer threaten international peace and security or flout their international obligations. In this way, the incentivizing sanctions that the Council imposed on Iran paved the way for resolution 2231 (2015). That shows the strong potential for effective interaction among the various tools available to the Council when they are implemented strategically. I would also like to point out that the increasingly targeted nature of sanctions against individuals and organizations threatening international peace and security minimizes their impact on civilians. The Council has done a great deal of work in that regard, and the progress in recent years has been remarkable.
Finally, as you said, Mr. President, Kuwait’s experience of its liberation in 1991, which resulted from the joint work of many States with the authorization of the Security Council, showed that the use of force, in accordance with the rules of the Charter, is sometimes necessary to uphold international law.
In conclusion, I would like to say that respect for the purposes and principles of the Charter should not be a reason for rejected any reform of it at all. The Charter was reformed in 1965 in order to enable the Security Council to be expanded. It should be reformed again in order to adapt the Council’s composition to the realities of the world today, and to ensure a fair representation of emerging Powers, while preserving its executive and decision-making nature. France is in favour of Security Council reform, and our position on it is well known. It includes an expansion of the two categories of members, for which we support adding a permanent seat for the members of the Group of Four and an increased African presence, including among the permanent members.
The new international order, the proliferation of crises and threats and the tragic persistence of the wars and horrors that they leave in their wake — as the situation in Syria reminds us every day — demand that we reform our Organization in order to adapt it to the challenges of our time. That will require the Council to make demands of itself in order to find the means to overcome its divisions, with a view to ensuring that the purposes and principles of the Charter continue to be an effective guide for our action in the service of international peace and security. It is both our shared responsibility and in our common interest.