EX-UN CHIEF PLEADS FOR FRENCH IN WORLD BODIES

Paolo Gambi, Rinascimento poetico

EX-UN CHIEF PLEADS FOR FRENCH IN WORLD BODIES

GENEVA, NOV 5 (REUTERS) – FORMER UNITED NATIONS CHIEF BOUTROS BOUTROS-GHALI SAID ON THURSDAY GLOBAL DEMOCRACY COULD BE THREATENED BY A NEW TOTALITARIANISM IF WORLD ORGANISATIONS CAME TO BE DOMINATED BY ONE LANGUAGE.
BOUTROS-GHALI WAS SPEAKING AT THE OPENING OF A SYMPOSIUM CALLED BY THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATION OF FRANCOPHONY OF WHICH HE IS NOW SECRETARY-GENERAL, ON "PLURILINGUALISM" IN U.N. AGENCIES AND OTHER WORLD BODIES.
"IF ALL STATES HAD TO SPEAK THE SAME LANGUAGE, THINK IN THE SAME MANNER, ACT IN THE SAME WAY, THERE WOULD BE A GREAT RISK OF SEEING A TOTALITARIAN SYSTEM INSTALLED ON THE INTERNATIONAL SCALE," HE DECLARED.
THE ONE-TIME DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER OF EGYPT, A COPTIC CHRISTIAN WHO WAS EDUCATED IN FRENCH, MADE NO EXPLICIT MENTION OF THE GROWING PREPONDERANCE OF THE USE OF ENGLISH IN THE U.N. SYSTEM, EVEN IN FRENCH-SPEAKING GENEVA.
BUT FRENCH OFFICIALS AND MANY FROM FORMER COLONIES OF FRANCE IN AFRICA HAVE EXPRESSED CONCERN AT THE ADVANCE OF ENGLISH AT THE EXPENSE OF FRENCH.
MANY CRITICS OF THE U.N. HAVE POINTED TO THE HUGE COST OF ENSURING TRANSLATION OF SPEECHES AND ALL OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS INTO THE ORGANISATION’S SIX OFFICIAL LANGUAGES — ENGLISH, FRENCH, SPANISH, ARABIC, RUSSIAN AND CHINESE.
IN HIS SPEECH, BOUTROS-GHALI INSISTED THAT THE GENEVA GATHERING — WHICH HE SAID WOULD BE FOLLOWED BY OTHERS IN OTHER CITIES WHERE U.N. BODIES ARE BASED — WAS NOT AIMED ONLY AT BOOSTING FRENCH BUT MAINTAINING THE USE OF MANY LANGUAGES.
BUT HE PRAISED FRENCH FOR "CARRYING IN ITSELF THE WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL WORDS…. LIBERTY, DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS."
TO BE PART OF THE FRENCH-SPEAKING WORLD, HE SAID, "MEANS FIGHTING, BEYOND THE DEFENCE OF THE FRENCH LANGUAGE, FOR TOLERANCE, FOR RESPECT FOR LINGUISTIC AND CULTURAL DIVERSITY, AND FOR THE PRESERVATION OF A PLURAL CIVILISATION."
THIS BATTLE, HE SAID, WAS NOT A MONOPOLY OF FRENCH-SPEAKERS BUT SHOULD BE FOUGHT BY ALL THE BIG LINGUISTIC GROUPS — SPANISH, PORTUGUESE, ARAB, RUSSIAN "AND THE ASIAN COMMUNITIES"- AS WELL AS BY THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING WORLD.
05-11-98

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