"A hundred years after : Ideas for a World Preserved from War": Op-ed by France Ambassador (November, 11th)
The armistice signed on November 11th, 1918, ended four years of a conflict that was the first truly global conflict, reaching all continents and involving 74 countries. It had resulted in millions of deaths -1.7 million for France alone- and had caused an overall devastation never seen before in history. The treaty of Versailles that followed the Armistice led to a flawed peace that hardly lasted 20 years. The League of Nations, ancestor of our United Nations, failed to prevent the repetition of the same drama.
If we are not reliving the same times, yet resonances from the 1930s today can be disturbing, an observation supported by the President of the French Republic that has just created a public debate on how to make sure that we never fall back into the dysfunctions that brought the world, a second time, in 1939, to another infernal mechanics.
For this year 2018, which marks the centenary of the armistice, President Macron has invited to a collective commemoration of unprecedented scale more than 120 foreign dignitaries representing the warring parties, in order to diffuse the duty of memory as far as possible, not only to pay tribute to those who fought and fell, but in order not to commit the same mistakes as those of the past. It is that shared awareness that forgetfulness would be hazardous that explains why many heads of state and government, some 60, and many representatives of international organizations responded to his call and are coming on November 11, to Paris, not only to remember but to take an active part to a new format for reflection on our common future, the Paris Peace Forum.
This new circle, which will be held on the same day at the level of the Heads of State and Government, then for the next two days at the level of representatives of major institutions from their countries, will offer opportunities to discuss concrete projects, calling for a meeting dedicating to the governance of our planet. 2018 will be its first session. It will then be held every year.
It will aim at highlighting our collective responsibility. Its objective will be to move the cause for peace through a better global governance and to promote elements that contribute to help lower international tensions through five thematic areas of work: peace and security, environment, development, digital and new technologies, inclusive economy. It will be a
space for the elaboration of proposals for solutions, where the concrete projects of which I spoke above -120 were retained coming from all over the world - will be debated by 10.000 actors of the world governance. Exchanges will be open to civil society, which will have the possibility to offer innovative solutions outside of traditional decision-making schemes. The idea will be to disseminate and to bring to a successful conclusion any initiative useful for peace.
Qatar could not be kept out from the Paris Peace Forum. It is therefore logical that President Macron intended to invite the Amir. The invitation was first in the name of the very close and friendly relationship that binds our two countries; secondly, because of Qatar’s dedication to international law, multilateralism, dialogue and mediation; and last but not least, given the active role of Qatar on the international scene in support of development. We are very honoured that the Amir responded positively to the invitation. We also welcome the excellent level of participation of Qatar, with the presence of the Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for the organization of the 2022 football World Cup (sport is also a means for peace), as well as representatives of the Qatar Foundation, of Education Above All and of the National Human Rights Committee.
Twenty years ago, in the euphoria of globalization, such a gathering would have been inaugurated with optimism. The state of mind is today rather circumspect. That is why this Forum has been designed to ensure that all good wills, everywhere in the world —States or private actors— will likely take a collective action preventively and actively for common objectives.
At a time of exacerbation of regional tensions, we must define an agenda which makes it possible to treat all concerns through dialogue and in the respect of multilateralism. France, for her part, has always been committed to respecting signed agreements and commitments. France therefore strongly believes that the United Nations remains the best tool for advancing the cause of peace, far from unilateral initiatives.
Hence the defense of existing international institutions as one of her priorities, especially when their importance becomes even more evident when they are weakened. When the UN Security Council is blocked by the constant use of the veto power of some, when some launch offensives to undermine international organizations, when others act alone, in disregard of international law and of the sovereignty of States, one can feel an aftertaste of a time when the world was riven by the competition of powers, with no limit, when some States intended to regulate by force the fate of all. The UN has to remain at the center of our governance system. This is why the French president has invited the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, to open the Paris Peace Forum. All main multilateral organizations will be present at the Forum at the highest level.
In this regard, I would like to highlight the important role Qatar plays in supporting effectively and actively the United Nations system. Her contribution promotes and defends multilateralism in particular through UN aid programs—such as UNICEF when coming to the aid of the Yemeni people or as UNRWA when in support to the Palestinian people in Gaza.
Another priority is to reform multilateral institutions. Countries from the South say they are attached to multilateralism but question institutions that were originally created without them. This is also true as non-state actors are concerned. Issues such as global warming, Internet governance or artificial intelligence, but also development, can not be addressed only by States.
In this regard, Internet governance and cybersecurity are among other concerns in a world where cyber threats and attacks are more than ever present. This is why, alongside the Paris Peace Forum, the 13th edition of the Internet Governance Forum will also be held in Paris next week. President Macron will on November 12th appeal a “Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace". France welcomes the presence of Qatar at this event.
The visit of His Highness the Amir to Paris on Sunday, just a few months after his visit in July, which followed the visit of the French President to Doha last December, also recalls, if need be, our common commitment to our partnership, which will soon be raised at the strategic level. In this regard, high-level visits of French officials to Qatar are foreseen in the coming year. And I would like to remind that our cooperation extends to all areas. Our trade has incrased by 30% between 2016 and 2017; our cultural exchanges are more intense than ever with the perspective of our cultural year in 2020. More than ever, our two countries feel the need to work together, not only for themselves, but also to imagine solutions that will address the global challenges of today’s world.
Franck Gellet, French Ambassador to Qatar