Dear Denis Labbé, Prefect of the Guyana Region, Dear Jocelyn Ho-Tin-Hoe, Dear Florence Robine, Rector of the Academy of Guyana, Dear Jocelyn Dear Daniel Maximin, General Delegate for the French Language and the Languages of France, dear Xavier North, Director of Cultural Affairs of Guyana, dear Michel Colardelle, And all of you, dear friends, gathered around the young Guyanese and the artists whose spokespersons you wanted to make tonight,

By accepting many of our invitation - you who come from all the ultramarine territories of the Republic - by agreeing to compare your experiences, your convictions, your expertise, to lay with us the foundations of a new language policy, you have made Cayenne, for three days, the French overseas capital.

These meetings in Cayenne mark first, it seems to me, a culmination, which I would like to greet on behalf of the Government.

With Daniel Maximin, we were two nights ago at the Cinémathèque française in Paris to inaugurate the "Images des Outre-mer" cinema cycle – a very beautiful event that will present until the end of the year some sixty films, to combat what Daniel Maximin calls the “image deficit”. I believe precisely that, in all areas of culture, it is a question of making sure, through a collective effort, that this “image deficit” is soon no more than the memory of an anachronism.

Why talk about anachronism?

Because I am fundamentally convinced that the French overseas territories represent for France a unique laboratory of cultural diversity, by its essential contribution to our common cultural and artistic heritage. This is what the poet of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, Eugène Nicole, calls “ignorance of our situation in the world”.

When France asserts the notion of cultural diversity in international forums, its representatives often hear, you will forgive me the expression, that they should start by "cleaning their house". These criticisms may not always be wrong.

The wind of history has left us with its trail of wounds. The wounds of trafficking, of all kinds of oppression, of discrimination. He also left us a legacy of attachment to the Republic. Today, cultural diversity has become a value: that much has been accomplished in a few decades... However, ultramarine cultures still suffer from a lack of visibility and recognition in our Republic. It is this "deficit" which means, for example, that ultramarine cinema will have long remained in the state of promise. This is what personalities like Euzhan Palcy and so many others atellent themselves to, Raoul Peck also who leads FEMIS, and who brings us all the richness of his Haitian perspective on the issue.

I wanted on all fronts to make ultramarine cultures a priority of my action at the head of the Ministry of Culture and Communication. It is in this spirit that I launched, more than a year ago, an action plan for the French overseas territories, which is beginning to bear fruit.

Fixing the image deficit is not just about symbols. These are important, even essential, such as the ceremony in honour of Aimé Césaire in the Pantheon, to which the President of the Republic paid tribute. I am also thinking of all the forms of public recognition given to ultramarine artists, or the classification of maloya as intangible heritage by UNESCO: in the field of recognition, we can never do enough. These are all signs of attachment to one of the essential components of our cultural identities.

Symbols, of course, are not enough.

When I travelled overseas, I would have spared no effort, particularly to ensure that the overseas regions were always taken into account in the national initiatives launched by my department.

In the field of heritage, for example, there are many projects. When I created last September the label “Maisons des Illustres”, which networks 111 places in which the memory of the great figures of letters, sciences and our political life is inscribed throughout French territory, I made sure that the French OverseasThe sea is of course represented by several emblematic sites, such as the house of Félix Eboué, here in Guyana, or that of Anne-Marie Javouhey in Mana. Why not, tomorrow, that of a prestigious Grand Man?

The heritage stakes are also projects such as the one to transform, in Mayotte, the Governor’s Palace into a museum of Mahoraise culture and history, which the island badly needs. Stéphane Martin, President of the Musée du Quai Branly, helped me a lot to define the main lines of this project.

Better taking into account the French Overseas, for my ministry, also means supporting the scenes of the live show. Theatres, drama centers, dance companies... So much remains to be done, in particular as regards the national labelling of existing structures and the creation of new equipment. I am very grateful for the outstanding work of the Cultural Affairs Directorates of my Ministry, who accompany the dynamics of cooperation with local authorities on a daily basis. The challenges to be met are sometimes relatively easy to solve, but they can also involve more substantial investments: in any case, the essential thing is that cooperation between the authorities and the State can be as close as possible, and that Culture in the Overseas Countries does not remain in the blind spot of relations with the State and the metropolis.

