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Cablegate: Peace Corps: Views of Ambassadors: Tunis Response

R 271610Z FEB 98
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 7604

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TUNIS 000933


FOR G - BISA WILLIAMS-MANIGAULT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AMGT EAID PREL TS
SUBJECT: PEACE CORPS: VIEWS OF AMBASSADORS: TUNIS RESPONSE

REF: STATE 24652

1. PEACE CORPS? WE LOVED THEM--AND TUNISIA LOVED
THEM--FOR THE CONTRIBUTIONS TO ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL
DEVELOPMENT THE 2,382 AMERICANS AND THEIR THOUSANDS
OF TUNISIAN COUNTERPARTS MADE DURING THE 34 YEARS OF
THEIR COMMON ENDEAVOR TO IMPROVE THE HUMAN CONDITION.
TUNISIA HAS ATTAINED A LEVEL OF DEVELOPMENT THAT
PRECLUDES OUR CONTINUING TO FUND A PEACE CORPS PROGRAM
HERE NOW; THE PEACE CORPS FORMALLY LEFT TUNISIA ON
AUGUST 23, 1996.

2. FITTED TO THE THREE GUIDELINE QUESTIONS OF REFTEL
PARAGRAPH 4.ARE SEVERAL EXTRACTS AND PARAPHRASES OF
SOME OF THE MATERIALS PRESENTED IN THE BROCHURE "PEACE
CORPS TUNISIA - THE LEGACY - 1962-1996" PREPARED HERE
(AND IN WASHINGTON) TO COMMEMORATE THE PROGRAM AT THE
END OF ITS MISSION. WE HAVE ADDED A FOURTH CATEGORY
AT THE END OF THIS MESSAGE: THE CONTRIBUTION FORMER
PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS BRING HOME WITH THEM.


3. ITEM A.L: THE UNIQUE CONTRIBUTIONS THAT PEACE
CORPS VOLUNTEERS...HAVE PREVIOUSLY MADE:

"TUNISIA WAS ONLY FIVE YEARS INTO ITS NATIONHOOD WHEN
PRESIDENT HABIB BOURGUIBA CAME TO THE UNITED STATES IN
MAY 1961. AS THE FIRST HEAD OF STATE TO VISIT NEWLY
ELECTED PRESIDENT KENNEDY, ONE OF THE FIRST ITEMS ON
BOURGUIBA'S AGENDA WAS THE PEACE CORPS. PRESIDENT
BOURGUIBA HAD ESTABLISHED HIMSELF AND TUNISIA AS
REFORM-ORIENTED AND FORWARD-MOVING BY PLACING A
HIGH PRIORITY ON WOMEN'S RIGHTS, EDUCATION, AND
EMPLOYMENT. AT THIS FIRST HISTORIC MEETING, BOURGUIBA
ASKED PRESIDENT KENNEDY FOR AMERICA'S HELP IN
FULFILLING THE GOALS OF HIS AMBITIOUS PLANS FOR
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.

"TUNISIA BECAME THE FIRST ARAB COUNTRY TO REQUEST AND
RECEIVE PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS. ENTRY INTO TUNISIA
WAS GROUND BREAKING AND IT WOULD HELP PAVE THE WAY FOR
PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS TO WORK IN MANY OTHER NATIONS
OF NORTH AFRICA, THE MIDDLE EAST, AND THE ISLAMIC
WORLD. MUCH OF THE EXPERIENCE IN LANGUAGE TRAINING
AND CROSS-CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING FIRST GAINED IN
TUNISIA WOULD GO ON TO HELP THE PEACE CORPS PREPARE
AND TRAIN VOLUNTEERS FOR WORK IN COUNTRIES SUCH AS
MOROCCO, OMEN, YEMEN, IRAN, AFGHANISTAN, UZBEKISTAN,
KAZAKHSTAN, THE KYRGYZ REPUBLIC, AND TURKMENISTAN."

4. PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS ASSIGNED TO TUNISIA HAD
TASKS AS VARIED AS ANY IN THE WORLD. THE INITIAL
GROUPS OF PCVS IN TUNIS INCLUDED:

-- ARCHITECTS, TOWN PLANNERS, AND CITY SUPERVISORS,
WHO WORKED ON THE COASTAL TOWNS OF SOUSSE AND
MONASTIR;

-- JUNIOR AND SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS, WHO
TAUGHT MORE THAN 50,000 TUNISIAN STUDENTS IN THE
FOLLOWING 16 YEARS;

-- YOUTH SPECIALISTS, WHO ADDRESSED NEEDS IN THE
FIELDS OF SPORTS, EDUCATION, AND NURSING,
INCLUDING ONE WHO WAS APPOINTED ASSISTANT COACH
OF THE NATIONAL BASKETBALL TEAM;
-
-- HOSPITAL AND CLINIC-BASED NURSES, FOCUSSING ON
EDUCATING NEW MOTHERS, FAMILY PLANNING, NUTRITION,
HEALTH EDUCATION, WATER AND SANITATION; AND

-- MECHANICS, FISHERIES AND AGRICULTURAL SPECIALISTS,
WHO PROVIDED VOCATIONAL TRAINING AT TECHNICAL
CENTERS, MARINE FISHERIES, AND TAUGHT FARMING
METHODS, BEEKEEPING, AND TREE PLANTING.

IN LATER YEARS, PROGRAMS EXPANDED TO INCLUDE, FOR
EXAMPLE:

-- ARCHITECTS TEACHING ARCHITECTURE; A SCHOOL OF
ARCHITECTURE WAS OPENED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF
TUNIS;

-- THE GOT EFFORT TO IMPROVE URBAN HOUSING WAS
ASSISTED BY THE PC SELF-HELP HOUSING PROJECT;

-- PCVS ENTERED THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CENTER;
A SPECIAL OLYMPICS WAS INITIATED; A MODEL TRAINING
FACILITY WAS BUILT ON THE ISLAND OF DJERBA--THE
FIRST OF ITS KIND; AND

-- VIA THE TUNISIAN NATIONAL SPORTS FEDERATION, YOUTH
PCVS RETURNED AND INITIATED A YOUTH PROJECT BASED
IN RURAL YOUTH CENTERS;

5. ITEM A.2.: EVALUATION OF THE VOLUNTEER'S
CONTRIBUTIONS.

THERE FOLLOWS THE TEXT OF A LETTER FROM HIS EXCELLENCY
ZINE EL ABIDINE BEN ALI, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF
TUNISIA, DATELINED CARTHAGE, AUGUST 23, 1996.

BEGIN TEXT:

LETTER TO THE PEACE CORPS IN TUNISIA
ON THE OCCASION OF THE END OF ITS MISSION

ON THE OCCASION OF THE END OF YOUR MISSION
IN TUNISIA, IT GIVES ME GREAT PLEASURE TO EXTEND
TO YOU, IN MY NAME AND ON BEHALF OF THE TUNISIAN
PEOPLE, MY CONGRATULATIONS AND SINCERE APPRECIA-
TION FOR THE IMPORTANT AND NOBLE SERVICES YOU
HAVE PROVIDED DURING YOUR STAY IN TUNISIA, THE
LAND OF PEACE AND THE CROSSROAD OF CULTURES AND
CIVILIZATIONS THROUGHOUT HISTORY.

