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8 September 2020

International Organisation of la Francophonie Plays Vital Role in Peacebuilding, Assistant Secretary-General Tells Security Council

The International Organisation of la Francophonie, marking its fiftieth anniversary, is uniquely placed to reinforce United Nations conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts, particularly in French-speaking countries, as well as to foster a culture of multilingualism within the Organization, briefers told the Security Council during an  September videoconference meeting*.

The meeting — a signature event during Niger’s turn as Council President in September — was the first ever to focus on cooperation between the 15-member organ and la Francophonie.  Of the latter’s 88 member States, associate members and observers, seven — Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Niger, Tunisia and Viet Nam — sit on the Council.

Bintou Keita, Assistant Secretary-General for Africa, Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, described cooperation between la Francophonie and the United Nations as rich and varied, including with regards to early warning and the prevention of conflicts.  Recently, the two organizations joined forces in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Comoros, Gabon, Guinea, Madagascar, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo to assist and monitor elections.  A four-party meeting on Cameroon between the Secretariat, la Francophonie, the Commonwealth and the African Union on 20 July is another example of enlarged cooperation.  She noted that half the 274 million people in the 54-nation French-speaking world are women, and most young people under the age of 30.  The United Nations partnership with la Francophone to achieve gender parity among uniformed peacekeepers is a modest contribution to that effort, she explained.

Praising the contribution of Francophonie member States to peacekeeping operations, she said that greater efforts are being made to increase the number of French-speaking uniformed and civilian peacekeeping personnel in francophone host countries, including in more senior positions.  The United Nations also shared with la Francophonie strong support for the G5 Sahel nations — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — and its joint force, which is growing in strength and deserves greater international backing.  She went on to underscore la Francophonie’s key role in peacebuilding, notably in Burundi, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and the Central African Republic.  The United Nations and la Francophonie also share the belief that linguistic diversity is something to be celebrated and protected.

Louise Mushikiwabo, Secretary-General of International Organisation of la Francophonie, said that it might be a regional organization in terms of Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations, but in reality, it is a transnational grouping of 88 member States and Governments, including 54 full members on five continents.  With its knowledge, its trusted links with local actors and its networks of expertise, it is able to act with agility to prevent and respond to crises and conflicts, in direct cooperation with the United Nations and other international partners.  In terms of peacekeeping, la Francophonie aims to support the emergence of a strategic francophone vision, to strengthen the capacity of its member States to contribute fully to peacekeeping missions, and to augment the use of French in such operations.  Elaborating, she noted that seven of the United Nations 13 peacekeeping missions are in the Francosphere.  In those places, knowledge of French and the local culture are key to the overall performance and security of each mission.  However, the number of francophone personnel is relatively limited.  As of June 2020, about 40 per cent of uniformed peacekeepers came from Francophonie member States and fewer than 3 per cent of them were women.

Given the stakes for peacekeeping in French-speaking countries, she said that she decided, in concert with the United Nations Secretary-General, to further mobilize la Francophone and its member States, she said.  It was the first international organization to endorse the Action for Peace initiative.  It is also participating in preparations for a second ministerial conference on peacekeeping in the francophone countries, planned for 2021.  She emphasized la Francophonie’s role in crisis management and prevention, as seen in the Central African Republic where it mobilized to help build momentum behind the 2019 peace and reconciliation agreement.  She added that she joined the President of the African Union Commission and the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth on a tripartite mission to Cameroon in November 2019 to encourage a resolution to the crisis in that country’s north-west and south-west.  In Mali, in the wake of the August coup, and as part of its growing engagement with the Sahel, la Francophonie — in concert with international partners — is planning to dispatch a high-level delegation to assist efforts to restore constitutional and democratic order.

She went on to describe la Francophonie’s role in building democracy, the rule of law and good governance in its member States.  Drawing on judicial, regulatory and human rights institutions, it is sharing best practices.  La Francophonie is also committed to supporting electoral processes through a programme dedicated to strengthening electoral commissions, constitutional courts, media regulators, political actors and civil society.  The aim is to foster professionalism, thus contributing to free, fair and transparent elections.  She concluded by noting the formation, on 25 September, of a “francophone platform” within the Security Council to promote the French language and linguistic diversity within the organ.  Noting that today’s Council meeting was the first via videoconference to feature simultaneous translation in all six of the United Nations official languages, she appealed for greater efforts to ensure that cultural and linguistic diversity are cardinal values within the multilateral system.

