Cultural Diplomacy


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Cultural diplomacy

The cultural promotion and cooperation policy of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE) is based around two pillars:

  • Strengthening France’s intellectual and cultural outreach,
  • Increasingly promoting and structuring sectors from cultural and creative industries (CCIs).

Strengthening France’s intellectual and cultural outreach

The international outreach of France’s cultural model is achieved by the dissemination of work in areas as varied as music, cinema, performing arts, debates, books, fashion, design, audiovisual content, cultural engineering, video games and digital creations, copyright, broadcasting regulations and journalism. These actions, led by the cooperation and cultural action services of the entire network, are largely supported by the local Instituts Français and Alliances Françaises as well as the Institut Français in Paris, which is the cultural agency of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE).

Cultural Seasons

Major bilateral multidisciplinary events like Cultural Seasons are well-known examples of mutually beneficial cultural cooperation. The Seasons, which were initially restricted to artistic and cultural fields, already have over 60 partner countries and are now open to schools and universities, as well as the research, sport, economics, tourism and gastronomy sectors.

The Africa2020 Season which was requested by the President of the French Republic and symbolized a renewed partnership with the continent was emblematic of a multidisciplinary programme. It took place from December 2020 to September 2021 throughout the French territory (in Metropolitan and overseas France) with almost 1,500 events from across Africa.
The France - Portugal Season which will be held in 2022 will help highlight the closeness and friendship between our two countries and promote the importance of European cohesion.

Exchange and residency programmes

Innovative residency and exchange programmes have begun in Lebanon and the Sahel despite restricted international travel.

With the launch of the “Villa Albertine”, France’s cultural influence in the United States is being reinvented and is proposing vibrant residencies throughout the territory (in the sectors of mobility, research and promotion of the French language and cultural and creative industries).

Events involving the promotion of ideas

Promoting ideas and knowledge and the outreach of the French intellectual scene are also supported through mechanisms used by the Institut Français in Paris, by organizing conferences, debates or flagship events like the Night of Ideas. Promoting all types of French literary creations also helps spread French ideas abroad.

Protecting authors and their creations

French cultural cooperation is also based on a strategy of influence through law, which promotes the French model for protecting creations and international broadcasting regulations.

In particular, French law protects the interests of creators by allowing them to have property and moral rights over their works. It also ensures respect for the rights of performers and producers with regard to films, databases and musical works. In that sense, the Ministry’s work to promote copyright around the world aims to both protect creators and develop cultural and creative industries.

Cultural and creative industries (CCIs): a priority for the MEAE

CCIs are sectors of activity involving the creation, development, production and distribution of goods, services and activities with cultural, artistic and/or heritage content.*

[*architecture, design, books & publishing, music, cinema, audiovisual content, digital creations, museums & heritage, media, visual arts, video games, fashion & luxury goods, performing arts.]

They now make up a major sector in the French economy, creating jobs and showcasing French expertise around the world.

“Cultural and creative industries are the life blood of our culture. The sectors of architecture, books, cinema, music, audiovisual, press, radio, video games, visual and performing arts account for 640,000 jobs and €91 billion in turnover.”
Franck Riester, National Conference on Cultural and Creative Industries (28 November 2019)

At the crossroads between economic diplomacy and soft diplomacy, promoting cultural and creative industries is one of our key policy areas. Since 2015, they have been part of the public export support mechanism, structured by priority “families”.

With a growth rate of 6.7% between 2013 and 2018, French CCIs are a burgeoning international sector. In the video game sector, for example, French studios earned 44% of their 2019 turnover abroad.

Supporting CCI professionals

To support cultural and creative industry professionals and gain greater knowledge of the markets, the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs gave a “CCI priority mission” to 37 French embassies in countries with the highest export potential.
This mission involves all Embassy departments. It intends to draw up action plans for French CCI professionals and enhance dialogue with relevant ministries and agencies (Institut Français, Business France, Agence Française de Développement, Atout France). Organizations dealing with exporting cultural sectors are also active, including:

  • Centre National de la Musique (French national centre for music),
  • UniFrance (now with wider scope since its merger with TV France International),
  • International Bureau of French Publishers (BIEF),
  • Syndicat National du Jeu Vidéo (French video game trade association),
  • French Overseas Architects

These specialists in the audiovisual sector, literature and music thus support French professionals by facilitating access to foreign markets. They provide analysis and information alerts regarding opportunities available for French companies on international markets and ensure that French expertise is well regarded on the international arena.
The Institut Français centralizes and provides country-specific resources for French companies (freely available online, largely aimed at professionals).

Helping to structure local cultural industries

Strengthening influence and bilateral links also requires structuring local cultural sectors. This is achieved by:
- supporting local art scenes,

  • supporting resources, training, expertise and networking to identify promising sectors and future pathways for French CCIs.

In all areas, structuring projects are led by cooperation and cultural action services, in collaboration with key French agencies and stakeholders in the relevant sectors.

For example, in the areas of cinema and documentaries, Fémis, ENS Louis-Lumière, Cinéfabrique and Ateliers Varan are regularly involved in projects financed via the Solidarity Fund for Innovative Projects (FSPI).

This mechanism is the key instrument in MEAE project assistance. Since 2018, it has enabled work to be carried out on the ground to structure CCI ecosystems and professionalize local actors with the aim of achieving development for local populations.

This is also the case for the Accès Culture mechanism led by the Institut Français and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD).

With regard to promoting copyright, supporting the creation of appropriate regulatory frameworks acts as a development lever for structuring cultural sectors.

With the support of its network, the MEAE is working to raise awareness and protect copyright. As a pioneering country in the area, France remains a legal benchmark at European and international level, and within multilateral forums where it promotes its model.

Making France more attractive

Supporting cultural and creative industries also requires greater attractiveness. In 2019, the signing of an agreement between Film France and Atout France enabled foreign films and programmes to be filmed in France. The priority markets identified for this programme were India, China, Brazil, the United States and South Korea.

The Charter to combat gender stereotypes in the cultural and creative industries

The Charter for cultural and creative industries was one of the initiatives promoted by France during the Generation Equality Forum.

It is a list of 10 commitments to combat gender stereotypes. The aim of this charter is to fight against sexist images and help prevent sexual and sexist violence in the cultural and creative industries, and in particular in the cinema, music, audiovisual, advertising, video game and publishing sectors. It has been signed by 76 public sector and industry partners from 23 countries, which have also taken on additional commitments over several years. The Charter is open to new signatories.

French broadcast media serving the French-language and acting as a symbol for defending pluralism and freedom of the press.

Increasing the presence of French broadcasting and cooperation in the media sector echoes the soft diplomacy priorities set out by the President of the French Republic.

  • France Médias Monde (France 24, Radio France Internationale and Monte Carlo Doualiya) and its subsidiary Canal France International (CFI) play a central role in this area. These media outlets are drivers for promoting democratic values, the fight against misinformation, pluralism and press freedom. To that end, they are essential links for France’s global diplomacy.
What are the objectives for France Médias Monde?
France Médias Monde’s objectives are largely similar to those of cultural diplomacy:
  • promoting Francophonie and multilingualism,
  • strengthening digital innovation,
  • ensuring a global presence while undertaking a regionalized strategy.
    European cooperation is also a major priority, particularly via the French-German axis. France Médias Monde works in very close collaboration with its German equivalent, Deutsche Welle. The two companies worked together to launch ENTR, an outlet aimed at young Europeans only accessible via social media.

Canal France International (CFI)

CFI is the French media development agency and subsidiary of France Médias Monde, is promoting democratic values, the fight against misinformation, as well as pluralism and press freedom. Furthermore, it is placing great emphasis on sustainable development themes. The public cooperation agency for the media sector, by supporting public and private sector actors, is an essential part of global diplomacy in France.

