the francophone international day
A Speech by Ambassador Laila Bahaa El-Din, Executive Director of Kemet Boutros Ghali Foundation
On the occasion of the Francophone International Day and in the name of Kemet Boutros Ghali Foundation, I would like to mark such an event that celebrates the French language; spoken by more than 300 million people in what is now known as the ‘Francophone space’.
French speakers all over the world mark that occasion to ensure their solidarity and aspiration to live together in peace despite of their differences and diversity.
Egypt joined the Technical and Cultural Cooperation Agency in 1983. The agency was precursor to the establishment of the Organization International de la Francophonie (OIF). However, Egypt has long and deeply rooted ties with the French language. This language has been a valuable tool of communication and an instrument that brought about new trends and thoughts. The book titled “La Description de L’Egypte” and Champillion’s success in deciphering the Rosseta stone, are just two examples of many that echo the huge cultural impact of the French Language in Egypt until today.
During the first half of the nineteenth century and due to the educational missions sent to France by Mohamed Ali Pasha, the French language became the tool of knowledge and science and later the first foreign language for administration and government work. The language has thus been well- established among the communities of diplomats, as well as the legal and scientific circles as a significant instrument for communication and opening up to the outside world.
Ordinary Egyptians came to know the French Culture through the book written by Rifaa Al- Tahtawy, on his trip to Paris. Today, Egypt has more than 12 educational institutions teaching the French Curriculum, 60 bilingual schools teaching French and other foreign languages. As for university education, the number of students studying in French especially at Cairo, Alexandria and Mansoura universities are increasing. Moreover, these efforts were crowned by the establishment of the French University in Egypt.
Still, it is unthinkable to talk about the Francophone Day without mentioning the great role played by Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali; the professor and diplomat, former UN Secretary- General and the first Secretary- General of the Organization International de la Francophonie (OIF). Ghali put the guiding lines and the major characteristics to the OIF which gave voice to the organization in the international and regional arena. It is under his leadership that the institutional structure of the organization was drawn and established an increasing number of its missions.
Linguistic and cultural diversity has become part and parcel of the OIF official speech as Ghali believed and stressed the fact that defending linguistic diversity means defending the French language. Furthermore, defending cultural diversity and dialogue among civilizations were the two major targets for Ghali to reach peaceful settlements of disputes and call for the culture of peace.
For Ghali, the Francophone is the answer to Globalization which dominates our world. It is an instrument to celebrate our differences and diversities but not to imitate and copy each other.
Egypt is proud to host one of the major Francophone establishments; Senghor University in Alexandria. The ambitious project which is the outcome of great men’s efforts, has been a success story. The unprecedented success of the university which aimed at developing the African continent, is marked by its contribution to the education of more than 2000 cadres from 37 nationalities. The dream of establishing the Senghor university, which we are very proud of, would have not come true without the sincere efforts of Boutros Ghali, who signed its special protocol in the presence of a good number of African heads of states.
Ghali found out that the real solution to deal with the challenge of other languages is through defending cultural diversities and the multiple linguistic variances where different cultures and civilizations can express themselves and enrich each other and that is the target of the Francophone community.
On such occasion, we celebrate and appreciate the efforts exerted by President Abdou Diouf and Michaelle Jean for their efforts to pursue the goals of the OIF.
Finally, we should remember what Boutros Ghali said when he stressed the fact that the “Francophone can play a pivotal role as a link between the developed and developing countries, thus bringing about a real chance to renew the dialogue between the North and the South. It is capable of defending the call for multiple differences in politics and languages.”
On this occasion, we also reiterate our support to Louise Mushikiwabo, the OIF Secretary- General and express our appreciation for her efforts in promoting cooperation among the member states of the Francophonie.
Good Day for the Francophonie
And Thank you all