The too secret missions of thematic ambassadors

“We ask the security forces, the international community, the Taliban and any influential parties to pay attention to the security of objects and not let the opportunists (…) damage and steal museum objects. ” This plea from the Afghan National Museum in Kabul, posted on Facebook on August 16, should not leave ex-president of the Louvre Museum Jean-Luc Martinez indifferent.

In 2015, in a report submitted to President François Hollande, he proposed that endangered foreign cultural property find asylum in French museums. Especially, from the 1is September, this chief heritage curator becomes thematic ambassador for international cooperation in the field of heritage. An ambassador without a credential, without an embassy, ​​but not without a mission, like twenty other “excellences” responsible for issues of global scale.

For Jean-Luc Martinez, who won this consolation prize in the absence of a third term at the head of the Louvre, the roadmap is thus made explicit by the Quai d’Orsay: prepare for the winter a conference at the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (Aliph), a foundation for which he already chairs the scientific committee, in order to extend the round table to new donors.

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It must also think about the best mechanism to offer French expertise in heritage and museum creation abroad. But, for the moment, no immediate action in Afghanistan, where Aliph has been operating for three years, is planned.

Lack of transparency

The diplomatic singularity of these twenty-one thematic ambassadors was patented in 1998 by President Jacques Chirac. The profile and age of the current incumbents are as varied as their missions. A diplomat at the end of his career, Christophe Penot, 66, has been in charge of the Indo-Pacific zone for a year. A former karateka, Laurence Fischer, 47, has been an ambassador for sport since 2019, without knowing exactly the scope of her function.

“It’s a constant work of preparation, I sit on committees every quarter and on boards of directors twice a year. »Stéphanie Seydoux, Ambassador for Global Health

Appointed by the Council of Ministers for a period of four years, these thematic ambassadors are attached to the Quai d’Orsay, but often come under several ministries: culture for Martinez, economy and finance for Henri Verdier, the ambassador who s ‘occupies digital … Some take part in major international events, such as the G7 or G20 summits. In 2019, the total compensation of the nineteen thematic ambassadors then in office amounted, according to a Senate report, to 1.8 million euros (an average of 94,730 euros per person), with mission expenses in the order of 21,400 euros per ambassador.

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