On all these projects, I believe that we have reached a point of no return, and these dynamics can soon be relayed by the national agency for the promotion of ultramarine cultures, whose official launch I can announce today, by my department and that of the French Overseas Department at the beginning of 2012.

Today, it is through languages that we finish this tremendous spotlight that will have been the Year of the Overseas. We end with languages, or rather we begin with languages: it is a formidable symbol, because each of our languages holds a fragment of universal; because also we have the Republic and the French language in share. Of the 75 French languages identified in 1999, two-thirds are ultramarine languages. These languages, almost all of which are mother tongues, are more alive than ever. But others, as we know, are in a situation of announced disappearance. This gives public authorities a responsibility that I personally would not shirk.

I also wanted your meetings to be held here in Guyana.

First of all because the local authorities of Guyana - the Regional Council and its President Rodolphe Alexandre - are strongly engaged in a particularly necessary work of recognition of cultures in their diversity, at the same time as breaking down barriers between communities. We have developed joint projects to which I am particularly attached, I think of this cultural heart that the former Jean-Martial Hospital, where I will go tomorrow with Alain Tien-Liong, president of the General Council, and Rodolphe Alexandre, may represent for creation and memory in Guyana, for research also, especially in the field of language and oral traditions, as well as intangible culture. We will also sign tomorrow four conventions between the State and the Guyanese local authorities: a framework convention for cultural development with the Region, another between the latter and the Cente national du cinéma et de l'image animée, a territorial cultural development agreement with Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, and a “territory and reading” agreement with Maripasoula.

Among the reasons for organizing in Cayenne the States General of Multilingualism in the Overseas Territories, there is of course the extraordinary richness and complexity of the Guyanese linguistic heritage: 19 languages of common use, including 7 foreign languages including Portuguese from Brazil, Cantonese and Mandarin, among others, Guyanese Creole of course, the four Bushinenge Creoles based on English or Anglo-Portuguese lexicon, Hmong, and six Amerindian languages. For some, these are languages that you share with our neighbours in Suriname, especially for the languages of the Maroons, and of Brazil, for the Guyanese Creole spoken by the Galibi-Marwono and Karipuna, but also wayampi, palikur, kalina, among other Amerindian languages, which are almost all transboundary, and can be found in Guyana and Venezuela. Vehicular or vernacular languages, languages in danger for some, the spectrum is very wide, and conducive to crossing with the linguistic perspectives of our neighbors: the other Guyanas and especially Surinam, the Caribbean States, and of course Brazil, where the Prime Minister is right now.

Here in Cayenne, for 3 days, more than 250 people from the four continents gathered. Researchers, teachers, cultural actors, many of you work every day to make these fifty or so languages of France live.

From the West Indies, Réunion, Mayotte, New Caledonia - which holds the record for linguistic diversity in the French Overseas TerritoriesFrench Sea, with the mosaic of some thirty Kanak languages that the Kanak Language Academy contributes to highlight through its remarkable work, with the Agency for the Development of Kanak Culture, with the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center -, Wallis-and-Futuna, from Polynesia.

I would like to warmly greet the General Delegation for the French Language and the Languages of France, Mr. Xavier North and his teams, for their remarkable commitment, for their work patiently built, well upstream, by preparatory meetings, in New Caledonia, in Reunion, in the West Indies, and of course right here, with the complicity and dedication of my friend Michel Colardelle, the Director of Cultural Affairs of Guyana, and his team, who are doing essential work here in Guyana - and I believe that the representatives of the local authorities will not disagree. Bringing together researchers, linguists, heads of cultural associations, teachers, translators and artists from three oceans to interact with their Guyanese counterparts was no small task. The latter was also raised thanks to the assistance provided by the French Guiana region, the CNES, the European Social Fund and - since this evening is broadcast live by television - the French Guiana Première channel, and I would like us to express our gratitude to them tonight.

