Born in Algiers in 1944, Jean-Yves Ollivier is a French self-made businessman and philanthropist with a long and distinguished track record in parallel diplomacy.
In the 1960s, he worked for companies selling grain in China, Africa and the Middle East, before setting up his own business as a commodities trader.
Alongside his business activities, “JYO” has pursued a career in parallel diplomacy, using his professional contacts to promote peace. In the 1980s, Jacques Chirac, then Mayor of Paris and later French Prime Minister, asked him to undertake secret missions to help free French hostages held in Lebanon.
In 1987, he organised a huge exchange of prisoners at Maputo Airport in Mozambique, where 133 Angolan soldiers and 50 SWAPO combatants from Namibia were freed in return for the release of a South African commando captured in Angola. This was a crucial confidence-building measure in the run-up to the negotiations, which Jean-Yves Ollivier helped to initiate, on the 1988 Brazzaville Protocol that led to a peaceful settlement of the conflicts in southern Africa, secured the independence of Namibia and paved the way for an end to apartheid. For his actions he was awarded South Africa’s highest honour open to foreign citizens, “Grand Officer of the Order of Good Hope”, by President Nelson Mandela.
Among his other contributions, he took part in 2002 in the Inter-Congolese Dialogue in Sun City, which led to a power-sharing agreement in the Democratic Republic of Congo between President Joseph Kabila and four rebel leaders, and played a role in the reconciliation between Uganda and Sudan, opening the path to independence in South Sudan.
In 2015, he set up the Brazzaville Foundation to further his commitment to peace and the environment. This non-governmental organisation, based in London, develops environmental, economic and conflict prevention initiatives that support the UN’s sustainable development goals and bring peoples and countries together in peaceful cooperation.
Among the initiatives already launched by the Foundation is its proposal for a Congo Basin Blue Fund. Formally introduced at COP 22 in Marrakesh in 2016, this sustainable development and regional cooperation initiative now has the support of all the countries of the Congo Basin and is endorsed by the African Union. It aims to mitigate the impact of global warming by reducing the pressure to exploit the Congo Basin forests and by promoting alternative economic development using the resources of the Congo River and its tributaries.
In May 2018, Jean-Yves Ollivier, long dedicated to reconciliation in Libya, succeeded in setting up an inter-Libyan dialogue in Dakar, Senegal. Based on his conviction that only by talking to each other can Libyans rebuild trust, reconcile their differences and lay the groundwork for a peaceful and stable future, the Foundation brought together Libyans from all sides, many of whom were meeting for the first time, to start a process of rapprochement. Planning is now underway for a “Dakar 2” to take this process forward.