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Cablegate: Mepi Update for Tunisia

VZCZCXRO9745
PP RUEHTRO
DE RUEHTU #0373/01 1071441
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 161441Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4777
INFO RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 0965
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 7665
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 1602
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 8543
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 0230
RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA 4221

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TUNIS 000373

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/PI, NEA/MAG(HARRIS), NEA/PPD(DOUGLAS, AGNEW)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID KDEM PGOV KMPI KIPR KPAO TS
SUBJECT: MEPI UPDATE FOR TUNISIA

REF: 07 TUNIS 618

-------
Summary
-------

1. (SBU) Tunisia remains a difficult environment for MEPI
programs and activities, particularly in the area of
political reform, and some organizations remain reticent
about receiving MEPI, or USG, funding. We have continued,
however, to look for new ways to reach out to the community
and actively seek out any openings for reform-oriented
projects, including by hosting a MEPI alumni reception early
this year. Embassy efforts appear to have paid off; the
number of local grant proposals has doubled this year. In
addition to the three ongoing local grant projects awarded to
the Peregrine Leadership Institute, University of Wyoming and
DEFI SARL, MEPI has also sponsored workshops organized by the
Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) and the United
States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). DEFI SARL's
high-profile and its publications' wide reach to the Tunisian
community has helped give MEPI high-visibility and may have
played a role in increasing the number of local grant
proposals we continue to receive. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- ----
DEFI SARL Provokes Discussion, Provides Publicity
--------------------------------------------- ----

2. (SBU) A local grant awarded to Tunisian publication
company, DEFI SARL, funded a series of four roundtable
discussions on the following topics: "United States - Tunisia
Free Trade: Stakes and Perspectives" (reftel), "The Role of
the Media in the Battle Against Extremism," "Arab World -
United States: Divergences and/or Convergences" and "The Role
of Civil Society in Good Governance." The roundtables drew a
wide-range of participants, including Tunisian ministers and
officials, academics, business people, journalists and civil
society leaders. US Ambassador participated in two of the
roundtables also giving us an opportunity to spread US
message. In many countries, debates such as these might be
commonplace, but the events provided a welcome forum for
discussion on topics that are rarely addressed in Tunisia's
public sphere. Of critical importance in increasing the
impact of these discussions, all four were reproduced in
their entirety as inserts in Arabic and French in As Sabah
and Le Temps, the daily newspapers of Tunisia's Dar Assabah
publishing house, or in DEFI SARL's new weekly magazine
L'Expression. DEFI SARL's project provided much needed
publicity for MEPI. Although DEFI SARL received criticism
from several Tunisian publications for working with MEPI,
perhaps there is no such thing as bad press. DEFI SARL's
high-profile and its publications' wide reach in the Tunisian
community helped give MEPI high-visibility this year, and
likely played a role in increasing the number of local grant
proposals we subsequently received. DEFI SARL has submitted
a proposal for a new series of roundtables. The Embassy MEPI
committee is in discussions with DEFI SARL to explore ways to
increase the potential impact of a new project.

--------------------------------
Reception Brings Alumni Together
--------------------------------

3. (U) On January 17, the Ambassador hosted a successful
reception attended by 40 participants of various MEPI
programs. These MEPI alumni included journalists, NGO
leaders, entrepreneurs and students. The reception
provided an opportunity for embassy employees to interact
with the alumni and a chance for them to network with each
other. Feedback from attendees was positive, with requests
to hold such alumni receptions annually. Many of them were
particularly energized by the opportunity to be able to talk
in person to the Ambassador about their experiences in the
United States and their current projects. We plan to make
these alumni receptions an annual tradition.

--------------------------------------------- -
CLDP Contributes to Transformational Diplomacy
--------------------------------------------- -

4. (U) On January 30 - February 1, CLDP, in conjunction with
the African Development Bank, hosted a MEPI-funded seminar in
Tunis on the theme: "Administrative Judges and Government

TUNIS 00000373 002 OF 003


Procurement." The aim of the seminar was not only to provide
technical assistance that will contribute to good governance,
administrative transparency and fair competition, but also to
promote the regional harmonization of laws and practice. The
seminar, a follow-up to a 2006 workshop on "Dispute
Resolution in Government Procurement," brought together
administrative judges, legal experts and procurement
officials from Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia.
Participant feedback on this program was extremely positive,
as well as on CLDP activities more generally. During his
opening remarks, one Tunisian judge paid homage to a
MEPI-funded series of consultations in the United States for
the Center for Judicial and Legal Studies (CEJJ). He stated
that the 2005 trip played a seminal role in the thought
process and the subsequent consensus building that resulted
in a recent law on entrepreneurship in Tunisia. The December
2007 law represents a radical departure for economic
regulation in Tunisia, moving towards a negative list
approach and away from a positive list approach, where any
economic activity not expressly authorized was forbidden.

