Ms. Michaëlle Jean (left), 3rd Secretary-General of the International Organization of La Francophonie
H.E. Mr. Ahmed Araita Ali (right), Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Djibouti to Japan.
H.E. Mr. Ahmed Araita Ali
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Djibouti to Japan
—Five years ago, one couldn’t forecast amazing opportunities and the progress made by the Council for the promotion of La Francophonie in Japan. First, how to imagine that Japan would hold the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo? How to conceive the possibility of having a successful joint project with the Office of the Prime Minister of Japan in sending a delegation of seven young Japanese at the 2nd French Language World Forum in Belgium in July 2015?
I have always been convinced that joining our efforts around the strength and values of the International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF) would contribute to advance the dialogue of culture between nations. As the first Council’s President, I recall in my inaugural address, on May 27th 2010, in presence of 23 official representations of countries and states IOF members and a dozen associations, saying that it would be a challenge to explain to Japanese that French is not only spoken in France, but in many other countries in the world.
The Council’s objectives were to promote La Francophonie as part of a large family of nations, French speaking and sharing common values, and willing to promote the protection and respect for cultural diversity. In fact, unity is our strength. The digital era made distance disappear but made us aware of the pluralistic and multilingual world we live in.
French is one of the most studied languages in Japan. Each school’s year, if you sell a million English-Japanese dictionaries, it sells one hundred thousand French Japanese dictionaries. And the presence of TV5Monde in Japan is the reminder of the existence of one million French speaking potential viewers in Japan and probably one of the best tools to discover the extent of the Francophone presence across the world.
I still believe that to fully present the francophone experience in Japan, it is for us to illustrate, disseminate, in the era of globalization, more than the language itself, but the ideas, values and beliefs it conveys.
La Francophonie is enriched by its diversity of cultures. It offers a unique perspective to understand identities in a pluralistic world. Nurturing the spirit of tolerance, collaboration and solidarity it contributes to live in peace in harmony. In my own country, in Djibouti, we are helping over 30,000 refugees mainly from Yemen and Somalia. Without leadership and help from countries such as Japan to share the burden with us, it would be difficult to do more.
I attended a speech recently given by the Governor of Tokyo, Mr. Yoichi Masuzoe. He mentioned that linguistic and cultural barriers might be a challenge for Japanese in welcoming the world at the Olympics. I couldn’t resist suggesting him that the Council for the promotion of La Francophonie is willing to facilitate connections and intercultural dialogue in any ways we can to make the Games a success.
In 2015, it was quite a rewarding experience for the Council to work closely with members of the communication team of Prime Minister’s Abe. We were able to send a group of seven young Japanese to represent Japan in Liège, Belgium, among 1,200 francophone from all over the world. We were thrilled over the meeting between the Belgium Prime Minister Mr. Charles Michel, and Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Shinzo Abe, discussing bilateral relations and mentioning about the Japanese presence at the 2nd French Language World Forum in Belgium.
To conclude, the Council is ready to expand its networking activities and be pro-active in sharing its expertise in intercultural relations and promoting cultural diversity. Five years ago, I concluded my remarks in quoting a kotowaza–a Japanese proverb–saying essentially “Try your luck, you will eventually succeed.” We’ll keep doing so for the coming years.