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Souvenir, souvenir...

The International Day of La Francophonie will be celebrated on March 20. While reviewing my personal files on the International Organization of La Francophonie, I found the picture below. Souvenir, souvenir…. Memories…. In 2001, I worked as intern at the Haut Conseil de la Francophonie, an entity that used to be tied to the French Presidency of the Republic. I conducted research and developed working papers for an international conference on French-speaking migrants, right before the Haut Conseil transitioned to become part of the International Organization of La Francophonie. In 2002, a reception held at the Elysée Palace gathered officials, key figures of La Francophonie as well as artists. I was fortunate enough to be invited (as one of the Haut Conseil's last interns) and I met President Jacques Chirac (1995-2007), an impressive experience.

During my internship and afterwards, I was hoping that La Francophonie would play a major role in international relations and cultural affairs and it does to a certain extent. I am based in France and I lament the fact that La Francophonie’s actions and advocacy are hardly covered by the media. Oftentimes, we are told about the need to preserve France's cultural influence and its position as a world leader championing human rights. One of the ways to do so would be to fully embrace and promote Francophonie and its diversity. In my view, France does not affirm its importance strongly enough, and it appears as the leader during the annual meeting of La Francophonie while the other members, former French colonies for some, are probably the ones that best embody its raison d’être. La Francophonie is a valuable asset and tool that would be instrumental in furthering co-development through culture, education and politics. Yes, there are here and there Francophone festivals dedicated to the film industry among other things, but I see the lack of publicity (at least in France) as a political mistake and a lack of interest in a population of 274 million of French speakers (60% of whom are under 30) and its extraordinary potential. Secretary General of La Francophonie, Michaëlle Jean was elected in 2014, she is a great advocate of democracy, education, women and youth empowerment and gender equality, and rightfully so. This inclusive and integrated approach is essential to development issues and should be inherent to the mission of La Francophonie.

Courtesy of Présidence de la République française (Service Photographique). February 12, 2002.

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