The 18th Summit of La Francophonie, held in Djerba, Tunisia, last month, attracted national leaders from an array of French-speaking countries who worked together to define new decade-long guidelines to ensure a broader influence of the French language worldwide. The Sommet de la Francophonie is organized by the OIF (International Organization of La Francophonie) every two years and should have been held in 2020 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of La Francophonie. Due to the pandemic, it was delayed to 2022, when it was held on Djerba island, which is described as “a place of peaceful cohabitation between religions and civilizations for over 3,000 years.”
According to the OIF, over the last 50 years, “Francophonie has experienced considerable progress, which should be consolidated and built upon,” so the main objective of the Djerba Summit was to turn the organization before 2030 into “a space for solidarity that is better governed, more inclusive, digital, innovative, sustainable, and prosperous for its people, and especially for women and young people.”
To reach this objective, the OIF defines five common objectives:
- Strengthen the influence of French speakers worldwide, through an intensification of its diplomacy of influence and an increase in exchanges between French-speaking economic organizations;
- Strengthen the use of the French language worldwide, by encouraging the practice of French in education, in economic and cultural exchanges, in sciences, and in the digital arena;
- Promote cultural and linguistic diversity worldwide, by highlighting “the diversity and dialogue of cultures in favor of inclusive and sustainable development”;
- Turn the Francophonie into a space for peace and stability through the prevention and management of conflicts and supervision of transitions, but also by working for “the consolidation of democracy and protection of human rights”;
- Turn the Francophonie into a laboratory for strategic and innovative cooperation by putting in place new projects that contribute to “a sound and sustainable environment,” and particularly to fight climate change by supporting the acceleration of digital transformation.
The Place of France in the Francophonie
The summit gave French president Emmanuel Macron an opportunity to suggest new joint initiatives to promote “the objectives for the French language and multilingualism” backed by France:
- Learning, by supporting the education systems of French-speaking countries and by strengthening the place of the French language in countries where it is learned as a foreign language;
- Communicating, by confirming the place of the French language on the internet and promoting multilingualism in the French-speaking media;
- Creating, by supporting artistic creation in the French-speaking world, building cultural connections between French-speaking countries, and increasing the mobility of talent.
Macron said that progress on this action plan will be assessed during the next summit, to be held in France in 2024.
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau reaffirmed Canada’s commitment to remaining a strong partner for fellow Francophonie members and governments and continuing to support La Francophonie’s institutions, announcing:
- $20.8 million for the OIF to continue implementing its mandate and programming in key areas, including inclusive governance and growth, the promotion of the French language, democracy and human rights, education, and economic cooperation for sustainable development;
- $2.4 million for the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie to continue promoting cooperation between Francophone academic institutions, improve access to quality education for learners in the global south, and support professional training and research; and
- $200,000 to enable TV5MONDEplus to continue supporting, promoting, and disseminating French-language programming, including content produced in the global south.
To promote sustainable development while continuing to advance peace, security, and democracy in the French-speaking world, the prime minister announced that Canada is providing:
- Approximately $65 million to support sustainable development projects in the Sahel, particularly in Mali and Burkina Faso, with a focus on support to vulnerable populations, the empowerment of women and girls, good governance and democratic resilience, and socio-economic development;
- $49.5 million to support the ACTION project, which aims to improve economic, food, and nutritional security for Mali’s poor rural populations practicing proximity irrigation, especially women and youth; and
- $1.5 million to support the ongoing mission and operations of the Académie internationale de lutte contre le terrorisme, which supports African countries, including Francophone West Africa, in their counterterrorism efforts.
Francophonie: Key Figures
- The OIF brings together 88 member states and governments. It represents 1 billion people, including 300 million Francophones, on five continents;
- In 2022, the French language was used regularly in 112 countries and territories;
- There are 321 million French speakers worldwide;
- Over the last four years, 21 million additional people spoke French, a 7% increase since 2018;
- 255 million people use French daily;
- In total, 1.2 billion people speak French;
- French is spoken on five continents and is the fifth language worldwide;
- In Djerba, OIF member states and governments adopted key documents;
- At the summit, Canada promoted the value of studying in Canada and the Canadian International Development Scholarship 2030 program;
- Canada is the second-largest donor to the Francophonie’s institutions, with contributions totaling nearly $40 million in 2021–22.