Canadian Michaëlle Jean has been chosen to head the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie for the next four years. This is the first time that a non African has headed the organisation since 75% of the French speakers in the world live in Africa. She is also the first woman to head the organisation.
Of course one thing to remember is that members do not need to have French as an official or principal language but just a close link with the language for whatever reason. That's why there are some relatively surprising members like Romania, Qatar or Cyprus. The list of observer states is even more fascinating because it includes countries like Hungary, Georgia, Ukraine or Uruguay. And yes, the United States is also an observer because French is the 4th most spoken language in the country, as well as still being spoken by certain groups in Louisiana, New Hampshire and Maine.
No, you aren't. I've met Jean-Daniel Lafond, also a philosopher like John Ralston Saul, as well as a filmmaker. The two could easily be confused. And of course Adrienne and Michaëlle were both from CBC/Radio-Canada.
The International Organisation of La Francophonie just had its latest conference in Madagascar. Things apparently went well, but there is a new dilemma. New Caledonia became an associate member, and Ontario, South Korea and Argentina have been admitted to observer status. But one application is still pending -- Saudi Arabia. The main condition for joining as an observer is "a desire to favour the development of the use of the French language" and "the will to apply the values defended by the francophone community."
Well, Saudi Arabia's application was completely valid on the first point. It detailed and gave exact figures for the number of schools, universities and students learning French in the kingdom. The second point is where the problem lies, because the organisation has proclaimed that "equality between men and women" is at the heart of its values. Saudi Arabia was only able to say that women have had the right to participate in municipal elections since 2011. Not much. Secretary General Michaëlle Jean is a virulent feminist and has no intention of bending the rules on this point. So the application has been delayed on "procedural" grounds even though Morocco and Senegal are pushing hard for acceptance. Associate member United Arab Emirates and observer Qatar have kept silent on the subject so as not to muddy the water.
In the end, it is the heads of state of the member states who will vote on the applications.
What a total waste of time and money. Madagascar was accused of cleaning things up on the route to the place where the conference was held, while the country is poor and infrastructure is in bad condition. Potemkin village in action.
France (de Gaulle?) wanted "la Francophonie" to compete with the British Commonwealth but neither of these are of any use economically or politically any more, if they ever were. And Saudi Arabia? Qatar? UAE? WTF?
You are a bit confused. "Francophonie" has nothing to do with De Gaulle's "Communauté française", which expired in 1960. The Francophonie organisation just dates from 1986. It is open to all countries with an interest in the French language, not just French-speaking countries. The first secretary general was Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt. It has never had a French secretary general.
I'm very glad Saudi Arabia's request was turned down. That country quite literally gets away with murder, floggings and other barbaric punishments, because of its oil. Saudis are also considered by many to have had a hand in the Islamic State and as we know, most of the 9-11 bombers were Saudi (which doesn't prove government involvement - there have certainly been French, Belgian and British Islamist terrorists as well).
While there are very serious shortcomings in terms of women's actual rights in Morocco and Senegal, the countries are different for two reasons; as a result of French colonialism, there are many people in those countries who read and write French, and use it as a language of international communication. Moreover, there are significant women's movements in both of those countries, unlike Saudi Arabia where all social movements not dominated by the House of Saud are repressed.
Yesterday, the prize for the speech most open to diversity goes to Justin Trudeau. After a lengthy plea regarding women's rights, the Canadian Prime Minister had another message to send to his peers, especially Africans. "Here we like to talk about the rights and freedoms," he said. "Well, members of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities suffer in too many countries, including some members of the French-speaking community. We owe our LGBT citizens the same respect, the same rights and the same dignity as all the other members of our society," said the young Prime Minister at the podium. Applause from Francois Hollande, but the African heads of state who sat next to him, on the other hand, remained stony-faced.
I don't think that these summits are a waste of time and money, but we are all entitled to our opinions. I approve of spending money on culture and education, even though their benefits are not always immediately apparent. I don't know of any country in the world that does not "clean up" before a summit, and it would be appalling if summits like this were reserved exclusively for perfect, rich countries. Obviously, the poor countries need to attend to all of their glaring problems, but I believe that events like this help the countries more than they hurt them. Trying to host a "positive" event implies that the country is at least attempting to improve both its image and maybe even the domestic situation. Neither is detrimental to the future. Some of the places that have hosted this event include Hanoi, Moncton, Bucarest and Grand Baie. Paris has hosted it once, but then again Versailles hosted the first event.
Regarding the event that just ended and the suspension of Saudi Arabia's application, it is interesting to note that the following countries supported the application: Bénin, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Morocco and Senegal. The following countries and regions requested increased efforts by the applicant: Burkina Faso, Canada, France, Québec, Chad and Wallonia. These countries said that additional efforts to adhere to the values of the association are required. Apparently, the other countries did not wish to express a precise opinion.
It was also noted that King Mohammed VI of Morocco arrived in Madagascar for the summit but left before it began for unknown reasons, even though he had been a scheduled speaker.
France (de Gaulle?) wanted "la Francophonie" to compete with the British Commonwealth but neither of these are of any use economically or politically any more, if they ever were.
True the Commonwealth is hardly a power bloc, but I gather it does serve as an umbrella for all sorts of worthy technical assistance of one sort and another. And the heads of government meeting does provide an informal sort of forum that cuts across the usual divides. Plus it gives the Queen something else to do.
The main condition for joining as an observer is "a desire to favour the development of the use of the French language" and "the will to apply the values defended by the francophone community."
I agree with the first quoted statement, and understand that even applying for membership could be construed as a positive thing. But I can certainly see how in the case of Saudi Arabia, the second half of the conditions puts those voting on the applications in an uncomfortable position. It would be wonderful to think that Saudia Arabia's application signals a real desire to "apply the values defended by the francophone community", but who could possibly believe that.