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La Francophonie is a network of member states and governments sharing French as a common language. The network includes several independently established institutions dating back to the 1960s.
Led by heads of member states and governments, La Francophonie currently includes 56 member states and governments, as well as 19 observers. Fifty of these members are CIDA developing country partners eligible for official development assistance from Canada and 24 are least-developed countries.
The mandate of La Francophonie is both political and developmental and sets out to:
- Promote the French language and cultural and linguistic diversity
- Promote peace, democracy, and human rights
- Support education, training, higher education, and research
- Strengthen cooperation for sustainable development and economic growth
The Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), is the central operating agency mainly responsible for carrying out La Francophonie's dual mandate.
Canada was one of the first countries to promote La Francophonie by helping to establish and develop its institutions. Membership in La Francophonie is an important part of Canada's foreign policy, offering a multilateral forum where Canada can promote its values and priorities in areas such as language, culture, politics, economics, new technologies, and international cooperation. At home, participation in La Francophonie highlights Canada's linguistic duality and provides an opportunity to discuss affirmation and growth of the French culture.
Several Canadian government departments are involved in La Francophonie. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is responsible for managing and coordinating Canada's participation in La Francophonie. CIDA provides technical expertise and advice on all development issues. Canadian Heritage plays a role in promoting language, cultural diversity, and development of youth through sports and the arts.
Canada is the second largest contributor to La Francophonie. The provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick are also members of La Francophonie and important contributors.
The institutions of La Francophonie play an important role as a source of French-language knowledge, information, and services; the OIF actively advocates peace, democracy, and poverty reduction through sustainable development based on equality between women and men—values that Canada promotes.
The institutions of La Francophonie include:
The objectives of the institutions of La Francophonie align closely with two of CIDA's priority themes: securing the future of children and youth and stimulating sustainable economic growth.
Children and youth
La Francophonie, with its focus on increasing access to quality education and professional and technical training, is one of the key partners for CIDA, helping young people participate fully in their societies, helping its members develop national education, sport and youth policies, and organizing summer schools and important events such as the Jeux de la Francophonie, which bring together thousands of young people to meet, exchange, and learn.
La Francophonie helps developing francophone countries participate in the global economy. Through training and technical assistance, La Francophonie helps countries achieve regional economic integration, strengthen their capacities to participate in international trade negotiations, diversify their economies, and manage their national debts. It also helps improve the capacity of local communities to participate in their own development.
CIDA's Strategy for Working with La Francophonie
CIDA's work with La Francophonie focuses on four strategic objectives:
- Contributing actively to defining the development policies and programs of La Francophonie to reflect Canada's international values and priorities, and ensuring that the cross-cutting La Francophonie themes of youth and equality between women and men remain priorities. CIDA will also help OIF members improve their ability to participate in negotiations of major international economic, trade, and environmental agreements.
- Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of Canada's participation in La Francophonie by working with other Canadian government departments involved to create a coordinated and flexible approach.
- Strengthening the institutions of La Francophonie, particularly the OIF, and contributing to their modernization efforts, including improving the OIF's financial, management, and human resource systems and developing substantial measurable development results with realistic, gender-specific indicators.
- Promoting better coordination, including simplification of governance mechanisms and the harmonization of standards, procedures and management practices across institutions of La Francophonie.
In 2011, with the support of CIDA and other donors, La Francophonie and its institutions:
- Supported election processes and crisis exit strategies in Chad, the Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Madagascar, and Niger, by directly contributing to the signing of peace agreements.
- Increased the capacities of eight peacekeeping training centres in Benin, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Egypt, Mali, Romania and Senegal, by bringing together managers of these centres, representatives of the main Francophone countries supporting them (Belgium, Canada, France, Switzerland), and representatives of the Integrated Training Service of the United Nations.
- Disseminated specialized information on sustainable development through the Médiaterre information system, now the largest French-language database on the environment and sustainable development.
- Trained more than 20 experts from Francophone developing countries in integrating gender considerations during the environmental assessment process, in order to help establish gender-sensitive environmental policies and programs for their respective countries.
- Awarded 4,951 individual training scholarships and research fellowships to students and researchers of La Francophonie.
- Trained more than 29,200 people in information and communication technologies (ITCs) through the Francophone virtual campus network.
- Trained more than 2,000 primary school teachers and 200 trainers in Benin, Burundi, Haiti and Madagascar in a pilot project and then scaled-up the project in Burundi and Benin to train an additional 5,300 primary school teachers.
- Supported the production and dissemination of French-language digital content and/or applications through the Francophone Information Highway Fund.
- Created new centres for reading and cultural activities, or CLACs, in the Comoros and Mali, bringing their total number worldwide to 300 (primarily in Africa). Each year, the entire CLAC network enables 3 million young people to have access to reading and knowledge, through books and films and by attending occupational training workshops.
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