Michaelle Jean, Canada's former governor general and a candidate for secretary general of La Francophonie, spoke to Viet Nam News about her vision for the French language during a visit to Viet Nam.
by Vuong Bach Lien
This is your first trip to Viet Nam. Does it aim to promote the French language in the country? Could you tell me more about the objectives of your visit?
First, let me say how delighted I am to be here in Ha Noi. Back in 1997, a historic Summit of La Francophonie was held here, and I always considered a visit to Ha Noi an indispensable step in my campaign to become the next secretary general of La Francophonie.
Of course, promotion of the French language in Viet Nam is something I consider very important, but by coming here, I also wanted to send a clear message that La Francophonie is present, alive and active on every continent, and we must engage all member states and governments if we want to reach the full potential and fulfil the promise of this organisation. In that perspective, I believe Viet Nam can play a major role. With its vibrant economy and its youth, Viet Nam can serve as a bridge or a door to Asia for countries of La Francophonie, especially considering the new economic direction heads of governments want to give the organisation.
So, in short, one of the key objectives of my visit is to discuss with Vietnamese political authorities the tremendous potential this country represents for La Francophonie in the region and the role it can play within the French-speaking world.
If you become the General Secretary of La Francophonie, what will be your top priority to further develop its influence in the world?
If I have the honour to be appointed Secretary General of La Francophonie by heads of states and governments, my top priority will be to implement the roadmap, particularly the economic roadmap, which they will adopt at the Dakar Summit.
As to how to further the organisation's influence in the world, I believe one of the ways to do that is to better communicate what La Francophonie does.
With 77 member states and governments in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas, as well as member states and governments belonging to both the developed and developing world and member states and governments which together make up about 15 per cent of the world's GDP, La Francophonie already is an influential organisation. I think we just have to do a better job of showing the world what is possible when we put all our energies and efforts together toward common goals.
As Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, I always sought to open spaces for dialogue and active listening. I was able to unite people around the need to work together. This is also the kind of diplomacy that I brought with me when travelling abroad, through some 40 official state visits around the world, lending as much importance to my encounters with leaders and decision-makers as I did to meeting citizens and civil society organisations. It is that kind of diplomacy that I intend to bring with me to La Francophonie with my candidacy, to give the organisation a fresh impetus.
At the International Forum of the French language that was held in 2012 in Canada, you delivered a speech entitled "The French language will change the world." As we know, fewer people in the world speak French. How could La Francophonie change the world?
One way La Francophonie can change the world is by demonstrating the opportunities it represents: the economic opportunities, the cultural opportunities, the social and educational opportunities as well as the development opportunities.
Francophones often have a tendency to underestimate the extraordinary chance we have to share this language and what a powerful tool it can be. We have to see the French language as a precious diplomatic tool which can allow us to strategically occupy a space in the world economy through our networks, our institutions, our common values and our know-how. But to do that, we absolutely have to answer with attractive and irresistible propositions the desire, particularly of youth, to speak French. We have to better convince them that the French language opens a window on the world and new opportunities. We need to be more imaginative and expand this space through social media, networks and new information technologies.
Viet Nam is a member of La Francophonie. But it has not been very active. According to you, what benefits could Viet Nam gain if it becomes more active?
I do not agree with the premise of your question. I believe Viet Nam has been active as a member of La Francophonie. For example, Viet Nam's Diplomatic Academy has been hosting the new Centre d'etudes et de cooperation francophone pour l'Asie et le Pacifique [The Centre for French Language Research and Co-operation in the Asia-Pacific] since March. I know that Viet Nam also has a programme de valorisation de la langue française [Development Programme for the French Language].
On the economic side, Viet Nam is ever more active in Africa, particularly in French-speaking African countries. Trade between Viet Nam and Africa reached US$4 billion last year. Viet Nam is also active in co-operation initiatives on the African continent. So again, I think Viet Nam is an active member of La Francophonie.
That said, there are very positive and encouraging perspectives for La Francophonie in Viet Nam. As I mentioned earlier, I think Viet Nam can play a major role as a bridge or door to Asia for countries of La Francophonie, especially in the context of the creation of a French-speaking economic space. With its economy and its youth, there is no question in my mind that Viet Nam can and will play an important role in La Francophonie of the 21st century.
You are a politician, a journalist and a filmmaker. Which job do you prefer? Which job do you think will be most useful to the community?
I would not define myself as a filmmaker. I did work with my husband who is a filmmaker and helped him on several documentary films.
As to which job I prefer, that's a difficult question to answer. I would say that everything I have done in my life has been motivated by great values, social action, engagement and commitment.
On the question of which job is most useful to the community, I would say that it is not so much the job as it is the person, the contribution he or she wants to make and always being convinced that you can make a difference. — VNS