Press Statement by the President of France, Dhaka, 11 September 2023, Unofficial translation from the French
Madam Prime Minister,
Thank you very much for your words and welcome. I would like to thank you for this invitation to visit Bangladesh and for your warm welcome. You ended your remarks by quoting André Malraux, he is undoubtedly the one who, in contemporary times, sealed this relationship around the Liberation War of 1971 by his commitment, his words, by his desire to support this popular movement that your father carried and was able to build. It has, I believe, sealed an unwavering friendship between our two peoples around independence, attachment to our values and the love of freedom.
I am very honoured, 33 years after the last visit of a French President, that of François Mitterrand, to be at your side today. Since this fight in 1971, we have shared the same attachment to democratic values, the rule of law and human rights - a triptych without which there can be no sustainable development. I had the immense honour this morning, alongside your sister and your nephew, to visit the family home and to be able to pay tribute to the role of your father and to this history which is so tragic but which also enabled the nation to be free and independent.
Fundamentally, it is around this desire for independence and stability that the relationship between our two countries and our strategic community of views is sealed today. Indeed, we have a common desire to preserve the independence of our countries, not to give in to any external pressure and, despite the ongoing conflicts, ultimately, to keep the freedom that goes with sovereignty. As you know, I defend this third way in the Indo-Pacific based on respect for the sovereignty and strategic autonomy of our partners. It is, I believe, this path that also drives you and this desire to preserve the Indo-Pacific, and more particularly the Indian Ocean region, from all geopolitical tensions. At a time when Russia is waging a war of imperialist conquest in Europe, it is more than ever our responsibility to continue building partnerships with our long-standing friends and to offer sustainable alternatives. This is the path we want to take with Bangladesh. You have shown on numerous occasions your exceptional commitment to peace. I would also like to salute the commitment of your troops throughout the world in peacekeeping operations in the United Nations, particularly in Africa.
This generosity for stability also extends to your neighbours with the reception of more than one million Rohingya refugees. I know what that means, and I also thank you for this commitment. So, as I said, we have a commonality of views, a desire to preserve balance, particularly in your region. It is around this that the agreement between our two countries is sealed, built and established. Madam Prime Minister, you were kind enough to recall the Summit that we organised last June in Paris. One of the concrete translations in terms of solidary investment and climate is the fact that Bangladesh has decided to join our initiative for the Paris Pact for People and the Planet with a simple principle: no country must choose between fight against poverty and the fight for the climate and biodiversity. It is an important commitment which builds a new international consensus and which will allow us to move even faster and stronger together on this agenda.
France has tripled the commitment of the French Development Agency since 2019 in Bangladesh, and more than a billion euros of projects are being prepared for the next three years, adding to the nearly 2 billion euros already achieved. This is an unprecedented commitment which is in line with this agenda and which will support your economic development, your strategy to combat poverty and your energy and climate transition strategy.
Indeed, your geography makes you particularly vulnerable to the phenomenon of rising water levels, in addition to extreme climatic events, such as cyclones, a fading of the rhythm of the six seasons, so particular to Bangladesh, and a prolongation of the monsoon. This environmental challenge has led you to develop unique expertise in adapting to climate change. Our wish is to be able to build, in particular through certain projects signed today, new cooperation in this area. We have already started to put in place safety nets, by creating loans that are resilient to climate shocks, and by working closely with insurance companies through the so-called "Global Shield" initiative. But we will have to go further, and mobilise new financing, including by unlocking new tax tools, as France has already committed to with the tax on financial transactions and that on plane tickets.
We talked at length today about forests and mangroves. I know your very concrete commitment in this matter, you also know mine. You are home to one of the most important mangroves in the world with the exceptional Sunderban. There is immense potential for cooperation in this area. On the basis of the preservation pacts ("conservation package") that we have built since the Libreville summit, our wish is to be able to move forward on this subject and consolidate international financing in support of initiatives to preserve your mangroves, which play an essential role both for the stability of your country and the fight for the preservation of biodiversity, also making it possible to maintain existing carbon sinks and thus having an impact for the entire planet.
So you see, in terms of the fight against poverty and the climate, we have a very concrete version of the Paris agenda of last June and of this Paris Pact for People and the Planet. This is the same agenda that we will pursue in terms of food sovereignty, we support your agenda, and Bangladesh will be invited to the summit of the coalition for school canteens that we will organise in Paris next October. This will follow up onto the commitment we have made, alongside more than 80 other States, to providing every child with a school meal a day. You yourself, Madam Prime Minister, anticipated this type of initiative with the program put in place several years ago for school children in your country.
Here too, I want to salute, on this agenda of justice, whether social or climatic, the commitment that has been yours over the last decade. Indeed, ten years after the tragic collapse of Rana Plaza, the thousand victims among textile workers, you have taken measures to improve worker safety. For illustration, more than 4,000 textile factories were inspected, and more than 800 were closed to meet your commitments. These efforts were carried out in concert with the social partners, in collaboration with the International Labor Organization, in particular through the deployment of a fund aimed at guaranteeing exemplary protection for workers. Several international textile brands, including French ones, are already mobilised and are voluntarily making their contribution. We have also, for our part, asked companies to comply with a duty of vigilance which accompanied this effort.
Finally, to support your agenda of development and stability for Bangladesh, we wish to do more, and, beyond the investments and the increase in the exposure of the French Development Agency, we want to contribute to the emergence of the Smart Bangladesh that you are calling for. This is why we discussed at length today and signed several important texts. We will do more in the field of transport - and I thank you for your choice of confidence for European aeronautics, the commitment to these 10 A350 Airbus is an important point -, space - France having already been at the origin of the first Bangladeshi satellite -, commitment to satellites is also an important point - energy, defense but also culture, education and heritage.
I had the chance yesterday to meet several artists and we wish to further develop our cooperation in this area. You can count on France to continue this path. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what I wanted to say after our discussions this morning. I wanted, Madam Prime Minister, to tell you that France will remain faithful to its history to build a new page that we are opening together, an attachment to the independence of your nation, to the courage of your people and ultimately a line that you follow and defend. A demanding line, which does not give in to any pressure and which preserves the stability of your region. A demanding line also which builds a path of prosperity for your country, improves the climate and biodiversity situation and also aims to fight against all the extremisms which can threaten security. You lead this agenda with courage and determination. Be aware that you have the support of France and that your people have the support of the French people.
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