28 March 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE BY Secretary-General of International

 

Organization of la Francophonie

 


The resources and networks of the francophone world would continue to play an important role in resolving crises and rebuilding post-conflict countries around the world, Abdou Diouf, Secretary-General of The International Organization of la Francophonie, told reporters at a Headquarters press conference today.


Mr. Diouf said his in-depth discussion with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier in the day had focused on a number of subjects vital to both organizations.  “We share common objectives in a changing era,” he said, noting that, with 68 members, la Francophonie represented one third of all United Nations Member States.


He said their discussion of global conflict zones had focused on Côte d’Ivoire, Chad, the Central African Republic and Darfur in addition to other African theatres of operations outside la Francophonie, including Kenya, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


To that end, Mr. Diouf said la Francophonie had particular expertise in capacity-building, constitutional areas, regulation and training of media and electoral officers, and mediation capabilities in particularly deadlocked negotiations, due to its networks in French-speaking countries.  It was currently a member of all monitoring committees involved in Côte d’Ivoire and he had recently attended a meeting led by President Blaise Campoare of Burkina Faso on Chad.  As a result, la Francophonie would be setting up an international fact-finding mission of independent experts into the recent hostilities there.


It would also continue to use its resources in the Central African Republic and the Comoros, he said.  While it had been impossible to untie the Gordian knot in the Comoros, he said it was now time to rebuild there, starting with the upcoming June elections, which would hopefully be free and fair.


Mr. Diouf said he and Mr. Ban had discussed a number of other topics ranging from the Millennium Development Goals; the need to find a replacement for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, who is leaving her post at the end of June; and the problems facing the French language and its status in the United Nations.


He had also invited the Secretary-General to the opening ceremony of the upcoming three-day summit of la Francophonie, scheduled for 17 October in Montreal, Quebec.


He said there was no doubt French was one of the working languages of the United Nations, even though English was clearly dominant.  The way to guard against a decline in its use, however, was through daily use, rather than through resolutions.  Indeed, every meeting at the United Nations should be held in both English and French.  “It’s a question of everyday will and practice,” he stressed.


Asked if he considered the Secretary-General a francophone, Mr. Diouf noted that when the Secretary-General had met with him in Paris, the entire interview was in French.  He also pointed out that Mr. Ban studied four hours of French each weekend.


To a question on whether la Francophonie regarded the post being vacated by the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, as a “French post”, he said it was important that his replacement be a French speaker.


In response to a question whether he preferred that Louise Arbour’s replacement come from Africa, Mr. Diouf expressed regret that she was leaving and the hope that her replacement would be up to the task.


Asked about his reaction to Fitna, a film made by Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders and released earlier in the day, he said that, while he had not seen the film, as a practicing Muslim he was “absolutely horrified” by any argument that equated Islam and terrorism.  Islam was a religion of peace and love and should not be conflated with fundamentalism.  It was the duty of moderate Muslims to respond to such allegations not only within the Muslim community, but outside.


He added that the problems posed by rising fundamentalism were a concern not only in francophone countries, but to all men of goodwill and those who seek peace.  Efforts to promote cultural diversity were part of combating this type of attitude.


He said that, while no decisions on themes had been settled on by the Canadian host delegation, la Francophonie’s October summit would likely focus on political and economic governance and the environment, among others.


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For information media • not an official record