Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am sorry to interrupt your lunch. I hope you will not hold it against me. Anyway – welcome to Copenhagen. It’s a pleasure to see so many familiar faces. I hope you have enjoyed your stay so far. Let me start out by thanking Anders (red: Fogh Rasmussen) for making this event possible. It is truly an important agenda in a world of change. A world of change. We use that phrase a lot, don’t we? To some – in fact to many people, I think – change is often associated with problems. Perhaps this is just a part of human nature. However, when we look back at the changes we have made – only within the last generation – I think we should praise our ability to make changes. Since my children were born, infant mortality has dropped by more than 40 percent – worldwide. And the share of people, living in extreme poverty has almost been cut in half. Less children are married against their will.
Lifetime expectancy is growing.
And the number of people in the world who are able to read has never been higher. Within the last generation – we have made incredible progress. Still – at meetings like today’s. And in the newspapers. We get the impression, that chaos is just around the corner. In terms of the climate.
In terms of refugees and migration.
In terms of conflicts.
I think we tend to lose perspective some times. Looking only at the last couple of years – instead of the last couple of decades. The world is much better than its reputation. But the progress we have made is not a result of luck or coincidence. It has not happened in spite of things. But because of something. It’s a result of action and leadership. Free and democratic countries – at each side of the North Atlantic Ocean – have formed an alliance of humanity. And built their societies on the values defining it. An alliance based on a fundamental belief in human rights, democracy, dialogue and international rules-based cooperation. An alliance that is built on a vision that working together is much more valuable, than fighting alone.
This alliance of humanity has been the driver of developing stable and peaceful societies.
Yet – despite its immense success, it seems to be challenged. From the east. Hostile actors who have a strong ambition to undermine democracy – not only in their own countries – but also in our countries. From the south. Religious fanatics who claim to speak and fight on behalf of fundamental religious views. But who ends up taking religion as hostage – in a fight, they will never win. This worries me. Yet I have a strong belief that we will overcome these anti-democratic forces from outside of our alliance. What worries me even more are the signs of division within our alliance. The tendency to withdraw from international negotiated agreements and forums. Paris, Iran, WTO. And now the Human Rights Council.
The uncertainty inflicted on the very foundation of our progress. NATO, G7.
The ambition of only putting your own country first – instead of seeing the bigger picture. And I’m not only talking about our close friends in “the Land of the Free”. I’m also talking about the EU. Great Britain leaving the European family. This general trend among EU member states to maximize what you gain and minimize what you give. Luckily it seems to me, that Brexit has initiated a new much more positive trend as well: EU Member States in unity on big issues like trade to fight for what we have achieved.
I hope this positive trend will be the most dominant one. It is in everybody’s interest to have strong multilateral organizations. It is also very much in Denmark’s interest. We need international organizations – the EU, NATO, the UN and the WTO – to ensure fair decision-making and level playing fields.
Yet – the question is: How do we explain these trends of division within our alliance?
To answer this question, we should start looking at the signs of division – not between states – but between the people living within our countries. Let me give an example. About a year ago, I visited the third largest city in Denmark, called Odense. I started out by visiting a part of the city called Vollsmose. A troubled neighborhood to put it gently. Too much crime. Too many gangs. And a relatively large concentration of immigrants. The young kids I met there had lots of dreams. But their dreams are far too often spoiled because of bad influence, troubles in school, lack of support and qualifications. After my visit there, I drove to another part of the city. Only ten minutes away. To meet with a group of young kids who attended their spare time hobby. Guess what it was.
These kids were attending robot-class. 6, 7, 8-year olds – met at the local university to build robots. Assisted by university professors. There were 10 minutes of driving between this robot-class and the ghetto of Vollsmose. But the two places seemed like worlds apart. Why am I telling you this story? Because I think it is a symbol of the challenges for our western societies. And in the end our alliance of humanity: A division between people. A division between those – young and old – who have benefitted from globalization, free trade and good education systems. Who are born into a world of opportunities. And those – who have the exact opposite starting point. Who see change as a problem. And the rest of the world as a threat. Because there is almost no jobs left for people who can’t read. Or calculate a percentage. And there will be even fewer of such jobs in the years to come.
We cannot neglect their experience. And we must take action to bring them onboard.. We need to make sure that all people in our societies are ready to meet the future – have the abilities to get a new job, when the old one disappears. Denmark – and the other Nordic countries – have had as a clear priority to do so. Last year more than 800.000 people in Denmark had a new job. Out of a work force of about three million people. At the same time, we have the lowest unemployment rates in about ten years. In other words: Danes adapt. This is no coincidence.
We have free education and a high degree of social security. This supports a flexible labor market. Therefore a vast majority of the Danes see globalization and free trade as something positive. And according to a new EU survey, the share of people who have confidence in the future – is higher in Denmark, than in any other EU country. Each country has to find its own way of doing things. We haven’t solved all problems. And I know there is a difference between governing a small country like Denmark and governing bigger countries. But I think we all need to realize – that if we neglect the existing and potential divisions between the citizens within our own countries – we cannot expect less division between our countries. In this way, foreign policy starts at home. But it does not end at home. Instead of discarding globalization, free trade, international agreements and rules-based corporation. We should ensure that all people benefits from this approach. Fair agreements abroad and fair implementation at home. At the end of the day, none of us need new walls. What we need is a bridge to the future.
Ladies and gentlemen.
The saying that democracy and human rights are not inherent rules of nature – but rather a battle that each generation must win anew – appears to be more relevant than ever.
The alliance of humanity has been the back bone of a worldwide progress of immense success. But this too needs a stable foundation. And this includes listening to the people. Act on their concerns. And provide real and sustainable solutions. Countries built on the fundamental values of freedom and democracy will prevail in the long run. But we need to work together – and continue to remind ourselves of our legacy and common values. I hope you will enjoy the rest of this summit. And your stay in Copenhagen. Thank you.