UN-HABITAT’s Deputy Executive Director, Ms. Inga Bjork-Klevby, on Thursday received ambassadors from Francophone countries to reassure them that the agency was doing all it could to take French language considerations into account at its major meetings like the forthcoming Third Session of the World Urban Forum in Vancouver, Canada.In the first such meeting of its kind with the Francophone countries as a group, Ms. Bjork-Klevby, and senior UN-HABITAT colleagues said that every effort was being made to ensure wider dissemination in French of agency documents and deliberations. Recalling the recent car burnings by angry youths in French cities, they said it was extremely important that the Vancouver session is used to bring government and public, especially young people, together in Vancouver.
Judging from responses received during the Habitat Jam, a worldwide Internet discussion on urban concerns and problems, the ambassadors were told that young people in French speaking African countries had frankly voiced their concerns about exclusion and poor employment prospects. These had to be brought to the table in Vancouver so that the respondents could see that their concerns were being followed up.
The Deputy Permanent Representative of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. Michael Bizimungu Mubare, said it would be difficult for representatives of some Least Developed Countries to attend the conference because of financial constraints. Ms. Bjork-Klevby assured him that every effort was being made to help cover the costs for some delegates from the poorest countries.
The Canadian government has ensured that all the key official meetings in Vancouver would have simultaneous French and English interpretation, while UN-HABITAT said some networking events planned for the meeting would be held in French.
“This is the first time I can recall that such a meeting of Francophone countries has been called, and I wish to express our appreciation of this,” said the French Ambassador, Mr. Hubert Fournier, recalling that he and his colleagues had earlier pressed upon the agency to take such measures. His remarks were echoed by Mr. Ion Emilian, the Romanian Permanent Representative, who also serves as chair of the Francophone group in Nairobi.
Mr. Bhupinder S. Liddar, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Canada, said an estimated 6,000 people from 120 countries were expected in Vancouver for the Third Session of the World Urban Forum. He said that officials of the WUF Secretariat, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Association of Francophone Mayors, and the French government were meeting in Paris this week to ensure broad participation of Francophone local authorities in Vancouver.