Russian Justice. Open World Participants Visit Supreme Court.
The Library of Congress Information Bulletin (DC)
Posted on April 1, 2002
By Stacy Hoffhaus
James Billington, Librarian of Congress, was present for a lively discussion focused on the concept of judicial independence and major legal reforms now being implemented in Russia, including the expansion of jury trials nationwide. The Russians queried their American colleagues about how they select the cases they hear and whether they are subject to mandatory retirement, as Russian judges will be under new reforms.
The visiting Russian judges are part of the largest exchange sponsored by the Open World Program, which is operated by the Center for Russian Leadership Development at the Library.
Holding its inaugural meeting at the Library on March 7, the center’s board of trustees decided on the size of this year’s contingent from Russia and elected board leaders. Dr. Billington, an ex officio member of the board, was named chairman, and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Amo Houghton (R-N.Y.), both board members, were named vice chairmen.
Other board members are Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.); Rep. Robert E. (Bud) Cramer (D-Ala.); former U.S. Ambassador to Russia James F. Collins; former Rep. James W. Symington; and financier and philanthropist George Soros. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is honorary chairman.
Trustees appointed Geraldine M. Otremba the center’s first executive director. Otremba has managed Open World since its inception as the Russian Leadership Program in 1999. The board also approved an interagency agreement by which the center will reimburse the Library for costs of administration, information technology and other support services.
Dr. Billington updated members of Congress on Open World’s activities and accomplishments on March 13, when he appeared before the Senate appropriations legislative branch subcommittee in support of the program’s fiscal 2003 budget request as well as the Library’s budget request. He stressed that the Open World Program can play an important role in reinforcing the more constructive relationship that has developed between the United States and Russia in the wake of September 11 events. “The Open World Program has led the way, for the past three years, in reviving public diplomacy with Russia at the community-to-community and people-to-people levels,” the Librarian told the subcommittee.
Sen. Stevens, who sponsored the legislation creating and continuing the program, also spoke at the hearing. “The Open World Program has been dramatically successful in bringing Russia’s future political leaders to the United States to visit our communities and meet our citizens for the first time,” the senator said. “I want particularly to congratulate Dr. Billington for his vision in proposing the Open World Program and for attracting broad participation of nongovernmental partners to host our Russian guests in American homes in more than 700 communities from Alaska to Florida.”
Congress appropriated $8 million for the Open World Program in fiscal year 2002. The main themes for this year’s program are economic de-velopment, education reform, the environment, federalism, health, rule of law, and two new topics–women as leaders and youth issues. As in past years, Open World’s civic program will target young, non-English-speaking regional and municipal officeholders and administrators, jurists, educators, nongovernmental organization leaders, political party activists, journalists and entrepreneurs. The program will also invite leading Russian health care administrators and practitioners to participate.
For its 2002 parliamentary program, Open World intends to bring to the U.S. high-level delegations of Federation Council (upper house) and State Duma (lower house) members to hold working meetings with their Senate and House counterparts on such key issues as trade and security.
From late April through early December, 60-person Open World civic delegations will arrive in the U. S. semiweekly. Participants’ first stop will usually be Washington, D.C., where they will take part in an all-day orientation at the Library. They will then divide into smaller groups and travel to their host communities, which could be anything from a small rural town in the Southwest to a major city on the Eastern seaboard. There they take part in intensive week-long programs that include “job shadowing,” roundtables, site visits and other activities.
Open World’s host organizations–typically nonprofit organizations experienced in operating foreign exchanges–develop and conduct participants’ professional programs. Trustees of the Center for Russian Leadership Development made initial grants of $4.2 million to the following organizations to host Open World participants in 2002: the Academy for Educational Development, the American International Health Alliance, the Friendship Force, the International Academy for Freedom of Religion and Belief, the National Peace Foundation, Rotary International, the International Institute of the USDA Graduate School, and World Services of LaCrosse, Wis.
In most cases, participants stay with local members of their host organization and join them in community and cultural events. This “home hosting” keeps costs down and gives participants valuable insights into American life.
Open World exchanges began in June 1999, less than two months after Dr. Billington first proposed the program in a speech to members of Congress. During its two years as a Library-administered pilot project, the program brought nearly 4,000 Russian visitors to 48 states and the District of Columbia. In December 2000, Congress authorized the creation of the independent Center for Russian Leadership Development to house the program.
During 2001, while making the transition from a pilot project to a permanent program, Open World focused on testing what proved to be a successful rule of law pilot project matching prominent Russian judges with senior U.S. federal and state judges. In the future, in addition to operating its large-scale exchange, Open World plans to support an active alumni program in Russia featuring conferences, workshops, alumni associations, and its recently launched alumni newsletter, the “Open World Alumni Bulletin.”
[Reprinted with Permission]