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Cablegate: Ambassador Meets with Us-Vn Dialogue Group On Agent

VZCZCXRO5407
RR RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #0147/01 0430130
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 120130Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7145
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 4271
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 6182
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//USDP/ISA/AP/ES//
RHMFIUU/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI//J00/J005/J006/J01LA/J06/J5//
RHEHNSC/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 000147

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, EAP/EP, EAP/RSP, EAP/PD, OES/PCI
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR ANE, G/ENV
STATE PASS TO EPA/OIA (DENNIS CUNNINGHAM AND MARK KASMAN)
STATE PASS TO EPA/ORD (KEVIN TEICHMAN)
HHS/OSSI/DSI PASS TO OGHA (WSTIEGER/MLVALDEZ/CHICKEY), NIH: FIC
(RGLASS) AND NIEHS
CDC FOR OGHA (SBLOUT/KMCCALL), NCEH (TSINKS), NIOSH (MHSWEENEY)
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (TSHUBERT AND WVAN HOUTEN)
BANGKOK PASS TO RDM/A (OCARDUNER AND JPASCH)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL SENV TBIO KPAO VM
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH US-VN DIALOGUE GROUP ON AGENT
ORANGE-DIOXIN

Ref: A. Hanoi 0037 B. 2007 Hanoi 2113 C. 2007 Hanoi 1476

1. (SBU) Summary. On February 1, Ambassador Michalak met with the
U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange-Dioxin (Dialogue Group).
Formed by the Aspen Institute, with support from the Ford
Foundation, the Dialogue Group made its second visit to Vietnam to
observe containment measures at the Danang airport hotspot, review
funding priorities for the Ford Foundation Special Initiative on
Agent Orange/Dioxin (Special Initiative), and meet with Government
of Vietnam (GVN) officials. During the meeting, Dialogue Group
members reviewed the Special Initiative goals, programs and plans
for the future. Ambassador Michalak highlighted recent U.S.
initiatives. Though they still have some concerns, Dialogue Group
members appeared satisfied with U.S. efforts to expend the USD 3
million in 2007 ESF funds appropriated for "dioxin remediation and
health projects." End Summary.

Dialogue Group
--------------

2. (SBU) The Dialogue Group, an assembly of prominent individuals
from both nations who are seeking "to increase awareness and
resources around a humanitarian agenda," is comprised of five
prominent private sector Americans and five prominent Vietnamese.
Convened by Susan Berresford, the former President of the Ford
Foundation, this was the second visit by the Dialogue Group to
Vietnam, though only two of the five American members (Walter
Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute, and Vaughn Turekian, Chief
International Officer of the American Academy for the Advancement of
Science) could attend. In addition to meeting with the Ambassador,
Dialogue Group members reviewed dioxin containment measures at the
Danang hotspot, discussed possible Ford Foundation grants using the
remaining USD 7.2 million set aside for this Special Initiative,
visited with senior GVN officials, and held a press conference to
detail its efforts.

3. (SBU) The Ford Foundation financially supports the Dialogue
Group, which, according to Berresford, serves three purposes: to aid
people imperiled by Agent Orange; to end continuing human exposure;
and to restore devastated landscapes. (Note: Per ref A, Madame Ton
Nu Thi Ninh, the head of the Vietnamese Dialogue Group delegation,
listed similar, but somewhat different, objectives at the Ford
Foundation funded national disabilities workshop in December 2007.)
To accomplish these goals, the Dialogue Group has identified five
projects: coordinating dioxin containment measures at the Danang
hotspot; training of trainers to respond to damage to the landscape;
funding a world-class diagnostic laboratory for testing dioxin and
other contaminants; creating a model for providing services to those
impacted by dioxin; and mainstreaming the issue with people in
America -- with a particular goal to increase support for dioxin
initiatives from the business community. Berresford reported that
the Gates Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropies had shown
strong interest in helping to fund the diagnostic laboratory.

