Zahra Kamil Ali, representative of the Americas at the OIF

This text is part of the special Francophonie booklet

Appointed representative of the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) for the Americas (Quebec) last fall, Zahra Kamil Ali is a seasoned diplomat, having previously held the same position with the African Union. Formerly based in Paris and Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, it is in Quebec this time, in the new pied-à-terre of the OIF inaugurated barely a year ago, that this native of Djibouti ensures the in charge of one of the 13 external representations of the OIF.

The Quebec reality was no stranger to the representative of the Americas at the OIF, since she had the opportunity, in her university career, to study at the National School of Public Administration (ENAP). “I had a real crush on Quebec on my first visit, in 1997. I have friends here and I have rubbed shoulders with many Quebecers in my various professional roles. »

She says this knowledge of Quebec helped her make her decision. “I was motivated to come and take up this challenge,” she said in an interview. No cultural shock on his side therefore, but perhaps a slight one on the climatic level. “I had come in summer, but I had never experienced winter! That said, I’m happy with my choice and I feel like I belong. »

Born in Djibouti, an East African country whose two official languages ​​are French and Arabic, Zahra Kamil Ali studied law which took her to France, Besançon and Strasbourg. A young lawyer, she was head of the Legal Department of the General Secretariat of the Government and, until her departure in 2003, legal adviser to the President of the Republic of Djibouti.

It was then that she joined the OIF, where she was based alternately in Ethiopia and France. She will develop, among other things, an expertise in peace and security issues in Africa. “I have worked on transition processes, electoral processes and crisis resolution processes, particularly in OIF member countries such as the Comoros, Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea. »

A first representation of the OIF in Quebec

Newly posted to Quebec, Zahra Kamil Ali is currently busy “operationalizing” her new office, a first representation of the OIF in Quebec, which will have about ten employees, and whose scope of representation covers all of the Americas. except for the Caribbean. She recalls that this space includes three full members of the OIF: Quebec, New Brunswick and Canada, and that there are also six observer members: Ontario, Louisiana, Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico.

The idea is to strengthen the presence of the Organization and its influence in the Americas, to meet French speakers. “Being in Quebec, where the official language is French, made perfect sense, in addition to bringing us closer to other regions and our partners to carry out political work and local diplomacy. »

Priorities and partnerships

The mission of the new representative of the OIF in America is clear: to contribute to the strengthening of the Francophonie and to the influence of the French language in the Americas. “The French language is obviously at the heart of my mandate and the priorities of the representation that I lead. This one also shares its offices with the Observatory of the French language, which follows the evolution of the French language in the world and which publishes a report every four years. “My mandate will consist in particular in strengthening the visibility of the Observatory and its impact, consolidating existing partnerships and creating new ones around priority themes, such as that of French-speaking expertise in education. »

She also points out that the issue of digital discoverability is a priority shared with the Government of Quebec. In the short term, Zahra Kamil Ali wants to highlight programs that affect digital, the economy and cultural cooperation. “We want to make proposals for programmatic offers taking into account the priorities of the Secretary General and the needs of the Member States that are under my jurisdiction. »

Asked about the fragile state of French, or even its decline, in Canada, but also in Quebec — and to a greater extent in North America — the OIF representative cautiously recalled that the work of her organization was to strengthen the use of French in the world through all sorts of initiatives. “Based on my short experience in Quebec, I can already attest to the vitality of French here. She recalls that her organization and the Government of Quebec share common objectives regarding the promotion of the French language. “I feel that there is a strong desire for collaboration on the part of the government. »

This special content was produced by the Special Publications team of the Duty, relating to marketing. The drafting of Duty did not take part.

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