Tal av ambassadör Lapouge vid Véronique Lönnerblads utnämning till officer av Ordre National du Mérite (2 juni 2015)
Tal av ambassadör Lapouge vid Véronique Lönnerblads utnämning till officer av Ordre National du Mérite den 2 juni 2015 vid Frankrikes residens.
It is a great pleasure and a privilege to welcome you all tonight at the Residence to honor Véronique Lönnerblad, a great professional, one of the most dedicated children rights defenders in Sweden, and also a prominent member of the French community in Stockholm.
I would like to extend a warm welcome to Véronique’s family and friends who have joined us to express their support and admiration.
Before proceeding with the ceremony itself, let me just recall that the Ordre National du Mérite was created by General de Gaulle in 1963 to acknowledge “distinguished services” to the French nation. It is one of France’s highest awards. And Véronique Lönnerblad will receive it for the second time since, tonight, she is promoted to the rank of officier.
Chère Véronique, you were born in Lyon, where you completed your studies at the Lycée Edouard Herriot then at the University of Lyon where you took two degrees in English and Modern Literature.
In 1975, you moved to Sweden to study foreign languages at Stockholm and Uppsala Universities then work as a language teacher. Your commitment to pedagogy and French language led you to write textbooks to help learn and teach French. Some of them were translated into Norwegian, Danish, Finish and even Dutch. In 1995, you became the Director of “Franska Skolan” in Stockholm. You contributed to the development of the French dimension of this institution and to its excellent reputation. “Franska Skolan” is now one of the most popular schools in Stockholm and an important vector of the French culture and language in this country. I am glad that its President, Johann Stenberg could be with us tonight.
Always eager to learn more and develop new skills, you took a Master’s degree in Business and Administration from Stockholm University. And, in 2003, you were appointed as Executive Director for UNICEF Sweden, a key institution in a country so committed to the UN system, and which plays a prominent role in development and humanitarian cooperation. Organizations like LO, Diakonia, or the Swedish Football Association are official members of UNICEF Sweden, and you also work with a network of local committees around the country to collect money and inform about child rights. I must say that your achievements at the head of this organization have been quite impressive.
Unicef Sweden is an important source of income for UNICEF which is funded exclusively by voluntary contributions. National Committees collectively raise around one-third of UNICEF’s annual income. Through high-profile campaigns and partnerships with the private sector, you are doing an incredible and indispensable work of fund-raising benefiting millions of children all over the world, as for example in Nepal after the recent earthquake.
When it comes to your mission of raising awareness, spreading knowledge about children’s rights, and influencing decision-makers, you show a tremendous energy, and have a strong presence in the Swedish media. You regularly write debate articles in top newspapers about the situation of children in various parts of the world, but also here in Sweden. I think, for example, of your article on Syrian children in Expressen, as well as of many articles posted on the excellent blog of UNICEF Sweden.
In February last year, you also contributed to explaining in Sweden what was at stake in Central African Republic, a poor and remote country that was on the verge of collapse and even of a genocide. CAR urgently needed the help of the international community. There was a crucial awareness raising work to be done. The French Embassy, FN-förbundet and UNICEF organized the projection of a movie dedicated to child soldiers in CAR, in presence of a local journalist who fled the country in fear of his life. During the panel discussion, you gave the public an interesting insight of the work that UNICEF was doing in CAR to help these children, to negotiate their release and reintegrate them in the society. We were also honored to have the participation of Margot Wallström at this event.
France is especially committed to the protection of children in armed conflict and UNICEF is a key partner in this endeavour. At the UN level, France supports the UNICEF-backed campaign “Children, Not Soldiers”, launched in 2014, which aims to end the recruitment and use of children by government forces in conflicts by 2016. The international community must remain fully mobilized to help these children, when thousands of them are victims of abduction, forced recruitment and the worst atrocities, committed in particular by non-state armed groups, including Daech and Boko Haram.
Peace, security and sustainable development start with safe, healthy and well-educated children. UNICEF is, in particular, doing a much needed job when it comes to promoting education for girls and fighting gender based violence. Several UNICEF programs in this field are funded by France in West Africa, because girls’ education is both a right in itself and critical to reaching other development goals.
I wish we had time to also detail UNICEF’s important accomplishments in the fields of maternal and infant health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, social inclusion… All this crucial work is made possible by the generosity of private donors all around the world, and by your hard work, chère Véronique, as well as the commitment of donor-states like Sweden, which fully deserves to be called a “humanitarian superpower”, and France, another important actor.
More generally, France is extremely active at the UN Security Council to promote human rights and of course children rights. Children are always the most vulnerable victims in mass atrocities. There are situations where the international community is sometimes blocked at the UN Security Council. We are therefore proposing to regulate the use of the veto in these situations. This is a topic of common interest between France and Sweden that our foreign ministers discussed when they met in March. France will continue to work to keep up momentum around this initiative.
Let me finish by thanking you, chère Véronique, for always working with the Embassy in a true spirit of friendship. You have spent a long time in Sweden now, and your colleagues can’t even notice that you have a French accent – or a very tiny one and they all find it cute. They also say that you have a true talent for interpreting Abba song… But in the end, French you are and French you remain, in your style, in your way of promoting French authors among your staff and, after a long and hard week, in your very French habit of celebrating work achievements with a glass of wine or champagne…
The relationship between your Association and my team is really important and special to us. It is essential to be able to count on prominent successfully established French people here. You contribute to developing a good image of France in Sweden and I would like to congratulate you for your exceptional career and life accomplishments as a French expatriate in Stockholm. Your influence and your visibility have a very positive impact on the entire French community.
And so, chère Véronique, on behalf of the President of France, and in recognition of your personal commitment to French-Swedish cooperation in the UN field, it is a great privilege for me to now bestow upon you the insignia of Officier in the Order of Merit.
Au nom du président de la République
Et en vertu des pouvoirs qui nous sont conférés
Nous vous faisons Officier dans l’Ordre national du mérite./."