The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Chirac in 2003

Jacques Chirac, President of the Republic of France, spoke at the September 2003 opening of the 58th session of the United Nations General Assembly. His full speech was quite long; you can read it here. I have tried to strip out the nonsubstantive parts (such as praise of the late Sergio de Mello) and focus on Chirac's aims.
The United Nations has just weathered one of the gravest trials in its history. The debate turned on respect for the Charter and the use of force. The war, embarked on without Security Council approval, has undermined the multilateral system.
Having taken stock of this crisis, our Organization can now resume its onward march. For it is above all in this forum, which is the crucible of the international order, that it behooves us to exercise our responsibilities to the world of today and to future generations.
In an open world, no one can live in isolation, no one can act alone in the name of all, and no one can accept the anarchy of a society without rules. There is no alternative to the United Nations.
It is not difficult to see what is being said here, but the concentrated praise of the UN is impressive. "Respect for the Charter" is the respect due immutable holy writ, and the last sentence is an attempt at self-fulfulling prophecy.

Multilateralism is the key, for it ensures the participation of all in the management of world affairs. It is a guarantee of legitimacy and democracy...
This post was not intended as a fisking, so I'll let this pass.

... It is also up to the United Nations to assist with the gradual transfer of administrative and economic responsibilities to the present Iraqi institutions according to a realistic timetable and to help the Iraqis draft a constitution and hold elections.
Lastly it is up to the United Nations to give a mandate to a multinational force, commanded naturally by the main troop contributor, in order to ensure the security of Iraq and all those helping with the country’s reconstruction.

I read this as a quid pro quo -- influence for mandate.

In the Middle East, undermined by despair and hate, only firm political resolve to apply, on both sides, the law as formulated by the United Nations will pave the way to a just and lasting solution.
Again, the United Nations is the formulator of law.

The fight against international terrorism is another key challenge. This is well in hand, under Security Council auspices and within the framework of our various treaties.
No comment.

In the face of proliferating weapons of mass destruction, we reject all “faits accomplis”.
We must stand united in ensuring the universality of treaties and the effectiveness of non-proliferation regimes. We must strengthen our means of action in order to ensure compliance. France has proposed the creation of a permanent corps of inspectors under the authority of the Security Council. We need to give fresh impetus to this policy. Let us call a summit meeting of the Security Council to frame a genuine United Nations action plan against proliferation.
For the present, we must demand that North Korea dismantle its military program completely, verifiably, and irreversibly. We must demand that Iran sign and implement, unconditionally and without delay, a strengthened nuclear safeguards agreement with the IAEA.
This starts out very well: rejection of "faits accomplis" is a powerful and welcome warning. Chirac also gives a realistic mention to "means of action", though his "corps of inspectors" sentence weakens its deterrent value.

Chirac next discusses structural change in the UN.
Chief responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security lies with the Security Council. It is therefore essential to its legitimacy that its membership reflect the state of the world. It must be enlarged to include new permanent members, for it needs the presence of major countries. France is thinking, naturally, of Germany and Japan, but also of some leading countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America. It needs additional elected countries as well, in order to make the Council more representative still. Under the resolute impetus of the five permanent members, each of us must take up this discussion with the general interest in mind.
This reform should be accompanied by a strengthening of the Council’s authority. It is the role of the Council to set the bounds to the use of force. No one is entitled to arrogate to himself the right to utilize it unilaterally and preventively. Conversely, in the face of mounting threats, States must have an assurance that the Council has appropriate means of evaluation and collective action at its disposal, and that it has the will to act.
We all place a high premium on national sovereignty. But its scope can and must be limited in cases of gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law.

In sum: a larger Security Council, with not fewer veto-holding members, should nonetheless have more ability to veto the use of force.

Meanwhile, crimes against humanity are being punished more effectively, with the establishment of the International Criminal Court, whose jurisdiction is universal.
Another attempt at self-fulfilling prophecy.

Effectiveness also depends on increased financial resources. France calls for two changes.
First, a reversal of the trend toward raising voluntary contributions at the expense of mandatory contributions. Failing that, we will end up with a pick-and-choose United Nations, an outdated vision, and a harmful one.
Second, we need to make progress in harnessing funds for development.... France therefore supports the innovative concept of an International Financial Facility. I would also like us to give pragmatic consideration to the idea of international solidarity levies, a kind of tax on the wealth generated by globalization.
I'm not sure whether this is directed at the US or not. It might be directed at America's unpaid back taxes, or at making it more difficult for America to avoid future dues. On the other hand, it could also be directed at newly wealthy nations on the Pacific Rim.

To advance on these issues, I approve the Secretary-General’s intention to gather around him a committee of independent wise men and women entrusted with making proposals.
Be my guest.