Ladies and Gentlemen,
Heads of State and Government,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Leaders of International Organizations
and Regional Organizations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Vice Presidents,
Deputy Prime Ministers,
Leaders of Non-Governmental Organizations,
Foundations, Businesses, Elected Representatives here and
I probably forget others,

Thank you for being here for this second edition of the Paris Peace Forum. This may be the hardest edition. I say this to us collectively because the first edition, there were many people since it was the centenary of the armistice. So we managed to welcome more than 60 heads of state and government. And there were, if I may say so, the charms of the unknown. The second edition is basically starting to become a stable appointment. And there may be the risks of habit. And therefore are your presence here, your commitment, as much as you are, a test of reality for us, the proof that it is now taking, that we must also build something sustainable, that is, useful. And so I really wanted to thank you for your presence, your mobilization, but also to say how much I am convinced that this Paris Peace Forum and what we are doing here collectively has a very profound utility.

I would say that the first of these utilities is what we just heard: to have an Indian activist, then the President-elect of the European Commission, the Chinese Vice President, the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are few places where this gives itself with the same force or where this chain can make so much sense. And it is illustrative of this approach, that is to say, out of whom or out of what our world today is made of, and what makes it possible to destroy ourselves if we do not put all these energies around the table on a common project, a common agenda. Madam President, You said yesterday that 101 years ago we were celebrating peace at the end of the First World War, not just in France but all over Europe. Many here had their country somehow born from the ashes of this war. The whole world was concerned and Europe thought at that time “never again”. One lesson to remember, amongst many others from this period, is that we have failed to build sustainable peace because we failed after the First World War to find the right pathways of multilateral cooperation. The League of Nations was the first attempt, and we did not succeed, while no one reasonably thought that less than 20 years later new forms of brutality would start, and that 20 years later a more terrible war, a new World War was going to tear Europe and the world apart again. And 30 years ago, almost to the day as You said, the Berlin Wall was falling. And with this, the divisions of Europe, sometimes betrayals and resentments, they fell. And we all thought that these formidable freedom fighters, not only in Germany but throughout Eastern Europe, who had somehow prepared this moment, had drawn a kind of unstoppable force. We would know a new teleology of our international system.

Everywhere democracy would spread, happiness would embrace us and at the basis peace was waking up: some spoke of the end of history. And here too, we have missed those predictions. This time unfortunately too, while there has been a happy time of our European continent that has followed, the last few years have shown us how new rifts, new contemporary fractures can put an end to what is perceived as an unstoppable perspective. I take these two examples, these two anniversaries, because we almost fit into the lineage of these legacies to say that there is no evidence in the material we are talking about. And even though contemporary times may seem difficult, it is sometimes in difficult times that useful solutions are built. And I took two happy moments to say that the predictions of that time were then thwarted by our own weaknesses, our paralysis or our own mistakes. There is therefore much to hope from the moment that we meet again, because it is obscured by deep fractures and a lot of pessimism.

And so, that’s why I believe very deeply in this Paris Peace Forum, because I believe – and the three interventions that opened our Forum have shown this – that we live an unprecedented crisis of our international system. Unprecedented, because for the first time it does not come at the end of a World War, but is linked, I would say, to profoundly new challenges and an endogenous crisis in our system. The two together form in a way a unique chemical reaction. Let me explain. We have a crisis in our global political and economic system. This system, which is fundamentally the social market economy, openness, free trade, and systems of cooperation conceived after the Second World War, has been tremendously effective for 70 years. It has brought hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, as you pointed out, particularly in your country, Mister Vice President.

It has enormously pacified areas where war or conflict was thought to be unstoppable. It has allowed an unseen system of control of balances. But recent years have shown it. It has reemerged new inequalities, sometimes in our societies. It has fractured contemporary societies, also creating a crisis in our democracies, with a doubt in all the Western democracies, which were the pillar. It has revived unilateralism, sometimes even among those who were the ultimate guarantors of this international system. And so we have, if I may say so, an endogenous crisis of the system: at the economic and political level this system is today in crisis and jostled. And at the same time, problems emerge over the last ten years that are profoundly new, in any case new with this force: the demographic problem and only one of its consequences, which is the phenomenon of the great migrations we are experiencing and with which we sometimes do not deal as consequences. But that problem is much broader, much deeper. How to feed a planet that keeps growing? How to manage the demographic imbalances about which I remind moreover that the principal migratory forces are sometimes taking place within Africa itself, within the Asiatic continent too, with great disturbances. The technological challenge and the digital, and all that this carries with transformations of work but also of our imaginary, of the inter-relations of our countries. And the climate challenge, mainly the fight against global warming and the struggle for biodiversity.

