Speech Article from  Global Affairs Canada

Address by Minister Bibeau at breakfast meeting of heads of francophone diplomatic missions accredited to Canada

January 27, 2016 - Ottawa, Ontario

Check Against Delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with the Government of Canada’s communications policy.

Madam President of the Group of Heads of Francophone Diplomatic Missions Accredited to Canada, Your Excellency the Ambassador of France, your excellencies, representatives of the diplomatic corps:

I am pleased to have this opportunity to meet with you to discuss Canada’s commitment to and actions within La Francophonie, 10 months before the summit in Madagascar next November. A summit at which the heads of state and government of La Francophonie will provide an update on our progress made since the Dakar Summit in 2014. A summit at which La Francophonie members will develop strategies and agree on the actions that need to be taken to address the complex challenges we are facing.

These challenges, which include sustainable development, climate change, poverty, migration, terrorism, violence against women, the radicalization of young people and armed conflicts, are not limited to the francophone community. These are challenges facing every region of the world.

As Michaëlle Jean, Secretary General of La Francophonie, so aptly told the members of the Parliamentary Assembly of La Francophonie who met in Bern in July 2015, La Francophonie holds the world’s emergencies close to its heart.

After the terrorist attacks that recently affected several of our Francophonie partners, we thought we had reached the limit of the unthinkable. The terrorist attacks that took place in Burkina Faso and Cameroon over the past few days are a sad reminder that the threat is ever-present and that none of us is immune. Canada unreservedly condemns these attacks, which claimed the lives of several of our fellow citizens, including six Canadians, and stands united with Burkina Faso and Cameroon in these difficult times.

Canada is deeply committed to helping to build a better, safer world, one in which pluralism and differences are encouraged and celebrated. We need to show the world that inclusive diversity is a force that can defeat intolerance, radicalism and hatred.

In countries in which democracy has taken root, where power changes hands regularly and peacefully, the dividends are clear: human rights are better defended, economies are more stable, governments are better able to meet their citizens’ basic needs and communities have more resilience to face radicalism and other pressures.

Promoting diversity—an essential value we share with other members of La Francophonie—includes welcoming immigrants and refugees. In this regard, Canada has committed to facilitating the process that allows immigrants to establish themselves in Canada, to be reunited with their families and to contribute to the entire country’s economic success.

Moreover, last November, I announced $100 million in humanitarian aid funding for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR]. This Canadian funding will allow the UNHCR to meet the urgent needs of those affected by the Syrian conflict, notably in terms of shelter, protection, education and health.

Building a better, safer world cannot be done as long as one out of every three women in the world is the victim of physical or sexual violence. The Dakar Summit, which focused on women and youth, allowed us to address some of these areas of concern, such as child marriage, early marriage and forced marriage.

By working with its partners within La Francophonie, Canada is determined to end these practices, the consequences of which are so profound and the scope of which is so vast. Child marriages impede girls’ access to education, jeopardize their health and make them more vulnerable to violence. This practice also prevents girls from reaching their full potential and from fully contributing to the social and economic growth of their family, their community and their country.

It is also up to us to put all of the necessary conditions in place to create a favourable environment to fight violence against women and girls.

Education is one way of doing this. Canada applauds and supports the work being done by the International Organisation of La Francophonie [IOF] to improve girls’ and boys’ access to quality education and training. It is a question of allowing these young people to blossom and of ensuring a better transition into the labour market and society.

Training, tutoring and creating networks are also undeniable advantages when putting in place the conditions needed to create an environment that promotes inclusive economic development. That is why Canada supports the IOF’s program to promote entrepreneurship among women and youth: so that these important segments of our populations can grow, find work and fully contribute to the development of our communities.

Health is an important element to ensuring the empowerment of women and youth. The health of women, adolescent girls and children is a key initiative in our efforts to support global priorities. Our programs in this area now extend to reproductive health and rights.

As important as our values are, they cannot exist if they are not supported by strong policies. In this regard, the Government of Canada’s approach is multi-dimensional and combines, among other things, humanitarian and development assistance, trade and initiatives to fight climate change.

