The Philippines and the Francophone world

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - The Philippine Star

The richness of the Philippines lies, among others, in the multitude of languages spoken in the Filipino islands. The official languages, Tagalog and English, are complemented by over 170 regional and local languages. It is a common occurrence to meet a Filipino or Filipina who speaks three or more languages. The linguistic diversity in unity is, in our view, one of the defining features of the Philippines. Around the world, it is rare to find countries such as the Philippines where unity, cohesion and solidarity are accompanied by such multilingual diversity.

The International Organization of La Francophonie (l’Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie – OIF) resembles the Philippines on a global scale. It reunites 54 member-states, 7 associate members and 27 observers around the world, each with its own official language or languages, all united in their commitment to preserve and further their heritage of French language and Francophone culture. It unites 300 million people who speak French around the world.

As is the case in the Philippines, every language is attached to spiritual and moral values. Every language creates its own culture. Every language speaks to the mind and soul. All languages converse with each other, borrow from each other, enrich each other. The core of shared universal values and cultural heritage, beyond the language in which they are expressed, is what binds people together.

This is why today, March 20, when we celebrate the International Day of La Francophonie, we come together in showcasing our culture, our treasures, our cuisines, our music and literature.

The Secretary General of OIF, Louise Mushikiwabo, comes from a country, Rwanda, which has four official languages: Kinyarwanda, Swahili, English and French. As Secretary General for the last four years, Louise Mushikiwabo succeeded to impose the OIF on the international political scene, as a political actor, a mediator and a facilitator.

Since taking office as Secretary General at the Yerevan Summit in 2018, Louise Mushikiwabo has started a wide-ranging process of reform of the OIF. The aim of these reforms is to make the OIF more effective, more efficient and more modern. With this desire to refocus, modernize and optimize the Organization, the Secretary General is placing the fundamental values of the OIF at the heart of her action: the promotion of peace, democracy and human rights, the support for education and research and the development of cooperation.

These fundamental values reflect the dual mandate of the OIF: on the one hand a mandate of collaboration and solidarity, and on the other a political mandate. It was in the 2000s, with the adoption of two important texts, that the Organization acquired this political mandate: the Bamako Declaration (2000) on the practice of democracy, rights and freedoms, and the Saint-Boniface Declaration (2006) on conflict prevention and human security. The OIF’s political action therefore focuses primarily on the areas of peace, democracy, human rights and the prevention of violent extremism.

The Francophone movement has many dimensions. One that touches most people, especially the youth, is the international academic cooperation. L’Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) is an organization bringing together universities from over 100 countries, which have departments that offer curriculum in French. AUF offers every year fellowships for professors and scholarships for students all over the world. We believe that some of the outstanding Filipino universities should look into becoming AUF members, thus offering their students more international exposure and connection.

This year, with France at the helm of the European Union and French-speaking officials both at the top of the UN, of the US State Department, of the Canadian Public Service as well as in presidential offices around the world, is a particularly auspicious year for the Francophone Movement.

We salute all French-speaking Filipinos, all those who love the Francophone literature and art and hope that increasingly more young people will choose French as a foreign language, thus opening their horizons, offering themselves more employment opportunities and sharing in the values of La Francophonie.

The French language enjoys a favorable image in the Philippines, with promising prospects. French is today the first European language – apart from English, which has the status of official language together with Filipino – taught in Philippine universities. French is also the second foreign language taught at college and high school level. All establishments combined, there are approximately 10,000 Filipino learners studying French, mainly in the fields of international and European studies, tourism and hotel and catering. The Alliance Française in Manila and the Alliance Française in Cebu promote the Francophonie and purpose French language classes. On the Philippine side, the Ministry of Education, the universities and the association of French teachers are valuable partners who are called upon to get involved in the promotion of the Francophonie.

You must have come across the light panel with the effigy of La Francophonie on the EDSA marking the launch of this Francophonie Week, which promises to be very festive. Please join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to watch and enjoy the Unesco heritage sites sequences and learn how to cook different recipes from our countries.

You can also join us at the Alliance Française and on social media to celebrate the French language and its speakers together! Contests are offered with lots of giveaways! The Alliance Française will warmly welcome you to watch Romanian, Swiss, Canadian films, and of course with English subtitles for all to enjoy!

At the Alliance Française, this week is Ciné-Club with the screenings of “14 jours, 12 nuits” in partnership with the Canadian Embassy, “Decent Man” in partnership with the Romanian Embassy.

Stay tuned by visiting the Alliance française website:  https://www.alliance.ph/accueil-en/#/.

Many other events are coming! A très bientôt, see you soon!

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Joint article by the ambassadors of Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Egypt, France, Greece, Hungary, Laos, Morocco, Romania, Switzerland, Vietnam and the consuls of Lebanon and Monaco.


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