Realities and Representations of La Francophonie
“French can become one of the languages in which the resistance to uniformity in the world is expressed, the refusal of identities to fade, the encouragement of freedom to create and to express ourself in one’s own culture. It is in this respect that France wants to be the motor of cultural diversity in the world.” 1 - French Premier Lionel Jospin
La Francophonie (Organisation Internationale de la francophonie) is an international organization devoted to promotion of the French language around the world, as well as declaring itself a bulwark of global cultural diversity. 2 These two aims, and the dichotomy between them, are a principal element in shaping its evolving self-representation. Since the Quebec Summit of 1987 la Francophonie has changed its representation from a culture and diversity based organization to one that is both rhetorically still invested in the primacy of French and yet policy-wise more accepting of other languages, and which attempts to meet a growing array of non-lingual and cultural matters to satisfy its diverse membership. Its representation adapts to fulfill the needs of this vast membership economically, politically, and culturally, ensuring French influence and the goals of its members.
In researching the changing representation of la Francophonie, the principal avenue has been to examine its primary data and statements. These documents are easily accessible because La Francophonie makes available its summit resolutions, ministerial statements, resolutions, strategic frameworks, international conferences, regional, national and cooperative agreements, news feed and activity updates, as well as discussions at various conferences. The amount of information is thus extremely broad and, in fact, somewhat overwhelming. Thus, this paper will
focus primarily upon its summit resolutions, which are its most important institution.
The primary data of la Francophonie is useful for a variety of reasons. For one, it
provides an example of policies that la Francophonie is currently implementing. However, perhaps more importantly, it demonstrates the way in which la Francophonie attempts to form the way it is represented around the world. Furthermore, the key primary data, the aforementioned summits, are territorial in nature, since they occur in specific geographic locales. This means that the relative priorities accorded to each region can be examined in depth. By scrutinizing the changing issues within la Francophonie primary data, it can be readily ascertained that the politics and priorities of the vast membership directly influences the mission and representation of the organization.
La Francophonie was founded in 1970 as the ACCT (Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique) and represents those nations which have cultural and lingual ties or lineage to France. Rather tellingly, to be part of an institution promoting the usage of the French language, speaking French is not a necessity, as witnessed by the Bulgarian and Armenian membership. If membership had to be based upon lingual matters, many current member nations would not be qualified to participate, which would restrict objectives of la Francophonie and its global membership. There are currently fifty-seven members and twenty-three observers representing some 890 million people although, conversely, only some 220m speak French. 3 Of course, because it is an institution with so many diverse members, it is a challenge to forge an adequate representation of itself. In the case of la Francophonie, representation is doubly important, since it aims to both promote French, and to promote cultural diversity - two ideas, that would, on the face of the matter, seem juxtaposed against each other.
Clearly, la Francophonie has complex membership dynamics. France plays an important role in the organization, but is not the singular force within it. In fact, it was founded not at French behest, but instead at the agitation of leaders of independent African states and Quebec who were interested in expanding their economic, “cultural”, and political global connections. French politicians initially were wary over the proposal. 4 French post-independent leaders, such as Charles de Gaulle, preferred bilateral instead of multilateral arrangements with many of its former colonies because it better served French interests. 5 Today, Canada contributes a significant fraction of money to the organization, and while Africa may be lacking in fiscal donations, it is viewed as an absolute priority for the preservation of the French language, as indicated by the following quote: “It is about French survival. If the French language had to rely only on France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Quebec to maintain its stature, it would be dwarfed by neighbors and have no claim to world prominence. Francophone Africa is the means to continued French global influence.” 6 There are also members of la Francophonie that are not traditionally connected with France, such as Bulgaria, and regions which would seem to otherwise stay clear of association due to a more troubled colonialist past, such as Vietnam. Algeria along with Syria, France’s other non-participating former Arab colony, take the precedent for refusal to participate and provide the great La Francophonie exception to members.
As a result of this, la Francophonie has appeal beyond that of merely a “neo-colonial organization,” and has a diverse base of members which generally bear importance influencing its goals and resources. 7 But how does la Francophonie itself state its goals and objectives? These are best displayed through summits. The second conference of la Francophonie was held in 1987, at Montreal in Quebec, represents the beginning of the history of the modern Francophonie. The summit stressed numerous points, primarily relating to cultural affairs. It was quite short, its report a single page long, and although incorporating some references to economic affairs, was much more single-purpose than later conferences. The main issues discussed were:
- Solidarity, cooperation, and respect between the participating countries, and the
challenges that lie in front of them.
