Let France's voice be heard in the coming century of pragmatism

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The Independent Online

FROM THE very beginning, mankind has not evolved linearly, from advance to advance; there are pauses, sometimes even regression, before another move forward. No civilisation has avoided periodic regression; some have even vanished. What is radically new about our era is that despite different traditions and cultures, despite the reassertion of ethnic and national identities, the world has come together, our mankind is now one. The threats it is now facing are global. The responses will be global.

The questions facing the leaders of our time are momentous: will we, together, be able to provide the necessary responses to avoid fatal regression and continue mankind's forward march? Will we be able to avoid a clash of civilisations and religions by resolving regional crises? Will we be able to reform the only effective economic system, capitalism, by taking all the necessary decisions? Will we be able to make the urgent choices confronting us to limit global warming?

We have diplomatic co-operation, technical and scientific tools, and economic and financial means at our disposal, but everything depends on our will, on the wisdom and collective will of the leaders of the new concert of nations, that of the relative powers of the 21st century.

On a continental scale, the building of Europe has shown the way: after two World Wars which led our civilisation to the brink of collective suicide, visionary leaders 50 years ago had the wit to show their people that a shared future was possible.

France doesn't want to preach to anyone, but because of her economic power and her history, France has responsibilities. The dawn of the 21st century is an enthralling period; we have to reinvent a new way of thinking, of acting, not be satisfied with picking convenient ideological blueprints. The 20th century was littered with ideologies which led to tens, hundreds of millions of deaths.

Let's make this century the century of pragmatism, goodwill between peoples and the conviction that mankind can survive only through a collective injection of momentum. This will be France's message; we will do everything we can to make sure it's heard.

Taken from a speech last week by the President of France at the 17th Ambassador's Conference in Paris