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1. Status of French at the United Nations

2. Francophonie at the UN

3. Organisation internationale de la Francophonie

4. French statements

5.Reference documents

6. Useful links

1. Status of French at the United Nations Retour à la table des matières

- 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.

Mr Laurent Fabius, French Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mr Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General at the Francophone Reception - New York - 27 September 2012 - Photos : Franceonu/ Martin Loper

2. Francophonie at the UN Retour à la table des matières

A. OIF - UN cooperation

- Relations between the OIF and the United Nations are governed by a series of resolutions, adopted every two years following the Francophonie Summit. The General Assembly reflected, with its resolution A/RES/67/137, on the cooperation between the United Nations and the OIF (adopted on 18 december 2012), the main fields of cooperation between the two organizations, and the prospects for deepening these relations on the basis of the Kinshasa Summit’s conclusions.

The resolution 61/137 puts an emphasis on :

The commitments made by the francophone states during the Rio+20 Conference; the strenghtening of cooperation in favour of multilingualism, the contribution of the OIF in the monitoring of the crisis, exit of crisis and peacebuilding situations; mainly in Burundi, RCA, the Comoros, RDC, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinée-Bissau, Haiti, Madagascar, Chad, Tunisia, Mali and Niger; the development of cooperation in the field of peacebuilding. In this regard, the General Assembly recalls that it is the United Nations’ duty to ensure the respect of multilingualism in the PKO. The G.A underlines the increased cooperation between both organizations for the strengthening of the francophone workforce, and encourages the access of francophone staff to command positions.

The General Assembly also welcomes the strengthening of the cooperation between the OIF and the different bodies, organizations and agencies linked to the United Nations, mainly the High Commission for Human Rights, ONU-Women, and the ICC.

After the Dakar Francophonie Summit is held, in november 2014, a new resolution on the cooperation OIF/ United Nations will be adopted by the General Assembly.

2. High level francophone consultations in New-York

As a token of the cooperation between the OIF and the United Nations, high level consultations are periodically held in New-York, in the presence of representatives of both organizations and State members of the francophone space.

- In the margins of the General Assembly :

An informal ministerial consultation was held on the 23rd September 2013 on the theme "Crisis and efforts for security and peacebuilding in the countries of the francophone space". Organized under the presidency of RDC, it gathered the UN Secretary General, the vice-Secretary General to PKOs, representatives from the OIF and more and 35 ministers from francophone States, including Mrs Yamina Benguigui.

An informal ministerial consultation was held on the 20th September 2011, on the theme "Political transitions within the francophone space", under the presidency of Switzerland and in presence of the UN Secretary-General, high representatives from regional and international organizations associated to the OIF (the African Union, the Arab League, UNESCO and the High Commission for Human Rights), of nearly 40 ministerial representatives from francophone States, including the then Foreign Minister of France Mr. Alain Juppé.

- In the margins of the annual session of the Condition of Woman Commission :

A high level francophone consultation was held on the 10th March 2014 in partnership with UN Women. She was devoted to the following theme : "Equality between men and women and women’s empowerment within the francophone space : build the new development program for post 2015". It gathered, the Head of UN Women, about twenty heads of delegations from the francophone space, including Mrs Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. All participants pronounced themselves in favour of the creation of a ministerial francophone working group, in preparation of a new development program. The first meeting of this working group was held in Paris on 30th June 2014, in presence of eight ministers in charged with gender equality, among them France.

A high level francophone consultation about violences against women and girls was held on 4th March 2013, in presence of the Head of UN Women, the Prosecutor of the ICC and about ten heads of delegations from the francophone space, including Mrs Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. It made possible the adoption of a francophone action plan on violence against women and girls, which completes and declines the Déclaration francophone sur les violences faites aux femmes adopted in 2010.