- Cultural diversity of the various peoples and their legitimate aspirations for development.
- The importance of French within the free association of societies, for practical purposes,
and the benefits that a common language will bring, both culturally and economically.
- Importance of dialogue and openness among members.
In comparison to the first 1987 conference, the most recent conference, which was held in Dakar in 2014, was significantly expanded. Moreover, the items under discussion had shifted and broadened dramatically. Today, the organization still promotes the French language - with an even stronger mission than in 1987 - but it has expanded to include a much wider variety of issues. The 2014 summit greatly stressed the importance of specific regions to la Francophonie specifically related to the location at which it was held. The following are some of the items included in the agenda:
-The importance attached to Africa in la Francophonie.
-Commitment to peace, democracy, human rights, security, and sustainability.
-Importance of the French language and its promotion in all aspects.
-Extreme importance of the role of women and youth and their protection.
-An increasing role for crisis management and peacekeeping for la Francophonie.
-Condemnation of terrorism and the importance attached to security.
-Importance and protection of freedom of speech and journalism.
-Support for two-state solution in Palestine and peace in the region.
-Economic security, development, the importance of education, and private activity.
-Attachment to medical improvements and health, and the promotion of the Francophone vision of this.
-Great import of environmental changes and the need to protect the environment, in
particular in regards to climate change.
Clearly, the issues addressed vary with the times, depending on the issues facing la
Francophonie and the location of the meeting. For example, the 1993 summit in Mauritius heavily stressed multilateralism, economic development, dialogue, and anti-terrorism. 8 The 1997 summit, held in Hanoi, emphasized the links between nations that the French language achieved. Surely this was no coincidence, when it was held in a nation where the benefits of French as a language are more limited, and where there is significant historical antipathy to France due to its colonial history and wars of independence. 9 There are also yearly changes. The 1999 declaration came out significantly even more in favor of cultural autonomy than previous summits. 10 The past summits had of course, emphasized diversity, but not concretely beyond rhetorical matters. This could perhaps be traced to an emerging new policy concerning education and the balance of French and indigenous languages, which enabled rhetoric to more closely approach reality, and as the representation of la Francophonie changed to meet new members. 11 Because the issues change with the political climate and the location of the summit, la Francophonie must adapt its mission to satisfy its members and, hence, its representation has changed over time to satisfy its evolving conditions.
The growing length of the la Francophonie documents reflects the diversity of issues and potentially plays its own role in expressing the importance attached to la Francophonie. Before 2002, declarations were, while growing, still rather abbreviated. The Beirut declaration however, significantly expanded in length that year, and this must surely be viewed as being a change in the way la Francophonie represents itself and its objectives. Many of the core principles remained the same between the two, such as the promotion of youth, democracy, diversity, solidarity, education, and economic changes. 12 The 2002 declaration, beyond elaborating on these in much greater detail, also heavily emphasized increased unity among la Francophonie, and indicative of the large membership of Arab nations in la Francophonie, began by harking to the ties of friendship between French and Arabic. 13 Simple promotion of the cultural ties of la Francophonie were insufficient for the growing strategic role and importance attached to it. The 1999-2002 change is thus perhaps most indicative of the evolving nature of la Francophonie; the 1999 conference might have been broadly similar, but the 2002 conference evolved within a post 9/11 world among attempts to build a more unified Francophonie and to hold together steadily more diverse arrays of members. 14 More recently, economic and social matters were emphasized more than promotion of the French language. The 2004 Ouagadougou Summit in Burkina Faso included only two items concerning the promotion of French, while calling for increased local language use and diversity as well in a way to combat the danger of English, however, both of these were overshadowed by significant sections on economic, health, social, and international affairs related issues. 15 That this came at a time of French attempts to rally partners in response to the American invasion of Iraq is highly telling, showing the benefits la Francophonie accrues to France through the creation of a “Francophone” world, with diplomatic partners that enhance its prestige and influence - although not perfectly, as shown through the defection of several Eastern European countries to the American point of view 16
