French Diplomacy in the 21st Century

Pauline Carmona, French consul general of San Francisco, outlined France’s diplomatic goals in a world facing the threat of terrorism.

Carmona, PaulinePROVO, Utah (Jan. 30, 2015)—With over 100 cultural institutions and 163 embassies in foreign countries, France has the world’s largest cultural network and the third-largest diplomatic network in the world (following the United States and China). Pauline Carmona, consul general of the French Consulate General in San Francisco, gave a lecture hosted by the David M. Kennedy Center of International Studies, outlining the goals and focuses of her nation’s diplomacy.

In the face of a growing economic crisis in France, this diplomatic network came under threat of budgetary restraints. Carmona said, “The easy solution would be to close down 15 embassies in the world, and that would settle the issue.” However, ministers of foreign affairs have consistently held that global diplomacy is a top priority for the nation.

This is especially true in a world facing bursts of terrorist activity and the power vacuums created in tumultuous nations. Carmona outlined four major focuses of French diplomacy: peace, planet, Europe and growth.

Last year marked the centennial anniversary of the start of WWI and the 70th anniversary of D-Day. As such, the two wars have lain heavily on the minds of the world’s nations and been a driving motivation for France’s efforts for peace. Recently, as part of this focus on peace, France has launched an operation in Mali to fight terrorism – an operation that was later adopted by the United Nations – and lent its support to the Central African Republic to calm the situation following a coup.

France’s planet focus addresses the growing concern of climate change. “We, like the US, have committed ourselves to take very strong diplomatic action in order to limit the rise in temperature,” Carmona said. Many of France’s diplomatic efforts involve working with allied countries to act responsibly when it comes to carbon emission. “We’ve been very active in attempting to persuade the big-emission countries to reduce their emissions, including the emerging countries, who are reluctant because they’re still in the process of economic growth,” Carmona explained. These negotiations take place under the umbrella of the UN, though France still holds a prominent role in pushing them forward.

Closer to home, France has many responsibilities in Europe. As one of the six founding countries of the European Union, France enjoys a great deal of responsibility in the European community. While France is always concerned with its own economic stability, it plays a part in the economic growth of the EU as a whole, working with other countries to ensure the strength of the Euro.

But even when its actions are directed outward, France is still committed to growth at home. This is especially important now with unemployment in France reaching 10%. French representatives work hard to promote French exports, helping French companies and working to remove regulations. But more than just sending goods abroad, French diplomacy focuses on bring business home. “Attracting an investor, or attracting a tourist, it’s really part of a global effort to promote our language and our culture,” Carmona said. “It doesn’t have to be separated from promoting France as a good place for business. They’re all part of the same branding.”

Carmona closed her remarks by stressing the importance of the ties between the US and France. The two nations have been longtime allies, and that work must continue. To close, Carmona said, “It’s more necessary than ever to join our forces to build a sustainable and safer world.”

—Samuel Wright (B.A. American Studies ’16)

Photography by the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies