Open VTC Debate on Cooperation between the UN and the International Organization of La Francophonie
On Tuesday (8 September) Council president Niger will convene an open videoconference (VTC) meeting on the relationship between the UN and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF). This year marks the 50th anniversary of the organisation’s founding in Niamey, Niger. This will be the first Council meeting focused on cooperation with the OIF. The expected briefers are the Secretary-General of the OIF, Louise Mushikiwabo; Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs; and Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, the Foreign Minister of Armenia, in his capacity as the President in office of the Ministers Council of the OIF. Non-Council members are invited to submit statements in writing to be included in a compilation document that will be released later in the month.
Seven members of the Security Council—almost half of the Council—are members, associates, or observers of the OIF: Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Niger, Tunisia, and Viet Nam. Niger, as one of the founding members of the OIF, sought to take the opportunity of their presidency to highlight the organisation’s contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security. The OIF has had observer status at the UN since 1998. On 25 September 2019, the OIF Secretary-General and then-Council member Côte d’Ivoire launched a joint initiative called the “Francophone Platform at the Security Council”. This initiative aimed to promote multilingualism in the work of the Council, build a better understanding of the cultural specificities of francophone environments, and organise seminars to exchange best practices to strengthen the capacities of incoming OIF Council members. Likely an extension of this initiative, Tuesday’s meeting presents an opportunity for awareness-raising about the prevention and peacebuilding activities in which the OIF takes part.
A concept note for this open debate was circulated on 2 September. According to the concept note, the OIF has four general goals: promotion of the French language, plurilingualism and cultural diversity; promotion of peace, democracy and human rights; education, training, higher education and research; and development of economic cooperation for sustainable development. The note states that the OIF aims to contribute to “the establishment and development of democracy as well as the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts; supporting the rule of law and human rights; and restoring and consolidating peace”. These goals stem from commitments made in the Bamako Declaration, which was adopted by francophone delegations in November 2000 after a symposium entitled “on the assessment of practices of democracy, rights and freedoms in the French-speaking world”, which followed a series of workshops and preparatory conferences. The concept note ties these goals to Chapter VIII of the UN Charter, which encourages the resolution of local disputes by regional arrangements or agencies, so long as their efforts are consistent with the principles and purposes of the UN.
Along with a general cooperation agreement, the OIF and the UN also have a working framework through the Department of Peace Operations (DPO). According to the concept note, OIF-UN cooperation takes place in several areas of interest, which Niger hopes will be highlighted in the open VTC:
- Coordination of the OIF and the UN in preventive diplomacy and mediation in French-speaking countries, as well as in electoral processes, for which the OIF has recognised expertise. This involves sending information and technical support missions when necessary. In 2020 the OIF is supporting electoral processes in Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, the Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Togo.
- Strengthening the participation of francophone peacekeepers in cooperation with DPO and the Department of Field Support with a focus on the training of relevant personnel and the provision of operational and training manuals in French. This also includes French language lessons for those peacekeepers who will be stationed in French-speaking countries but do not already know the language.
- Peacebuilding, particularly preventing radicalisation and violent extremism. This includes working with the Permanent Secretariat of the G5 Sahel.
- Supporting networks of women and youth involved in conflict prevention and peacebuilding.
Niger articulated three main objectives for this meeting, according to the concept note: to take stock of the cooperation between the UN and the OIF; to assess the importance of multilingualism in the conduct of peacekeeping operations, and its effective implementation; and to identify areas for improvement in strengthening cooperation between the two institutions in the areas of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.
These themes are likely to be illustrated in the statements of Council members that are OIF members. These members may speak about the benefits of dialogue among states, as well as the importance of multilingualism within peacekeeping operations and at the UN more broadly. OIF Council members may also reiterate the OIF’s recommendation to establish a mechanism for periodic consultation between the UN Secretariat and the secretariats of regional and international organisations in order to assess political situations in a more comprehensive manner.
As for the rest of the Council, members are likely to focus on cooperation with regional organisations in general and their contributions to the maintenance of international peace and security: many have previously expressed the view that regional organisations have a comparative advantage in certain areas of peacebuilding. For example, members may highlight how regional and subregional organisations can generate context-specific solutions to conflicts due to their involvement with local communities. Council members may welcome the opportunity to learn more about the OIF’s activities and encourage further cooperation with other regional and sub-regional organisations. Members may also share their views on how the OIF and similar groups deliver progress towards the sustainable development goals.
Over the past few years, Council discussions on cooperation with regional organisations have become more common, at the initiative of the Council presidency. Several such organisations have been discussed for the first time in the past two years, including the League of Arab States, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.