Economic issues as discussed by la Francophonie are clearly evidenced as being promoted to enlist the support of certain states. While the first Francophonie summit, the 1987 Quebec Summit, focused on cultural and lingual matters, the second summit, Dakar 1989, had an interest in economic development that would be expanded on in later conferences. That this was stated during a conference geared towards a poor and developing continent is unsurprising, because the goal was, by my interpretation, to represent la Francophonie as well capable to meet its growing needs. Conferences consciously present themselves in a way to promote their relevance in the regions where they are being held, and this makes them a superlative tool for seeing the way in which la Francophonie defines and represents itself in varying locations. Dakar, furthermore, cannot be considered as being merely the start of a move towards the eventual broadening of la Francophonie without acknowledging geographic relevance. After the meeting in Dakar, the next summit was held in Paris in 1991 and the agenda paid comparatively little attention to the economic facets of Dakar’s conferences. However, these facets did not vanish entirely. The 1993 conference still mentioned economic development, but unlike the Dakar declaration, it was mostly dedicated to democratization which was lacking in Dakar’s summit. Furthermore, the way in which economic development was approached was fundamentally different, with Dakar’s declaration calling for dealing with a wide range of agricultural, energy, and environmental facets of policy as well as increased cooperation and equitable development, 17 while the Paris Summit called for continuing or increasing aid flows, and promised that the spread of democracy would lead to more equitable economic outcomes. 18
The two original missions of la Francophonie, the promotion of the French language and protection of cultural diversity would seem to be opposing goals, as French is not an indigenous language in many of the countries where promotion occurs. However, these two aspects are not as universally in discord as might otherwise seem to be precluded. A prime example of how these two concepts can work together is the way in which African education has been shaped by reforms regarding with how indigenous languages are treated. For many decades after
independence, France’s policy was to exclusively encourage French at the expense of native language. 19 However, since the end of the Cold War this methodology has shifted to the promotion of native languages so as to provide a base for French to be learned. 20 Thus, policies which would otherwise seem detrimental to cultural diversity actually are able to not only promote such cultural diversity but simultaneously the French language as well. This was, as noted in references, encouraged by the problems of the French population base in “Francophone” Africa. Although these countries use French as an official language, it is common for only a small percentage of the population to use the language in regular activities, which would make them exceptionally vulnerable to the advent of English. 21 Furthermore, there have been problems for French as the relative usage of English has grown and competes directly as a “universal” language for Africa. 22 Thus, it is necessary for France to attempt to increase both the native usage of language, and to attempt to grow its own French speaking percentage, to resist such infiltration and expansion.
Development of such changes might be seen in an adjustment in the rhetoric of la
Francophonie, as mentioned briefly previously. As less of an irreconcilable gap exists between simultaneously promoting the French language and respecting diverse cultural and lingual traditions, la Francophonie could thus more extensively promote concrete cultural diversity, instead of only being able to applaud it in principle. Initial Francophonie summits included platitudes about promoting cultural diversity and respect, but it was only with later conferences that these grew to more concretely include a wide variety of policies. Of course, there has been less of a happy marriage in other regards, for although la Francophonie may commit itself to the cause of human rights and democracy, many of its members have less than impeccable records in these regards. In this subject, there is a definite mismatch between rhetoric and reality. 23 La Francophonie would at first glance seem to be an obvious representation of “culture,” in the purest sense, unadulterated by politics. It was founded by nations who were interested in preserving linguistic ties to France while being against direct French involvement, and its declarations have always stressed the importance of the French language and diversity. This
alone, however, is a shallow reading. The cultural component of la Francophonie has also existed, and has represented an important discourse on world culture, as a bloc of one of the English language’s largest rivals and as a self-appointed standard bearer of cultural diversity.
However, these founding concepts have become married to the growing importance attached to the physical role of la Francophonie, through the economics of development and policies, politics in regards to democratization, and policies for conflict resolution and the preservation of peace. This is a materialist view of culture, expressed by authors such as Wallerstein 24 , which holds that culture is not driven purely by cultural matters, but instead represents materialistic changes. From this, la Francophonie is not a cultural organization, if such a thing as “culture” can be separated from politics and at most, it presents itself as a cultural organization. Development of la Francophonie is driven by material concerns, influencing the cultural and political elements, not merely “cultural” concerns, intertwining well with the proposals of Wallerstein.
The fact that la Francophonie only has a French-speaking component of around one quarter of the population which composes it lends great weight to the beneficence to the organization of such changes in regards to economics, politics, and policies. 25 Economic aspects have been a critical part of la Francophonie, from African interest in the north-south economic divide to Canadian interest in trade. 26 As membership has expanded - such as the entire swathe of Eastern Europe which joined in the 1991-2010 period, or Mexico in 2014 - the pressure has thus grown on la Francophonie to focus on more than just its cultural concerns, as the economic and political interests of the members make themselves clear. 27 These bring benefits to the various members, providing France with additional global influence, Canada with economic interests, African states with encouragement for development, and a variety of other effects to additional states.