------------------------------------
USPTO Promotes Copyright Enforcement
------------------------------------

5. (U) On March 24 - 25, USPTO, working with the Tunisian
Organization for the Protection of Author's Rights (OTPDA)
and the CEJJ, organized a MEPI-funded workshop on copyright
enforcement for a group of 50 Tunisian lawyers, judges and
customs officials. The workshop featured presentations by
USPTO officials, Tunisian experts on intellectual property
rights, and representatives from the private sector. The
event received positive press coverage in French and Arabic
dailies and also led to a two-page article on IPR protection
in French weekly magazine L'Expression. This workshop is
part of the Embassy's broader efforts to stress the
importance of strong intellectual property rights (IPR)
protection to Tunisian companies, artists and consumers. The
Embassy's MEPI committee is in the final stages of awarding a
local grant to a Tunisian NGO to develop a public awareness
campaign on IPR. Over the past three years, 33 Tunisians
have participated in USPTO workshops in the United States.

------------------------------------------
Peregrine Leadership Institute Local Grant
------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) A local grant awarded to the Peregrine Leadership
Institute is promoting education and mutual awareness of
leadership principles, as well as effective governance and
business management, through the exchange of students and
teachers. Thus far, instructors from the Peregrine
Leadership Institute have visited Tunisia to promote
democratic leadership concepts and principles with senior
leaders in Tunisian government and business. However, the
Institute has been granted 6-month extension to implement the
final phase of the project. A December 2007 lecture by
Peregrine's President and Vice President scheduled at the
National School of Administration (Ecole Nationale
d'Administration - ENA) was cancelled at the last minute
after the group was already in Tunisia. While Peregrine was
able to arrange events with the Tunisian Banking Association
and the Tunisian-American Chamber of Commerce (TACC), the ENA
cancellation reflects the complexity of programming events in
Tunisia generally and with GOT entities, in particular. MEPI
is currently working with Peregrine to ensure that the
planned exchange of Tunisian students to the Peregrine
Institute takes place
before the project is closed.

---------------------------------
University Of Wyoming Local Grant
---------------------------------

7. (SBU) The aim of the University of Wyoming project is to
enhance private sector and democratic practices in Tunisia.
Due to the departure of the Ministry of Higher Education
(MOHE) official in place during the project's
inception, UW has been unable to complete a planned visit by
an American scholar to teach a short course in English,
focused upon research and curriculum writing. Following a
September 2007 trip to the University of Sfax, the University
of Wyoming and the Arabic Department at the University of
Sfax drafted a document detailing future curriculum

TUNIS 00000373 003 OF 003


collaboration. Through the grant, UW participated in the
language village of Nabeul - the GOT's immersion camp for
university English students and a major GOT priority. As an
outgrowth of the relationships built through this project, a
delegation of Wyoming state legislators will be visiting
Tunisia in 2008. MEPI continues to push for more
interactions between students from both countries and an
enhancement of the English language curriculum in Tunisia
with the aim of enhancing and supporting the investment
climate, entrepreneurial spirit and employment atmosphere of
Tunisia.

--------------------------------------------- ---------------
Comment: MEPI Moves from Four-Letter Word to Known Commodity
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

8. (SBU) Tunisia remains a difficult environment for MEPI
more broadly and for democratic reform, in particular. Some
Tunisian organizations remain extremely reticent to receive
MEPI, or any USG, funding. Articles continue to appear in
the Tunisian press accusing opposition leaders and
organizations of receiving MEPI funding, referring to MEPI as
if it were an obscene word. And yet, there are signs that
despite the name-bashing, MEPI is becoming a known, and
desired, commodity. This year we have already received twice
as many local grant proposals as the year before. While it
is difficult to point to one factor in particular, MEPI
received a lot of press -- positive and negative -- this year
through Embassy outreach and high-visibility grantees.
Although projects
directly and exclusively targeting political reform remain a
rarity, we continue to look for openings where we find them
and hope we can help Tunisian civil society to push the
boundaries, however incrementally. End Comment.
GODEC

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