Paris mayor visits USC for roundtable discussion with students

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo made a stop in Los Angeles on her way to San Francisco for the C40 Summit, a network that brings together more than 90 of the world’s largest cities in an effort to address and combat climate change. (Emily Smith | Daily Trojan)

When the city of Los Angeles presented USC with the chance to have a conversation with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, the USC Center on Public Diplomacy jumped at the opportunity on Monday and invited 20 students to have a roundtable discussion.

The center, a collaboration between the School of International Relations and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, seeks to involve students in a discussion of cultural relations and global involvement.

The roundtable comprised both graduate and undergraduate students, whose majors and concentrations included engineering, economics, public policy, journalism and French.

Hidalgo and her team are visiting Los Angeles to meet with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to discuss both Los Angeles and Paris’ goals for the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympic Games — with an emphasis on urban sustainability and efficiency.

“I am very happy to be here because Los Angeles is a wonderful city and this university is very famous, of course,” Hidalgo said upon arriving to the event. “I am here, especially, to share with you [my] experiences. Between L.A. and Paris, have a very strong relationship.”

Between 2015 and 2017, Los Angeles and Paris competed to host the 2024 Olympic Games. In September 2017, the International Olympic Committee voted to simultaneously award Paris and Los Angeles the 2024 and 2028 games, respectively.

“We have been building a strategy between Paris and L.A. [for the] Olympic Games, and now we are working together not just on [the games], but also about the transformation of our cities,”  Hidalgo said. “We will work on climate change and what our cities can do, because we have to fight against pollution.”

After her short visit to Los Angeles, Hidalgo will be traveling to San Francisco for the C40 Summit. C40 is a network that brings together more than 90 of the world’s largest cities in an effort to address and combat climate change.

Hidalgo, the first woman to be elected mayor of Paris and former co-host of the Climate Summit for Local Leaders, now serves as Chair of the C40. Garcetti serves as the vice president.

“Tomorrow, we are going to San Francisco for the summit on climate change with Governor Jerry Brown, Mike Bloomberg and 30 mayors [from] all over the world,” Hidalgo said. “[Our goal] is to convince people that we have the solutions and that these solutions can create new opportunities [for jobs] …  “We can have in the same view economy, ecology, and health.”

Hidalgo wants to focus much of Paris’ Olympic preparation on transforming the city.  

“[Paris] can build strategies and alliances with other cities and even the private sector,” she said. “We are [at] the forefront of all that is changing, and we have to build solutions for new problems.”

Paris Deputy Mayor Jean-Louis Missika, who spearheads the city’s initiatives in innovation and architecture, attended the meeting as well. He oversees a program that encourages worldwide competition among cities to create architecture solutions that are zero waste and zero emissions.

“Cities are discussing … regulations, norms and strategies in order to have more clean industries …” Missika said. “This is the challenge of the next five years. It’s not a question of the long future. It’s tomorrow.”

Students had the chance to direct questions to the mayor, all of which ranged from Paris’ treatment of refugees to the C40’s developing nations assistance.

Kelechi Emetuche, a public diplomacy progressive masters student, questioned Paris’ motivation for wanting to host the games.

“In 2015 when I decided to do this campaign [for the Olympics], one [motivator] was the attacks,” Hidalgo said.

In November 2015, Paris endured multiple terrorist attacks carried out by ISIS. To recover, the Paris community hoped to, “include young people in positive projects and for me, the Olympic games are an [example of] optimism.”

Hidalgo also discussed how the Olympics would transform northern Paris, an impoverished region, and create more economic opportunity for its residents.

Though the event was brief due to Hidalgo’s schedule, she encouraged students to be problem-solvers.

“You young people have to see what the problems of [your] cities are, and you need to find solutions to them,” she said.