Michaëlle Jean is the secretary general of Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.
A little over three years ago, I was elected as secretary general of la Francophonie, an international organization of 84 member states and governments – including Canada, Quebec, New Brunswick and, lately, Ontario – on five continents.
In a world that is increasingly fractured, where no one is shielded from terrorism, political and humanitarian crises, climate disruption and forced, massive migration movements, the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) is active everywhere, on all these issues.
As a result of my commitment to position the OIF singularly on the multilateral scene, it has become an inescapable global partner, earnestly solicited, eagerly expected to take action. It is regularly asked to intervene in many international forums, including the UN Security Council, on the most pressing issues that require urgent, decisive action. Thanks to the partnerships that I helped strengthen with other international organizations, the OIF is now asserting itself with greater impact and relevance, across all its spheres of action.
This is all the more important as our world changes at breakneck speed. The OIF has had to adapt nimbly to quick-paced global transformations, working alongside countries and peoples to provide valued assistance. Answering requests from member countries, the organization is increasingly present on the ground, where it creates synergies and greater co-operation among field actors. We now have a renovated, more constructive Francophonie, concerned with tangible results, efficient use of resources and making a powerful impact based on a pragmatic approach.
Canadians can be proud, because Canada is contributing concretely to a Francophonie on the move.
I made the pledge that women and youth would be pillars of our work, and take their rightful place as vectors of peace and agents of development. I have made good on that promise. The OIF is now mobilizing youth around the world to take action, prevent violent radicalization, uphold citizenship as a right and a responsibility, and build concrete and innovative initiatives so they can contribute their energy and creativity toward more inclusive and sustainable forms of social, economic and human development.
The OIF is making a monumental contribution, bringing hope to countless young people exposed to very unjust and chronic rates of unemployment, especially in Africa. No effort is being spared to facilitate the professional integration of youth in the work force, building their capacity through education, mentorship programs and business incubators designed to help them master new technologies and apply entrepreneurial skills.
Likewise with women. I have made sure that la Francophonie stands with women and girls, takes action in promoting their rights and freedoms, ensures their full access to quality education, and supports their dynamic economic initiatives as part of a process of gender equality and social empowerment. For example, we have built a cutting-edge networking platform for women entrepreneurs to access local and global markets, and upgrade their businesses.
This is in addition to the reputable work of the OIF and its expertise strengthening the rule of law, promoting democracy, and defending and protecting fundamental human rights and freedoms.
All of this is so terribly important that I never let myself be distracted by vilifiers, mudslingers and smear campaigns, as demeaning as they can be. Yet in all transparency, I have to respond to scurrilous and specious accusations made by certain media organizations and politicians driven by partisan and ideological agendas.
Accusing me of extravagant spending, a ruthless campaign of disinformation has targeted expenses for renovations at an apartment owned by Canada in Paris, put at the disposal of the OIF to serve as the official residence of the secretary general.
At the time, both the head of infrastructure maintenance at the Canadian embassy and the OIF administrator agreed major problems needed to be fixed to make the apartment habitable. Modern plumbing and hot-water installations, upgraded electrical systems and internet wiring with state-of-the-art security systems and the like were required. The renovations were carried out by the OIF out of necessity, with the consent of, and under regular inspections by, the Canadian embassy.
The property, wholly owned by Canadian taxpayers, only saw its value increase in the process. When Canada decides to put the building back on the market, it stands to recover the benefit of upgrades and improvements worth €215,000 (roughly $327,000).
On the issue of administrative controls, the OIF has implemented rigorous transparency mechanisms validated by an internal audit process, external auditors, and the Finance and Administrative Commission as part of regular accountability reports to its member states and governments.
I am proud of our accomplishments. Based on the past four years of effort, the implemented reforms and the convincing results that have come to fruition, I am ready to spring to the saddle for a second mandate.