Jean Yves Ollivier is a French entrepreneur, philanthropist and founder of the Brazzaville Foundation, which was set up primarily to facilitate dialogue and achieve a better understanding between conflicting parties wherever informal diplomacy, bridge-building and discreet, pragmatic engagement offer an alternative way forward.
A key profile within the globally acclaimed ‘Plot for Peace’ documentary, Jean Yves Ollivier has a lot of experience in facilitating international agreements with both private and public actors.
Recently, the peacemaker spoke about his Foundation’s latest mission at making the war torn country a peaceful place once again.
What does your Foundation hope to accomplish to bring about Libyan reconciliation?
Libya is a magnificent nation, blessed by location, rich in history, abundant with resources and capable of charting a new pathway towards lasting prosperity. But the fact that it has proved so difficult to resolve the crisis in Libya shows that the building blocks for achieving political settlement are still not in place.
Our aim is to help break down the barriers of mistrust which currently divide Libyans and which continue to be the biggest obstacles to peace and reconciliation. We want to bring all sides to the table and establish a dialogue which enables different voices to be heard. These are not negotiating meetings, but we hope they will create a process of rapprochement and foster a shared vision of Libya’s future which will underpin negotiations on an eventual political settlement. They are thus complimentary to, and supportive of, the efforts of the UN, the African Union and others to bring peace and stability to the country.
What were the challenges involved in hosting these talks in Dakar?
The divisions in Libya run deep. They existed before 2011 and the overthrow of Qadhafi and have grown deeper since. Convincing Libyans who are so divided to sit down together in Dakar and, once there, to agree not to dwell on the past but to look to the future and try to find common ground has been a huge challenge. But the success of Dakar 1, and the willingness to hold Dakar 2, has shown that it can be done.
Despite their doubts and misgivings, we persuaded Libyans from across the political spectrum, including long-standing opponents, to meet in Dakar, many for the first time, and to talk freely to each other without intermediaries or outside interference. They have continued to do so since. This dialogue is the start of a journey towards the reinvigoration of true nationhood.
I would particularly like to thank President Macky Sall of Senegal for his help and support in organizing the meeting in Dakar and to the Foundation’s Honorary Member, Moustapha Niasse, Chairman of the National Assembly of Senegal, who agreed to act as Facilitator.
What were your motivations in launching the Brazzaville Foundation and how is the Foundation and its interventions unique?
We are an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to peace, prosperity and conservation. The Foundation’s name was inspired by the 1988 Brazzaville Agreement which led to a peaceful resolution of conflicts in southern Africa and paved the way for the ending of Apartheid. At the time, I had a behind-the-scenes role in getting some of the key players to agree to meet in Brazzaville.
One of my aims in setting up the Brazzaville Foundation was to promote peace and reconciliation through independent, impartial and discreet efforts to build dialogue and understanding because my own experience, and that of many of our very distinguished Board of Advisers, has shown that such efforts are vital in achieving peaceful solutions to potential conflicts in Africa and further afield. The Foundation acts as an honest broker, helping protagonists to find ways to talk to each other and arrive at common ground for a peaceful future.
In addition to our dialogue-building and conflict prevention work, the Foundation’s goal is to meet some of the key challenges facing the African continent by developing economic, environmental and conservation driven initiatives that support the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) and bring countries and peoples together in peaceful cooperation.
The Foundation’s proposal to establish a Congo Basin Blue Fund, which was launched at the COP 22 climate change summit in Marrakesh in 2016, now has the support of all of the countries of the Congo Basin and is endorsed by the African Union. This is a major sustainable development initiative designed to reduce pressure to exploit the forests of the Congo Basin and thus reduce the impact of global warming by promoting alternative economic development using the resources of the Congo River and its tributaries.
We have also partnered with the NGO ‘Stop Ivory’ to promote the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI). This initiative, launched by Botswana, Chad, Ethiopia, Gabon and Tanzania, brings together African states, intergovernmental organizations, the NGO community and the private sector to protect African elephants by putting an end to the illegal ivory trade.
The Foundation is also currently exploring the possibility of a major cross-border conservation project in Central Africa.
We aim to practice what we preach and not merely sit on the sidelines of history.
What can the public and private sectors do, if anything, to get involved?
There are many issues today – economic, social, environmental and increasingly political – whose complexities require new models of cooperation that can forge partnerships between states, civil society, including NGOs, and the private sector in order to find the right solutions. We are keen to encourage these new models of cooperation. One example is the Congo Basin Blue Fund, an idea first proposed by the Foundation, but whose success will depend on the public and private sectors working together to supply the necessary finance and identify and implement suitable projects.
Another example is the fight against the growing traffic in substandard and falsified medicines. This is problem which is particularly acute in Africa where the WHO has reported that between 30 – 60% of pharmaceuticals are substandard or fake. The Foundation has been working with the Harvard Global Health Institute to highlight this problem and we recently organized a conference which brought together academics, researchers and representatives from the WHO, governments, NGOs and the pharmaceutical industry to examine how best to tackle this dangerous and often deadly scenario.
Where do you envision the Brazzaville Foundation in future and what do you see as the end result to the Dakar 1 and Dakar 2 Talks?
The Brazzaville Foundation has organized and supported these talks out of the conviction that only by agreeing to talk to each other can Libyans rebuild trust, reconcile their differences and thus ensure a peaceful and prosperous future. If we can create a dialogue and a shared vision that underpins and facilitates successful negotiations on a political settlement then we will have achieved our goal.
The Foundation continues to set for itself an ambitious agenda but I believe that we can make a real contribution to helping Africa meet some of the many challenges it faces and help it to achieve a more peaceful and prosperous tomorrow.