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The French Institute

March 25, 2011

A few months ago I posted some material about the plan to reorganize French Cultural Diplomacy.  The  new Institut Francaise launched in early January.

The basic thrust of the reforms seems to be get better coordination between the cultural work of the foreign ministry and of the French cultural institutes that exist in many cities around the world.  Up until now these institutes have worked independently of each other and the intent of the new organization is to create something rather more centralized like the British Council or the Goethe Institute – organizations that are explicitly mentioned in much of the discussion.  However, it looks like most of the existing cultural institutes will continue to operate indepently for the moment.  There is a plan for cultural activities in ten countries to come under the direct control of the new Institute for an experimental period – the success of this will have implications for the rest of the network.  The countries involved in the experiment are Cambodge, Chili, Danemark, Emirats arabes unis, Géorgie, Ghana, Grande-Bretagne, Inde, Koweït, Sénégal, Serbie, Singapour, Syrie.

Although the new Institute is supposed to be a joint enterprise of the foreign ministry and the ministry of culture it’s not clear from the documentation that I’ve seen how this will work in practice.

One other point is the priority that France continues to give to Europe in its cultural work, the British Council has been scaling back its work there in order to give more attention to the middle east and the rising industrial powers.

The web site of the Institut Francais is here. Here’s a press release in English on the launch of the organization and a fuller description in French.  There’s a collection of articles from the French press here.

As a bonus here’s an English Org Chart for the Directorate-General of Global Affairs, Development and Partnerships the part of the Foreign Ministry that deals with (among other things) cultural matters

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