Much of the rhetoric of la Francophonie has remained the same throughout three decades of its history. At the same time, it would be unfair to call it unchanging. Confronted by the growing dangers of English, la Francophonie has become even more committed to defending the French language in its public announcements. Simultaneously, as membership has expanded and along with it an increasing need to ensure the relevance of la Francophonie and serve state interests, a focus on “practical” matters has emerged. La Francophonie has not abandoned its
commitment to French and cultural diversity, but its mission has changed to include a diverse array of other affairs that are of interest to its members, particularly to meet their needs of economic and social development. This serves to give la Francophonie greater strategic weight and serves the interest of its members, with nations such as Canada interested in the commercial advantages that la Francophonie can provide for them. The Francophonie will continue to change
and adapt to meet the evolving goals of its membership and their diverse characteristics.
1 Lionel Jospin, Speech to the 10th Congress of the International Federation of French Teachers, July 21, 2001, www.premier-ministre.gouv.fr.
2 “Welcome to International Organization of la Francophonie’s Official Website”, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, accessed November 15th 2015.
4 Cecile B Vigouroux, “Francophonie”, Annual Review of Anthropology, Volume 42,(October 2013): 382-382.
doi.: 10.1146/annurev-anthro- 092611-145804.
5 Bruno Charbonneau, “Possibilities of Multi-Lateralism: Canada, la Francophonie, Global Order, 85” Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 16, no. 2 (2010): 79-98. doi.10.1080/11926422.2010.9687309
6 Ericka A.Albaugh, “The Colonial Image Reversed; Language Preferences and Policy Outcomes in African Education,” International Studies Quarterly 53 (2009): 389 - 420. doi: 10.1111/j 1468-2478.2009.00539 x.
7 Thomas A. Hale, “The Manifesto des Quarante-Quatre,” International Journal of Francophone Studies 12, nos. 2/3 (2009): 71-201. EBSCOhost 4813778.
8 Ve Conférence des chefs d’État et de gouvernement des pays ayant le français en partage, Declaration de Grand-Boie (Maurice). (Maurice: la francophonie, 16-18 octobre 1993).
9 VIIe Conférence des chefs d’État et de gouvernement des pays ayant le français en partage, Declaration de Hanoi.(Hanoi: la francophonie, 14-16 novembre 1997).
10 VIIIe Sommet des Chefs d’Etat et de gouvernement des pays ayant le français en partage, Déclaration de Moncton. (Canada-Nouveau- Brunswick: la francophonie, 3, 4 et 5 septembre 1999)
11 Ericka A.Albaugh, “The Colonial Image Reversed; Language Preferences and Policy Outcomes in African Education,” International Studies Quarterly 53 (2009): 389 - 420. doi: 10.1111/j 1468-2478.2009.00539 x.
12 IXè Conférence des chefs d’État et de gouvernement des pays ayant le français en partage, Déclaration de Beyrouth. (Beyrouth: la francophonie, les 18,19 et 20 octobre 2002).
14 Peter Brown, “From ‘Beyrouth’ to ‘Déroute’? Some reflections on the 10th Somnet de la Francophonie, Ougadougou Burkina Faso, 25-26 November 2004.” International Journal of Francophone Studies, 8, no 1, 2005, doi: 10.1386/ijfs.8.1.93/4
15 Xe Conférence des chefs d’Etat et de gouvernement des pays ayant le français en partage,
Déclaration de Ouagadougou. (Ouagadougou Burkina Faso: la francophonie, 26-27 novembre 2004).
16 Brown, “From ‘Beyrouth’ to ‘Deroute?” 2005.
17 IIIe Conférence, Dakar: la francophonie, 1989.
18 IVe Conférence, Paris: la francophonie, 1991.
19 Ericka A.Albaugh, “The Colonial Image Reversed; Language Preferences and Policy Outcomes in African
Education,” International Studies Quarterly 53 (2009): 389 - 420. doi: 10.1111/j 1468-2478.2009.00539 x.
