Making France Great Again

Courier Report
Thursday, January 11th, 2018

From right, Fahmida Khatun, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue; Prof Rehman Sobhan, chairman; Pascal Lamy, former director general of WTO, and Mustafizur Rahman, a distinguished fellow of the CPD


The word is out – under Emmanuel Macron, French diplomacy is back with renewed vigour and chutzpah on the international stage. Witness Macron’s eagerness to throw himself, and hence the republic, into the mix across the contours of international relations. Its capital lends its famous name to the world’s first climate accord, nevermind the withering view of it taken in Washington. It is deepening its engagement with former colonies in Africa. And although many felt he was too naive to be even trying, he did somehow prise away Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, from the clutches of the Saudi regime.


However in today’s world, the two most common themes running through societies  are  rising inequality and environmental degradation are the two key factors which have been fuelling tensions, conflicts and frustration worldwide, particularly among the new generation. And these two biggest issues are yet to be addressed.


The French government’s special envoy Pascal Lamy, who visited Dhaka on January 6-7, laid emphasis on combining forces to address issues like ‘inequalities’ and ‘degradation of environment’ to help reduce political tensions, conflicts and remove frustration from new generation.


“Inequality leads to social and political tensions,” said Lamy mentioning that the positive relationship is somehow broken.


The former director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) came to Dhaka to seek Bangladesh’s support to host the World Expo 2025. Four countries are candidates to host the World Expo 2025 – France (in Greater Paris), Japan (in Osaka), the Russian Federation (in Ekaterinburg), and Azerbaijan (in Baku).


While delivering a public lecture in the city, he said, “While the issue of inequality can be addressed locally or at the national level, the issue of environment cannot be addressed without collective global effort.”


Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) hosted the public lecture on the theme “Knowledge to Share, Planet to Care.” CPD Chairman Prof Rehman Sobhan chaired the event while CPD distinguished fellow Prof Mustafizur Rahman introduced Lamy with the audience.


CPD Executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun and Ambassador Muhammad Zamir, among others, spoke on the occasion.


The former World Trade Organization (WTO) director general said economic development needs to do more welfare that subsequently leads to less political tension or conflicts and this is sort of international consensus from which he sees a deviation.


Lamy thinks environmental degradation infuses anxieties among new generation as they fear about future.


“Policy and policy instruments need to be put in place – like education, health policy and housing. These are local problems and solutions are local, too,” he said


The special envoy, who remained involved in trade issues over the last 15 years, also highlighted issues of global development, trade, e-commerce and collaborative activities between Bangladesh and France. Highlighting the environmental issues, he said these are global issues and need global engagements with fully collaborative approach in place.


“Ocean, climate and biodiversity – if we work on these issues on single-nation basis, it will not work. We believe it (environment) the biggest issue and we have to address it collectively,” Lamy said. He laid emphasis on sharing knowledge and resources to address the environmental concerns.


“It’s easier to share knowledge,” Lamy said adding that the solution is not always new science with destructive innovations but solutions, sometimes, rely on traditional, century-tested practices.


He also talked about possible implications of the recent US move to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement and observed that although the gesture is a bit worrying, it should not jeopardize the whole initiative. Lamy observed that in the coming days the major concern for the WTO would be the protection of consumers and domestic policies can play a big part in ensuring that open trade benefits all.


“The benefits of open trade depend on a number of conditions- some of which deal with global trade regime. But most of the issues related to ensuring open-trade benefits lies with domestic policies,” he said.


Appreciating Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s participation in ‘One Planet Summit’ in Paris, he said her discussion was extremely fruitful.


Lamy explained France’s vision behind candidacy for the World Expo 2025 and expressed optimism that Bangladesh will support France to host the World Expo-2025 considering ‘vibrant’ relations between the two countries.


“France and Bangladesh are well-aligned,” Lamy said. He, however, said it is the decision to be taken by Bangladesh considering “technical, economic, diplomatic and political” relations between the two countries.


Lamy said the European Union will remain the largest market for Bangladesh which might come into consideration apart from cooperation in the areas of technology and others.


He said Bangladesh can also get benefited from a five-year cooperation project on technology and environmental sustainability, and mentioned there are issues that matter to Bangladesh and France equally.


Responding to a question on Rohingya, the French envoy said the international community needs to exert more “political pressure” on Myanmar to find a solution to the Rohingya crisis. “Still, lots of political pressures need to be exerted.”


He laid emphasis on repatriation of Rohingyas and reiterated support to Bangladesh.

Referring to French President Emmanuel Macron who described attacks on Myanmar’s Rohingya minority as ‘genocide’, he said France deployed its support for solution at the international level.


As France government wants to host the World Expo-2025, Pascal Lamy requested Bangladesh to extend its support to this end.


In response to Lamy’s request, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh will consider it. The bid was submitted on September 28 to the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the intergovernmental organisation in charge of overseeing and regulating World Expos.


The 170 member states of BIE will elect the host country at the 164th General Assembly in November 2018. The theme chosen for this expo is ‘Knowledge sharing and protection of the planet’, which reflects the priorities of the international action to protect the planet, while 2025 will coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement.


France had hosted five major world exhibitions in the 19th century, and hosted an international exhibition on modern art and technology in 1937. It thinks the World Expo is also an opportunity for French citizens and the country to redesign their openness to the world and French adherence to the universal values.


Lamy said he has visited so far 15 countries and will be visiting countries which matter most to France. “I’m here to build support for Bangladesh. We hope we’ll win,” he said adding that the host country must have some comparative advantages what they have.


Md Monibur Rahman, a Bangladeshi youth Ambassador for France, said. “We’re a group of young, passionate, change-makers with a common vision and motivation to leave our footprint on world.”


Rahman, one of the 100 Ambassadors selected by France government who is representing Bangladesh, said, “By supporting the French candidacy, we’re helping in the protection of our climate as ExpoFrance 2025 is a leader in sustainable development.”


Reported by AKM Moinuddin

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