French is one of the six official United Nations languages, along with English, Spanish, Chinese Russian (in accordance with UNGA resolution 2 (I) of 1 February 1946), and Arabic (introduced as the 6th official language in 1973 through resolution 3191). French is used in the various meetings of the UN organs, in particular at the General Assembly, as stipulated under article 51 of its rules of procedure, as is the case for the Security Council. It is also used in official documents. Texts in the six languages are deemed equally authentic. This has given rise to difficulties, the most well-known example concerning Security Council resolution 242 (1967) relating to the Palestinian Occupied Territories in which the French and English versions were subject to differences in interpretation ("from occupied territories" vs. "des territoires occupés").
French is, along with English, one of the two working languages of the United Nations Secretariat.
During the general debate of the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2011, of the 72 Member States of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) as well as associated and observer States, 22 spoke only in French (Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Comoros, the Congo, DRC, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, France, Gabon, Guinea, Haiti, Luxembourg, Mali, Monaco, Niger, Senegal, Switzerland, Chad and Togo), five partially in French (Belgium, Cambodia, Greece, Mauritius and Romania ), 21 speakers used English and 21 used other languages. The Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, gave an opening address in the two working languages, as is the custom. The President of the European Council, Mr. Herman Van Rompuy also combined French and English. 34 UN member states have also distributed a French version of their speeches.
A. OIF - UN cooperation
Relations between the OIF and the United Nations are governed by a series of biennial resolutions, the most recent being resolution A/RES/65/263, adopted in a plenary meeting on 14 January 2011, on “cooperation between the UN and the OIF.”
The OIF contributes to the UN’s objectives in many fields of work. This cooperation focuses on two main areas: the prevention of conflict and support for democracy. In the resolution, the General Assembly welcomed the “new impetus” given to the participation of States members of the OIF in peacekeeping operations as well as its participation in the Peacebuilding Commission’s work on Burundi, Guinea-Bissau and the Central African Republic.
The UN and the OIF also coordinate their actions in the areas of cultural and linguistic diversity and dialogue among cultures and civilizations. The two organizations work together in order to deal with the challenges of the financial and food crises and to fully mobilize the strengths and determination of the members in order to ratify the international instruments relative to the environment. The resolution recalls the commitments made by the members States of the OIF during the Montreux Summit (see below);
The OIF and the UN also strengthened their cooperation in an area in which la Francophonie had long ago proven its worth: electoral observation and assistance, with several joint operations in francophone countries, as for example in December 2009 in the Comoros for the general elections, in Guinea for the 2010 elections, or in the Central African Republic for the preparation of the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2011.
As a token of this cooperation, an informal ministerial consultation of the Francophonie was held during the High Level Segment of the UN General Assembly on 20 September 2011, in the presence of the UN Secretary General and representatives of international and regional partners of OIF (African Union, Arab League, UNESCO and the High Commissioner for Human Rights) on the theme of "political transitions in the Francophone ". The meeting identified areas for action that can support the transition process currently being experienced by several francophone countries in Africa and the Arab world.
B. Permanent Representation of the OIF to the UN
The OIF, along with about 10 other regional organizations, has the status of observer at the United Nations and has a permanent office in New York.
At the Hanoi Summit, the Heads of State and Government established the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie; the Agency for Cultural and Technical Cooperation had been the main operator of the OIF. In 1998, the General Assembly, through its decision 53/543 took note of this transformation and conferred the OIF with the status of observer that it had given to the ACCT in November 1978.
The Permanent Representation of the OIF to the United Nations organizes and monitors francophone presence at the UN and regularly arranges meetings of ambassadors from francophone countries, as well as meetings of young francophone experts, in order to mobilize them with regard to the importance of linguistic diversity and the advantages of ensuring the presence of the French language on the international stage.
Contact information for the Permanent Representation of the OIF to the United Nations in New York:
801, 2nd Avenue, suite 605, New York (NY) 10017, United States
Tel: (1 212) 867 6771
Fax: (1 212) 867 3840
Permanent Representative: Mr. Moussa-Makan Camara
C. Group of Francophone Ambassadors
The Group of Francophone Ambassadors in New York provides a flexible framework for discussion and exchanges for all of the permanent representatives of the member countries of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. It provides a unique forum for consultations between the ambassadors and experts with the aim of establishing common positions on certain issues and providing guidelines for conducting negotiations on points of common interest, taking into account the goals, principles and recommendations of the OIF.
In order to enhance the effectiveness of its actions, the group set up an office chaired by France’s Permanent Representative which includes, among others, the representative of the country hosting the OIF Summit (Canada in 2008), as well as representatives of the various regions.
The group also established watchdog groups, coordinated by members of this office. These watchdog groups focus on specific topics such as peacekeeping, democracy and the rule of law, multilingualism and strengthening francophone actions; they are think tanks whose role is to make recommendations to the group which may in return to ask them to undertake actions in their respective areas of expertise.
At the same time, this francophone cooperation makes it possible to introduce a sense of francophone solidarity within the framework of international negotiations at issue. This could be for example the election of a French speaker to a key position in a specialized institution, fund or program, or the adoption of a text proposed by a francophone country. For example in November 2009, the OIF welcomed the election of Lebanon to the Security Council.
Through this cooperation, French-speaking countries were also able to contribute to the adoption in 2005 of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
Francophone cooperation provides an opportunity to more effectively defend the French language within the United Nations. Thus, on 20 June 2006, the Group of Francophone Ambassadors in New York adopted the Charter “Promoting the French language at the UN.” This charter aims to promote multilingualism, in particular the use of French within the United Nations, among all officials within the UN and the Missions accredited to the UN.
