Ambassador Gerard Araud told the UN Security Council that more focus was put on having officers who could write a report in English for UN headquarters than having troops who could understand local problems.
The United Nations has major missions in francophone African countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast.
“I want to create an incident on the question of multilingualism,” Araud said, in French, at a council meeting on peacekeeping.
“In many missions which are in French-speaking countries, the francophone capacity of these missions is largely insufficient,” said Araud.
The ambassador said that in the three years he has been envoy to the UN headquarters “I try to point out that it is more important for a representative to speak French in a francophone country than to be able to write a report in English to send to New York.
“Too often, in reality, we recruit representatives on their capacity to write a report to send to New York,” said Araud. “The work of the secretariat is very insufficient.”
The ambassador said he was not raising the status of the French language in the United Nations but of case of “the efficiency of its means.”
French officials regularly complain about the spread of English though they have become adepts at getting their message across in the increasingly dominant language. Araud had no illusions about the impact of his complaint.
“I know that what I have just said is totally useless and that the secretariat will do nothing. But from time to time it does you good to say what you think,” declared the exasperated envoy.