The 13th Francophonie summit backed Africa's calls for greater representation in the UN and the G20, as suggested by Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) Secretary-General Abdou Diouf and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Meanwhile, the EU was notable by its absence. EURACTIV reports from Montreux, Switzerland.
The conclusions of the 13th OIF summit, which took place from 22-24 October in Montreux, confirmed what the opening messages had suggested: la Francophonie is taking a more political turn.
Every year, the organisation consolidates its programmes in education, democracy, development and, of course, the promotion of French.
Now, the OIF wants to help its African members take part in global governance by boosting their representation at the United Nations and the G20.
At the outset of the summit, EURACTIV had asked Secretary-General Abdou Diouf to compare the OIF to other international organisations, to which he replied "la Francophonie doesn't have much in common with the G8 or G20, which are more economic orgainsations".
Meanwhile, Diouf saw his mandate as head of the Francophonie renewed for the third time on Saturday (23 October). He was likely encouraged by the speech of Nicolas Sarkozy, who will hold the presidencies of the G8 and G20 as of 12 November.
"Imagine Africa: a billion inhabitants and not a single seat at the UN Security Council. It's a scandal!" the French president exclaimed during his speech in Montreux.
However, on the margins of the summit, observers were dubious about the chances of such reform actually happening. Indeed, similar declarations have already been formulated numerous times, for example at the France-Africa summit in May 2010. But progress is still slow in coming.
EU shines by its absence
Meanwhile, ahead of the G20, it appears that regional organisations, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) or the African Union, are more involved in consultations.
These two African organisations have taken a leaf out of the book of the European Union, which was notable by its absence at the Montreux Summit. At the 2008 Quebec Summit, José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, had accompanied Nicolas Sarkozy, who was then holding the EU presidency.
Former Belgian commissioner Louis Michel attended the 2008 summit and his presence is still remembered by African delegates. His successor in charge of development, Andris Piebalgs, from Latvia, speaks French but he didn't make it to the summit.
The president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy (a native Fleming who speaks excellent French) didn't attend either, and neither did Catherine Ashton, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs (whose French is hesitant).
The EU's absence seems to reveal a lack of coordination between the various European authorities or simply a lack of interest.
Meanwhile, Belgium's acting Prime Minister Yves Leterme, who is also holder of the rotating EU presidency, did attend the Montreux summit but his presence was due more to the French-speaking minority in his country, which is experiencing uneasy times at the moment.