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“Our Ambitions for Cultural Diplomacy in the 21st Century”

“Our Ambitions for Cultural Diplomacy in the 21st Century”

Published on July 15, 2013
Article by Laurent Fabius and Aurélie Filippetti*, published in the Champs Libres pages of Le Figaro

"Nothing great has ever been accomplished in France without culture. This also applies to diplomacy and external action. France is strong and respected when it promotes its values, its heritage, its creativity. Culture is one of our greatest strengths; it represents our heritage and a part of our future.

It’s therefore essential to defend the principle of cultural exception, notably in the trade negotiations with the United States. It’s a question of protecting cultural diversity and ensuring that our culture is able to exert its influence. We want it to foster dialogue and resonate with others, to combine its promotion with providing hospitality to others, because a culture is all the stronger when it can draw on external contributions. Culture must permeate all aspects of public action and help to support our policies in other areas.

In terms of economic diplomacy, cultural influence is a key advantage. In terms of our development policy, culture represents support for democratic transition and social progress. Since it highlights our heritage and our know-how and promotes creation and innovation, our cultural policy is one of the pillars of France’s attractiveness and influence. For all these reasons, we intend to give new impetus to our cultural action abroad. Spreading the French language is one of our key priorities. Our beautiful language is now spoken by 200 million people, and, with the development of Africa, will soon be spoken by more than 700 million people. This is an extraordinary basis of influence for France. To that end, our educational network abroad – which provides schooling for 300,000 students, two thirds of them foreigners – will be developed. We want to strengthen the teaching of French where the future is being made, notably in the emerging and newly emerging countries.

Francophonie is a cultural challenge; it’s also an economic challenge – sharing the same language stimulates economic trade. Because the cultural sector generates employment and wealth in France, support for our cultural and creative industries is also critical. These industries already represent 5% of our exports; we can do better. We need to increase the share of French content and creations on the global market. We have major strengths in this sector, notably the book industry - the leading cultural industry in France - the music, film, and television industries as well as in other sectors, such as the video game, architecture, design and contemporary visual arts sectors. We’ve asked our cultural network abroad to start working more closely with the main French actors in the export field in order to provide them with their expertise. This must happen, notably in the audiovisual sector.

Unifrance and TV France International are effective players that bolster the international presence of our media industries. We will improve coordination with our diplomatic network, notably in the context of economic diplomacy. After years of crisis, we now have a stable foreign media framework. France Médias Monde (with RFI, France 24 and Monte Carlo Doualiya) and TV5 Monde, along with Agence France Presse, play and will continue to play a key role in promoting the French language and the image of France, and airing our audiovisual content.

France has long understood the importance of educating large numbers of foreign students and attracting researchers who, when they return home, may become ambassadors for our culture, values and economy. We want to reconnect with this tradition. An inappropriate bulletin had undermined the image of France that we value, and one of the new government’s first moves was therefore to abolish it. France is open to foreign students who come to learn and work professionally. Our embassies will convey this message and endeavor to forge lasting ties with these students, notably through alumni networks.

Our culture and heritage are also assets for tourism. We want to support our museums abroad to help them exhibit their collections and become better known. We must also showcase our intangible heritage – part of what makes our country attractive – by offering a positive image. Our food, our lifestyle, our savoir-faire, our luxury brands are fully representative of our country. All of these help us reach a varied audience that associates France with a certain identity based on excellence.

We also intend to focus our efforts in the digital arena. Using this tool and its powers of penetration, we can reach new audiences. We will therefore expand French online education and offer thematic broadcasts on the Internet.

In short, we cannot and will not overlook the fact that culture is an incredible source of influence and growth. We must take advantage of and support the rapid development of numerous countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa, where new middle classes are increasingly open to cultural products. Competition is fierce – emerging countries, and particularly China, are investing massively in cultural outreach – which teaches us that we must be pro-active. Our cooperation and cultural action network will soon be meeting in Lille, an exemplary city when it comes to attractiveness and culture, to present our road map. It will play a key role in guaranteeing our presence and influence on the five continents in the long term. We are giving this network a clear mission and are confident that it will fulfill it. That, too, is investing in the future."

* Aurélie Filipetti, Minister of Culture

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