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia, spoke in his capacity as Chair of the Ministerial Conference of la Francophonie, saying that the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that international cooperation and effective multilateralism are more important than ever.  At a time when the negative consequences of the pandemic are threating developing countries in particular, the United Nations and la Francophonie must emphasize their determination to promote peace, cooperation, solidarity and common values.  In that regard, the Ministerial Conference of la Francophonie strongly supports the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire to focus on combating the coronavirus.  He expressed particular concern at the rise of hate speech in the idea of the pandemic, saying that today, more than ever, the values of tolerance, cultural diversity and respect for human rights must be upheld.  Quoting Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan at the most recent Francophonie summit, he said that peace and solidarity are values that not only define the idea of “living together” in the francophone world, but also a common good that must be preserved at any cost.

In the ensuing discussion, Niger’s representative, speaking in his national capacity, underscored the complementarity that exists between the United Nations and la Francophonie in the areas of preventative diplomacy and supporting electoral processes.  He also noted la Francophonie’s participation in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, including the building of effective, accountable and transparent institutions.  Pointing to the significant increase in peace operations since the 2000s, on the one hand, and the relatively low number of personnel deployed by French-speaking countries for such efforts, he explained that la Francophonie, in close cooperation with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, advocates for greater francophone peacekeeping capacities, promotes the use of French in peace operations, and helps disseminate United Nations standards and procedures in that language.  He recalled that la Francophonie is a pioneer in involving women and youth in conflict prevention and peacebuilding and paid tribute to that organization’s founding fathers for their vision and foresight.

The Dominican Republic’s representative, whose country has observer status in la Francophonie, underscored the big impact that cooperation between that organization and the United Nations can have on peacekeeping efforts, for which multilingualism is fundamental.  He also acknowledged la Francophonie’s efforts to advance the role of women and youth in promoting peace and security.  He went on to cite la Francophonie’s work in the area of climate change, sustainable development and, in the Caribbean, cybercrime.  At a time when multilateralism is often being questioned, direct collaboration between the United Nations and la Francophonie can help make the international multilateral system stronger and more effective based on diversity, mutual cooperation and shared international principles.

Belgium’s representative said that as a founding member of both the United Nations and la Francophonie, his country can only praise growing cooperation between the two organizations.  La Francophonie brings added value to multilateralism, he said, pointing to its response to the COVID-19 pandemic through, among other things, a solidarity fund for African women.  More than half of la Francophonie’s member States are African nations where la Francophonie, despite its modest means, can bring its multiplying effect, its institutional networks and its expertise to bear in a focused way, as seen by its response to the coup d’état in Mali and its efforts alongside the Commonwealth and the African Union to promote national dialogue in Cameroon.  Going forward, it would be worthwhile to explore new ways to build cooperation between the United Nations and la Francophonie through, for example, joint missions or special envoys.  He also put a spotlight on la Francophonie’s ongoing efforts to promote multilingualism in the United Nations, both at Headquarters and in the field.  Multilingualism is essential to build confidence between United Nations personnel and local populations to ensure the smooth functioning of peacekeeping missions, he added.

Indonesia’s representative welcomed la Francophonie’s call for more frequent dialogues with the United Nations in conflict prevention.  La Francophonie represents a unique collective identity bound by linguistic similarity, and its diverse experience in conflict prevention is a great asset for all United Nations members in their collective effort to promote international peace and security.  He called on la Francophonie to also broaden its cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in conflict prevention, peacebuilding and the maintenance of peace.  The Security Council deploys peacekeeping operations and special political missions in several francophone countries.  Inevitably, the scope of work in these missions calls for adequate French-speaking skills.  Commending la Francophonie’s commitment to increasing the number of United Nations French-speaking peacekeepers in francophone countries, he said such an initiative is especially important for non-French speaking troop-contributing countries, like Indonesia, the largest troop contributor in the Council serving in eight missions, including five in francophone countries.

France’s representative said that the world’s francophones are united by their attachment to the French language and multilingualism.  They also share a common identity based on a set of values, foremost among which are solidarity, cultural diversity and human rights.  He commended la Francophonie’s growing role in peace and security, particularly since the adoption of the Bamako Declaration on Democracy in 2000, and underscored the its support for free, reliable and transparent elections.  Noting that la Francophonie and the United Nations both condemned the 18 August coup d’état in Mali, he said that a civilian political transition must to be put into place in that country, assisted by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other international partners.  In the run-up to presidential elections in Guinea on 18 October, the United Nations and la Francophonie should call on all of the country’s actors to assume responsibility, engage in dialogue and exercise restraint.  Welcoming a deeper relationship between La Francophonie and the African Union, he said that the United Nations could benefit more from la Francophonie’s expertise, particularly in the field.  With many peacekeeping operations under way in French-speaking countries, proficiency in the language should more systematically be a precondition for deployment.  To that end, la Francophonie is developing, alongside France and the United Nations, joint training for personnel, particularly women, deployed in operations.  Noting the establishment of a francophone platform of the Security Council, “which makes our work more inclusive”, he called for fruitful francophone cooperation to continue alongside stronger ties between la Francophonie and the United Nations.