SINCE ITS CREATION, THE PEACE CORPS HAS BEEN
A GREAT SUCCESS AND HAS ACHIEVED THE NOBLE
OBJECTIVES OUTLINED BY PRESIDENT JOHN FITZGERALD
KENNEDY AT THE BEGINNING OF THE 1960'S. I AM
CONFIDENT THAT YOU HAVE DISCOVERED, THROUGH YOUR
MEETING AND DAILY ACTIVITIES IN THE DIFFERENT
REGIONS OF OUR COUNTRY, THE HOSPITALITY, THE
OPENNESS AND THE TOLERANCE THAT CHARACTERIZE
THE TUNISIAN PEOPLE AND HAVE OBSERVED SOME
ASPECTS OF THE RICHNESS OF OUR CIVILIZATION AND
INCREASED YOUR COMPREHENSION OF THE HABITS AND
THE PARTICULARITIES OF OUR COUNTRY. THIS WILL
CERTAINLY CONTRIBUTE TO BRINGING THE TUNISIAN
AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLES CLOSER TOGETHER.
YOUR NOBLE CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE IMPROVEMENT
OF LIVING CONDITIONS IN SEVERAL REGIONS IN
TUNISIA, BY THE COMPLETION OF DEVELOPMENT
PROJECTS, HAVE CERTAINLY ALLOWED YOU TO DEVELOP
STRONG TIES AND DEEP RELATIONS WITH TUNISIA AND
ITS PEOPLE AND WILL CONTRIBUTE TO STRENGTHENING
THE TRADITIONAL RELATIONS OF FRIENDSHIP AND
COOPERATION BETWEEN THE REPUBLIC OF TUNISIA AND
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

END TEXT.

6. MANY OF THE VOLUNTEERS WHO SERVED IN TUNISIA
CHOSE NOT TO LIMIT THEMSELVES SOLELY TO THE TASK FOR
WHICH THEY WERE INITIALLY SENT, BUT EXPANDED THEIR
ENDEAVORS LATERALLY, THEREBY ALSO DEMONSTRATING A
DIFFERENT APPROACH TO PRIVATE ENTERPRISE THAN HAD
PREVIOUSLY BEEN UTILIZED BY THEIR COUNTERPARTS. FOR
EXAMPLE, THE BEEKEEPER INVOLVED HIMSELF NOT ONLY IN
TEACHING THE CARE OF BEES AND INCREASING THE HONEY
PRODUCTION, BUT ALSO IN DEVELOPING LIP BALM AND OTHER
BEESWAX BYPRODUCTS INSTEAD OF BURNING OFF THE COMBS IN
WINTER AS HAD BEEN DONE PREVIOUSLY. HE INVOLVED THE
KEEPERS IN ORGANIZING THEIR OWN SMALL BUSINESSES TO
MARKET THESE PRODUCTS. THE VOLUNTEER WHO TAUGHT
CLOTHING CONSTRUCTION AND OTHER SEWING SKILLS TO A
GROUP OF 15-20 GIRLS LATER FOUND HERSELF DEVISING
VISUAL AIDS TO TEACH HER SEMI-LITERATE STUDENTS
QUALITY CONTROL, BASIC ACCOUNTING, MARKETING, AND
PURCHASING MATERIALS. THESE GIRLS THEMSELVES LATER
FOUND THEMSELVES TEACHERS AND LEARNED TO READ AND
WRITE.

7. ITEM B. RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF PCVS IN
FURTHERING U.S. INTERESTS IN TUNISIA

PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS INCULCATE AMERICAN SOCIAL
VALUES, EDUCATIONAL VALUES, THE WORK ETHIC, COMMUNITY
SERVICE, AND SELF-SACRIFICE IN A WAY THAT OUR OTHER
AGENCIES' PROGRAMS ARE RARELY ABLE TO ACHIEVE, AND TO
A TARGET GROUP OUTSIDE OF THE CAPITAL IN REGIONS OF
THE COUNTRY RARELY EXPOSED TO DIRECT CONTACT WITH
AMERICANS OR ANY FOREIGNERS.

8. ITEM C. WAYS IN WHICH THE ROLE OF THE PEACE
CORPS DIFFERS FROM THE ROLE OF OTHER U.S.
GOVERNMENT AGENCIES/PROGRAMS IN TUNISIA

TO PLAGIARIZE THE WORDS OF THE FAMOUS BEER COMMERCIAL,
THE PEACE CORPS REFRESHES THE PARTS THAT OTHER PROGRAMS
CANNOT REACH. WE SHOULD NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE SOCIAL
IMPACT OF THE PEACE CORPS PROGRAM. UNEXPRESSED NEEDS
AND HIDDEN LONGINGS MAY HAVE BEEN GIVEN NEW HOPE AND
ENCOURAGEMENT BY THE VERY EXISTENCE OF THE PCVS.
BY WHAT THEY WERE, AS MUCH AS BY WHAT THEY DID, OUR
VOLUNTEERS DEMONSTRATED AMERICAN IDEALS AND VALUES.
THAT UNIVERSITY EDUCATED MEN AND WOMEN WOULD LIVE IN
SMALL TOWNS AND ACTUALLY GET THEIR HANDS DIRTY, RATHER
THAN SEEK A CUSHY SINECURE WITH THE BUREAUCRACY OR A
FAMILY FIRM, MIGHT WELL HAVE BEEN MIND-BOGGLING.
SHOCKING THOUGH IT WAS IN 1962-64, ONE WOMAN, PLAYING
WITH HER PCV COLLEAGUES ON A PREVIOUSLY ALL-MALE
BASKETBALL TEAM, MAY HAVE DONE MORE WITH HER PRESENCE
AND THE RESPECT HER TEAMMATES SHOWED HER TO ILLUSTRATE
THE CAPABILITIES OF WOMEN THAN A HUNDRED LECTURES
ABOUT WOMEN'S RIGHTS COULD HAVE ACCOMPLISHED.


9. ITEM D: THE CONTRIBUTION FORMER PEACE CORPS
VOLUNTEERS BRING HOME WITH THEM

ALTHOUGH YOU HAVE CHOSEN NOT TO CONSIDER THE THIRD
GOAL OF THE PEACE CORPS IN THE SCOPE OF THIS CURRENT
REQUEST, LET US NOT NEGLECT THE CONTRIBUTION PCVS
BRING HOME. MAJOR INTANGIBLE BENEFITS ACCRUE TO US
FROM THE MULTIGENERATIONAL IMPACT RETURNING PCVS HAVE
HAD AND WILL CONTINUE TO HAVE ON THE POLITICAL CULTURE
OF THE UNITED STATES.

DURING THE NEARLY FOUR DECADES SINCE THE INCEPTION OF
THE PEACE CORPS, FOREIGN TRAVEL HAS BECOME WIDELY
AVAILABLE AND INCREASINGLY EASY AND CHEAP. MILLIONS
OF AMERICANS HAVE BROUGHT HOME A GLIB AND FACILE
SURFACE FAMILIARITY WITH THE WORLD THAT IS VASTLY
DIFFERENT FROM THE PEACE CORPS EXPERIENCE.

PCVS THEMSELVES HAVE BEEN PREDOMINANTLY UNIVERSITY
EDUCATED YOUNG ADULTS WHO MAY HAVE TAKEN FOR GRANTED
OR HAVE BEEN NEARLY OBLIVIOUS TO THE MULTIPLICITY OF
ELEMENTS THAT MAKE UP A SOPHISTICATED AND FREE CIVIL
SOCIETY. LIVING WITHOUT A FREE PRESS, A MULTI-PARTY
POLITICAL STRUCTURE, OR TRADE UNIONS COULD HAVE BEEN
A SALUTARY EYE OPENER. ON THE OTHER HAND, TO HAVE
LEARNED, UP CLOSE AND DIRTY (SOMETIMES DANGEROUSLY
SO), THAT

"THERE ARE NINE AND NINETY WAYS
OF CONSTRUCTING TRIBAL LAYS
AND EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM
IS RIGHT"

IS NO MEAN INSIGHT EITHER.

10. FINALLY, LET'S NOT FORGET THE CONTINUING ROLE
FORMER PCVS PLAY IN FOSTERING IMPROVED TIES BETWEEN
THE UNITED STATES AND THEIR FORMER HOST NATION.
PCVS, FOR EXAMPLE, HAVE HELPED THE AMERICAN-TUNISIAN
FRIENDSHIP ASSOCIATION REMAIN ONE OF THE MOST ACTIVE
OF THESE GROUPS IN WASHINGTON. ALL IN ALL, THE PEACE
CORPS EXPERIENCE IN TUNISIA WAS WIN-WIN FOR ALL
CONCERNED.

LITTREL

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