News

France Trains Iraqi Civil Servants in Clermont-Ferrand

Lisa Bryant

After dividing bitterly over the war in Iraq, the European Union is coming together to assist in the country's post-war reconstruction. European countries have offered to help train security forces and other professionals to help Iraq establish a peaceful democracy. Lisa Bryant takes a look at one of the first European civilian training programs for Iraqis - which is being held in the working-class French city of Clermont-Ferrand.

The half-dozen students seated around a classroom table at the University of Auvergne do not look like the obvious vanguard for Iraq's new experiment in democracy. There is a former underground journalist who now writes publicly for an Iraqi newspaper. There is a man in charge of a committee to reintegrate members of the government of former dictator Saddam Hussein back into public service. And there is a man with sad, brown eyes who simply identifies himself as a director.

But these men have been chosen for one of Europe's first civilian training programs on ways to bring democracy and stability to war-torn Iraq. The 15-day course in Clermont-Ferrand, in central France - a city known for its Michelin tire industry rather than for expertise on Iraq - focuses on regional governance in France and in Europe.

Jean-Pierre Massias, a senior administrator at the university, a head of the training program, says the session aims to teach these Iraqi civil servants about local governance. That includes the rule of law - the students are learning about the French constitution for example. They are also learning things like checks and balances within the political system, and the importance of striking political compromises.

Mr. Massias has never been to Iraq, and this is the first time he has taught Iraqis. But he has had plenty of experience in former Soviet states, helping legal and political professionals make the transition to Western-style democracy.

That transition underway in ex-Communist states, he believes, is very similar to what is taking place in Iraq.

The training program here, in Clermont-Ferrand, reflects a larger shift in Europe from clashing over the war to helping establish peace in Iraq. Even France, a leading war opponent, wants to help out these days.

The French government has offered to train 1,500 Iraqi security officers outside Iraq, a proposal the new government in Baghdad is expected to accept. But Howard Leach, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to France, suggests the French could do more.

"They can offer to train more people," he said. "They can contribute funds to the reconstruction of Iraq. French companies can become involved in rebuilding the economic strength of Iraq. There are many different areas where friendly nations can help the Iraqi people rebuild their country and re-establish democracy there.

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier says his government plans to offer greater aid in the future.

Speaking to reporters in Paris last week, Mr. Barnier said France is ready to go fairly far in offering economic, administrative and other assistance to Iraq.

The program at the University of Auvergne is a private initiative - the institution won a training bid posted by Iraq's interim government. The class was initially designed for Iraqi governors. But only one governor ended up on the final list of participants. The other students have a variety of backgrounds and government positions.

Auday Abed Awn, 33, works for Iraq's ministerial council. He was an opponent of Saddam Hussein, but says he does not blame France for opposing the effort to topple the Iraqi dictator.

Mr. Abed Awn says France was against the war for humanitarian reasons. Now, he says, France is opening its doors to Iraqis with training programs such as this one.

Mr. Massias and other program instructors say the Iraqis are very interested in European politics and ask a lot of questions.

Mr. Massias says many of the students are particularly concerned about how to ensure the Kurdish region in Iraq remains part of the country. He says they are particularly interested in efforts to grant regions like the Basque areas of France and Spain greater autonomy - without granting them full independence.

The university is expected to train another group of Iraqis in international affairs. But one of the main messages of this training course, Mr. Massias says, is how to build a new system that includes all of Iraq's political, ethnic, and religious factions. That, Mr. Massias says, is what democracy is all about.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs