An interview with Franck Gonsse, Community Councillor in charge of Maritime and Port Affairs and International Cooperation

Can you describe the current project between the CUD and the Governorate of Ngazidja?

The main cooperation project that links us with the Governorate of Ngazidja is a water supply project that should lead us to ensure the water supply of 6 villages in the Commune of Itsahidi in the south of the island of Ngazidja. Carried out with the support of AFD and several local authorities and water agencies (AEAP, AERMC), the project, which includes two components, aims to install all the infrastructure necessary for water distribution in the villages of Itsahidi, including the laying of 10 km of pipes and the formation of a management entity capable of ensuring the operation and maintenance of the entire system.

Why did you decide to set up a decentralized cooperation?

Dunkirk is the third largest Comorian city in France and has been home to an active and creative Comorian diaspora for nearly fifty years. They arrived in Dunkerque through the world maritime trade and have put down roots in Dunkerque and given a lot to the development of our port and our industries. Having established its roots, it has not, however, forgotten the archipelago. It was she who initiated the development of decentralized cooperation between the Urban Community of Dunkirk and the Governorate of Ngazidja.

Why with the Governorate of Ngazidja?

We wanted to cooperate with an entity comparable to ours, even if the island of Ngazidja is three times larger than the community territory and twice as populated. The idea was to raise ourselves to the level of the governorate, whereas the political and administrative organization of the Union of the Comoros was, until recently, very centralized. Participating in the decentralization of the Comoros also echoed our own history as we are the oldest voluntary urban community in France.

Why did you choose to work with HAMAP-Humanitaire?

The association HAMAP – Humanitaire came to us in 2019 with
a project to develop access to water in the Banidji-East region. Agglomeration particularly engaged in the field of transitions and preservation of resources, we had, ourselves, the desire to develop our cooperation on this theme while access to water in Comoros is a real issue of development and health. Relying on the experience of the NGO, which has carried out other projects of the same nature elsewhere in Africa, we committed ourselves to designing a large-scale project that should, in time, supply between 15,000 and 20,000 inhabitants

Does the CUD have other decentralized cooperations where it works on development projects?

Our cooperation with the Island of Ngazidja is mainly oriented towards the theme of water, but through this project, we also address the fields of training
and more generally to the reinforcement of the capacities of the community. We have also recently responded to
We also recently responded to the Governorate’s request to help it deal with the Covid epidemic by sending it, with the Seine-Saint-Denis departmental council, half a million sanitary masks and 7 tons of hydro-alcoholic gel. We also want our fellow citizens, especially the young people of the agglomeration, to participate in these international commitments. A dozen of them will participate in the Itsahidi water supply project, as part of our policies to support the international mobility of young people.

The Urban Community is also involved in other cooperative ventures on various
aspects. Thus, within the framework of its cooperation with Lebanon, we are accompanying, with the support of our urban planning agency, a group of municipalities in their efforts to structure themselves, particularly in the urban planning sector, with the creation of a territorial development agency. On the European level and after the implementation of the Brexit, we signed a cooperation agreement with the Irish city of Rosslare with which we have the ambition to develop strong economic and social links after the opening of several shipping lines between our two ports.

A first youth exchange will take place in February 2023. More recently, we have decided to commit ourselves to the Ukrainian city of Bucha, to help it face the harsh ordeal it is going through, and have invited it to join the international network of “Cities of Memory” that we created in 2016. This network brings together cities in Europe and around the world that have suffered destruction as a result of the war and have rebuilt. In addition to Bucha, we find cities like Gdansk (PL), Rostock (D), Ypres (B) Guernica (E), Bizerte (TN), or Haewsong (South Korea). Within the framework of this network, we exchange on the themes of resilience by reporting on the innovations and experiments carried out here and there to revitalize our territories in their urban but also social aspects.

As you know, our territory is home to a major seaport open to the world. It intends, in fact, to be part of the international movement with the desire to participate in the world order as it has done for centuries.

How does CUD integrate its cooperation actions in its territory?

The CUD mobilizes its services and the expertise of its staff by trying to find material in its own structuring projects and networks that it develops. As a leader of the Cities of Memory network, Dunkerque has thus, as an echo to its project of rehabilitation of the facades of its city center, accompanied the municipality of Bizerte, our partner city in Tunisia, in an equivalent project in its old port. We have also accompanied Bizerte in the reform of its waste collection strategy and this in parallel with our own projects to overhaul the collection system at home. However, we still have a lot of work to do to communicate better on our actions and make them closer to the inhabitants of our territory and its economic dynamics.

This is why our cooperations are renewed today in line with these dynamics and give a greater place to youth in our international commitments. The international mobility of young people is now a major focus of our policy, which has led to the creation of several programs, including the Odyssey program, which aims to give young Dunkirkers the opportunity to discover the world.