These three big challenges – I’m probably not exhaustive – but these three big challenges added to the challenge that is not new but which continues to be a fight, the struggle for freedom and democracy, are coming at a time of fracturing of the international system and of our own societies, while to meet this challenge we need more cooperation. And so, the risk that is collectively ours is that the temptation reemerges in our countries – of all those who have spoken and of all those present here – is basically laziness: this is the first risk. To say: ‘We have organizations, we like them, we do not question them. They have sometimes lost their purpose, no one understands where they go, but hide the breast so that we cannot see this, as it is said in Molière, and then things will advance better.’ I do not believe this at all. I showed this sometimes, perhaps hitting some in this room a few days or weeks ago. I think we need truth. Prudery or hypocrisy, they do not work in these times. Why? Because our fellow citizens see it. We are in an open World. The experts who are here, the citizens, the activists, they see the consequences of this World. When it does not work anymore, they tell us. So hypocrisy and silence are not a solution. And intellectual laziness or action is not a solution either.

The second option, at least as risky, is non-cooperation, that is, the return to unilateralism or a form of hyper-regionalism. I think this option is also very risky. It tempts some, because we can say it is much more efficient to fall back, to answer oneself on the own challenges, to bring a closing solution because the evil, in a way, would be linked to a world that becomes too open. I do not believe this either. We have tested this option in the past. It produces war. Nationalism is war. When he forgets – you remembered this, dear Trisha, and I thank you for it – the difference between nationalism and patriotism, and non-cooperation, he would somehow deconstruct what we have at least managed to build during these last decades.

And this can lead to a third risk that could be a possible way to hegemony. Basically, we could say as answer to these crises that there must be new powers that emerge and then we will get behind them. It could look like a solution to say that there are some great powers, they will settle the subject for others, and we kind of agree to put ourselves behind them. Concerning hegemony, I say this of a country which sometimes tried this way with the others during the colonial moment of the French Republic: one held this speech here, including in the name of freedom, saying that we will solve the problems of the World, that we are enlightened and will enlighten others, that it will work better. It lasts a while, it does not work very long. It is no longer possible in today’s World. And so the way of hegemony or the division between some hegemonic powers is not desirable either because it will again produce resentment, again frustration, again humiliation. To meet these challenges, I see only one way, the most difficult and the most complex one: the way of balanced cooperation, of the so-called multilateralism which accepts discussions, disagreements and mediations to find common solutions. And for me, the dialogue that there is between the first three interventions that we had and the dialogue that will be here for two days between the different continents, the different actors, is in this respect profoundly essential.

Europe, first, is a continent where the solution must be built. Madam President, I thank you for being here on a busy agenda and for bringing this vision of a geopolitical Europe to your heart, as you have said. I believe very deeply that Europe has a part of the answer to the solution for a simple reason: our Europe – we are with many here to participate actively and as Members of the European Union or Geographical Power of this Europe we all have that role – Europe is a laboratory for multilateralism. Perhaps the most complex laboratory because it has been exhausted for thousands of years in civil wars. So Europe is probably the place in the World where we know best the price of cooperation, or rather the price of non-cooperation, and therefore including the treasure which is the ability to build balances when all would push to the difference.

This geopolitical Europe, it must be sovereign and democratic, but indeed also build the solutions of new balances and, I think, be this kind of trusted third party between the United States of America and China, if you allow me, Mister Vice President. Which presupposes that it has its path of independence, its own path and that it helps to build useful solutions, as you pointed out and as you have committed yourself to at the moment, Madam President, and I think that it is tremendously useful that we continue to be partners in the international arena and actors of building these new solutions in a Europe thus redesigned with all our regional partners. And I think that Europe has the vocation of aggregating around itself the powers of good will, and in this respect is the initiative of an Alliance for Multilateralism, pushed by the Foreign Ministers here present – and I thank you for that, an initiative that was started on the sidelines of the United Nations Summit, that will be pursued by the Ministers Maas and Le Drian with their colleagues and which is, I think, a very important initiative that is emblematic of what precisely this Europe can bring in the concert of nations alongside the European Commission.

Then there is Asia. As You said, Mister Vice President, many Heads of State and Government are also from Central Asia or India or other countries. Asia today has formidable challenges of stability, peace and construction, also new solutions, sometimes clarification of border conflicts, demographic and religious challenges. It is a laboratory, it has been very often in recent years a laboratory of conflicts that have always touched Europe. And Asia is in this continuity with our own challenges. And I repeat it here with a lot of strength and to say all the commitment that is ours in some of the conflicts that still divide it. But Asia, as you said, is now stabilizing. The Initiative you have taken is part of it, the European Union Connectivity Initiative is a useful complement and a way of this dialogue also with China. And the role of China, as You said, is an important part of that stabilization. And thank you, Mister Vice President, for having very strong words in this regard. I think that the role, especially on the climate challenge, that you will have to bear and that you have started to decline, is very important. And in the fight against global warming as in the fight for biodiversity, the path and the role that Asia can build, is an extremely structuring element. In this regard, 2020 brings several times a meeting of a Sino-European dialogue in which the fight against global warming, as the economic subject, will be decisive; the Summit of the COP15 Biodiversity to be held in China is an essential meeting point for the international order.

