A new partnership to increase France’s cultural influence
Joint article by Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, and Jean-Pierre de Launoit, President of the Fondation Alliance française, published in the “La Croix” newspaper - Paris, 8 April 2010
Ever since it was founded, the Alliance française has been one of the most active promoters of French language and culture around the world. Its action is all the more remarkable as the Alliances françaises – there are currently a thousand of them – are private associations operating under local laws which have been started by foreigners who love our language and culture and have taken the lead in furthering them in their own country.
The Alliance française, which has been supported by the government from the outset, puts all its energy into helping spread French ideas and values. It is a driving force of Francophony in the world. Along with our 150 French institutes and cultural centres around the world, it is an invaluable asset for French foreign policy. Together they form a cultural network which is unique in the world and goes far to explain the interest which our ideas, innovations and way of understanding the world continue to generate on all continents. As a result of this network, amazingly durable, solid and fraternal ties are established between our country and the most diverse peoples.
At a time when the resources of our cultural diplomacy, and its visibility, are being increased – specifically through the establishment of an external cultural agency which is currently under consideration in Parliament – a consolidated partnership between the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Fondation Alliance française makes perfect sense. It even constitutes a key element in the success of this reform which will be facilitated by the sweeping modernization being undertaken by the Alliance française itself.
Having a presence in the world means a France that is active on all cultural fronts. For this, all institutions, whether they are public or private, are invited to work together to increase cooperation, pool their forces and ideas and set up concerted plans of action. This is why we – the Foreign and European Affairs Ministry and Fondation Alliance française – have decided to combine our efforts and establish a common strategy for a single goal: to provide a common response to global cultural competition by reaching out as much as possible and projecting the voice of France, her attractiveness and values up close. The French Institutes and Alliances françaises will have to form a single network on a map of the world. By connecting their names, engaging in more joint operations, and together making the institutions more professional still, they will be better equipped to work more effectively in the framework of a single strategy.
A country’s role is no longer measured solely on the strength of its economy, its military capabilities and place in the institutions of international governance. It is also measured, of course, by the impact of its ideas, innovations, its art de vivre from one side of the world to the other. The products of the intellect play a decisive political role. Ideas, words, knowledge, images and sound circulate at rapid speed through what is now a single electronic space. Influence, prosperity, freedom belong to those who know how to master both production and dissemination. So it is essential for France to be present in this vast field of culture, communication and knowledge. It is equally essential for the French to help the countries to which they feel close take their place there.
The power of ideas is now at the heart of strategies to gain influence, and France as a major player in the globalized space of culture and knowledge must respond to it with all the strength of her external cultural action. The revamped partnership with the Alliance française is a central feature, for the greatest benefit to our country but also for all who believe in the cultural dimension and the messages that France intends to affirm in the globalized world.