I would also like to thank Florence Gendrier, Michel Alessio and Valelia Muni Toke, not only for their hard work with Xavier North, but also for their coordination of the beautiful issue of Culture et Recherche, a journal of my department, for an issue that recalls, and I believe without presumption, the best hours of the UNESCO Courier.

In countries where, with the exception of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, the French language is not the mother tongue of the majority of the population, the old divisions between Jacobins and Girondins no longer have much meaning. The overseas countries show the metropolis that there are many other ways to conceive and live this polyphony that Edouard Glissant, recently disappeared, will have shown us the way. Consolidating the coexistence of ultramarine languages with the French language, in specific policies, was the objective of your meetings. The quality of learning French is also at stake.

During these three days, you have focused on all areas where you share the same conviction: the balance of languages must be the subject of a proactive approach, for a transformation of the gaze, for a pragmatic transformation too. I fully share this conviction with you.

In the field of the use of languages in social life, you have addressed issues such as access to care for non-French-speaking citizens, or the promotion of its written use, in order to combat relegation to the only private circle that, as Mona Ozouf showed for Breton in French Composition, may for a language return "in the long run to sentence her to death".

You also discussed what linguists and pedagogues call the “equipment” of languages: their linguistic tools, grammars, dictionaries, lexicons, the production of didactic tools... Here too, and despite the variety of situations, your exchanges must have been particularly valuable – especially in an area where sometimes symbolism or politics can prevail over efficiency: I am thinking of the graphics of Caribbean creole. I am thinking of what the Minister of Culture of Cape Verde told me a few weeks ago: there too, on the other side of the Atlantic, we are fighting for graphs, and just as we have the creation of "sugar islands" and "sugar-free islands", the Capverdians have the Creole of the leeward islands and that of the windward islands. In these technical fields, it is sometimes good to remember that in our singularities, we are never alone, so that we can keep the course of transmission.

Transfer to and from school: this is one of the other areas you covered during these three days. This is where the awakening to diversity and its understanding comes into play. As we commemorate the tenth anniversary of the UNESCO Declaration on Cultural Diversity, I share with Irina Bokova, its Director-General, a conviction that cultural diversity is also and above all a matter of competence. To awaken to the diversity of viewpoints, to be able, from an early age, to understand that languages are so many different nets thrown on the world: this is the competence to diversity. I am thinking of the situations of bilingualism in French Polynesia, in daily exchanges, on radio, television, plurilingualism deeply rooted in Kanak cultures... The coexistence of these languages of France that are ultramarine languages with French constitutes on this point a formidable pool of pedagogical skills and openness to the world on which we must act collectively, and on which the metropolis has much to learn. When we say that diversity is a resource to be exploited, the parallel with natural resources and biodiversity sometimes leaves me perplexed: however, I believe that with this notion of competence, we understand much better what it can be.

You also talked about the role that digital tools can play. Many of the 12 overseas territories and communities are now connected. It is a great opportunity for the liveliness of ultramarine languages, whether through the use of social networks, video supports, etc. It is also a chance for all those who contribute to the study of languages, and fighting for the protection of those who are most at risk - I am thinking of the great work done by the Sorosoro association, which you probably all know, both the success of its audiovisual database is a very important contribution to the often invisible work of linguists - outside specialist circles. I am also thinking of the collaborative tools proposed by the General Delegation for the French Language and Languages of France, the “Corpus de la Parole”: there too, there are many avenues to explore.

You also looked at the place of ultramarine languages in cultural life and in the media. Our linguistic heritage, obviously, finds its best lawyer in its development through creation. I am thinking of the many bridges that need to be further developed between the performing arts and intangible heritage – whether it is the Caribbean theatre, the deba de Mayotte, the maloya in La Réunion. A year ago, I had the pleasure of welcoming Christine Salem and her musicians to my ministry for the 2010 edition of the Fête de la Musique, on the occasion of the inscription of the maloya on the list of intangible heritage. I am also thinking of all the talent that is invested in organizing festivals like Transamazoniennes, which does so much in Guyana for the rebirth of bushinengé and Amerindian cultures. I think of oral traditions, childhood tales, Tahitian oratory art... Examples abound of this extraordinary verbal, oral, dreamlike richness, on which one must watch, in order to preserve it, in order to enhance it as best as possible, without distorting it.

In the field of cinema, which I briefly mentioned, the considerable drop in costs makes production and production much more accessible than thirty or forty years ago, when only a few brilliant fools threw themselves into the water. Today, a whole new generation of young filmmakers is emerging in the French Overseas Territories: it is up to us, the public authorities, local authorities and the State, to support them so that their work can be disseminated according to their talent, and reach the most varied audiences, in mainland France, in other overseas countries. In this regard, I intend to have Parliament pass the additional special tax for the French overseas territories, which will allow us to support this renewed vitality. In this new cinema, the visibility of the ultramarine languages has certainly its place.

The promotion of ultramarine languages is also obviously television. I have ensured that France Télévisions' objective and means contract for the period 2011-2015 includes ambitious and measurable objectives for the overseas territories. As you know, the transition to DTT has made it possible to greatly enrich the television offering in the French overseas territories; ultramarine citizens now have 8 to 10 free channels. Local channels, which broadcast in particular in the vernacular, are broadcast on DTT, with consequently a much better quality of sound and image. My Ministry and the Overseas Ministry have put in place a specific mechanism to support these channels when they encounter new financial difficulties, which may be due in particular to the sometimes higher costs of digital broadcasting, as is the case in the West Indies. It also promotes the enhancement of our linguistic diversity.

In all areas of ultramarine multilingualism, you have done considerable work over three days, and I would like to begin by thanking you warmly. I shall examine with particular attention the conclusions drawn by these Estates-General, a summary of which has just been presented to us. I would first like to commend the number and quality of the recommendations produced in the workshops and in plenary. They reflect both a long work of preparation «upstream», and a commitment that you share throughout the French overseas territories. The idea of these meetings was precisely to produce this unprecedented perspective between so different countries that share multilingualism.

You have not left out any area of development or enhancement of ultramarine multilingualism. In order to deal with only one subject, as regards languages in social life in general, it should be remembered, as you do, that there is nothing to prevent their use, since they are accompanied by a French version which alone has legal force. This possibility of expression is still too little known. It is open to all, including public services and administrations, especially at the level of local and regional authorities. This is a great way to ensure the visibility and, I would say, legitimization of the languages of France. The bilingual publication, by a municipality, of the municipal journal, or of texts emanating from the municipal council, the adoption of the correct and traditional forms of place names, together with the official forms which sometimes deviate from it: These are all means of promoting ultramarine multilingualism on which local authorities could commit themselves if they so wish, and which can benefit from the support of the State.

As regards regional languages, it should be recalled that Article 75-1 of the Constitution, adopted in 2008, introduced, by its inclusion in Title XII on local and regional authorities, a principle of shared responsibility between them and the State. It is a whole new space for cooperation and collaboration that is opening up and that must flourish. We have already engaged in a fruitful dialogue with several regions of France on language development projects. It goes without saying that the overseas departments are ideally suited to this type of approach. These Estates General should be a starting point, and I know that you expect concrete, precise announcements, and that will be followed by effect.

The ideas you discussed, many of which are part of an interdepartmental framework, seemed to me to be very relevant, and I heard your message loud and clear; it will not go away. I will share with my colleagues in the Government, among the measures likely to be taken, those which are of direct interest to their field of intervention. In this regard, I am pleased to see that many agents of the National Education, at all levels of the Administration, took an active part in the "Estates General". Thank you, Madam Rector. We are working in the same direction: collaboration with the services of Culture is essential to any progress on the path we are charting together. There was a very strong demand during the workshops of these Estates General: that of adapting the Code of Education for the French Overseas Territories, by including mother tongues beyond Creole. This is not my direct responsibility, but I understand this request, which, as Minister of Culture and Communication, I have to relay. I will tell my colleague Luc Chatel, who I know is sensitive to these issues, so that we can find the means, perhaps within the framework of an experimental agreement between the Ministry of Education and Culture, for example in Guyana, to advance the consideration of these languages in public education.

