Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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  S.E.M. / H.E. Bernardino Osio

The Latin Union 1954-2004: Championing Latin Identity around the Globe for 50 Years
by H.E. Ambassador Bernardino Osio, Secretary General of the Latin Union

The Latin Union (L.U.) is an international intergovernmental organization founded in 1954 with the signing of the Constituent Agreement of Madrid, after the decision to create a specifically Latin institution at the 1951 Rio de Janeiro conference. This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Latin Union’s founding act. A total of 35 states have become members of the L.U., either by ratifying the Constituent Agreement or joining thereafter. They form a vast archipelago that spreads out across Africa, the Americas and Europe, with the Republic of the Philippines standing as a remote outpost in Asia.
All these states have one thing in common: their official languages are all derived from Latin, which is the distinguishing feature of our organization.
The Latin Union is not associated with a specific geographic area to which it is indelibly linked (it has no “geographic” base, nor is it a “regional” organization). It does not champion any single, overriding objective (it has no political, economic, or even technological agenda, such as hunger or health care, nor is it strictly culture oriented). The Latin Union is defined primarily by the steadfast endurance of a centuries-old heritage. Thirty-five widely different countries – with different geographic locations and different socioeconomic and cultural problems, with different potential and roles within the international community – have joined an intergovernmental treaty that bears witness to an essential fact: the inalienable identity of each and every member state is built upon a shared legacy. This shared legacy is a common Latin heritage that has been handed down through the ages. It is composed of symbolic and hence fundamental values that stem, firstly, from belonging to the same linguistic family and legal system, and, secondly, from our reverence for the same spiritual and cultural references. This discarnate patrimony lives on, embodied by our monuments, books, images (of all kinds), codes, etc.
It is the Latin Union’s duty to keep this feeling of belonging and sharing alive, and to make it stronger than ever. There is a great deal of talk nowadays about “cultural diversity.” The Latin Union can play a key role in this important debate, if it remains faithful to its mission.
The Latin Union is comprised of three main bodies that champion its policies by implementing a variety of programs: the Congress, the Executive Council, and the General Secretariat.
The Congress, which brings together representatives from every member state, is convened once every two years. It approves the L.U.’s budget and lays out the the broad lines of its actions. It welcomes new members into the Union, elects the president and vice-president of the Congress, and elects member states to sit on the Executive Council. The Executive Council is composed of 12 member states that regularly monitor the organization’s activities.
The Latin Union is headed by a Secretary General appointed by Congress to a four-year term. He is in charge of implementing programs and carrying out the decisions taken by the Congress and the Executive Council as concerns the Union’s budget outlays and primary objectives. He is assisted in this work by three program divisions.

Promoting and Teaching Languages
The Division for the Promotion and Teaching of Languages (DPEL) strives to expand the use of Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian in L.U. member countries. Its goal is to strengthen the ties that bind Latin language-speaking countries and promise them a shared future in our increasingly globalized world. As Latin countries become more active in large-scale economic and political communities, their citizens must work to educate their non-Latin partners. They can do this by sharing their linguistic and cultural identities in a broader multilingual dialogue. The DPEL’s activities can be grouped by their main focus of interest, following a logic that underscores their close interdependence:
– conducting statistical and linguistic studies, with the aim of developing linguistic strategies to be implemented in member states’ education systems;
– supporting teacher training and language courses;
– giving language examinations;
– supplying pedagogical material;
– organizing  youth meetings;
– holding symposiums on the common roots of Latin-derived languages;
– publishing manuals, specialized glossaries, and the proceedings of various conferences;
– creating a Web site (featuring inter-comprehension modules for Latin-derived languages, to entice young Net surfers to explore the countless links between these languages).

