celebrating the francophone international day
A Speech by Ambassador Laila Bahaa El-Din, Executive Director of Kemet Boutros Ghali Foundation
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On the occasion of the Francophone International Day and in the name of Kemet Boutros Ghali Foundation, let us all celebrate the French language, spoken by more than 300 million people in what is now known as the “Francophone space”.
On this particular day, French speakers worldwide mark that occasion to reiterate their solidarity and aspiration to live together in peace, despite their differences and diversity.
Egypt joined the Technical and Cultural Cooperation Agency in 1983. The agency was a precursor to establishing 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 communication tool and an instrument that brought about new trends and thoughts. The book titled “La Description de L’Egypte” and Champollion’s success in deciphering the Rosetta stone are but merely two examples of many that echo the vast cultural impact of the French Language in Egypt until today.
During the first half of the nineteenth century, thanks to the educational missions sent to France by Mohamed Ali Pasha, French evolved into a tool of knowledge and science and eventually became the first foreign language for administration and government work. Therefore, it became well-established among the diplomat community and the legal and scientific circles. It found its place as a powerful instrument of communication and opening up to the outside world.
Egyptians were first acquainted with French Culture through the book written by Rifaa Al-Tahtawy on his trip to Paris. Today, Egypt has more than 12 schools teaching French Curricula and 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, is increasing. Moreover, these efforts culminated in the establishment of the French University in Egypt.
Still, it is unthinkable to talk about the Francophone Day without mentioning the significant role of 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 defining characteristics to the OIF, which gave voice to the organization in the international and regional arena. Under his leadership, the organization’s institutional structure was drawn and launched an increasing number of missions.
Linguistic and cultural diversity has become part and parcel of the OIF official speech, as Ghali believed and stressed that defending linguistic diversity meant defending the French language. Furthermore, defending cultural diversity and dialogue among civilizations were the two primary targets for Ghali to reach peaceful settlements of disputes and call for a culture of peace.
For Ghali, the Francophonie is the answer to the globalization which dominates our world. It is an instrument to celebrate our differences and diversities.
Egypt is proud to host one of the leading Francophone establishments, Senghor University in Alexandria. This ambitious project is a testament to collective and relentless efforts and has been a success story. The university’s unprecedented success, which aimed at developing the African continent, is marked by its contribution to the education of more than 2000 cadres from 37 nationalities. This dream of establishing the Senghor university, which we are very proud of, would not have come true without the earnest efforts of Boutros Ghali, who signed its special protocol in the presence of a multitude of African heads of state.
Ghali found out that the real solution to deal with the challenge of other languages is by defending cultural diversities and the multiple linguistic variances where different cultures and civilizations can express themselves and enrich each other, which is the target of the Francophone community.
On such occasion, we celebrate and appreciate the efforts exerted by Presidents 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 that the “Francophonie could 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