“True, La Francophonie has a key political role to play. But La Francophonie must continue to be useful, visible, and practical. Today, we must shape people's environments to improve their living conditions. We must give the women and men of La Francophonie the means to take control of their development."
Quote from the proceedings of the Cotonou Summit of 1995: [Translation]
La Francophonie is a cultural and linguistic community representing almost 600 million people who use French in their daily lives. It is also an international community consisting of 51 member states and four observer states and governments located in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, and North America. These states and governments have all signed La Francophonie Charter, and work together to achieve common goals for economic, cultural, and political development.
During the Niamey Conference held in Niger in 1970, the first intergovernmental agency of La Francophonie was established - the Agency for Cultural and Technical Co-operation (ACCT). ACCT remains the most important organization of La Francophonie in terms of its mandate and operating budget (approximately $100 million a year).
Canada is a founding member of ACCT. A Canadian by the name of Jean-Marc Léger was the agency’s first Secretary-General, a position he held until 1973. It is the highest permanent position within the organization. Indeed, it was considered to be the most prestigious permanent position in La Francophonie until 1995, when the position of Secretary-General of La Francophonie was created. Jean-Louis Roy, another Canadian, distinguished himself as Secretary-General of La Francophonie from 1989 to 1997.
What is the Purpose of La Francophonie?
The programmes carried out by la Francophonie focus on 5 priorities:
- Strengthening Democracy and the Rule of Law
- Promoting Linguistic and Culture Diversity
- Education and Research
- Economic Development
- World-Wide Dissemination of the French Language
How is Canada Involved?
- Canada was one of the founding members of ACCT.
- A Canadian named Jean-Marc Léger was the agency’s first Secretary-General.
- A Canadian named Jean-Louis Roy was Secretary-General of La Francophonie from 1989 to 1997.
- Canada hosted two Francophonie Summits, one in Quebec City in 1987, the other in Moncton, New Brunswick in 1999. Canada is expected to host another Summit in 2008, which will mark the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City – one of the oldest cities in the Americas.
- Throughout the 1990’s, Canada participated in efforts to reorganize La Francophonie institutions. This led to the creation of the Secretary General position and the appointment of the first Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, as well as the adoption of the Charter that forms the legal foundations of La Francophonie.
Who does what in Canada?
The Canadian governmental departments most active in La Francophonie are Foreign Affairs Canada (FAC) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). While FAC is Canada’s key stakeholder in la Francophonie, CIDA provides funds for la Francophonie states eligible for development assistance as well as technical expertise to La Francophonie’s areas of activity.
La Francophonie has provided Canadians with greater opportunities to be international actors in the areas of language, culture, politics, the economy, new technology and cooperation. It has also helped Canadians to develop a deeper understanding of shared elements of language and culture around the world.
The International Day of La Francophonie is celebrated every year in countries around the world on March 20th.