Ambassador Michalak Highlights U.S. Efforts
-------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Ambassador Michalak stated that the United States was
finalizing the implementation strategy for the USD 3 million in 2007
ESF funds. The Embassy continues to meet with our GVN interlocutors
in Office 33 (the GVN body that coordinates Agent Orange/dioxin
policy) to provide updates on revisions to U.S. policy and to
solicit GVN input for how to use the USD 3 million. The Ambassador
then detailed recent U.S. efforts to minimize the risk of continued
human exposure to dioxin, including the second Joint Advisory
Committee meeting in August 2007 (ref C), implementation of earlier
State/U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funds to assist
containment efforts at the Danang hotspot, and the provision by the
Department of Defense to the Vietnamese Ministry of Defense of
detailed information on Agent Orange storage and usage. Ambassador
Michalak thanked the Ford Foundation and the Director of its Special
Initiative, Charles Bailey, for its leadership in moving this issue
forward.


HANOI 00000147 002 OF 002


Opportunity to Coordinate Multilateral Efforts
--------------------------------------------- -

5. (SBU) Ambassador Michalak highlighted the increasingly
multilateral aspect of the response to Agent Orange/dioxin and U.S.
efforts to work with donor partners to organize efforts (ref B).
Representatives from the Czech Republic, New Zealand, and
Switzerland, among others, recently had approached the Embassy to
discuss their ongoing or future involvement. Ambassador Michalak
described his plans to host a meeting of current and potential
donors to ensure that ongoing individual bilateral efforts
complement each other and to work towards integrated projects and
programs that donors can coordinate with the GVN.

Dialogue Group Wants Something Visible
--------------------------------------

6. (SBU) Dialogue Group members, notably Isaacson, questioned the
Ambassador on the status of the USD 3 million. Madame Ninh noted
that the earmark, in and of itself, was meaningful, but that the
United States needed to show a deliverable visible to the broader
public. Studies played a role in the response effort, but the
Vietnamese people wanted to see something tangible. According to
Madame Ninh, "you cannot take pictures of studies." Madame Ninh
suggested a public event prior to the second anniversary of the
Joint Declaration by Presidents Bush and Triet on continued efforts
to address environmental contamination near former dioxin storage
sites. Generally satisfied with U.S. progress to implement programs
with the USD 3 million, Dialogue Group members volunteered their
assistance to move the money forward and to provide information on
Vietnamese efforts to date to help ensure the money went to the
right places. Prompt and effective use of the money would attract
additional donor support and facilitate continued U.S. involvement.


7. (SBU) Later that day, the Dialogue Group held a press conference
with approximately twenty local and international journalists.
According to the Ford Foundation Representative for Vietnam, David
Hulse, who attended the event, no one requested information about
the USD 3 million. The Embassy had released a press release noting
the Ambassador's meeting with the Dialogue Group and detailing the
latest U.S. efforts. Dialogue Group members said this "reduced
pressure" to speak on the U.S.G. position at the press event. The
first few press reports made no comment on the status of plans to
implement the USD 3 million.

Comment:
-------

8. (SBU) Prior to this gathering, Embassy officers met with the Ford
Foundation's Bailey, who assured us that the Dialogue Group wanted
to play a productive role and not attack the United States' efforts
to date. Though we had heard that Isaacson, in particular, planned
to press for details on the USD 3 million, Ambassador Michalak's
review of U.S. efforts seemed to satisfy the Dialogue Group members.
While the Ford Foundation and members of the Dialogue Group
sometimes take a more aggressive line in other forums, including
public gatherings, we have worked well with the Ford Foundation in
joint efforts to contain dioxin in Danang and the Ford Foundation
actively recruits other private sector donors to the effort. Though
we do not agree with the Ford Foundation or the Dialogue Group on
every aspect of this issue, both can play a valuable role in
facilitating increased multilateral efforts.

MICHALAK

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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