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Fifteenth conference of heads of state and government of Francophone countries

Published on December 3, 2014
Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, at the opening of the 15th Organisation internationale de la Francophonie¹ summit (excerpts)
Dakar, November 30, 2014

Mr President, cher Macky Sall,

I want to congratulate you for organizing this summit and for the excellent welcome you have given us, here in this remarkable Abdou Diouf centre, which symbolizes a developing Africa. (…)

We French speakers make up an exceptional community. Fifty-seven [OIF] member states, 20 observers, nearly 280 million speakers. A community whose strength and attractiveness we don’t always appreciate. A community with ambitions – political, economic and global ambitions. A community which also resolves crises, which ensures that the values we advance can be defended, in the Francophone world and beyond.

Finally, an organization which acts to promote cultural diversity and linguistic pluralism worldwide. (…)

Our language is spoken everywhere, throughout the world. And a love of the French language sometimes exists in people who would like to speak French but can’t. It’s a passionate love because, for many people, to speak French is to speak the language of freedom. Senghor said this language, this French language, was the language of struggle, of emancipation, and it possessed sometimes the “sweetness of the trade winds”, sometimes the “searing intensity of lightning”. And it was in French that peoples decolonized themselves, in French that they gained independence and freedom and most often retained the memory of that language. Not as a legacy but, on the contrary, as a demand for the whole world.

CULTURAL EXCEPTION/CULTURAL DIVERSITY/LINGUISTIC PLURALISM

To defend French is to protect cultural diversity. To defend French is to ensure this heritage is never damaged. To defend French is to believe culture is a universal public good. The idea that cultural goods can be regarded as merchandise like any other has no place in trade negotiations between continents or countries. We’ll never agree to culture being subject to negotiation.

To defend French is to promote linguistic pluralism, because naming things wrongly means further adding to disorder in the world.

Francophony must spearhead this battle, particularly at the international organizations. If we demand that French be spoken, it’s not just in order to uphold a privilege but because, by speaking French at the international organizations, we enable pluralism, multiplicity and even the defence of all languages there, because, through French, we defend all languages, national and local.

French isn’t battling against other languages. French isn’t afraid of any language – perhaps out of conceit, perhaps because we know that when our language is spoken it’s not out of convenience, as an easy option, but out of commitment.

We’re also determined to defend French in order to foster exchanges. And that’s why our Francophony must welcome more students, enable greater movement, greater mobility for young people, entrepreneurs and researchers. France must first set an example, and that’s what it has started to do, by issuing short-stay multiple-entry visas and welcoming many foreign students.

To defend French is also to opt for the future. In 2050, the demographers tell us, there will be 750 million French speakers. The world’s youth will be largely French-speaking; those young people will be African. It’s up to us, all of us gathered here, to enable those youngsters not only to speak French but to be educated in French, be supported and trained in French, be able to find jobs in order to gain access to technology and have the best chance of succeeding in life.

To defend French is also to uphold values. And the first of those is democracy. Some countries, even within our organization, have undergone serious political crises, and it’s a credit to the Secretary-General and all the members of our organization that they’ve succeeded in overcoming those crises through mediation. And today I’m particularly happy that the President of Madagascar is among us, because Madagascar was sidelined for a long time, precisely because the conditions for democracy and pluralism weren’t there.

Francophony is concerned for the rules of democracy, free voting, respect for constitutional order and the aspiration of peoples, all peoples, to free elections. That’s what has just been accomplished in Tunisia. It’s a fine example for one Arab spring to have succeeded, in a French-speaking country.

This accomplishment and this transition must also teach us a lesson. Wherever constitutional rules are given a rough time, wherever freedom is flouted, wherever changeovers of power are prevented, I say here that the citizens of those countries will always be able to find, in the French-speaking world, the necessary support to ensure justice, law and democracy prevail. (…)./.

¹ international Francophone organization.

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