The Francophonie of the future must be a primary tool for cooperation

International and Francophonie
Mois de la Francophonie
Groupe des Ambassadeurs Francophones d'Ottawa
During the pandemic, new borders were created, nationalism emerged and a digital culture was established that was useful but threatening to those who were not prepared. However, this ordeal has brought to light the great strength of the Francophonie: solidarity in diversity. In this post-Covid era, the Groupe des Ambassadeurs Francophone suggest that we build on this strength to move the Francophonie into the future, by reinforcing the use and teaching of French, defending linguistic and cultural diversity, and working for peace and democracy.

In celebration of the Francophonie Day, Jacques Frémont, President of the University of Ottawa, and Sanni Yaya, Vice-President, International and Francophonie, welcomed the Groupe des Ambassadeurs Francophones d'Ottawa as well as Catherine Cano, former administrator of the OIF, as part of the uOInternational Dialogue and Insights series, to lead a reflection on "La Francophonie, Challenges and Prospects in the Post-Covid Era". Professor Lavagnon Ika of the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa moderated the conference.

S. E. Patrick Van Gheel, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium to Canada, opened the conference by recalling the objectives of the Groupe des Ambassadeurs Francophones: to promote the French language and the principles of La Francophonie. Looking back on the damage caused by the pandemic, he proposed to draw lessons for the future. Against protectionist barriers, he believes for example that the solution lies in the creation of Francophone common markets. Catherine Cano, former administrator of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) and president of CanoVision, agreed and stated that the Francophonie must take concrete action to counter the current challenges. She proposed to focus on Francophone innovations in Africa. She took the opportunity to make a plea in favor of the French language.

There followed the discussion of the day around the proposed theme with four axis being the influence of the Francophonie in the world, especially in the high places of knowledge such as universities, the strengthening of the use and teaching of French, the cultural and linguistic diversity in collaboration with the Lusophonie and Hispanophonie, for instance, and finally, the consolidation of cooperation between the member countries of the Francophonie to prevent conflicts and facilitate their peaceful resolution and promote mediation. 

Professor Lavagnon Ika, himself a Francophone, originally from Benin, "Latin district of Africa" he said with humor, moderated the interventions with ability, intellectual finesse and humor, notably quoting Gilles Vignault: " La Francophonie, c'est un vaste pays, sans frontières. C’est celui de la langue française. "

For panelists H.E. Konstantina Athanassiadou, Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary of Greece to Canada, H.E. Bafétigué Ouattara, Ambassador of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire to Canada, H.E. Bogdan Mănoiu, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Romania to Canada, the Francophonie must reinvent itself and draw on its added value centered around solidarity, diversity, cosmopolitanism and liberalism to take a greater role in building the future.

From this debate, one will remember that in order to strengthen the use of French, the Francophonie must go beyond the traditional channels and accompany the young generations in the conquest of modernity, science and technology. Schools and universities must defend all languages, particularly French, because linguistic and cultural diversity is essential to the vitality of democracy. More than a linguistic community, the Francophonie is an extraordinary reservoir of experience and as such, it has a duty to engage in building the future. The Francophonie must contribute to the prevention of conflicts and the respect of human rights and freedoms. The challenge is to transform the Francophonie into a prime tool of cooperation for the preservation of democratic values.

After this rich and edifying discussion, several members of the audience took to the microphones not only to ask questions and shed light on the issues discussed, but also to congratulate and thank the panelists. It was with a quote from Anatole France that Professor Ika closed the debates, urging the audience to hold high the French language and the values of La Francophonie: " La langue française est une femme. Et cette femme est si belle, si fière, si modeste, si hardie, touchante, voluptueuse, chaste, noble, familière, folle, sage, qu'on l'aime de toute son âme, et qu'on n'est jamais tenté de lui être infidèle. "

In his closing statement, Sanni Yaya, Vice-President, International and Francophonie offered a reflection in light of the various interventions and stated that there is no such thing as a standalone culture: all cultures need languages and their diversity to exist and thrive; and it is the coexistence of French with thousands of other languages of the Francophone space that makes the strength of the Francophonie. Vice-President Yaya reminded the audience that the University of Ottawa wants to be present wherever the expertise of its francophone community can be useful for the maintenance and development of cultural and linguistic diversity. It wishes to join forces with other international organizations and institutions committed to promoting the Francophonie. It is thanks to this joint effort that it will be able to continue to embody a Francophonie that is open to the world and turned towards the future.