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Francophone summit set to open in Quebec

by David Coffey

Article published on the 2008-10-16 Latest update 2008-10-17 08:07 TU

Friday sees the official opening of the 12th Francophone summit which is being held this weekend in Quebec City, Canada. David Coffey takes a look at what it means to be a member of the francophonie and how it all began.

L’Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (The International Organisation of Francophone Nations) represents a population of over 800 million people worldwide, with a further 200 million estimated to speak the language in countries that are traditionally non-French-speaking. La Francophonie developed through a series of co-operation initiatives among French speaking nations during the 1960s and 70s.

It began as exchanges in education, sport and local-level politics between French-speaking states. A global partnership of Francophone broadcasters, TV5, followed in 1984 and set the stage for a larger organisation to create multilateral ties on a global level.

In 1986, 42 heads of state and government took part in the first Francophone Summit. In 1987 it was decided at a summit in Québec that a meeting would be held every two years. It was a gathering in Benin’s capital Cotonou in 1995, however, that marked a major turning point for the organisation, as French-speaking states agreed to make La Francophonie a fully-fledged political institution.

The former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros-Ghali was elected to the position of Secretary General of La Francophonie, followed in 2002 by former Senegalese President Abdou Diouf, who remains the incumbent.

La Francophonie is based on the sharing of the French language, common francophile values, and the development of living standards in the member states. There are four criteria that members have to meet. These are:

• Promote the French language, along with linguistic and cultural diversity

• Promote peace, democracy and human rights

• Support and promote education, training and research

• Co-operation in sustainable development

There are currently 55 member states within the International Organisation of Francophone Nations, 29 of which are in Africa. 13 nations hold observer status within La Francophonie, many in Eastern Europe.