The wealth of the Philippines lies, among other things, in the multitude of languages spoken in the Philippine islands. The official languages, Tagalog and English, are complemented by more than 170 regional and local languages. It is common to meet a Filipino or a Filipina who speaks three or more languages. Linguistic diversity in unity is, in our view, one of the defining characteristics of the Philippines. In the world, it is rare to find countries like the Philippines where unity, cohesion and solidarity are accompanied by such multilingual diversity.
The International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) resembles the Philippines on a global scale. It brings together 54 member states, 7 associate members and 27 observers around the world, each with its own official language or languages, all united in their commitment to preserve and advance their French language heritage and Francophone culture. It brings together 300 million people who speak French in the world.
As is the case in the Philippines, each language is attached to spiritual and moral values. Each language creates its own culture. Every language speaks to the spirit and to the soul. All languages converse, borrow, enrich each other. The core of shared universal values and cultural heritage, beyond the language in which they are expressed, is what unites people.
That’s why today, March 20, as we celebrate the International Day of La Francophonie, we come together to showcase our culture, our treasures, our cuisines, our music and our literature.
The secretary general of the OIF, Louise Mushikiwabo, is from a country, Rwanda, which has four official languages: Kinyarwanda, Swahili, English and French. Secretary General for four years, Louise Mushikiwabo has succeeded in imposing the OIF on the international political scene, as a political actor, mediator and facilitator.
Since taking office as Secretary General at the Yerevan summit in 2018, Louise Mushikiwabo has embarked on a vast process of reform of the OIF. The objective of these reforms is to make the OIF more effective, more efficient and more modern. With this desire to refocus, modernize and optimize the Organization, the Secretary General places the fundamental values of the OIF at the heart of her action: the promotion of peace, democracy and human rights, support for education and research and the development of cooperation.
These fundamental values reflect the dual mandate of the OIF: on the one hand a mandate of collaboration and solidarity, and on the other hand a political mandate. It was in the 2000s, with the adoption of two important texts, that the Organization acquired this political mandate: the Bamako Declaration (2000) on the exercise of democracy, rights and freedoms and the Declaration of Saint-Boniface (2006) on conflict prevention and human security. The political action of the OIF therefore focuses primarily on the areas of peace, democracy, human rights and the prevention of violent extremism.
The francophone movement has several dimensions. The one that affects most people, especially young people, is international university cooperation. The Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) is an organization of universities from more than 100 countries, which have departments that offer study programs in French. The AUF offers scholarships for professors and scholarships for students from all over the world each year. We believe that some of the best universities in the Philippines should consider becoming members of the AUF, thereby providing their students with greater exposure and international connection.
This year, with France leading the European Union and French-speaking officials at the top of the UN, the US State Department, the Canadian civil service and in presidential offices around the world, is a year particularly auspicious year for the Francophone movement.
We salute all French-speaking Filipinos, all those who love French-speaking literature and art, and hope that more and more young people will choose French as a foreign language, thus broadening their horizons, offering themselves more job opportunities and sharing the values of La Francophonie.
The French language enjoys a favorable image in the Philippines, with promising prospects. French is today the first European language – apart from English, which has official language status with Filipino – taught in Philippine universities. French is also the second foreign language taught at college and secondary level. All establishments combined, there are approximately 10,000 Filipino learners who study French, mainly in the fields of international and European studies, tourism and hospitality. The Alliance Française de Manila and the Alliance Française de Cebu promote Francophony and offer French courses. On the Philippine side, the Ministry of Education, the universities and the association of French teachers are valuable partners who are called upon to get involved in the promotion of the Francophonie.
You must have come across the illuminated panel with the image of La Francophonie on the EDSA marking the launch of this Francophonie Week which promises to be very festive. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to watch and enjoy footage from Unesco heritage sites and learn how to cook different recipes from our countries.
You can also join us at the Alliance Française and on social networks to celebrate the French language and its speakers together! Contests are offered with many gifts! The Alliance Française will warmly welcome you to watch Romanian, Swiss, Canadian films, and of course with English subtitles for everyone’s enjoyment!
At the Alliance Française, this week it’s Ciné-Club with screenings of “14 days, 12 nights” in partnership with the Embassy of Canada, “Decent Man” in partnership with the Embassy of Romania.
Stay connected by visiting the Alliance Française website: https://www.alliance.ph/accueil-en/#/.
Many more events are to come! See you very soon, see you soon!
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Joint article by the ambassadors of Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Egypt, France, Greece, Hungary, Laos, Morocco, Romania, Switzerland, Vietnam and the consuls of Lebanon and Monaco.