1 October 2003





NEW YORK, 30 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the Secretary-General’s toast at the francophones’ dinner on 25 September (translated from French):



I am very happy to be among you tonight for our yearly meeting, the francophones’ dinner. One year ago, we met in this same place for an evening of humour and relaxation. Sadly, it is difficult for us to be so light-hearted this year.


The last 12 months have been particularly hard. There have been deep divergences within the international community, much inflammatory rhetoric and angry discussion. Some —- fortunately very few —- have expressed their dissatisfaction by turning some of the most delicious words in the French language, such as “chocolatier” and “fromager”, into terms of abuse. And they have even gone so far as to rename certain dishes and call for a boycott of food items that are, to my taste, each more delectable than the next.


Personally, I love chocolate, cheese — and even frog’s legs — and I have nothing against champagne. As for French fries and French toast, I wonder whether calling them by French names isn’t just a way of making them sound more appetizing.


Tonight, whether or not we like chocolate, cheese or fried potatoes, we are going to share the same meal. Though our palates have been trained to like different foods, they will all be equal to appreciating the great French culinary traditions. That is the spirit of this eagerly awaited evening. And that is also the spirit of the United Nations.


We are all quite different, and we can all hold very different opinions on world issues, but I think we all share the same dream: to make this world, the only one we have, a better one.


Like the United Nations, la Francophonie has an important role to play in this connection. For it is not only a vast linguistic forum that brings together peoples of very different origins, traditions and beliefs; it is also a political and democratic project, envisioning a world and human relations based on tolerance, solidarity and mutual respect. It helps build bridges between peoples, and fosters dialogue among cultures and civilizations. It is this path of dialogue and solidarity that we must find if we are to dispel all concerns and misunderstandings, and forge a consensus about common challenges and the ways they should be met. The United Nations is the place where the peoples of the world meet to work together in the interest of humankind. Let us not be afraid to adapt it, if that proves necessary to prevent our Organization losing the legitimacy, authority and trust it enjoys among the peoples of the world.


Friends, let us look for the things that bring us together, rather than those that divide us. Let us cultivate the universal language of peace, justice and solidarity, and let us not betray these three words of the French language, so powerful and beautiful — liberté, égalité, fraternité — that are symbols of hope for all humankind. To this objective, vital for the future of our planet, I invite you now to raise your glass ... of champagne.


Long live la Francophonie! Long live the United Nations!



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