Kiev Visit a “Great Adventure and Significant Success” for Furthering U.S. – Ukraine Rule of Law Programming and Professional Exchanges
USAID Bureau for Europe & Eurasia (Washington, DC)
Posted on August 15, 2005
By Bureau staff
|Oleksandr Potylchak, Justice of the Ukrainian Supreme Court and 2004 Open World alum greets the U.S. delegates at the Court entrance (from left: Mihm, Magnuson, Potylchak, Bierman and Madanick)|
Many of the achievements of the U.S.-Russia program, which is sponsored by the Open World Leadership Center at the Library of Congress, can be credited to the dedication and passion of two of its volunteer co-designers, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson of the District of Minnesota and U.S. District Judge Michael Mihm of the Central District of Illinois. Much of the success of Open World’s Russian rule of law program is due to its close collaboration with USAID’s rule of law projects, as both funding agencies make every effort to ensure that their programming is complementary. In August 2004, Judge Mihm was recognized for his efforts and awarded the USAID Outstanding Citizen Achievement Citation for his more than ten years of activity in promoting rule of law in exchanges with more than 45 countries.
Judges Magnsuon and Mihm are, once again, at the helm of this new project and traveled to Ukraine, in part, to determine how best to implement U.S. Ukrainian judicial exchanges based on the Russian programming model. Bierman, Mihm and Magnuson were joined by Open World's Program Manager for rule of law Lewis Madanick during this trip aimed at laying the groundwork for a fall 2005 exchange and future exchanges and rule of law programming.
"This trip was an extraordinary opportunity for USAID to work collaboratively with Judge Magnuson, Judge Mihm and Open World to effectively develop a pilot for their innovative rule of law programming in Ukraine," Bierman remarked. "The bond among jurists-a mutual professional respect and understanding-is a powerful means through which to support reformers in their efforts to effect change."
As with the Russian programming, once again Open World looks forward to collaborating with existing and future USAID programming to make sure to make the most productive use of scarcer and scarcer resources.
“The trip was a great adventure and, I believe, a significant success. In the days of shrinking budgets, this type of joint effort has really become essential," said Judge Mihm. “We judges have no budget for international travel and our trips are made possible only through the efforts of others, like USAID and Open World, which often collaborate to use programming dollars as effectively as possible."
USAID and Open World collaborated on this important visit for two reasons. The first was to enable these American jurists to join more than 100 Supreme Court justices from over 70 countries at the International Judicial Conference (IJC) in Kiev, which is sponsored by the Furth Family Foundation. Secondly, the trip was designed to facilitate meetings with key leaders of Ukraine’s judiciary to present the Open World programming model and establish mechanisms to ensure that judges recommended for participation in Open World programming are young, progressive and emerging leaders of the Ukrainian judiciary.
The Ukraine trip started with the U.S. delegation spending a wonderful Sunday at the dacha [country house] of a Ukrainian Supreme Court Justice who had been a member of the first group of Ukrainian judges to travel to the U.S. with the Open World program in March 2005. The American delegation was joined at the dacha by a second Ukrainian Supreme Court Justice and the wives of both justices, both of whom are prominent Ukrainian attorneys. This visit provided a great opportunity for colleagues to share both their professional and personal lives and helped foster close ties. It also set the tone for an effective series of more formal meetings with the top judicial (both governmental and independent) bodies in Ukraine that took place in the days following this memorable event.
The U.S. delegation spent the week prior to the IJC meeting with the leaders of Ukraine’s judiciary and its various governing and administrative bodies. The delegation met with members of the Supreme Court and the leadership of the Council of Judges, the High Council of Justice, the State Judicial Administration, the Academy of Justice and the High Administrative Court. In addition, the group met with the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John E. Herbst, the leadership of USAID’s Mission in Ukraine, members of the U.S. Government’s working group on rule of law (which is currently reviewing the progress of rule of law in Ukraine and possible future activities in this field in which U.S. government assistance could be effective in an era of dwindling resources), and leading western and Ukrainian NGO’s working to further the rule of law in Ukraine.
The delegation found much optimism for progressive change in the Ukrainian judiciary. During this short visit, strong relations were forged between Judges Magnuson and Mihm and their Ukrainian colleagues. All involved agreed that judge-to-judge programming through exchanges based on the Open World model in Russia would be mutually beneficial for both countries, and would form a solid foundation for current and future rule of law technical assistance activity in Ukraine.
According to Judge Magnuson, “the Ukrainian judges showed great eagerness to participate and expressed the high value placed on international experience for judges working through this time of great change.”
Following the journey to Ukraine, Bierman, Mihm and Madanick traveled to Vladimir, Russia, where more than 40 government officials, legislators, lawyers, judges, and NGO leaders from the Vladimir, Yaroslavl, Ryazan, Ivanovo, Kostroma, Kaluga, Tver, Tambov, Nizhny Novgorod, Vologda, Kirov, Pskov, and Leningrad oblasts gathered for an Open World alumni conference focused on issues of local governance.
In Russia, the U.S. delegation spent time with the judicial community of Vladimir, with whom Judge Mihm’s court in Peoria, IL court has formed a partnership. The visit allowed USAID’s Bierman to observe the Open World Russian rule of law model first-hand and meet with various NGOs working in the field of democracy promotion and advancement.
“The visit provided an exciting opportunity to discuss the U.S.' commitment to and promotion of democratic practices and free societies,” noted Bierman.
For additional coverage, follow this link to a story in the Peoria Journal-Star: http://www.pjstar.com/stories/072405/TRI_B71KET01.001.shtml
Reprinted with permission of the USAID Bureau for Europe & Eurasia.
[Reprinted with Permission]