Mr. Chair, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak about the international Francophonie. I would like to acknowledge my CIDA colleague, since her department is also very involved in la Francophonie, along with my department, Canadian Heritage.
When I was Minister for La Francophonie, we accomplished a number of things. In the first weeks, I went to Paris to meet with His Excellency Abdou Diouf, Secretary General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. There, I announced that Canada would make a direct contribution of $900,000 to support institution building and the modernization of the OIF. It was important for Canada to modernize the OIF and make it more transparent and efficient.
A few months later, Canada had the honour of hosting the ministerial conference of la Francophonie on conflict prevention and human security in Saint-Boniface, Manitoba. We had the pleasure of welcoming Mr. Diouf at the conference. More specifically, it was an opportunity for Canada to demonstrate the richness of our Canadian francophonie to the visiting international leaders of la Francophonie.
I also attended the Sommet de la Francophonie in September 2006, in Bucharest, Romania, along with the Prime Minister.
I would also like to point out the work that the member for Beauce has done on Francophonie issues in recent months.
Today I am going to talk about the international institution known as la Francophonie.
When we talk about la Francophonie, we first have to talk about the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, which is known by the acronym OIF, and about all of the agencies, decision-making bodies, ministerial conferences and operators surrounding it.
First and foremost, la Francophonie is an idea, we could say an ideal, that originated in the early 1960s, at a time when the great architecture of the United Nations had been put in place. The UN programs had not yet hit their stride, the international community recognized the need for a kind of Marshall Plan on a global scale, and decolonization, particularly in Africa, was underway. The idea was an ambitious one: to take advantage of a common language to build bonds of cooperation and strengthen natural affinities.
The spirit behind la Francophonie is a desire to cooperate and to discuss contemporary problems.
Within la Francophonie, there has been a process of evolution that has produced an amalgam of institutions, which vary in their specialization and the autonomy they enjoy. The oldest of them is the Conference of Ministers of Education of Countries Using French as a Common Language, CONFEMEN. It was created in 1960 and its purpose is to encourage dialogue, cooperation and coordination in the area of education policies and to conduct high-level discussions about the future of education.
In 1961, the Association des universités partiellement ou entièrement de langue française was created in Montreal, and it has since become the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie. Today it has a membership of 659 institutions in 60 countries.
In 1967, the Association internationale des parlementaires de langue française was created, and today it is known as the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie.
A second permanent ministerial conference was established in 1969: the Conference of Youth and Sports Ministers of Countries sharing the use of French, CONFEJES.
And last, in 1970, at the impetus of the Presidents of Tunisia, Niger and Senegal, an intergovernmental institution for la Francophonie was established, with a broader mandate: the Agency for Cultural and Technical Cooperation. It has served to provide more structure for international Francophonie, and over the years it has adapted to the needs of the member countries. It is now called the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.
La Francophonie has continued to build on those foundations.
The mayors of Paris and Quebec City started the International Association of Francophone Mayors. Other institutions that have been created are la Francophone Business Forum, the Games of La Francophonie, the Energy and Environmental Institute, Senghor University in Alexandria and the international television network, TV5.
The first summit of heads of state and government of la Francophonie was held in Paris in 1986. Canada eagerly hosted the second summit in Quebec City in 1987, and we continue to act as host country on a fairly regular basis.
In 1999, the summit was held in Moncton and we are preparing to receive, once again, the heads of state and of government in Quebec City in the fall of 2008.
La Francophonie is one of the only international intergovernmental entities where the Canadian provinces can have a seat. In the early 1970s, the Government of Canada concluded an agreement with Quebec on its participation in la Francophonie events. The same agreement was later reached with New Brunswick. These two provinces have government participant status, sit in on the proceedings, make their own financial contributions and bring with them real expertise on issues in their own jurisdictions.
