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France's President Emmanuel Macron addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 25, 2018.
Richard Drew/AP
Citizenship

'Don't Accept Our History Unraveling': Macron Urges World to Take Collective Action at UN

Why Global Citizens Should Care
President Macron made the case that many global challenges, including climate change, water scarcity, and technological change, are best addressed through a multilateral approach. You can join us in taking action on this issue here.

The international world order is being undermined by policies of nationalism, according to French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

The president described how nationalism can make countries vulnerable to climate change, demographic shifts, technological change, and other issues.

"At a time when our collective system is falling apart, [multilateralism] is most in demand," Macron said.

In many ways, Macron positioned himself as the inverse of US President Donald Trump, who criticized multilateral trade and governance agreements earlier in the day.

The French leader repeatedly referenced US policies and recast many of the principles Trump spoke of in his address — particularly the idea of sovereignty.

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Whereas Trump said that sovereignty was hindered by global bodies like the UN, Macron said that sovereignty is only made possible through multilateral cooperation on issues like climate change and trade that are global in nature.

"Only collective action allows for the upholding of the sovereignty and equality of the people in whose name we take action," Macron said. "This is the reason we must take action against climate, demographic, and digital challenges. No one alone can tackle these."

Macron went on to say that nationalism and zero sum politics have caused world wars in the past.

"If courage is lacking in the defense of fundamental principles, international order becomes fragile and this can lead, as we have already seen twice, to global war,” he continued. “We saw that with our very own eyes."

Read More: 5 Key Issues Trump Spoke About in His UN Speech

The French president, who has often sought to work constructively with Trump, elaborated on the benefits of specific multilateral arrangements that the Trump administration has abandoned.

He said that the Iran Nuclear Deal, which the US recently reneged on, helped to improve peace in the Middle East, and that the International Criminal Court, which Trump described as illegitimate, plays an important role in holding world leaders accountable.

UNESCO promotes cultural and educational integrity around the world, while the UN Relief and Works Agency educates children in difficult environments. The US has withdrawn from both of these agencies in the past two years.

But Macron saved his harshest criticism for Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, saying that climate change can only be tackled by countries working together and that no country is immune to its consequences.

Read More: What to Expect From This Week's United Nations Gathering

"In refusing collective actions, certain individuals only make themselves more vulnerable," Macron said.

"Let's stop signing trade agreements with those who don't comply with the Paris agreement," he challenged.

While Macron’s speech was structured as a rebuttal to Trump’s message, it was mostly a call to action for his peers in the UN headquarters.

"Do not accept the erosion of multilateralism," Macron said. "Don't accept our history unraveling. I'm not getting used to it and I'm not turning my head," he went on. "That is my commitment to you and I count on you."