Francophonie at the UN
French is one of the six official United Nations languages, along with English, Spanish, Chinese Russian (in accordance with UNGA resolution 2 (I) of 1 February 1946), and Arabic (introduced as the 6th official language in 1973 through resolution 3191).
French is used in the various meetings of the UN organs, in particular at the General Assembly, as stipulated under article 51 of its rules of procedure, as is the case for the Security Council. It is also used in official documents. Texts in the six languages are deemed equally authentic. This has given rise to difficulties, the most well-known example concerning Security Council resolution 242 (1967) relating to the Palestinian Occupied Territories in which the French and English versions were subject to differences in interpretation ("from occupied territories" vs. "des territoires occupés").
French is, along with English, one of the two working languages of the United Nations Secretariat.
During the general debate of the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2011, of the 72 Member States of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) as well as associated and observer States, 22 spoke only in French (Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Comoros, the Congo, DRC, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, France, Gabon, Guinea, Haiti, Luxembourg, Mali, Monaco, Niger, Senegal, Switzerland, Chad and Togo), five partially in French (Belgium, Cambodia, Greece, Mauritius and Romania ), 21 speakers used English and 21 used other languages. The Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, gave an opening address in the two working languages, as is the custom. The President of the European Council, Mr. Herman Van Rompuy also combined French and English. 34 UN member states have also distributed a French version of their speeches.
OIF - UN cooperation
Relations between the OIF and the United Nations are governed by a series of biennial resolutions.
The OIF contributes to the UN’s objectives in many fields of work. This cooperation focuses on two main areas: the prevention of conflict and support for democracy. In the resolution, the General Assembly welcomed the “new impetus” given to the participation of States members of the OIF in peacekeeping operations as well as its participation in the Peacebuilding Commission’s work on Burundi, Guinea-Bissau and the Central African Republic.
The UN and the OIF also coordinate their actions in the areas of cultural and linguistic diversity and dialogue among cultures and civilizations. The two organizations work together in order to deal with the challenges of the financial and food crises and to fully mobilize the strengths and determination of the members in order to ratify the international instruments relative to the environment. The resolution recalls the commitments made by the members States of the OIF during the Montreux Summit (see below);
The OIF and the UN also strengthened their cooperation in an area in which la Francophonie had long ago proven its worth: electoral observation and assistance, with several joint operations in francophone countries, as for example in December 2009 in the Comoros for the general elections, in Guinea for the 2010 elections, or in the Central African Republic for the preparation of the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2011.
As a token of this cooperation, an informal ministerial consultation of the Francophonie was held during the High Level Segment of the UN General Assembly on 20 September 2011, in the presence of the UN Secretary General and representatives of international and regional partners of OIF (African Union, Arab League, UNESCO and the High Commissioner for Human Rights) on the theme of "political transitions in the Francophone ". The meeting identified areas for action that can support the transition process currently being experienced by several francophone countries in Africa and the Arab world.
Permanent Representation of the OIF to the UN
The OIF, along with about 10 other regional organizations, has the status of observer at the United Nations and has a permanent office in New York.
At the Hanoi Summit, the Heads of State and Government established the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie; the Agency for Cultural and Technical Cooperation had been the main operator of the OIF. In 1998, the General Assembly, through its decision 53/543 took note of this transformation and conferred the OIF with the status of observer that it had given to the ACCT in November 1978.
The Permanent Representation of the OIF to the United Nations organizes and monitors francophone presence at the UN and regularly arranges meetings of ambassadors from francophone countries, as well as meetings of young francophone experts, in order to mobilize them with regard to the importance of linguistic diversity and the advantages of ensuring the presence of the French language on the international stage.
Group of Francophone Ambassadors
The Group of Francophone Ambassadors in New York provides a flexible framework for discussion and exchanges for all of the permanent representatives of the member countries of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. It provides a unique forum for consultations between the ambassadors and experts with the aim of establishing common positions on certain issues and providing guidelines for conducting negotiations on points of common interest, taking into account the goals, principles and recommendations of the OIF.
In order to enhance the effectiveness of its actions, the group set up an office chaired by France’s Permanent Representative which includes, among others, the representative of the country hosting the OIF Summit (Canada in 2008), as well as representatives of the various regions.
The group also established watchdog groups, coordinated by members of this office. These watchdog groups focus on specific topics such as peacekeeping, democracy and the rule of law, multilingualism and strengthening francophone actions; they are think tanks whose role is to make recommendations to the group which may in return to ask them to undertake actions in their respective areas of expertise.