Finally, how can we not hope that the history of the arts will give more space to monuments and artistic expressions specific to the ultramarine territories concerned? Is it true that students, all students, whatever their origin, are introduced to the major dates in the history of their territory?

In my own area of expertise, several measures can already be considered. I want them to be implemented in practice. In particular, you emphasized the fact that the languages of the French Overseas Territories must be more visible in public places. It’s the issue of their visibility, their “socialization”.

This is why I am already asking the museums under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture to provide from now on for cartels and signage that inform the public in the regional language(s) in use in the territory of establishment, and schedule speaker visits in that language(s). It seems to me that cities with the label «ville d'art et d'histoire» could do the same, as is already the case in Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni.

In the field of live entertainment, specific measures could be put in place to help amateur practices using the languages of the French overseas territories and their translation into French. Public theatres should be encouraged to develop over-titling mechanisms to facilitate the understanding of allophone audiences. And I intend to ask the French Institute and the future French Overseas Agency to work together to promote the circulation in third countries of shows produced in your territories. I will include in the specifications of the institutions that I subsidize the obligation to co-produce and program shows in the languages of the French overseas.

Public reading calls for a special effort. I am well aware that the languages spoken overseas are unequally «equipped», as linguists say. Without necessarily waiting for their codification to be completed, public libraries should identify more clearly the works published in the languages of the French Overseas Territories, and I say this in the strongest possible way: our aids for the dissemination of books and for publishing must be widely open to regional languages, which fall under common law.

The same applies to cultural industries and the media. As you know, with respect to radio services, the act already authorizes the recording of songs in regional languages as part of the quotas for French-language songs. This possibility is insufficiently exploited. As for the financial support arrangements available to French-language written and audiovisual media, they must also be open to media that use regional languages: support account for the film and audiovisual programme industry, funding to support radio expression, etc. I will give firm instructions in this regard to the leaders of the public broadcaster – provisions that are already written into their contracts of objectives and means.

And since we are in Guyana – but the subject could be extended to several other territories – let me come back to the linguistic and intangible heritage pole: after the Tertius study that was carried out at the initiative of the Cultural Affairs Directorate, and of the demands that you yourself have forcefully expressed yesterday and today, I undertake to take up with the President of the Regional Council - and I know the interest that he has in the question of cultural diversity - that we will create together this pole in the coming year. This pole will not be an authoritarian institution: it will be open to the consultation of speakers and representatives of communities; it will have both the function of facilitating the knowledge and archiving of languages and oral cultures, developing their dissemination, and to facilitate the cooperation of the various public services regarding the ultramarine languages and their speakers.

Many other initiatives are possible, and I am counting on you to suggest them. I am thinking of translations into ultramarine languages on the websites of the Overseas Cultural Affairs Directorates; that is not much, but it also helps to set an example. I am thinking of the creation of an Internet portal of ultramarine multilingualism, offering tools adapted to those who need them. As I said, let’s not forget the digital resources, which certainly need to be better exploited.

In my opinion, ultramarine multilingualism constitutes a fundamental axis of territorial development, at the intersection of cultural practices, social uses and political commitments. Every time the communities want to seize it, I commit to having the State there to support them, taking into account the specificity and complexity of each configuration. This is the whole meaning of the requirement that you have set for yourselves during these three days: to pool common convictions while keeping the course of pragmatism in the measures you propose, in order to define efficient coexistences, where respect obviously has its place.

To bet for polyphony is to take the risk of miscellaneous. I want to take it with you.

Joseph Zobel, the author of La Rue Case-Nègres, wrote in a poem dedicated to Aimé Césaire, “I listen to the oxygen of your verb”.

Thank you.