From left to right : Mme Fatou Bensouda, Procureure de la Cour pénale internationale ; M. Nelson Messon, Président du groupe des Ambassadeurs francophones ; Mme Geneviève Inagosi, ministre du genre, de la famille et de l’enfant de République démocratique du Congo ; Mme Michelle Bachelet, Directrice exécutive d’ONU Femmes ; Mme Chantal Compaoré, Première Dame du Burkina Faso ; Mme Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, ministre des Droits des femmes et porte-parole du gouvernement français- New York - 4 mars 2013 Photo Credits : France ONU / Caroline Fréchard

B. 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.

- Contact information for the Permanent Representation of the OIF to the United Nations in New York:

801, 2nd Avenue, suite 605, New York (NY) 10017, United States

Tel: (1 212) 867 6771

Fax: (1 212) 867 3840


Permanent Representative: Mrs Patricia HERDT

C. 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. One of its goals is to organize meetings where it is possible to pool resources for the organization of happenings celebrating the Journée Internationale de la Francophonie, on 20th March. Since the mid eighties, Groups of Francophone Ambassadors have also been created in great multilateral capitals (New-Yor, Geneva, Vienna, Addis-Abeba...). The New-York Group, founded in 1986, is the most universal of them : it gathers the diplomatic representatives from the 74 member, associated and observer States from the OIF.

Under its revised rules of procedure, adopted in december 2013, the New-York pursues the following objectives :

Maintain a permanent forum for meetings and discussions between the members : it is a privileged meeting place for the francophone Ambassadors and Experts in order to reach common positions on some matters or to provide guidance for conducting negociations on topics of common interest, taking into accounts OIF’s goals, principles and recommandations.

Initiate or organize francophone concertations in the margins or prior to the sessions of the main bodies or the international conferences of the UN

Promote and consolidate multilinguism, taking into account the status of the French, official and working language of the United Nations

Contribute to a better representativity for the francophones within the UN thanks to mutual solidarity and support during elections times and a promotion for the francophone applications. The group is chaired by an Office whose composition was renewed in december 2013. The Group of Ambassadors is now chaired by the Permanent Representative of Morocco, who succeeds the Permanent Representative of Gabon. The composition of the Office ensures a fair representation of the different regions of Francophonie. The Permanent Representative of France now performs the functions of Vice-President, responsible for the relations with the Security Council together with his Chadian counterpart.

A. Background

- Institutional Francophonie aims to use the French language to promote solidarity, development and cooperation through continuous dialogue between civilizations.

This was the objective of the signing of the Convention establishing the Agency for Cultural and Technical Cooperation (ACCT) in Niamey on 20 March 1970. This was a new intergovernmental organization based around a shared common language, French, tasked with promoting and spreading the culture of its members and strengthening cultural and technical cooperation between them. Since the ACCT was established, the francophone project has continued to develop and became the Intergovernmental Agency of la Francophonie in 1998 and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie in 2005.

Its political dimension is gradually establishing itself with the introduction in 1986 of regular Conferences of Heads of State and Government. There have been Conferences, also known as Francophonie Summits, at Versailles (1986), Quebec (1987), Dakar (1989), Paris (1991), Port-Louis (1993), Cotonou (1995), Hanoi (1997), Moncton (1999), Beirut (2002), Ouagadougou (2004), Bucharest (2006), Quebec (2008), Montreux (2010). The next summit will take place in 2012 in Kinshasa.

B. Overview

- The Organisation internationale de la Francophonie has 54 full member States and governments, 3 associated States and 20 observers. The political dimension was formally integrated into the institutional structure of la Francophonie at the Hanoi Summit in 1997 and a secretary-general was elected. The position of Secretary-General was first held by Boutros Boutros-Ghali, then by President Abdou Diouf from 2002, whose mandate was extended until 2014 at Montreux. The decision to merge political actions (responsibility of the Secretary-General) and cooperation (responsibility of the AIF - Intergovernmental Agency of la Francophonie) within a single institution was taken at the Ouagadougou Summit in 2004 and became reality when the Francophonie Charter was revised at the Ministerial Conference in Antananarivo on 24 November 2005.

The OIF is involved in the activity of its four operators (the Francophone University Agency (AUF), the International Association of Francophone Mayors (AIMF), the Senghor University of Alexandria, and TV5 Monde), the permanent ministerial conferences (that of Education, entitled CONFEMEN, and that of Youth and Sports, entitled CONFEJES), and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Francophonie, which has an advisory status.

