Statement from Minister Paradis on International Day of La Francophonie

March 20, 2015—The International Day of La Francophonie is a chance for us to celebrate French culture and language in all its richness and diversity. It also gives us an opportunity to celebrate the values of peace, democracy and human rights—values that people living in countries of La Francophonie hold dear.

I am very proud of Canada’s role in La Francophonie. This year, Canada’s former governor-general Michaëlle Jean became the Secretary-General of La Francophonie. I am confident that Madame Jean will be able to propel La Francophonie to the forefront of the 21st century. We welcome her focus on the role of young people and women in achieving sustainable economic growth.

Improving the lives of women and young people was one of the goals agreed to at last November’s Francophonie Summit in Senegal. Canadians can be proud of the Dakar Declaration, which was adopted by heads of state and government at the summit. It focused on ending early, child and forced marriage; promoting maternal, newborn and child health; and developing an economic strategy for La Francophonie. Canada had a strong influence in all of these areas and intends to work closely with Madame Jean and our partners in La Francophonie to deliver on the commitments of the Dakar Declaration.

In Dakar, Prime Minister Harper announced $500 million for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to contribute to achieving its 2016–2020 goal to immunize an additional 300 million children and save as many as six million lives. At Gavi’s replenishment event, I reconfirmed Canada’s commitment and announced an additional $20 million to further support Gavi’s immunization efforts in francophone countries of Africa.

We know these countries have some of the lowest rates of immunization in the world. In 2012, UNICEF estimated the mortality rate of children under the age of five to be 118 per 1,000 births in west and central Africa, compared with 98 in sub-Saharan Africa. This statistic is greatly influenced by the impact of pneumonia and diarrhea on children under five. Canada’s targeted investments in immunization will ultimately have a positive impact on the health of children living in west and central Africa.

Improving the health of mothers, newborns and children in developing countries is Canada’s top development priority. At the Saving Every Woman, Every Child summit hosted by the Prime Minister, Canada committed $3.5 billion to end the preventable deaths of women and children.

Our focus is on strengthening civil registration and vital statistics systems, eliminating gender-based violence and finding innovative ways to sustainably finance maternal, newborn and child health initiatives that leverage funds from all partners.

Canada’s catalytic role in mobilizing the world to action is translating into tremendous results for millions of women and children around the world, including in the countries of La Francophonie.

Canada also plays a key role in the institutional reform and modernization of La Francophonie by helping to foster a culture of efficiency that will increase tangible results. We are paving the way, working with our partners and finding new ones, to blend public and private funding sources to achieve our goals of reducing poverty in the countries of La Francophonie.

When governments work with the private sector on common goals, we learn from each other’s experiences, and great things happen. This applies to food security, saving the lives of mothers and children, and sustainable economic growth.

Especially in the poorest countries, including those in francophone Africa and Haiti, we need to find innovative new solutions to the challenges we share. When we do, we are able to reduce poverty significantly.

On this International Day of La Francophonie, I celebrate the French culture and language that is such an integral part of our Canadian identity, and I rejoice in the efforts of Canada and La Francophonie to build a more peaceful and prosperous world.

Christian Paradis
Minister of International Development and La Francophonie


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