Language Terminology and Industries
The Division of Language Terminology and Industries (DTIL) is in charge of enriching the scientific and technical terminology used in Romance languages, helping boost cooperation between language industry professionals in Latin countries, and expanding the use of Romance languages in the Information Society (or as it would be better named: the Knowledge Society). The DTIL provides material, methodological and technical support to organizations the world over. It identifies and anticipates their needs, and supports initiatives within its field of operation. It manages the Ibero-American (RITerm) and Pan-Latin (Realiter) Terminology Networks. It also works with the European Association for Terminology (EAFT) and several other national terminology associations, the International Francophone Network for Linguistic Development (Rifal), the French and Mercosur Terminology Commissions, and numerous other international bodies. The DTIL has become the leader in its field, focusing its efforts on:
– supporting national associations and international networks;
– creating data banks;
– building Web sites that highlight the vitality of Latin languages in the “knowledge” sector;
– training experts and setting up exchange programs;
– organizing conferences, seminars, exhibitions, symposiums, studies, and research projects;
– publishing and distributing dictionaries.

Culture and Communication
The Latin Union’s top priorities in the cultural arena are:
– promoting and disseminating the Latin cultural heritage (exhibitions, training people in how to preserve cultural works, film cycles, co-publications, etc.);
– supporting cultural creation and exchanges (literary and arts awards, meetings with artists, audiovisual training, etc.);
– promoting and strengthening the notion of latinity (symposiums, talks and publications on latinity and the varied aspects of Latin-based cultures).
Multilateral cooperation is key to these efforts, and can take the form of:
– art contests and awards for young creators;
– international symposiums;
– meetings with writers, and prestigious literary prizes;
– promoting Roman legal culture in cooperation with universities, and organizing specialized seminars;
– holding Latin film seasons, organizing audiovisual training courses for film specialists, supporting Latin film festivals, and awarding prizes to Latin documentaries;
– creating a Web site (a virtual museum of Latin art, an overview of key monuments in several Latin American cities);
– building and setting up art libraries focused on the Latin world.
We are able to carry out this work thanks to the human resources and material support supplied by the Administration and Finance Division and the Personnel Department.
All these activities embody the unifying principle that lies at the heart of the Latin Union: the notion that cultural diversity must be defended. The Latin Union’s very existence offers living proof that the notion of cultural diversity is not only of key importance, but can indeed be put into practice. The fact that the Latin Union does not speak or act from a position of strength, and is beyond all national self-interest, actually works to its advantage. Finally, it is the only organization built upon a core identity shared by all 35 of its member states. That may not seem like much, in terms of power or production. But as a guiding principle, it may be all that truly counts.
The Latin Union’s ideas, projects and hopes were recently underscored at an international scientific symposium organized by the L.U. on 16-19 March 2004 in Paris. The symposium was both the summary and symbol of our reflections and conditions, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Latin Union.
The main focus of the event was to gain a better grasp of the significance, relevance and content of the notion of latinity in a geopolitical situation increasingly marked by the problems brought on by globalization.
Thirty-eight key figures from across the Latin world shared their thoughts in concrete presentations heightened by their scientific rigor and total freedom of speech. The opening panel discussion was devoted to “The future of latinity.” It was followed by six sessions entitled: “Latin heritage today,” “The history and geopolitics of latinity,” “Latinity in contact,” “Latinity, rights, and laws,” “The anthropology of latinity,”  and “Latin-derived languages as tools of global communication?”
Participants seized this opportunity to show the extremely diverse means through which Latins in Africa, the Americas and Europe express their latinity. They stressed the vitality and persistence of this inalienable part of their core identity, and how that identity makes it easier to communicate with one another and colors their interaction with everyone outside the Latin community. They confirmed the continued relevance of contemporary latinity, which, throughout history, has consistently shown remarkable openness to others, respecting their differences while keeping borders open.
All three days of highly thought-provoking panels drew a large and attentive audience, proving that the general public appreciates the importance of the issues and hopes raised by the notion of latinity as we seek to resolve the pressing problems on the contemporary world stage.
The symposium received wide media coverage, thanks to a partnership with the Paris daily newspaper La Croix and the France-Culture radio station. This coverage gave the Latin Union’s initiative a considerable boost, further strengthening our organization and justifying its fundamental choices. 
The symposium concluded with the adoption of a declaration read by the president of the Latin Union Congress, Ambassador Javier Perez de Cuellar, called the “The Paris Declaration of the Latin Union.”

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