On Nov. 11, Europeans will celebrate the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I. Military parades, speeches, and concerts, will commemorate the day Allied powers huddled with a German delegation to end the four years of fighting that left about 40 million people dead or injured and laid the foundation for World War II.
This year, many world leaders, including US president Donald Trump, will join French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris for the commemoration festivities, which will feature a morning parade at the Arc de Triomphe and a lunch for world leaders (paywall). But Trump will not be taking part in Sunday’s afternoon activity: the opening ceremony of the Paris Peace Forum, a global gathering of leaders and civil society dedicated to international cooperation and multilateralism.
Instead of the forum, Trump was scheduled to participate in a Veterans Day ceremony at Suresnes American Cemetery, where the bodies of American soldiers who fought in the world wars are buried. Meanwhile, his absence at the forum stands in stark contrast to the many other attendees of the forum, including Germany’s Angela Merkel, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Celebrating peace on the anniversary of war
Macron announced his intention to host a Paris Peace Forum in January. Organized by the Ministry for European and Foreign Affairs and several think tanks, the three-day event is centered around international cooperation and world peace. Civil society representatives, non-profits, and world leaders, including Merkel and UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, will discuss how to better work together on global issues, as well as achieve “fairer and more equitable globalization, and a more effective multilateral system.”
Since his election last year, Macron has put France forward as the host of a number of international events, from the Paris Climate Conference to the 2024 Summer Olympics. In doing so, he has sought to take up the mantle of defender of multilateralism—a role the US president has happily abdicated—at a time when his major liberal ally in Europe, German chancellor Angela Merkel, is stepping down.
The forum is meaningful because it seeks to celebrate a model of international cooperation and global governance that can, at times, seem sadly outdated amid a rise of populism in Europe, the retreat of the US from the international stage, and concerted attempts bu major world powers to weaken democracy. It is also meaningful that world leaders would choose to celebrate peace during a commemoration of war.
The goal of the forum, Macron said, is “to think together, propose concrete initiatives, reinvent multilateralism, and all modern forms of cooperation—to ensure peace gains ground every day.”
Speaking to the AFP, the forum’s chief organizer Justin Vaisse suggested that Trump won’t be missed. ”This world needs to meet up and defend itself,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if those who don’t believe in multilateralism aren’t there.”