A new actor to implement cultural diplomacy of France
The Institut français is in charge of implementing France’s cultural action abroad. The agency was set up by the July 27, 2010 French Foreign Cultural Action Act and its enabling decree of December 30, 2010.
Under the supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, its role is to act as the conduit for a new, more ambitious “diplomacy of influence”, within the framework of French governmental policies and priorities. It will help to promote French influence abroad through greater dialogue with foreign cultures, while responding to the needs of France via a policy of listening, partnership and openness to other cultures. The Institut français replaces the Culturesfrance association, with the legal status of a “Public Industrial and Commercial Undertaking”.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has transferred a number of new missions to the Institut français in addition to those performed by Culturesfrance in the field of cultural exchanges and welcoming foreign cultures to France. Among these new activities are promoting the French language, thought and knowledge, as well as training the staff of the French cultural network. The Institut français upholds freedom of expression and diversity in today’s globalized world, while at the same time asser- ting its capabilities and expertise in the promotion of French culture worldwide. It is instrumental in projecting France’s influence and cooperative activities, and as a center of expertise and advice.
Furthermore, the Institut français has a central role to play in addressing today’s digital challenges. The Internet and social networks are transforming the way in which culture is disseminated. The Institut français will be adopting these technologies to turn them into a channel for advancing French influence.
Working closely with France’s cultural network abroad, in the shape of the instituts français and alliances françaises, the Institut français seeks to answer the needs of the country’s diplomatic missions. At the same time, however, it is promoting initiatives to pool projects more widely and achieve economies of scale. At a local level, it operates under the authority of the ambassador in the country concerned.
The Institut français in 2015
The French Cultural Network
The creation of a common brand, “Institut français”, embracing both the Paris institution and the instituts français abroad, lends coherence and visibility to France’s cultural diplomacy.
This cultural diplomacy is based on a network of 96 instituts français and more than 300 alliances françaises under contract with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs located in 161 different countries around the world.
France has a long tradition of pursuing diplomacy through culture going back to the Ancien Regime. This was a time when culture and diplomacy were closely interlinked, and when the French language and culture permeated the world.
Cultural policy went hand in hand with diplomacy throughout the 19th century. France revitalized its external cultural policy in the aftermath of World War I, setting up the "Association française d’expansion et d’échanges artistiques" in 1922. Its successor, the Association française d’action artistique (AFAA), brought together a range of leading figures concerned to promote French art worldwide.
Intellectual and cultural exchanges burgeoned in the 20th century, testifying to the flourishing state of French thought and artistic life. A new impetus was given to these activities when the AFAA merged with the "Association pour la diffusion de la pensée française" (ADPF), giving rise to the creation of Culturesfrance in 2006. Under the twin authority of the Ministry of Culture and Communication and the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, the role of Culturesfrance was to support French cultural action worldwide. This was replaced by the Institut français, with a broader range of action, in January 2011.