During his speech at the ministerial conference, Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Ignazio Cassis noted that it was essential to refocus the organisation's action so that it would be ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century and the expectations of people living in the French-speaking world, particularly women and young people. He stressed the significance of reforms in this direction undertaken by IOF Secretary General Louise Mushikiwabo. He also underscored the need to strengthen the core identity of the IOF, which seeks to promote the values of peace, human rights and democracy through French, the shared language of its members. In addition, Mr Cassis mentioned the role of multilateralism in today's world and highlighted Switzerland's support for La Francophonie in the areas of dual vocational education and training, peace support, and monitoring of democratic transitions. He concluded by reaffirming Switzerland's engagement in Africa, in terms of both bilateral support and international cooperation.
The ministerial conference was an opportunity to continue discussions previously initiated with Secretary General Mushikiwabo of Rwanda, who was received last April in Bern by Federal Councillor Cassis and members of the Swiss Delegation to the French-speaking Parliamentary Assembly.
During the conference, Mr Cassis also met with the foreign ministers of Monaco, Mali, Senegal and Andorra as well as Quebec's minister of culture and communications.
The IOF was set up in 1970 based on the idea of a community sharing French as a common language cooperating at multilateral level. It is the single most important international organisation of its kind and is set to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2020. The organisation has 54 member states and governments, seven associate members and 27 observers, in five continents.
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