Anne-Claire Legendre: I received the tools I needed to become a diplomat

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Anne-Claire Legendre served as the Consul General of France in the United States, caring for French citizens and promoting French influence abroad. Her education at Sciences Po shaped the diplomatic skills she relied on during her time in New York.  Although she is departing the United States for a new post, Legendre “looks forward to maintaining the ties, and the fantastic friendships that I built during these for four years in New York.”

Legendre initially studied literature and languages but says she “realized while studying languages that I needed to understand the contemporary challenges of our time.” Sciences Po, she believes “really opened for me a new understanding and gave me the tools to understand not just political sciences, but also economics, and law.” Her constitutional law classes in particular left her with a lasting impression. Constitutional law “should be taken by, not just students that have the privilege to go to Sciences Po but by any student in in France, because they are so key to the democratic fabric of our society,” she insists. Thanks to Sciences Po, Legendre gained not just a new understanding, but “received the tools I needed to become a diplomat.”

Legendre’s role as Consul General in New York had a twofold mission. She took care of the French community in New York, aiding the approximately 100,000 French citizens living in the tri-state area with ID cards, social services, French school, and voting in elections. She describes the time of COVID as a particular challenge, helping French people on a daily basis to cross the Atlantic, rejoin their families, or even face drastic health conditions. The second part of the role of Consul General is to promote the influence of France “in all its aspects from political priorities, in terms of climate, for instance or gender equality.” Equally important, however, is promoting French businesses, culture, and traditions such as wine and gastronomy, giving them “the best visibility possible in the tri-state area.” Mobilizing a network of contacts was key for Legendre in order to convey the innovations happening in France. “Culturally and intellectually speaking,” she says, “there are a lot of predictions coming from France that are completely relevant to the U.S.”

A highlight of Legendre’s posting was the dynamic New York community. “New York offers the most impressive pool of talents. You meet a lot of smart people from the French community and of course from New York community here,” she reminisces. “I love New York City because of because of the dynamism, the incredible drive that people have.” She appreciates the space in New York “left to people from different backgrounds, different identities, different parts of the world, to actually thrive in the city. It's a fantastic melting pots for creativity and for projects.”

After leaving New York, Legendre will take up a new posting as Ambassador to Kuwait. “It's a region I know well, because I was trained as a diplomat on Middle Eastern issues,” she says. “Prior to New York City I was the Middle East advisor to our foreign minister.” She describes how Kuwait plays an integral part in diplomatic strategy. “It's a country that is in the middle of a region, which is key for our stability, key for our security,” Legendre says. “Kuwait plays a very important role as a facilitator and moderator.”

When asked for her advice, Legendre encourages current Sciences Po students and young graduates, especially women, to explore careers in diplomacy. “We need more female diplomats, and there's not enough of them,” she says. “I really encourage young women to follow this path.” Legendre cites the current moment as especially exciting for the future of diplomacy. She describes a new mode of working that has arisen since the Paris Accords, a type of work she calls “3D Diplomacy 2.0.” Rather than traditional diplomatic relations centered around state to state actors, diplomacy today requires opening the door for “discussion with a great variety of actors, including private sector actors and the civil society.” Some of the essential questions diplomacy must tackle include “what's the regulation of new technology? Where is the international competition on the internet? What's the impact on our democracies?” Legendre believes. It is absolutely fascinating, she adds, to “build a whole new chapter of international law.”

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