Francophone lawmakers meet in Phnom Penh

Gabonese lawmaker says ‘diversity is our greatest strength’ as French-speaking members of 16 parliaments gather for three days in Cambodia


Phnom Penh, Cambodia--A committee of the Francophone Parliamentary Assembly (APF) met in Phnom Penh on Friday to discuss issues ranging from corruption to global trade talks under the World Trade Organization (WTO).


Other items on the agenda of the Cooperation and Development Committee include the digital economy, food loss and waste, transport and tourism.


The committee was also scheduled to discuss APF activities related to sustainable development in Cambodia and economic cooperation between Cambodia and other French-speaking countries.


Future work to be discussed includes how children without identities affect economic development. Delegates are meanwhile expected to be briefed on recent activities of the Asia-Pacific regional office of the International Francophone Organisation (OIF) in Hanoi.


In addition to Cambodia, parliaments taking part in the meeting are from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, the Central African Republic, Chad, France, Gabon, Laos, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Quebec, Romania, Senegal and Vietnam.


“Our diversity is our greatest strength,” Gabonese lawmaker Angelique Ngoma said in an opening address.


Ngoma, who chairs the committee, recalled one of the founding messages of cooperation between French-speaking countries.


“Promoting the French language involves a battle among languages and cultures and mutual enrichment at the heart of the francophone community and beyond,” she said.


Ngoma said the meeting in Phnom Penh was the first she had chaired in Asia, and that Cambodia “bears witness to francophone vitality on five continents.”


‘Diversity and extraordinary wealth’


“This diversity and extraordinary wealth is today the strength behind our common destiny,” the Gabonese lawmaker said.


"Strengthening our activities in keeping watch over democracy and consolidating this space for dialogue and mutual understanding is the most indisputable proof of our diversity being our greatest strength."


The Cambodian delegation to the meeting is being led by Pen Pannha, chairman of the National Assembly Commission on Legislation and Justice who also chairs the Cambodian branch of APF.


Deputy chairs of the Cambodian branch are Senator Mom Chimhuy, chairman of the Senate Commission on Education, Youth, Sports, Religious Affairs, Culture, Fine Arts and Tourism, and Senator Ty Borasy, chairwoman of the Senate Commission on Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Information and Media.


In a welcome address, Pen Pannha said APF meetings were an opportunity for Cambodia to “open all doors” to exchanges with both developed and developing countries. Cambodia has hosted numerous APF committee meetings and seminars over the past eight years.


The Cooperation and Development Committee last met in Rome in May last year at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).


APF has three other committees — a Parliamentary Affairs Committee, an Education, Communications and Cultural Affairs Committee and a Political Committee.


The Paris-based group held its most recent plenary session in Quebec City in Canada in July last year.


During the session, delegates approved setting up a network of young francophone parliamentarians and APF membership for the Congress of New Caledonia, a French territory off the eastern coast of Australia.


Apart from the Cambodian parliament, other APF members from the Asia-Pacific region are the national legislatures of Laos, Vanuatu and Vietnam.


(Photo by Lem Samean)

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