"Humanity can’t live well on a sick planet" - Minister

Multilateralism – Meeting of the Alliance for Multilateralism – Statements by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, by video conference

Paris, 12 November 2020

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The pandemic crisis has not only confirmed our collective diagnosis about the importance of international cooperation in our world of shared challenges. It will also have reminded us that effective multilateralism means responsive multilateralism. This is why, for several months, our Alliance has been working hard to learn every lesson from what we are currently experiencing.

First of all, to strengthen the multilateral health architecture: the work we’ve done since the beginning of the crisis has enabled us to identify potential areas of work to strengthen the implementation of the International Health Regulations and devise a better gradation of alert levels.

Today we wanted to emphasize a special issue by attempting to implement practically the approach known as One Health, through the project to set up a council of high-level experts tasked with gathering all the available scientific information on interactions between human health, animal health and environmental disruption, and giving it a higher profile. A higher profile among public officials, of course, to take the right decisions at the right time. Higher, too, among the general public, on whose level of knowledge the success of health policies depends, and we’re seeing this clearly today.

Humanity can’t live well on a sick planet. Everything that threatens our ecosystems, everything that threatens animal life also constitutes a de-facto threat to our health. Only yesterday, this close link between the living world’s major balances seemed abundantly clear. But over recent decades, the clarity has been gradually eroded, while attacks on the environment and biodiversity have increased and grown worse.

We absolutely must face up to this reality! And to that end, we need appropriate tools. That’s the purpose of this council, and it’s thanks to the leaders of the WHO, OIE, FAO and UNEP – whom I thank for their support –, it’s thanks to this council which is in the process of being created, because we’re going to launch it together today, that we can face up to this reality. It’s a great source of pride for France, which has always supported this project together with Germany and will continue to support it very practically, with an initial contribution of some €3 million.

Because we haven’t seen the last of COVID-19, let me also take the opportunity of speaking to you to reiterate that the ACT-A initiative – which will be the subject of a meeting this afternoon opened by President Macron – absolutely must continue to garner the widest possible support. And as you know, it aims to promote the development of and universal, equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines, which must be considered global public goods.

After together addressing this first issue devoted to One Health in a discussion which will allow us to review its various scientific, institutional and political aspects, we’ll turn to fighting the scourge of infodemics.

Manipulated information isn’t a new issue for us. We took it up together back in September 2019, launching a Partnership on Information and Democracy, which is designed to promote access to reliable information from free, independent media outlets. One of the first results of this initiative was the report which has just been submitted by the first working group of the Forum [on Information and Democracy]. Together we’re going to look at its recommendations; together we’re going to look at our responsibilities for concretely implementing these recommendations. The aim is basically to improve, through regulation, the transparency of platforms and the way they moderate content. The aim is also to look into the role of private messaging systems when they’re transformed into unregulated online public spaces.

This is all extremely important work, because nothing happening online today is without consequence to our societies. When manipulated information creates a climate of hatred, it paves the way for very real violence, and France knows this only too well. When manipulated information serves to spread scientific untruths, our ability to mobilize our fellow citizens in the fight against COVID-19 suffers as a result, sometimes tragically so.

So I warmly thank Christophe Deloire, Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders, for being with us today to talk later on about these major challenges. (...)./.

Published on 13/11/2020

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