- On 20 March of each year, French speakers in every continent celebrate International Francophonie Day. 20 March commemorates the signing in 1970 in Niamey, Niger, of the treaty that founded the ACCT, which is now the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.

C. Objectives and missions of OIF

- Francophonie’s objectives are embodied in its Charter adopted in 1997 at the Summit meeting of the Heads of State and Government in Hanoi (Vietnam) and revised by the Ministerial Conference in 2005 in Antananarivo (Madagascar):

— Establishment and development of democracy,
— Prevention, management and settlement of conflicts, and support for the rule of law and human rights,
— Strengthening dialogue between cultures and civilizations,
— Strengthening their solidarity through multilateral cooperation aimed at promoting economic recovery,
— Promotion of education and training.

- The principal missions of la Francophonie were defined within the Decennial Strategic Framework, which was adopted at the Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) Summit meeting of the Heads of State and Government in 2004 for the period 2005-2014. The OIF contributes to conflict prevention within the francophone world, supports the reinforcement of the rule of law and democracy, and takes action to promote and implement human rights. The Secretary-General’s diplomatic action is now based on the political cooperation programs of the OIF, which are based on the Bamako Declaration (2000), and complemented by the Saint-Boniface Declaration. Provisions are notably provided for the suspension of cooperation programs in the case of violations of basic rights or the principles of democracy.

- Regarding cooperation, the OIF aims to promote cultural diversity and the use of the French language among member countries and throughout the world. The OIF aims to stimulate education at all levels, the economy, and sustainable development. Within the framework of its missions, the OIF focuses special attention on women, young people, and civil society.

The OIF aims to influence current major global debates through discussion among francophone countries concerned with defending their common interests in the international scene, and through support for national politics, notably those of francophone countries in the southern hemisphere.

- At the Montreux summit (Switzerland) on 23 and 24 October 2010, Heads of State and Government, at the call of the President of the Republic, took a stand for reform of global governance and focused on four priorities, of concern in particular to the G20 which France chairs in 2011:

— Reform of the international financial and monetary system, given the volatility of exchange rates,

— Initiatives against the volatility of prices of agricultural goods and energy,

— Urgent reform of the UN, particularly the UN Security Council

— Innovative Financing for Development, indispensable to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

The rule of law and democracy were also debated, as Montreux marked the tenth anniversary of the Bamako Declaration. New commitments regarding women in armed conflict and freedoms on the Internet were adopted. Faced with the challenges of security and stability, the Summit confirmed the strengthening of Francophone participation in peacekeeping and the mobilization of the Francophonie for electoral support in member countries emerging from crisis.

Find all the documents adopted in Montreux on the Francophonie website (in French)

(October 2011)

4. French statements Retour à la table des matières

- 22 September 2011 - Francophone reception - Statement by Mr. Alain Juppé, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs (in French)

- 20 September 2011 - Ministerial concertation on Francophonie - Statement by Mr. Alain Juppé, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs (in French)

- 24 September 2010 – Francophone reception – Statement by Mr. Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs (in French)

- 9 September 2009- General Assembly - Resolution on multilingualism - Statement by the Delegation of France on behalf of the Francophone Group ( in French)

5.Reference documents Retour à la table des matières

- 13 July 2011 - Resolution A/RES/65/31 on multilingualism

- 14 January 2011 - Resolution A/RES/65/263 - Cooperation between the UN and the OIF

- 23 October 2010 - 13th Francophonie Summit in Montreux - Speech delivered by President Sarkozy

- 30 September 2009 - Resolution on multilingualism A/RES/63/306

- 22 December 2008 - Resolution on Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie - A/63/236

- 8 June 2007 - Resolution on multilingualism A/RES/61/266

- 20 June 2006 : Organisation internationale de la Francophonie: Charter "promote the French Language" (in French)

PDF - 47.3 kb
20 juin 2006 : Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie : les dix objectifs francophones

6. Useful links Retour à la table des matières

- Consult the website of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie

- Consult the file on Francophonie on the French Foreign Ministry’s website

- UNSG Action plan on multilingualism

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