I have a few more words about la Francophonie: the OIF today has 53 member states and governments, two associate states and 13 observer states, from five continents, that are united by the French language. It is a forum where Canada has some clout and influence. We are the second largest provider of funds after France, with a contribution of more than $40 million a year. Some $19 million comes from the Department of Foreign Affairs. The rest essentially comes from CIDA and Canadian Heritage.
Our participation in la Francophonie reflects the linguistic duality of our country and our attachment to cultural diversity and the values of solidarity. It is the multilateral forum of choice for promoting the major objectives of Canada's foreign policy and we have strongly encouraged la Francophonie to become more political. The OIF has answered that call and is now taking political action in line with its four fundamental missions: to promote the French language and cultural and linguistic diversity; to promote peace, democracy and human rights; to support education, training, higher learning and research; and to develop cooperation for sustainable development and solidarity.
Canada can have its voice heard on issues like security, the rule of law, good governance, human rights and development.
We will continue to contribute to the institutional reform of la Francophonie and to encourage the organization to have clear objectives and a structure that maximizes its effectiveness. The OIF's good governance depends on its people. We have complete confidence in the current secretary general, His Excellency, Abdou Diouf, former president of Senegal, and in the OIF administrator—the secretary general's right-hand man— Clément Duhaime, a Canadian.
We are also very proud of the progress that has been made in regard to the TV5 Monde international television network. As the chair of the conference of ministers responsible for TV5 Monde, I had the pleasure of announcing that discussions among senior officials from the partner governments have led to the development of a draft agreement that preserves the multilateral, pluralistic nature of TV5 Monde. This network plays a major role in promoting the culture and values of la Francophonie and must remain a joint project of this international organization.
Discussions among the partner governments have always been held in an excellent climate of cooperation and collaboration. In addition, the Prime Minister and the President of France addressed the future of TV5, among other things, during their discussions last May 27.
This will be the 12th time that the heads of state and government of la Francophonie have met. This time the summit will be held in Quebec City from October 17 to 19, 2008.
The governments of Canada and Quebec are the co-hosts and Canada will chair the summit.
We have been working very closely with our partners—both the participating provinces and the other member countries—to deliver a summit worthy of the name. Four issues—broken down into sub-topics—have been selected. The first is democracy and la Francophonie, including preventive diplomacy and strengthening of the organization’s mediation capacities, as well as democratic life. The second is the environment, where we will emphasize water and sustainable forest management. The third concerns economic governance, including the principles of transparency and corporate social responsibility. Finally, the fourth is the French language, which is at the heart of la Francophonie.
The preparations are proceeding well. An organizational secretariat has been established in Quebec City and started its technical and logistical work in September 2007, in accordance with federal management guidelines.
The governments of Canada and Quebec have each contributed $16 million to the organization of the summit and New Brunswick has contributed $750,000. In addition, the federal government is responsible for the full cost of security, which brings its total contribution to more than $57 million.
In recent months, organizing the summit has provided many opportunities to strengthen cooperation between Ottawa and Quebec City. At last November's ministerial conference in Vientiane, Canada assumed the presidency of the ministerial conference of la Francophonie.
We should not forget what we are doing for the French language here in our own country. On March 20, the International Day of La Francophonie, I announced financial assistance for the cross-country tour of Francoforce, which will run from May 30 to September 2, 2008. Funding of $1.1 million will help the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française coordinate this major tour, in close cooperation with the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada.
In March, our government announced financial assistance for various major projects in minority language communities in New Brunswick. Ten francophone organizations shared $946,100 to carry out activities promoting the vitality of francophone and Acadian communities in New Brunswick and linguistic duality throughout Canada. In addition, we announced $714,970 in financial support for seven organizations working with francophone communities in Alberta.
The summit will take place in five months' time. We are working on fine-tuning the objectives, further developing the themes and identifying our commitments and areas for follow-up. One thing is certain: the action taken will be effective and will result in tangible outcomes. We are counting on all Canadians, including parliamentarians, to ensure the success of the summit. I know that we will pull off a remarkable event that we will all be proud of.