It’s official! The American state has joined the International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF) as an observer member. Its application was accepted on Thursday, October 11, by the organization’s member states at a summit in Erevan, Armenia.
The 54 full member states and governments of the IOF made a unanimous decision at the 17th summit of La Francophonie. According to Bertin Leblanc, the spokesperson for the organization, “In La Francophonie, decisions are made by consensus. We don’t vote.” Louisiana is home to almost 250,000 Francophones, has 5,000 students enrolled in French-English dual-language programs, and has now joined the IOF along with Ireland, Gambia, and Malta.
“Louisiana has taken a seat at the table of La Francophonie,” announced the CODOFIL, the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana. Its executive director Peggy Feehan submitted the state’s application at the IOF’s headquarters in Paris on April 5 of this year. “By being part of this organization comprised of Francophone and Francophile countries and governments from all over the world, Louisiana is now officially recognized as a Francophone region on the global stage,” reads the CODOFIL statement. “Being a member of the IOF also offers a number of opportunities for collaborations between our state and the rest of the Francophone world. The future is bright for the French language in Louisiana!”
The annual membership fee for an observer member of the IOF is almost 10,000 dollars. “But Louisiana will reap considerable economic rewards as a result,” says Scott Tilton, the young Louisianan who first suggested his state apply to the organization. The Francophonie University Association, which has an annual budget of 40 million euros, fosters exchanges between the academic institutions of member countries. Multilateral cooperation initiatives will also be a way to strengthen trade links between states. As Peggy Feehan puts it, “This is a convincing argument for attracting investors. Come and do business in Louisiana; our state has unique access to more than 80 countries.”