And then there is Africa, dear President Tshisekedi. You spoke admirably about not only your country but also about conflicts. Many Presidents are here and have taken their time, even as they are bravely leading countries that are being shaken by terrorism and by groups challenging national sovereignty, which not only threaten the stability of their country and a whole continent, but also ours. And here too we have ties and I believe that Africa, as I said last night with some of you, is now living with us a challenge collectively. It has long been an object of multilateralism and it is becoming now one of the subjects of multilateralism, that is to say, it takes its active part. And I want to commend the commitment of the African States here and more widely African Countries who take their destiny into their own hands and build concrete solutions. Tunisia has done so with great courage when it came to rebuilding democracy several years ago, and here I greet the presence of the Prime Minister who, with great force alongside the late President Essebsi, had to lead the destinies of the country after this democratic miracle. But the whole continent of Africa, and I am thinking in particular of the Sahel, has this challenge today and the strength of African Countries to meet the military and security challenge is essential.

And we have in this new international order to build also new solutions within the framework of the United Nations, allowing to accompany better than today the security capacity of Africa but also to help it to build in terms of education, health, environment and economy, which are the four solutions for building sustainable peace and preventing the re-emergence of destabilizing factors. In this triptych – and I do not forget of course, I will return to it in a moment, the other regions that I mentioned less – but in this dialogue that you started to tie there is the beginning of a solution, a common agenda of new partnerships that we can build. And I believe that in our ability to build contemporary solutions there is obviously the dialogue with the United States of America and the American Countries: I hope that in the third edition of the Paris Peace Forum we succeed in mobilizing more of them to contribute even more to this dialogue.

But there is the capacity to build ways and means of new cooperation. We have speakers and they are sometimes blocked: the United Nations are part of this. It is our responsibility to keep moving forward to better share a common agenda. And so for me, and I will conclude on this point, the strength and the added value of this Forum, our work, the reflection in progress, is to know how to rebuild new forums, new ways of cooperation, new alliances between our international organizations, as we did in the fight against inequalities a few weeks ago in Biarritz, between international organizations and different countries, between governments, international organizations, NGOs, foundations, academic actors and companies. And basically, by these exchanges for two days and by working throughout the year, we recognize that we have a shared agenda, that of the fight against discrimination and for access to rights, that of constructing new balances and rights in the digital world, the fight against global warming and for biodiversity, sustainable structures to deal with migration issues, the fight against geographical imbalances and the resolution of conflicts.

Many are affected here and I hope that, aside from our discussions, we will be able to help advance a number of sensitive issues. That is our common agenda. If it is shared by all the actors here, we are already doing useful work. And then it is the construction of new forms of cooperation, B4IG alliances for example, carried by our companies to fight against inequalities; the Partnership for Information and Democracy promoted by Reporters Without Borders and supported by several governments, elected officials, companies to fight against misinformation and for better cooperation; the call of Christchurch between governments and companies to fight against terrorist contents and to act more effectively. Here are some examples of concrete innovations where actors who did not speak up until then, decided to act together. This forum will be full of new initiatives that we must continue to launch somehow, not to compete with the structures of contemporary multilateralism, but to help reinvent them, to complete them and especially to act effectively. Why does unilateralism go up in some countries? Why is doubt re-emerging? Because what our citizens reproach us for, it is sometimes our inefficiency, our will not to see or to act insufficiently quickly. And I believe that the construction of these useful solutions, of these new alliances, of these innovations, is an extremely important element of the collective response to our contemporary challenges in our countries and a way of conjugating this cooperation for which, I explained, there is a moment. I will conclude by quoting the late Ágnes Heller.

She was a great activist – like you, Trisha – of freedom. She was over 90, she was a Hungarian intellectual, and every day she went to bathe in the great lakes of Hungary and in July she did not come back from one of her baths. Because the spirit of revolt and indignation preserves for a long time and continues to give courage. And Ágnes Heller, who was a wonderful woman, had this sentence saying that ‘our time needs more than other times a form of heroism that takes the task of grasping what the present is. ‘The task remains’, she said, ‘to make ourselves available to what is happening to us’. This availability to what is happening to us and the heroism that Ágnes Heller is talking about is this ability to understand the World as it comes to us, to think of it and to try to provide useful answers.

Neither the cowardice of not seeing or staying in our habits, nor the cowardice of not doing, nor the comfort of being away from the everyday life of our fellow citizens. What we are talking about here are wars, conflicts, imbalances, it is the everyday life of our fellow citizens. It’s up to us to fix it, we have been mandated for that. It is up to us to continue to act effectively, and that is why I believe very deeply in the usefulness of this Paris Peace Forum and I thank the President and the Director General, all the organizers but also all the contributors, and I thank you very deeply for your presence today in Paris.

Thank you.

The video of the Paris Peace Forum 2019 Opening Speech by President Macron in French can be found on the following website of the Elysée. The text above is a translation made by Maarten Vermeir and intends to be a trustworthy approximation of the delivered Speech. Nevertheless remains the Speech as pronounced in the video by the President the only official version of His Speech.