modernrussia.com (New York, NY)
Posted on November 19, 2010
While efforts to strengthen relations between the Russian and U.S. governments are a relatively recent political development, the Open World Program is a public diplomacy initiative that has been bringing together Russians leaders in key professions -- including doctors, judges, and other civil servants -- with their American counterparts since its founding by the U.S. Congress in 1999. The state-run program arranges short-term trips for groups from Russia and other CIS countries to the U.S. to learn about American systems of governance and civil society, foster partnerships with their American counterparts, stay in American homes, and gain new ideas and inspiration for implementing change back home. In its history, the program has brought some 16,000 professionals from Eurasia to the U.S., while more than 6,000 American families and their communities in all 50 states have served as hosts. In return, thousands of professionals from across the U.S. have visited regions across Russia.
Open World Program works to strengthen Russia’s rule of law
In an effort to strengthen the Russian legal system, many of the exchanges involve Russian legal professionals, especially those coming from the regions outside Moscow. An example of such an exchange was a visit organized by Open World and the Russian American Rule of Law Consortium (RAROLC) - a group of volunteer American legal professionals - who partner with their counterparts from a Russian region in order to improve the capacity of local legal institutions to implement reform. The group of eight Russian attorneys, law professors and court administrators from Arkhangelsk and Vologda visited the University of New Hampshire School of Law.
The Honorable Kathleen A. McGuire, a recently retired judge from New Hampshire, commented on the value of both programs, saying, “In my dozen years working with RAROLC and the Open World Program, I’ve always found that these visits offer the opportunity to learn about what others are doing and how they are solving problems. The exchange of ideas enhances both systems and provides a one-on-one opportunity to learn about different systems and cultures.”
Citizen diplomacy takes place across professions and across the country
Additional examples of recent exchanges across a variety of professions include:
* Five Russian leaders who specialize in child psychology and counseling visited Utah State University as part of a week-long trip examining foster care issues
* Fifteen student body presidents from universities around the U.S. were hosted by the Russian Agency for Youth Affairs through the Open World Program
* Six delegates from Russia and Uzbekistan visited senior centers in Minnesota as part of Open World’s “Women as Leaders” initiative
* Public health officials from both nations gathered in Vladivostok for a roundtable discussion on “Healthy Lifestyles in Russia and the United States”
* County-level officials in Washington state met with a six-member delegation of civil servants from Novosibirsk to discuss public policy and accountability
What do you believe are the benefits of such exchange programs with Russia? Do you see opportunities in your own profession or community for such exchanges to take place?
[Reprinted with Permission]