Global governance: Francophonie wants greater role for Africa

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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.

Asked by Euractiv to comment, Abdou Diouf, secretary-general of la Francophonie, didn't deny the EU's absence from the summit but said diplomatically: "Switzerland is not an EU member. And we have excellent relationships with the EU."

Answering the same question, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a former French prime minister turned special representative of la Francophonie, said: "During the summit in Quebec, France ran the presidency of the European Union. It was logical that the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, was with the president of the Commission. This time, the situation is different."

A statement from Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme indicated that the Francophonie Summit gave him the opportunity to promote the Belgo-Dutch candidacy for the organisation of the football World Cup in 2018.

During an interview with EURACTIV, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey refuted the idea that the OIF was marginalising itself by focusing too much on the promotion of the French language. She also underlined that la Francophonie had a real sphere of influence.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy admitted that delays existed regarding the 100 billion euros the international community had promised for developing countries at the Copenhagen Summit on climate change in December 2009. "Who would dare to say to Africa that we will pay those enormous amounts of money by simply pumping in our budgets, which are all in deficit? If we want to honour our promise made to Africa – and we have to – then we have to think about innovative financing."

On this occasion, the French president once again backed the idea of a tax on financial transactions.

The Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) aims to promote the French language across the world but also bring together the positions of its 56 member states and 14 associated countries – which constitute one third of the UN and 220 million French speakers.

The October summit in Montreux, Switzerland, marked the 40th anniversary of the OIF. These include l’Assemblée Parlementaire Francophone (77 parliaments), l’Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (759 universities in 90 countries) and l’Association Internationale des Maires francophones (172 cities in 46 countries).

The last summit took place in Québec, at the start of the financial crisis. There, a Franco-European initiative called for an emergency world summit, which led to the first G20 in Washington in November 2009. Switzerland was host to the 2010 summit after replacing Madagascar, which was suspended over a coup d'état.

The summit comes at a time when the IMF is undergoing reform and the EU is finally getting its external relations in order.

As for the promotion of French in the EU, the 2008-10 report by the OIF secretary-general mentioned its media partnership with TV5 Monde and EURACTIV. The OIF also supports the first 'French day in international organisations', an association of French-speaking international civil servants.

  • 12 Nov. 2010: Start of French G20 Presidency.
  • 2011: Next OIF Ministerial Conference (Paris).
  • 2012: Next summit of la Francophonie (Kinshasa).  

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