Address by Minister of State Valcourt at 27th Ministerial Conference of La Francophonie

Reaction to the Secretary General of La Francophonie’s report on current political and economic issues, on issues of cooperation, and on administrative and financial issues

No. 2011/43 - Paris, France - December 1, 2011

Check Against Delivery

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I would like to begin by thanking the Secretary General for his excellent report and by congratulating him on his steadfast commitment to La Francophonie and to the values we share. I would also like to congratulate you, Madam Chair, as well as the Swiss authorities, for chairing the work of the Ministerial Conference in such an exemplary manner for the past two years.

The Secretary General’s report highlights a number of situations that concern us, and I would like to address a few of these.

First, I am pleased with the Secretary General’s recent visit to Haiti, where he saw first-hand how the situation has evolved over the past year and witnessed our solidarity toward that country, which has suffered too often. However, all of the recovery efforts that took place after the devastating January 2010 earthquake, although essential, must not overshadow the situation in Haiti before the disaster, nor the fundamental challenges that remain unchanged. The considerable investments made in Haiti over the past 25 years have yielded few sustainable, structured socio-economic results. The weakness of the rule of law, faltering political will, corruption and impunity have largely contributed to this lack of satisfactory results.

With the election of President Michel Martelly, Haiti has the opportunity to break with the past, and we would like to assure Haiti that Canada wants to support it in this significant challenge. Haitian authorities and elected officials must work together to create an environment that encourages the consolidation of the Haitian private sector, and investments, which could in turn help meet the needs of the Haitian population. It is unavoidable.

Africa is currently facing a series of important elections, proof of the growing strength of democracy on that continent. We know, however, that organizing these elections is challenging and that it is sometimes difficult for the results to be accepted. When this occurred in Côte d’Ivoire, the whole of La Francophonie spoke in one clear voice, and this helped resolve the situation. We should congratulate ourselves for this.

La Francophonie did the same in Niger, a country that has been fully reinstated as a democracy. Canada is nevertheless concerned about the fallout from the recent crisis in Libya, which is affecting security and stability in Niger and the Sahel region. We support the Government of Niger’s commitment to security in the country, particularly in the Sahel region, in collaboration with regional partners.

We followed the progress of the presidential and legislative elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo very closely, and with some concern. The success of these elections is essential to stability in the country and the region. The results must be accepted calmly, and any dissension regarding the electoral process must be resolved fairly, peacefully and quickly, so the legitimate election winner can work to help move the country forward and make the Kinshasa Summit a success. 

I must also mention the situation in Madagascar. We should be pleased with the progress made over the past few months with the implementation of the road map for a return to constitutional order. However, we believe that the parties must show continuing commitment to progress in this matter so that La Francophonie can lift the suspension to which Madagascar has been subject since 2009. We must continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure that what led to the country’s exclusion is definitely a thing of the past. We will therefore remain vigilant, as it is of utmost importance that our organization be able to decide on this issue without undue haste and in keeping with our past decisions.

Madam Chair, over the past few years, under the guidance of Canada, Switzerland and other member states, La Francophonie has undergone a significant modernization exercise. The results can already be seen. In order for La Francophonie to succeed in this fragile economic context, it must show that it is both relevant and effective.

In order to show its relevance and added value, we believe that La Francophonie must continually renew itself, and remain attuned to modern-day challenges and respond to them. The worrying state of the world’s economy is an issue of concern. There is a critical need to continue to create even more opportunities for the economic development of our communities, particularly among our partners in the south and in our regions. I strongly encourage us to consider the issue of strengthened economic cooperation, not only for the benefit of the people and communities we represent, but also for our organization.

In light of this difficult economic climate, Canada is pleased with the results of the G-20 Summit in Cannes, which was held in a context of uncertain global economic recovery and the threat posed by European sovereign debt issues. La Francophonie’s voice was heard, and the Secretary General and his Commonwealth counterpart, Kamalesh Sharma, held discussions with President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chair of the G-20 Summit.

I am also very happy that the subject of the French language’s place in economic development is at the heart of the French Language World Forum being held in the city of Québec next July. We would like to emphasize the importance of this forum, as it will be a great opportunity to hear directly from civil society. Our non-governmental organizations are the very face of La Francophonie on the ground, and we should listen to them and include them in our work. Canada would especially like to support the participation of linguistic minority communities at the forum. Their contribution is essential to the vitality, development and future of the French language.

All this must be done in a manner that respects the values of La Francophonie and the instruments at our disposal, such as the Bamako Declaration, which defines not only our common values but our very identity and our relevance. The values also include tolerance, respect and freedom of religion, which are fundamental to Canada. We believe that La Francophonie should be inspired by the messages in this regard that were included in the Commonwealth Summit statement following the Summit last October in Perth, Australia.

Thank you, Madam Chair.