In terms of development assistance, our priority is to refocus Canada’s assistance on helping the poorest and most vulnerable people, and on supporting fragile states. Poverty, inequality and fragility will be the anchor points of our development work.

The 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development] will serve as our basis for developing a plan to implement sustainable development objectives. This plan will include holding consultations with Canadian and international stakeholders.

The goal is to create a new policy and funding framework to guide the assistance that we provide. We will focus on empowering people and promoting sustainable, large-scale growth in the poorest and most vulnerable countries and in fragile states.

Our multi-dimensional approach also includes trade. International trade creates wealth and is an important driver of economic growth and poverty reduction in developing countries.

Canada will, for example, support developing countries to allow them to implement the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement.

This agreement will reduce the costs of trade for developing countries, which will allow them to access global value chains and to take advantage of the resulting economic benefits, advantages and opportunities. It could also help the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people to lift themselves out of poverty. Canada would like to ensure that the advantages of increased international trade are mutual and universal.

We cannot talk of development today without ensuring that it will be sustainable. This cannot be done without addressing one of the greatest threats facing the planet: climate change.

We know that climate change is a destabilizing force in many parts of Africa, affecting key economic and subsistence sectors, such as agriculture, energy, coastal resources and the availability of water for drinking and land irrigation. Strengthening these sectors will help to make the poorest and most vulnerable communities more resilient.

In this regard, I would like to highlight the contribution that Francophonie countries made to the success of the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. I applaud the IOF’s initiatives to bring forth a common position and the support of the Institut de la Francophonie pour le développement durable [La Francophonie institute for sustainable development], which is headquartered in the city of Québec.

I would also like to thank our friends in France, who spared no effort to ensure that the Paris conference took place in a context of dialogue, transparency and collaboration. The signing of an ambitious and balanced agreement to fight climate change did not just happen by chance; it was the result of a tremendous amount of hard, methodical work, prior to and during the conference.

Canada is committed to taking constructive action with its national and international partners to help fight climate change. Canada will support the most vulnerable countries in terms of climate change, facilitate the implementation of renewable energy technologies and manage the inherent risks of extreme weather events.

In this regard, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a contribution of $2.65 billion over five years to help developing countries.

These are just some examples of Canada’s commitment to developing countries in the francophone community. These are some of the challenges that Canada will likely discuss with our francophone partners during the preparation of documents that will be submitted during the Francophonie Summit in Madagascar this November.

In addition to addressing the issues of promoting cultural and linguistic diversity, respecting human rights, reducing poverty and supporting sustainable development, Canada will continue to focus on the challenges associated with promoting peace and security, and with strengthening democracy, the rule of law and good governance.

Canada applauds and supports the work of the IOF, notably in relation to strengthening democracy, rights and justice, preventing conflicts, supporting transitions and building peace.

The situation in suspended countries, such as Thailand and the Central African Republic, and in Burundi, which is under observation, will continue to be followed closely until the Francophonie Summit.

Let us now turn to the Madagascar Summit. This will be an important event for all of the member states and governments, as it will be a pivotal time to assess the progress made in terms of the IOF’s key initiatives, including the economic strategy and the youth strategy. It will also be Michaëlle Jean’s first summit since becoming Secretary General of La Francophonie. We are happy to support the IOF and the Malagasy government to help make this summit a real success.

The theme chosen by the Malagasy government, “Shared growth and responsible development: conditions to the world’s stability and within La Francophonie,” very much corresponds with the Government of Canada’s priorities in terms of inclusive and responsible growth, poverty reduction and sustainable development. It is also in line with one of Canada’s priority commitments within La Francophonie.

Again this year, the institutions of La Francophonie are facing a number of challenges: searching for new partners, finding new sources of funding and continuing modernization efforts. These challenges are also opportunities to explore areas in which La Francophonie does not have a real presence, to share francophone values and ways of doing business, and to enrich our network.

Canada will continue to work with IOF members and observers, Secretary General Jean, IOF Administrator Adama Ouane, La Francophonie representatives and all of our partners within the francophone community in order to further promote our organization.

Thank you for inviting me to your breakfast meeting. I wish you all a wonderful 2016.

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