Mar 16, 2010


NED Strengthens Democracy Ties with France

NED President Carl Gershman travelled to France December 1-2, 2009, to broaden NED’s democracy network and foster greater cooperation between NED and French partners. During the trip, Mr. Gershman met with French government officials, leading intellectuals, and civil society activists to discuss initiatives like the World Movement for Democracy (WMD) and encourage greater cooperation between French and U.S. groups in supporting democracy around the world. Mr. Gershman also met with representatives of the Jean Jaures and Robert Schuman Foundations, who together had convened an international meeting of political foundations in March 2003.

Mr. Gershman visited the Quai d’Orsay where he met with the French Ambassador for Human Rights, François Zimeray, and discussed support for human rights activists as well as French participation at the upcoming Jakarta Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy, where nearly 500 democracy activists will gather this April. He also met with Christine Desouches,special advisor to the Secretary General of the International Organization for La Francophonie.

Strengthening cooperation with French human rights defenders was the focus of several meetings. At a luncheon with directors from leading media and human rights NGOs in France, Mr. Gershman discussed their participation in the Jakarta WMD assembly and ideas for future collaboration with NED. Participants included heads from Reporters sans Frontières, Fédération Internationale de des Ligues de Droits de l’Homme (FIDH), and Africa section managers from Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme (AEDH) and Comité Catholique contre la Faim et pour le Développement (CCFD). Mr. Gershman also met with leaders of SOS Racisme, an internationally-known French NGO combating racism, to discuss its work mobilizing youth in France.

Other meetings strengthened existing ties and broadened NED’s democratic network. NED Vice-Chair Judy Shelton organized a dinner with some two dozen French intellectuals, including French philosopher André Glucksmann and co-founder of Médecins du Monde Dr. Betrand Lebeau. At a second dinner, he  and Ms. Shelton were joined by Benjamin Abtan, the adviser on civil society to French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, as well as by NED grantee Ladan Boroumand, creator of the Iran human rights website Omid, and Nancy Heikin, director of the North Korea documentary KimjongiliaFormer Canadian Prime Minister and WMD Steering Committee chair Kim Campbell participated in this dinner as well.

NED is hopeful that the 48-hour trip will be a catalyst for further cooperation with new French partners and significant French engagement with the Networks of the World Movement for Democracy.“It’s time to build upon the historic friendship between France and the United States in a renewed effort to advance our common values,” Mr. Gershman said. “Our strengthened partnership could add new momentum to the world movement for democracy.”