15 DECEMBER 2014


The association of French-speaking countries (fully or partially) is a loosely-knit group with a positive focus on French culture. They do not vote the same in international circles; in fact, some of them compete for posts, except when it comes to the use of French language or promoting French culture.

The position of its Secretary-General first drew wider attention when Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali took it after leaving his U.N. post in a controversial atmosphere with a U.S. Administration. His successor Mr. Abdou Diouf was a widely-regarded President of Senegal whose first President Leopold Senghor was a noted Francophone poet.

A competition to succeed Mr. Diouf took different turns. Campaigners started in 2012 for a post to be vacated by the end of 2014. Names mentioned were restricted to three diplomats serving in Paris, giving the impression that interest among more senior officials was fading. There were rumblings about certain Quai d'Orsay French diplomats, mainly seeking plum international jobs for themselves rather than spreading support to other Francophones. But that did not take away from the essential importance of the Association's objectives. There was talk of a "standby candidate," Lebanon's then President Michel Suleiman, who made several trips to Paris, often meeting with President Hollande, though not necessarily on that issue. As election times in November drew closer, outgoing President Suleiman was losing ground; it was difficult to be awarded abroad when becoming controversial at home. Even Lebanon's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gebran Bassil, who represented the country at the Dakar electoral summit, would not have voted for him -- he is the son-in-law of General Michel Aoun, an influential (Maronite) adversary and candidate for the Presidency.

A candidature of Ms. Michaelle Jean by Canada was received favorably, not only to maintain high level prestige, but also to display welcome credentials for a distant yet key industrial country in the Americas. Ms. Jean is a former Governor-General of Canada (from 2005 - 2010). Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1957, her family moved to Quebec in 1968. She worked as a reporter for Radio Canada. Besides representing UNESCO in her country of birth, she was the Chancellor of the University of Ottawa.

On November 30, 2014, Ms. Michaelle Jean made history by being the first woman to be elected by consensus as Secretary-General of La Francophonie.