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Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds “Francophonie” is a term that refers to the French speakers community, which is estimated to comprise 274 million people around the world. But it also refers to the International Organisation of La Francophonie, a formal intergovernmental Organisation which is a perfect example to show how shared language can be the basis for cultural cooperation. Founded in 1970 on the initiative of African heads of state under the name of the Agency for Cultural and Technical Cooperation, it gathered 21 states and governments and aimed to promote cultural cooperation and solidarity among its members. In 2005, the Organisation took the name of International Organisation of La Francophonie and adopted its charter.

Skip to 1 minute and 6 seconds The charter stated the four elements of the Organisation’s mission– promote French language and cultural linguistic diversity, promote peace, democracy, and human rights, support education, training, higher education, and scientific research, and expand cooperation for sustainable development. The Organisation today comprises 58 member states and governments and 26 observers. As with many international organisations, its members pursue different interests. Those for which French is the native language, like France and Belgium, promote their culture abroad. Countries for which French represents a minority language use their membership to stress their distinctive identity, like in the case of Quebec in Canada.

Skip to 1 minute and 58 seconds And finally, countries that were formerly part of the French or Belgian colonial empires like Vietnam or the Democratic Republic of Congo, but also those that have historical connections with the French-speaking world, such as Armenia and Romania, view the Organisation as a tool for cultural cooperation. Over the years, a complex institutional framework has been shaped. The Summit, the highest authority that gathers heads of member states every two years, establishes the strategy of the Organisation and discusses international issues. The Ministerial Conference that gathers foreign affairs ministers every year, plans summits, and ensures that the decisions made are carried out. It also recommends new members and observers.

Skip to 2 minutes and 47 seconds The Permanent Council, which consists of the member states’ ambassadors, oversees the execution of the decisions taken by the summit, and at the ministerial conferences on a day-to-day basis. The Parliamentary Assembly represents various French-speaking organisations and monitors the activities of the operating agencies. The Agency of the Francophonie colony is in charge of conducting cultural and scientific cooperation programmes. In addition, there are operating agencies such as the Association of the Francophonie Universities that consists of higher education institutions and promotes scientific activities in French and offers mobility programmes. TV5 Monde, a French language television network, which broadcasts all over the world.

Skip to 3 minutes and 38 seconds The International Association of French-Speaking Mayors that fosters cooperation on urban issues such as health, culture, youth, and provides capacity building for municipalities. And last, the Senghor University of Alexandria that provides postgraduate education for managers to contribute to the development of Africa. The International Organisation of La Francophonie organises cultural events involving its members, such as the Francophonie Games, a sport and art event that since 1989 takes place every four years in a different country. And the Forum a French Language that engages young generations in debates and cultural activities to celebrate the French language. There has been a lingering debate about whether the International Organisation of La Francophonie is a tool to perpetuate imperialism.

Skip to 4 minutes and 35 seconds In fact, the very term “francophonie” finds its origin in French colonialism, as it was coined in 1880 by geographer Onésime Reclus to reflect on the role of the linguistic factor in colonial expansion. However, when Léopold Sédar Senghor, the then president of Senegal who had initiated the Negritude Movement along with other African leaders, founded the Organisation, they proposed a new approach to francophonie, presenting it as a model of cultural mixing.

The case of Francophonie

Several international organisations promote international cooperation on the basis of a common language. This video looks at the case of the International Organisation of La Francophonie.

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