Remarks of Mr Yves Carmona, French Ambassador to the Lao PDR on the occasion of the reception for the NGOs in Laos
Representatives of Ministries and Public Organizations,
Representatives of United Nations Agencies
Representatives of Lao, French and International NGOs
My fellow Ambassadors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am happy to welcome you this evening to the French Embassy Gardens on the occasion of this reception, which I wanted to give in recognition of the work carried out by the various NGOs in Laos.
Before beginning, I would like to take this opportunity to explain why I have organized this reception.
I have been the French Ambassador to Laos for seven months now. The first part of my time here was dedicated to preparing the visit of the President of the French Republic, Mr. François Hollande to Laos during the ninth ASEM summit conference. I would like to congratulate the Lao authorities on the success of that event, or should I say, series of events, since the AEPF which was organized by Civil Society working hand in hand with the authorities was one of the highlights of the summit and should not be forgotten.
Following this historic visit I was able to participate in in-depth meetings with different development actors with whom France has been working in her cooperation activities. It is only logical that these dialogues have led me to organizing this evening’s reception in honour of the different NGOs whose activities are part and parcel of our collective development activity in Laos.
This reception is an excellent opportunity to remind one and all that France considers Civil Society to be a valuable and indispensable development stakeholder. The President of the French Republic spoke of this in March when he said that “...NGOs play a major role in solidarity”, in its implementation of course, but also in its governance, since “...this solidarity must be thought through and reflected upon with heads of State and Governments as well as the Civil Society of the countries in which we are working”.
My European colleagues will certainly allow me to add that this position also holds true on the scale of the EU, since the conclusion of the European Council in October 2012 highlighted our commune commitment to Civil Society for democracy and sustainable development.
The French position translates into the promise made by President Hollande that “...French aid transiting via NGOs will double globally by the year 2017”, a promise which we “...began to implement in 2013”.
The strengthening of this cooperation, which respects the independence of all stakeholders, has been translated into facts in Laos. The French Embassy has donated nearly one million Euros to local associations since 2010 thanks to its Social Development Fund in such diverse sectors as health, gender equality, biodiversity, culture, Eco-tourism and local development. This three-year program should be renewed in 2014.
Some of the local associations which have benefited from our aid are here tonight, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for the wonderful work they are doing on the ground and for the excellent results of their activities. I am thinking in particular of those associations working with women suffering from HIV-AIDS, who have been able to re-enter society after having been excluded from its economic life. I would also like to congratulate those working for the renaissance of the Royal Theatre of Luang-Prabang, for the creation of a Lao sign language, not to mention the work being carried out to identify and treat those suffering from epilepsy.
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French Development Agency are also funding such French NGOs as Médecins du Monde, Handicap International and others who have made outstanding contributions to Laos, both in terms of the help they have given to the most needy and in terms of the cooperation they have shown with local State services.
The list of French and local NGOs we support would be too long to read tonight. You will find most of them in the “Blue Book” published by our European partners during the 2012 AEPF.
The wide range of sectors represented by the NGOs we support may lead one to wonder if there is a common denominator between all these activities. In fact, the common denominator lies in the fact that each one of these associations, each in its own field, expresses the willingness of the men and women involved to contribute actively to development. This phenomena is both remarkable and indispensable since the State alone cannot achieve everything, regardless of the country and regardless of the continent.
Before finishing off, I would also like to assure you that France has been attentive to the preoccupations of NGOs over the last several months which are a reflection of the recent events.
NGOs which are committed to fair development can count on France’s loyalty and the strong ties she maintains with Civil Society. Our institutions hold these stakeholders’ local knowledge and their appreciation of the needs of the poorest segments of the population in high esteem.
I would also like to thank all our other partners who have come here tonight, the authorities who play an essential role in this multi-stakeholder development partnership, the mass organizations, my colleagues in the diplomatic corps and development agencies, not to mention the researchers whose expertise is essential to the decision making process.
I am convinced that the quality of our activities depends as much as on our ability to work together as on our ability to mobilise our resources.
I hope you will be able to engage in meaningful and friendly dialogue in the casual setting of our gardens here tonight.