The 18th Summit of the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) congregated in Djerba, Tunisia, November 19–20. More than 30 heads of state and government joined discussions on several issues, including digital development and youth employment.
On the eve of the 18th OIF Summit, the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), the Group of Francophone Ambassadors to China, and the Tunisian Embassy in China jointly held the Symposium of Francophone Ambassadors on November 14. YCA Dean Dong Qiang attended the symposium, exchanging ideas and engaging with the Francophone Ambassadors to China and other scholars. Professor Dong contributed to discussions on digital development and cooperation between the OIF and China.
In his remarks, Dean Dong recalled his first meeting with the OIF, where he was awarded La Grande Medaille de la Francophonie, the most prestigious award of La Francophonie. This time, he attended the symposium as the Dean of Yenching Academy, a China Studies master’s program dedicated to promoting cross-cultural exchanges and talent training with Chinese and international perspectives. Moreover, Dean Dong recounted his fruitful discussions with enthusiastic francophone Yenching Scholars the day before the symposium, and extended, on behalf of the Academy, a warm welcome to more francophone candidates intending to apply to YCA. Furthermore, Dean Dong looked back at the memory of his old friend, the late Dr. Mohamed Sahbi Basly, former Tunisian Ambassador to China, who died of illness years ago. Dr. Basly was a charismatic man and a great contributor to Tunisia-China relations.
Former French president François Hollande once promoted an economic program with the OIF and asked his advisors to work on a report on Asia. Professor Dong, one of the top French-speaking figures in Asia listed in the report, maintained that there was much to be done based on its recommendations. The OIF’s greatest economic potential may be better tapped in the area of digital development. Meanwhile, Professor Dong, an expert on intercultural exchange, stressed the significance of cultural intercourses coupled with technological and economic cooperation. In turn, culture as a soft power component boosts economic growth and facilitates closer ties between countries and regions.
Dean Dong reckoned that inadequate information and mutual knowledge have caused many OIF member countries to be less familiar or engaged with China. However, the era of digitalization is changing this matrix; the scene is growing brighter in a digitalized world. Unlike France, whose time-honored philosophies and pieces of literature have long been translated into Chinese and known to the Chinese people, many other francophone countries have had less penetration into Chinese society. Professor Dong called for stronger bilingual intercultural exchanges between China and Francophone countries by relying on the academic strength of translators, scholars, and professors from institutions and other organizations to enhance communication and mutual understanding between the Chinese and the francophones.
The attendees included:
Wang Huiyao, President of the Center for China and Globalization
Mustapha Abid, charge d’affaires ad interim at the Tunisian embassy in China
H.E. Mr. Baudelaire Ndong Ella, Gabonese Ambassador to China and Chairman-on-duty of GAF to China
H.E. Mr. Laurent Bili, French Ambassador to China
H.E. Mr. Alain Wong Yen Cheong, Mauritian Ambassador to China
H.E. Mr. Garba Seyni, Ambassador of Niger to China
H.E. Mr. Burri Juerg, Swiss Ambassador to China
H.E. Ms. Yang Xiaorong, former Chinese Ambassador to Luxemburg
The International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) was founded in 1970 when the representatives of 21 countries signed the Treaty of Niamey, creating the Agency of Cultural and Technical Cooperation (ACCT).
French is one of the world’s major languages. In the 1960s, then-French President Charles de Gaulle proposed the creation of “la Francophonie”. First convened in 1986, the Conference of Heads of States and Government of Countries Using French as a Common Language congregates every two years.
Headquartered in Paris, the OIF has 88 member countries, including 54 full members, seven associate members, and 27 observers. Second, only to the United Nations in size, the OIF is sometimes called the Lesser United Nations.