Viet Nam’s representative said that a lack of French-language knowledge among youth and connectivity issues are also affecting the work of the regional organization, encouraging it to consider creating a network of francophone members in West Africa and the Sahel to share experience and best practices in the implementation of United Nations programmes.  Both entities could also seek to enhance triangular cooperation with the African Union and other regional organizations to resolve conflicts in this region.  On multilingualism, his delegation sees great potential for them to further cooperate, with allocation of adequate resources on language and expertise training programmes for United Nations personnel, local staff and teachers to make peace operations more effective.

The United Kingdom’s representative said that the equality, complementarity and solidarity between the Francophonie’s member States “is a powerful force for good in the world”.  He encouraged the organization, along with the United Nations, the African Union, Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Commonwealth, to keep supporting efforts to restore peace in Cameroon’s north-west and south-west regions, adding that la Francophonie can also make valuable contributions to United Nations efforts to help countries emerging from conflict to hold successful elections and strengthen democratic governance.  He went on to say that language skills are essential for ensuring that peacekeepers are fully trained, equipped and prepared to deliver their mandates.  In that regard, the United Kingdom will ensure that its peacekeepers have the right language capabilities when they deploy with United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali later in 2020 year and urges other troop- and police-contributing countries to do likewise.

Germany’s representative stressed the importance of trans-regional organizations, like la Francophonie, that the international community can count on, commending the work of this group in recent years aimed at increasing French-speaking nationals in peacekeeping operations.  With nearly two thirds of the current peacekeeping operations deployed in francophone countries, these efforts are essential to build trust between the local populations and the troops there.  Like the European Union, which maintains regular exchanges with la Francophonie, the Security Council could also benefit from constant dialogue with that organization on subjects of common interest, such as gender equality, peace and sustainable development.  Germany is not a member of the group but fully supports it.

South Africa’s representative commended la Francophonie’s efforts and contributions towards preventing, managing and resolving conflicts in its member States, noting that these efforts are imperative to the development trajectory of the African continent especially in achieving the sustainable development goals.  He also encouraged the organization to forge closer cooperation and coordination with other regional or subregional entities, including the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, ECOWAS and ECCAS.  Its tripartite visits to Cameroon undertaken with the African Union and the Commonwealth in the past few months demonstrated the importance of collective efforts on issues of mutual interests.

Estonia’s representative noted the importance of cooperation between the United Nations and International Organisation of la Francophonie, emphasizing that regional cooperation can be a valuable tool in maintaining international peace and security.  His country is an observer to the regional body, which is not only an organization of States having in common the French language, but an association of States sharing the same universal values as the United Nations.  His country intends to participate in the Francophonie summit in 2021 in Tunisia, under the theme “Connectivity in diversity:  the digital vector of development and solidarity in the French-speaking world”, ready to share its experience in e-governance.

The representative of the United States said that cooperation and coordination between la Francophonie and the United Nations are particularly noteworthy in challenging situations.  Working with at-risk youth populations in Mali is just one example where the two organizations have worked hand-in-hand in complex environments to maintain international peace and security.  La Francophonie’s initiative also has a direct and positive impact on United Nations efforts to deploy highly qualified peacekeepers.  With over 50 per cent of the peacekeeping budget dedicated to operations in francophone areas, La Francophonie serves a vital function in preparing French-speaking peacekeepers to operate in dynamic and complex environments.  He commended La Francophonie’s efforts to build up the reserve of French-speaking peacekeepers, to promote peacekeeping reforms and to reinforce African peacekeeping capabilities in francophone areas.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, noting that more than 50 per cent of French-speaking persons live on the African continent, encouraged la Francophonie to further advance its capacity-building and development assistance activities there, especially in the Sahel.  She also encouraged the entity to strengthen its relationships with other regional and subregional organizations, such as the African Union, ECOWAS and the Group of 5 for the Sahel, which are at the forefront of the international community's efforts to promote lasting peace and security on the continent.  It is also imperative for the entity to increase cooperation with the Peacebuilding Commission in francophone countries like Burundi and the Central African Republic to bolster the United Nations sustaining peace agenda at a time when there is a shortage of predictable and reliable financing for peacebuilding activities.

Also participating in the meeting were representatives of China, Russian Federation and Tunisia.

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* Based on information received from the Security Council Affairs Division.

For information media. Not an official record.