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Cablegate: Staffdel Weil Meetings in Paris On Public Outreach

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PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHGI RUEHIK
RUEHJS RUEHKUK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD
RUEHPW RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHFR #2309/01 3571553
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 221553Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5121
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 002309

SIPDIS

STATE PLEASE PASS H AND EUR/WE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SCUL SOCI FR
SUBJECT: STAFFDEL WEIL MEETINGS IN PARIS ON PUBLIC OUTREACH

Summary
-------

1. Lynne Weil, Communications Director for the
House Foreign Affairs Committee, received a
comprehensive overview of Embassy Paris' active
Muslim and diversity outreach programs in a series
of meetings with embassy, government, NGO and media
representatives December 8-10. Public Affairs
programs -- from grants to International Visitor
(IV) programs to providing space for meetings and
events -- have produced tangible results, French
interlocutors said. At an Embassy roundtable, Weil
heard from activists who are applying best practices
learned during IV programs and using U.S. grants to
promote cooperation, integration and minority
participation in France's political life. In Paris'
poorer suburbs, local government and media experts
described to Weil the challenges people of immigrant
and minority origin face with respect to equal
opportunity. In addition to representing the USG at
an Aid-al-Adha service in Drancy (a former staging
point for Holocaust deportations and now a community
with a large Muslim population and an imam committed
to interfaith dialogue), Weil also met with a
variety of social entrepreneurs, scholars and imam
trainers to discuss the impact of USG public
diplomacy programs. End Summary.

Embassy Programs Help in 19th District
--------------------------------------

2. Embassy support has been essential to promoting
integration and cooperation in Paris' mixed 19th
district, one of the district's deputy mayors, Adji
Ahoudian, told Weil at an Embassy roundtable
discussion December 8. The 19th is Paris' most
diverse area, with large groups of new immigrants
from Asia and North Africa as well as newcomers from
Afghanistan and Iraq living side by side with
Europe's largest Jewish community. French official
institutions provide very limited support for
the district's integration and conciliation
initiatives, Ahoudian said, emphasizing that he
communicates closely with the Embassy's public
affairs staff to discuss ideas. Aboudian, an IV
alumnus, is in charge of the new "To Live Together"
project, whose goal is to increase understanding and
reduce the potential for clashes among the
district's disparate communities. An uptick in gang
violence this fall in the 19th has added urgency to
the matter. Yet USG-sponsored visits from the
Freedom Writers Foundation, the Interfaith Youth
Corps, U.S. urban civic groups, and representatives
from the U.S. nonprofit "Youthville" have helped
bolster the "Together" project, Aboudian said.

3. Not all young people of immigrant origin are as
politically engaged as Ahoudian, said Faycal
Douhane, a Socialist Party (PS) activist who is
trying to increase political involvement among
minorities across all party lines. Douhane urged
the United States to continue to provide grants for
worthwhile projects and to keep sending young
community leaders on IV programs. Such activities
help encourage greater political involvement,
particularly among sectors of the population that
have been underrepresented in France's leadership
echelons. USG programs have already been successful
at "identifying people who will eventually take
positions of power in France, people who will change
things," Douhane noted.

Embassy as Network Enhancer
---------------------------

4. The subjects of change and integration were
front and center at a working breakfast December 9
hosted by the CAO with several activists from French
non-profit organizations. The representatives
described Embassy Paris as fulfilling a convening
role and helping to build networks, both across the
Atlantic and within France. Marie Trellu, who helps
to manage Uniscite, an AmeriCorps-style NGO for
French youths, said the USG helped her group to
identify a site for the National Youth Services
Conference in November. Marie-Christine Rimbault,
head of the "Nos Quartiers Nos Talents" NGO aimed at
creating private sector opportunity for minority
youths, praised USG involvement in helping her

PARIS 00002309 002 OF 003


organization reach a "diversity agreement" on equal
employment opportunity with the EuroDisney theme
park outside Paris.

5. Meanwhile, the editor-in-chief of Respect
Magazine, Marc Cheb Sun, described his connection to
the embassy as "intense." Respect's editorial
mission is to build tolerance and acceptance among
France's various ethnic and immigrant-origin
communities. He praised the "intellectual exchange"
he enjoys with public affairs staff on issue
content. In addition, Cheb Sun said the embassy
helped him cement contacts with civic groups in the
United States who were essential partners as his
editorial staff assembled an "America A-to-Z" issue
of Respect. The magazine's circulation is roughly
60,000, and it maintains two Internet news sites.

Social Entrepreneurs: Help Us Meet
----------------------------------

6. Creating a more equitable playing field for
minority-owned businesses is among the current
concerns at the La Ruche center for social
entrepreneurs, the organization's representatives
told Weil December 9. Note: "La Ruche" means bee
hive in French. The center opened this year on a
membership basis; the members are business people
who want to use entrepreneurial methods to address
systemic social problems in France. End note.
Majid El Jaroudi, a member, told Weil that one key
focus at present for La Ruche is a report on
supplier diversity, or the extent to which minority-
owned businesses win government contracts for
construction, services or in other areas. With
respect to how public affairs programs could help
advance La Ruche's goals, El Jaroudi stressed the
importance of the U.S. Embassy's ability to convene
various interested parties for meetings. He thanked
the embassy for hosting a major training event for
French social entrepreneurs at the Ambassador's
Residence earlier this year, and for helping to
sponsor the upcoming supplier diversity conference.

Blogs, Scholars and Imam Trainers
---------------------------------

7. Weil also had discussions during her visit with
the editors-in-chief of Safirnews.com, Oumma.com,
and Bondy Blog, all of whom have traveled to the
United States on exchange programs. The cyber journalists
outlined their views on current challenges facing
French Muslims and other minorities, underlining
that job opportunities and instilling a sense of
hope are essential for young and disadvantaged
populations. Weil received a briefing at the Museum
of Immigration History from the institution's
director, who stressed the importance of mounting
exhibits that demystify and place value on the
experiences of France's millions of immigrants
(minority French high schoolers touring the museum
were overheard commenting enthusiastically on the
recent U.S. elections).

8. Combating anti-Semitism and anti-Islamic
sentiments in France were the main topics of a
working lunch with a pair of scholars December 9.
Weil also heard from Youth Ambassador and high
school student Idris Sisaid about the benefits of a
U.S. exchange program in which he participated. In
a meeting about Imam training, Mohamed Ali Bouharb
of the military chaplaincy -- who also benefited
from an embassy exchange program -- emphasized that
the U.S. Embassy plays a special role in expanding
the network of French movers and shakers in the
field of diversity. "The only place France's top
Muslims all gather at once is at the U.S.
Ambassador's residence for the Iftar dinner," he
commented to Weil. He also urged the Embassy to
continue to support the process of interfaith
dialogue.

9. In meetings at the Embassy, Public Affairs staff
outlined the active minority outreach programs they
conduct with very limited resources. The programs
put a special emphasis on the U.S. experience in
civil rights and in managing diversity, given the
many challenges France still faces in this regard.
The results of the programs have been positive, with
a wide array of French interlocutors -- many of whom

PARIS 00002309 003 OF 003


Weil met on this visit -- expressing appreciation
for and interest in U.S. models of integration.
Working with French partners, Public Affairs staff
have helped put U.S. best practices to work to ease
tension and promote social cohesion in disadvantaged
communities where the need is most intense.
PEKALA

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