In line with French public development assistance, the projects implemented by CFI are aimed at young people, digital technology, gender equality, sustainable development, Francophonie, countering misinformation and democratic consolidation. Its work mainly focuses on priority external action areas in France, mainly sub-Saharan Africa, the Maghreb and the Levant.

More about France Médias Monde and CFI


  • TV5Monde Group promotes Francophonie in all its forms by developing a general cultural offer which complements that of France Médias Monde Group.
What strategy for TV5Monde?
TV5Monde is setting out a four-year strategic plan. The current strategic plan (2021-2024) was adopted at the end of 2020 by the channel’s partner governments (France, Switzerland, Federation Wallonia-Brussels, Canada, Quebec), while France was chairing TV5Monde Group. Its aims are to:
  • allow users to discover French content online,
  • strengthen cooperation in Africa,
  • give more coverage to environmental issues.
    This strategy is largely based on TV5Monde’s digital platform which was launched in September 2020. With subtitles in five languages, it is now accessible in almost every country in the world.

More about TV5Monde

The main players in French cultural action abroad

France has the world’s largest cultural network, with 137 cooperation and cultural action services which can draw on 96 Instituts Français and their 135 branches, 6 binational cultural centres and 832 Alliances Françaises around the world.

The Instituts Français are directly attached to cooperation and cultural action services of French embassies while Alliances are legally independent local associations. Their main mission is to develop the teaching and use of the French language, the spread of French and Francophone culture, and promote diversity and intercultural dialogue.

To supplement its cultural action, the MEAE receives support from a specific agency, the Institut Français, and a historic partner, the Foundation of Alliances Françaises.

  • The Institut Français operates under the dual auspices of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE) and the Ministry of Culture. It promotes French culture abroad while encouraging artistic exchanges and cultural dialogue.
  • The Foundation of Alliances Françaises issues (and withdraws) the “Alliance Française” label all over the world. It also protects and promotes the brand. The Foundation provides advice and expertise to teams and board members. It promotes and organizes national, regional and global meetings, thus encouraging pooling of resources and solidarity.

Other State agencies which do not strictly have a cultural remit also provide key support for French cultural action around the world.

  • Business France, the national agency for internationalization of the French economy, is responsible for the international development of companies and their exports, as well as canvassing for and welcoming foreign investment in France.

The MEAE also supports organizations dedicated to exporting cultural sectors which are in line with its strategic priorities regarding soft diplomacy, economic diplomacy and support for cultural and creative industries. The Ministry pays subsidies to certain export operators for cinema, audiovisual productions, books, music and architecture.

  • The Unifrance association is an organisation responsible for promoting French cinema and audiovisual content around the world.
  • The Centre National de la Musique (CNM) is a public institution created in January 2020, under the auspices of the French Ministry of Culture. It supports and assists professionals, artists, composers and authors in the music industry to give them exposure to audiences in France and abroad.
  • The International Bureau of French Publishers (BIEF) promotes French publishing abroad. It has three main activities:
  • monitoring and analyzing national publishing markets,
  • networking with publishers around the world,
  • promoting French publishing at international trade fairs.
  • AFEX (French Overseas Architects), is the benchmark professional organization for exporting and promoting French architecture around the world. It represents and supports the work of over 5,000 architecture and town planning professionals.

Digital transformation of the network

COVID-19 has sped up the digital transition within the cooperation and cultural action network. The pandemic has shown that this development was both necessary and an opportunity to better interact with larger and newer audiences.

The MEAE is determined to meet this challenge. Since autumn 2020, it has been in discussions with the Institut Français in Paris to modernize the network and speed up the digital transformation of its cultural and linguistic action.
These discussions took place in close collaboration with the network of Alliances Françaises and Instituts Français. It led to the publication a roadmap for the digital transformation of the network, which is currently being implemented.
Within this framework, cinemas at Instituts Français and Alliances Françaises around the world have gradually been equipped with digital technology to become valuable partners for promoting French creations among local professionals and the general public.

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Updated : December 2021