Institutional Francophonie aims to use the French language to promote solidarity, development and cooperation through continuous dialogue between civilizations.
This was the objective of the signing of the Convention establishing the Agency for Cultural and Technical Cooperation (ACCT) in Niamey on 20 March 1970. This was a new intergovernmental organization based around a shared common language, French, tasked with promoting and spreading the culture of its members and strengthening cultural and technical cooperation between them. Since the ACCT was established, the francophone project has continued to develop and became the Intergovernmental Agency of la Francophonie in 1998 and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie in 2005.
Its political dimension is gradually establishing itself with the introduction in 1986 of regular Conferences of Heads of State and Government. There have been Conferences, also known as Francophonie Summits, at Versailles (1986), Quebec (1987), Dakar (1989), Paris (1991), Port-Louis (1993), Cotonou (1995), Hanoi (1997), Moncton (1999), Beirut (2002), Ouagadougou (2004), Bucharest (2006), Quebec (2008), Montreux (2010). The next summit will take place in 2012 in Kinshasa.
The Organisation internationale de la Francophonie has 54 full member States and governments, 3 associated States and 20 observers. The political dimension was formally integrated into the institutional structure of la Francophonie at the Hanoi Summit in 1997 and a secretary-general was elected. The position of Secretary-General was first held by Boutros Boutros-Ghali, then by President Abdou Diouf from 2002, whose mandate was extended until 2014 at Montreux. The decision to merge political actions (responsibility of the Secretary-General) and cooperation (responsibility of the AIF - Intergovernmental Agency of la Francophonie) within a single institution was taken at the Ouagadougou Summit in 2004 and became reality when the Francophonie Charter was revised at the Ministerial Conference in Antananarivo on 24 November 2005.
The OIF is involved in the activity of its four operators (the Francophone University Agency (AUF), the International Association of Francophone Mayors (AIMF), the Senghor University of Alexandria, and TV5 Monde), the permanent ministerial conferences (that of Education, entitled CONFEMEN, and that of Youth and Sports, entitled CONFEJES), and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Francophonie, which has an advisory status.
On 20 March of each year, French speakers in every continent celebrate International Francophonie Day. 20 March commemorates the signing in 1970 in Niamey, Niger, of the treaty that founded the ACCT, which is now the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.
C. Objectives and missions of OIF
Francophonie’s objectives are embodied in its Charter adopted in 1997 at the Summit meeting of the Heads of State and Government in Hanoi (Vietnam) and revised by the Ministerial Conference in 2005 in Antananarivo (Madagascar):
— Establishment and development of democracy,
— Prevention, management and settlement of conflicts, and support for the rule of law and human rights,
— Strengthening dialogue between cultures and civilizations,
— Strengthening their solidarity through multilateral cooperation aimed at promoting economic recovery,
— Promotion of education and training.
The principal missions of la Francophonie were defined within the Decennial Strategic Framework, which was adopted at the Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) Summit meeting of the Heads of State and Government in 2004 for the period 2005-2014. The OIF contributes to conflict prevention within the francophone world, supports the reinforcement of the rule of law and democracy, and takes action to promote and implement human rights. The Secretary-General’s diplomatic action is now based on the political cooperation programs of the OIF, which are based on the Bamako Declaration (2000), and complemented by the Saint-Boniface Declaration. Provisions are notably provided for the suspension of cooperation programs in the case of violations of basic rights or the principles of democracy.
Regarding cooperation, the OIF aims to promote cultural diversity and the use of the French language among member countries and throughout the world. The OIF aims to stimulate education at all levels, the economy, and sustainable development. Within the framework of its missions, the OIF focuses special attention on women, young people, and civil society.
The OIF aims to influence current major global debates through discussion among francophone countries concerned with defending their common interests in the international scene, and through support for national politics, notably those of francophone countries in the southern hemisphere.
At the Montreux summit (Switzerland) on 23 and 24 October 2010, Heads of State and Government, at the call of the President of the Republic, took a stand for reform of global governance and focused on four priorities, of concern in particular to the G20 which France chairs in 2011:
— Reform of the international financial and monetary system, given the volatility of exchange rates,
— Initiatives against the volatility of prices of agricultural goods and energy,
— Urgent reform of the UN, particularly the UN Security Council
— Innovative Financing for Development, indispensable to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
The rule of law and democracy were also debated, as Montreux marked the tenth anniversary of the Bamako Declaration. New commitments regarding women in armed conflict and freedoms on the Internet were adopted. Faced with the challenges of security and stability, the Summit confirmed the strengthening of Francophone participation in peacekeeping and the mobilization of the Francophonie for electoral support in member countries emerging from crisis.
Find all the documents adopted in Montreux on the Francophonie website (in French)
22 September 2011 - Francophone reception - Statement by Mr. Alain Juppé, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs (in French)
20 September 2011 - Ministerial concertation on Francophonie - Statement by Mr. Alain Juppé, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs (in French)
24 September 2010 – Francophone reception – Statement by Mr. Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs (in French)
9 September 2009- General Assembly - Resolution on multilingualism - Statement by the Delegation of France on behalf of the Francophone Group ( in French)
13 July 2011 - Resolution A/RES/65/31 on multilingualism
14 January 2011 - Resolution A/RES/65/263 - Cooperation between the UN and the OIF
23 October 2010 - 13th Francophonie Summit in Montreux - Speech delivered by President Sarkozy
30 September 2009 - Resolution on multilingualism A/RES/63/306
8 June 2007 - Resolution on multilingualism A/RES/61/266
20 June 2006 : Organisation internationale de la Francophonie: Charter "promote the French Language" (in French)