SHARE RURAL AMBASSADORS FOR INCLUSIVE TERRITORIES: JEAN-PAUL DEMARTHE

 

A SHARE Network series featuring short portraits with our Rural Ambassadors for Inclusive Territories in France. 

 

 

The SHARE Network strives to promote whole-of-society and participatory approaches for the social inclusion of newcomers. 

 

Our ambassadors are people - refugees, migrants and local elected representatives of small and medium communities - who have first-hand experience of the inclusion and integration of newcomers in rural areas of France. 

 

Our ambassadors for Inclusive Territories will share their stories and input on good practices for welcome and integration in rural communities, promote their communities’ achievements, and advocate for more and better integration actions at the local, regional, national and European levels.

 

 

Portrait of Jean-Paul DEMARTHE

 

 

 

 

A rewarding career in the public sector

Originally from the village of Azé, in Saône-et-Loire, Jean Paul Demarthe is currently retired after a rewarding career. He began his career in the public education sector, he worked as a school manager for a while and then ended up in the social cohesion directorate of Saône-et-Loire. His professional path took him to different French regions but in the end he returned to Bourgogne. Since the end of his professional career, the mayor of Azé has asked him to run for a seat in the municipal council where he now deals with various affairs such as the monitoring of construction work, forest areas, as well as social action. In 2015, Jean-Paul Demarthe decided to contribute to the integration of refugees, he tells us : "to finish my career, I wanted to make a change and I took a job at the prefecture responsible for the Migrant Plan and the integration of refugees”.

A dynamic of integration in the territory

A fervent defender of the potential of rural areas, he was keen during these years to knock on the doors of the various mayors of the small towns and villages of Saône-et-Loire to convince them to welcome and work for the integration of refugees. Due to his efforts and the coordination put in place on the territory, Saône-et-Loire was in 2018 the second reception department for families resettled at the national level. He confides that "the mayors were sometimes dubious then in the end with pedagogy we were able to move things forward and change ideas”. The work carried out by state services, local authorities and charities has helped to stimulate a strong dynamic of integration in the territory. He explains this interest by the presence of mayors who acted as "leaders" in the field of integration, particularly looking for a way to revitalize areas that are suffering from depopulation and  also to generate jobs.

Two strong trends in the department

Beyond state services, local authorities and charities, he identifies two strong trends in the department. There is, on the one hand, the ecumenical influence of the the brothers of Taizé community. In 2018, they set up a center for asylum seekers which contributed to raising the awareness of local authorities and inhabitants on the importance of the reception and integration of exiled people. According to Jean-Paul, the Taizé brothers are "people who work quietly but have done a lot". On the other hand, the tradition of welcoming in the Montceau/Le Creusot mining basin, which was a land of immigration in the 19th century, has shown all its current reality during the migration crisis. Many refugee families settled down and remained in the heart of Saône et Loire.

A humanist commitment to inclusion 

Taking a step back, he interprets his commitment to the integration of refugees as a continuation of his professional beginnings in public education, particularly in the field of inclusion, when he worked in the "banlieues" of Lyon. His posture as a man working on the ground led him to forge links with the various stakeholders of the integration process and in particular the local communities, he explains that "I am deeply humanist and I wanted to be able to add my contribution".

His experience has shown him how much integration also brings to host towns and villages, especially when the links are well forged and the coordination well organised. He tells us that "the arrival of these people has brought a great openness, it is quite extraordinary! In some areas of the department, not only have the receptions always gone well, but we have also seen the scores of the far right drop". He tells us about many events, many anecdotes, which testify that integration is made out of small steps, and that cultural differences are ultimately only a source of enrichment and therefore of understanding. He has much to say on this topic.

Participation in the SHARE TI project

Jean-Paul was very interested in the SHARE TI project from the beginning and considers it important to be able to participate in the development of integration pathways in order to enrich and inspire the institutions in charge. Continuing to explore the territories of Saône-et-Loire and sharing the experiences and challenges of the municipalities is very close to his heart.