22 Adeosun Oyenike, “Tongue Tied”, World Policy Journal 29, no.4 (December 2012): 39-45. doi:
23 Margaret A. Majumadar, “Une Francophonie á l’offense,” Modern and Contemporary France 20,
no. 1 (February 2012): 1-20. doi: 10.1080/09639489.2011.635299.\
24 John Boli and J. Frank Lechner, World Culture: Origins and Consequences (MA:Blackwell Publishing:2005): 40.
25 “Welcome to International Organization of la Francophonie’s Official Website,” Organisation Internationale de
la Francophonie. Web. accessed November 15th 2015. http://www.francophonie.org/Welcome-to- the-
26 Bruno Charbonneau, “Possibilities of Multi-Lateralism: Canada, la Francophonie, Global Order,” Canadian
Foreign Policy Journal 16, no. 2 (2010): 79-98. doi.10.1080/11926422.2010.9687309
27 “80 Etats et Gouvernements”, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. Web.Accessed November 17th,
2015. http://www.francophonie.org/-80- Etats-et- gouvernements-.html
Albaugh, Ericka A. “The Colonial Image Reversed; Language Preferences and Policy Outcomes in African Education.” International Studies Quarterly 53 (2009): 389 - 420. doi: 10.1111/j 1468-2478.2009.00539 x.
Boli, John, and Lechner, J. Frank. World Culture: Origins and Consequences. MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005.
Brown, Peter, “From ‘Beyrouth’ to ‘Déroute’? Some reflections on the 10th Somnet de la Francophonie, Ougadougou Burkina Faso, 25-26 November 2004.” International Journal of Francophone Studies 8, no 1 (2005). doi: 10.1386/ijfs.8.1.93/4.
Charbonneau, Bruno. “Possibilities of Multi-Lateralism: Canada, la Francophonie, Global Order.” Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 2 (2010): 79-98. doi: 10.1080/ 11926422.2010.968.7309.
Hale, Thomas A. “The Manifesto des Quarante-Quatre, la françafrique and Africa: from the politics of culture to the culture of politics.” International Journal of Francophone Studies 12, nos. 2/3 (2009): 71-201. EBSCOhost 4813778.
Majumdar, Margaret, A. “Une Francophonie á l’offense.” Modern and Contemporary France 20, no 1 (February 2012): 1-20. doi: 10.1080/09639489.2011.635299. Oyenike, Adeosun. “Tongue Tied.” World Policy Journal 29, no.4 (December 2012): 39-45. doi: 10.1177/0740277512470927,
Vigoroux, B. Cécile, “Francophonie”, Annual Review of Anthropology, Volume 42, (October 2013) DOI: 10.1146/annurev-anthro- 092611-145804.
“Welcome to International Organization of la Francophonie’s Official Website.” Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. Web. accessed November 15th 2015. http://www.francophonie.org/Welcome-to- the-International.html
Williams, Stephen. “Dakar’s Francophonie Summit.” New African, December 15, 2014.
Déclarations de les Sommets de la Francophonie:
IIe Conférence des Chefs d’État et de gouvernement des pays ayant le français en partage. Déclaration de Quebec. (Canada: la francophonie, 2-4 septembre 1987).
IIIe Conférence des chefs d’État et de gouvernement des pays ayant le français en
partage. Déclaration de Dakar. (Senegal: la francophonie, 24-26 mai 1989).
IVe Conférence des chefs d’État et de gouvernement des pays ayant le français en
partage. Déclaration de Chaillot. (Paris, la francophonie, 19-21 novembre 1991).
Ve Conférence des chefs d’État et de gouvernement des pays ayant le français en partage. Declaration de Grand-Boie (Maurice). (Maurice: la francophonie, 16-18 octobre 1993).
VIIe Conférence des chefs d’État et de gouvernement des pays ayant le français en
partage. Declaration de Hanoi.(Hanoi: la francophonie, 14-16 novembre 1997).
VIIIe Sommet des Chefs d’Etat et de gouvernement des pays ayant le français en partage.
Déclaration de Moncton. (Canada-Nouveau- Brunswick: la francophonie, 3, 4 et 5
septembre 1999) http://www.francophonie.org/IMG/pdf/decl-moncton- 1999.pdf.
IXè Conférence des chefs d’État et de gouvernement des pays ayant le français en
partage. Déclaration de Beyrouth. (Beyrouth: la francophone, les 18,19 et 20
octobre 2002). http://www.francophonie.org/IMG/pdf/decl-beyrouth- 2002.pdf .
Xe Conférence des chefs d’Etat et de gouvernement des pays ayant le français en partage.
Déclaration de Ouagadougou. (Ouagadougou Burkina Faso: la francophonie, 26-
27 novembre 2004). http://www.francophonie.org/IMG/pdf/decl-ouagadougou-
XVe Conférence des chefs d’État et de gouvernement des pays ayant le français en
partage. Déclaration de Dakar. ( Sénégal: la francophonie, les 29 et 30 novembre
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