Chirac to revive dying languages
France’s former president Jacques Chirac calls for action to save dying languages in his newly-launched foundation.10 June 2008
PARIS - France's former president Jacques Chirac on Monday launched his new foundation, calling for action to save dying languages and confront what he termed the twin crises in nature and culture.
The 75-year-old ex-president was joined by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, three Nobel Peace laureates and about a dozen other former leaders for the launch of the foundation in Paris.
The event marked the return of Chirac to the public stage, a year after he handed over to Nicolas Sarkozy and turned the page on 40 years in politics, 12 of which were spent at the Elysee presidential palace.
The foundation will support projects aimed at promoting sustainable development and cultural diversity, with a special focus on languages and cultures threatened with extinction.
"Of the 6,000 languages spoken today in the world, 90 percent are at risk of disappearing in the course of this century," Chirac said at the inauguration at the Quai Branly museum in Paris, which opened under his presidency.
"Is this what we want? A world which would be impoverished and which could only preserve what is immediately profitable?" he asked.
Chirac called on the United Nations and the UN cultural agency UNESCO to organise a world summit to "consider solutions" through the use of technology to save dying languages.
The foundation itself is launching the first project of a programme to preserve what is left of Araki, now spoken by only eight people on the Polynesian island of Vanuatu.
It has enlisted the help of Nobel Peace laureate Rigoberta Menchu, a rights activist and champion of the Mayan culture, to work on preservation of indigenous languages in the Americas.
Chirac said the world faced "twin crises" in nature and culture, because of environmental degradation and the rise of xenophobic behaviour and terrorism.
"One will not be resolved without the other," he said.
The foundation is also supporting projects to promote access to water and medicines in west Africa and to combat deforestation in the Congo Basin.
In west Africa, the foundation will train members of local communities in water management as part of a multi-billion-euro programme of the African Development Bank to promote access to clean water.
A quality-control laboratory for medicines in Benin is also getting support from the Chirac Foundation to combat fake and substandard drugs that cost lives.
In partnership with the Geneva-based Tropical Trust Fund, the foundation is supporting efforts to prevent deforestation in the Congo Basin and to open an indigenous-language radio station to broadcast to Congolese Pygmy communities.
Chirac also has plans to travel including a trip to China that was delayed after he underwent a pacemaker operation in April.
Since returning to life as a private citizen, Chirac has kept a low profile as he battled corruption allegations.
In November, he became the first former French head of state to be placed under formal investigation - a step toward full criminal charges.
Chirac is suspected of misappropriating city funds for political ends when he was mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995. He has denied any wrongdoing.
[AFP / Expatica]