The International Day of Francophonie or, as they say in French, Journée Internationale de la Francophonie, which is held each year on 20 March, brings together francophones (speakers of the French language) and francophiles (lovers of France) in a global celebration of the French language and culture.
International Day of La Francophonie was founded in 1988 to commemorate the establishment of the institution of La Francophonie, an organization representing the francophone community, on 20 March, 1970. However, the Day is more than just a celebration of camaraderie among French speakers and an opportunity to felicitate the French language. It is also a day to uphold the humanist values shared by members of La Francophonie, and to emphasize the inherent strength of the French language to communicate and spread the values of peace and democracy, respect for human rights, cultural diversity, solidarity, sustainable development and economic growth.
La Fracophonie traces its origins to the late 1960s. Following the end of World War II in 1945, European colonial rulers began to grant independence to their colonies in different parts of the world. By the early-1960s, most of the former French colonies in Asia, Africa and the Pacific islands had been decolonized, often peacefully, but also sometimes forcibly.
In the late-1960s, calls for greater cooperation and collaboration among nations that were at one time or another linked to France through linguistic, geographic, political or militaristic connections, began to gain ground. The need for an organization, on the lines of the British Commonwealth, to enhance cooperation among French-speaking nations and to represent them more effectively on the international stage led to the creation on 20 March1970 of Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique (Agency for Cultural and Technical Cooperation) during the conference of Heads of State of 21 countries in Niamey, the capital of Niger.
Over the years, the Agency evolved in form and function to eventually transform itself in 2005 into the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), or La Francophonie for short. The OIF has the dual mandate of serving as a platform for solidarity and cooperation among its members based on common values and a shared language, as well as to be an effective actor on the international scene.
Today, with 84 States and participating governments (58 members and 26 observers) the OIF represents nearly a billion people spread over five continents and accounting for nearly 19 percent of the world’s trade in goods. The OIF is also one of the biggest linguistic zones in the world, with nearly 275 million French speakers and 32 member states where French is either the official language, or one of the official languages.
Michaëlle Jean, the former Governor-General of Canada, is the incumbent Secretary-General of the organization. She was elected in 2015 and will serve a four-year term. As Secretary-General she heads the OIF’s political activities and represents La Francophonie at the international level.
The current chairperson of the organization is Prime Minister Olivier Solonandrasana of Madagascar, who began his two-year term at the last Francophonie Summit held in Madagascar in 2016.
The organization has three governing bodies that mandate the actions to be implemented by OIF members: Conference of the Heads of State and participating governments (Summit); Ministerial Conference (CMF) and Permanent Council (CPF).
The Summit brings together leaders of the organization for a summit every two years. The last summit was held in Madagascar in 2016; the next is in Armenia in 2018 and then in Tunisia in 2020.
The Ministerial Conference is a gathering of the organization's foreign ministers every year to ensure continuity of the Summits.
The Permanent Council gathers the designated ambassadors of the member countries; it is chaired by the Secretary-General and is under the authority of Ministerial Conference and is mandated to plan for the biannual Summits.
The organization’s strategic framework for the period 2015-2022, which provides long-term guidance to the various actors of La Francophonie, emphasizes four missions for promotion: The French language and, cultural and linguistic diversity; Peace, democracy and human rights; Education, training, higher education and research; Sustainable development and economic growth. The Strategic Framework also places women and youth at the center of La Francophonie’s actions, and identifies Africa as a priority continent.
Also, during their last Summit in Madagascar in November 2016, the OIF leaders adopted several resolutions, including exiting crises and promoting peace-building in the French-speaking world, as well as preventing violent radicalization and extremism. The organization also resolved to promote gender equality and the rights and empowerment of women and girls, as well as prevent child marriages, and discourage early and forced marriages. Resolutions were also adopted to invest in vocational and technical training, and in the health sector, so as to support shared growth in French-speaking nations. Providing clean and sustainable energy for all in Africa, developing the blue economy and decentralization and local development were other resolutions passed at the Madagascar Summit.
In addition to the three main institutions, the OIF also has an advisory body, the Parliamentary Assembly of La Francophonie (APF) and four operational institutions: International Association of Francophone Mayors (AIMF), TV5 Monde, Senghor University of Alexandria and Academic Agency of La Francophonie (AUF).
The APF is responsible for promoting democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights among members, while the AUF is the main operator of the cultural, scientific, technical, economic and legal cooperation programs of La Francophonie.
The 58 Member States and Governments are:
Albania, Principality of Andorra, Armenia, Kingdom of Belgium, French Community of Belgium, Benin, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Canada-New-Brunswick, Canada-Quebec, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Laos, Lebanon, Luxembourg, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Mauritius, Mauritania, Moldova, Monaco, Niger, Qatar, Romania, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Säo Tomé and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, Vanuatu, Vietnam.
The 23 Observers are:
Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Montenegro, Mozambique, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Thailand, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay.