BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – In March we celebrate the month of la Francophonie as well as International Women’s Day. This year, these two celebrations are related by one thread – the call for peace.

“La Paix”, the French word for peace, is feminine. This month, we pay tribute to the tremendous contribution of women towards global peace. We also renew our commitment to peace and cooperation.

We are deeply concerned, though, that this Francophonie month comes at an unprecedented time.

President Putin’s attack on Ukraine poses an existential threat to the Ukrainian people. Apart from the horrific human rights dimension, it also dangerously challenges the essential foundations of international law and the UN Charter, including respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the independence of a country.

A large humanitarian crisis is now unfolding. In the first ten days of this war alone, 1.5 million people fled Ukraine, the majority of whom were women and children. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has confirmed children among the casualties. Across Ukraine we have witnessed the destruction of schools and other educational institutions.

As diplomats we aim and work for peace, and for a world in which disputes are settled through negotiation, not war. Instead of confrontation, the pursuit of cooperation through bilateral channels and multilateral fora should be the key to that future. There is enormous scope and need for cooperation in order to tackle the challenges facing the world, such as recovering from the pandemic, upgrading of health care systems and economies, improving educational access, addressing climate change and environmental issues and more.

In times of trouble we need to remember our mission. The charter of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) is clear: promoting peace, democracy and human rights, education and research, economic cooperation and sustainable development are the core values of the organisation.

Finally, OIF’s values and objectives converge with the United Nations in the conviction that no one should be left behind. The promotion of peace, compliance with international law, work with youth, and empowerment of women and girls are at the center of OIF’s mission and the core of OIF’s work. So is building trust. Yes, trust – the cement to any relationship, the one indispensable ingredient that allows people to live and work together, that enables societies to thrive and boosts countries` safety. As war shakes trust, the amount of effort needed to restore it is colossal.

As Francophonie Heads of Mission in an ASEAN country, we know the important role that ASEAN centrality plays in this region’s peace, stability and prosperity. As we know, peace is easy to destroy and hard to build back. This should be a duty for everyone: promoting peaceful solutions, unequivocally, has become an obligation and a responsibility.  A challenge worth taking on, in the name of all humankind.

“Dans l’esprit de la Francophonie, nous appuyons la paix, en Ukraine et partout dans le monde.”

This op-ed was contributed by Jeanette Stovel, the high commissioner of Canada; Hok Sophea, the ambassador of Cambodia; and Bernard Regnauld-Fabre, the ambassador of France.