In a united effort to strengthen international relations, the French embassy in Phnom Penh, together with the International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF), launched a two-year French language programme on July 3.

The ambitious endeavour, aimed at members of the National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces (NPMEC), was inaugurated at Institute for Peacekeeping Forces, Mine and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance (IPMEC).

The commencement of the course saw several distinguished attendees including Ouch Borith, standing secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, OIF representative Edgar Doerig and French ambassador to Cambodia Jacques Pellet.

Addressing the audience at the opening, Doerig emphasised the vital role of French as a bridge-building language. He highlighted its potential in fostering trust, improving peacekeeping mission effectiveness, and enriching communication and culture in areas where peacekeepers are deployed.

Doerig further revealed that the OIF’s sponsorship of the course was prompted by NPMEC’s recommendation, acknowledging French as a vital asset for Cambodian peacekeepers joining future UN missions.

“The course offered this year will enhance their operational efficiency in French-speaking regions like Africa and Lebanon.

“The language skills they gain will empower them to collaborate more effectively and to bolster cooperation with multinational forces accompanying them on their mission,” he said.

Borith commemorated the course launch by recalling the 31st anniversary of the first “blue helmet” troops’ arrival in Cambodia, including those from France, to assist in peacekeeping in the then war-ravaged nation. He expressed gratitude to France for its support and paid homage to fallen French peacekeepers during their overseas missions.

Borith emphasised Cambodia’s ongoing commitment to collaborate with the UN and other countries in empowering its blue-helmets with skills and potential for future UN missions.

“I am confident that our peacekeepers will take pride in improving their capabilities to contribute to peacekeeping under the UN, ensuring efficiency, timeliness and a drive to uphold national dignity on the international stage,” he asserted.

In line with NPMEC’s records, since 2009, France has provided 84 training courses on diverse subjects, benefitting 1,850 peacekeepers.