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Russian Parliament's Highest-Ranking Woman Member Heads Russian Leadership Program's First 2001 Exchange
June 21, 2001

Photo: Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (left) and Senator Hillary Clinton (second from left) meet with First Vice Chair Lyubov Sliska (second from right)
Mrs. Lyubov Konstantinovna Sliska, First Vice Chair of the Russian State Duma, will inaugurate the 2001 Open World Russian Leadership exchange by heading a parliamentary delegation visiting Washington, D.C., and San Francisco June 2128. The Open World Program, previously known as the Russian Leadership Program (RLP), is a legislative branch exchange program for emerging Russian leaders that the Library of Congress administered on a pilot basis in 1999 and 2000. The U.S. Congress recently recognized the value of Open World and the importance of its mission by authorizing the permanent Center for Russian Leadership at the Library to house the program.

Mrs. Sliska is the highest-ranking woman in the Russian Parliament and the second-ranking member of the State Duma, the Parliament's lower house. She also has formal responsibility in the Duma for all interparliamentary matters dealing with the United States, which includes serving as the Russian head of the U.S. Congress-Russian Duma Study Group. "I am pleased that First Vice Chair Sliska is inaugurating the 2001 Open World exchange, as she has been a key supporter of the program since its inception," stated the Librarian of Congress, Dr. James H. Billington. Mrs. Sliska is visiting Washington, D.C., June 1820 under the auspices of the Study Group, which is headed on the U.S. side by Reps. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) and Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). She then will begin her participation in the Open World exchange program. The other members of her Open World delegation are Mrs. Olga Evgenevna Yakovleva, head of the Secretariat of the First Vice Chair of the Duma, and Mr. Valeriy Valerevich Fadeev, consultant to the Interparliamentary Affairs Department of the Duma.

The Open World Program brings young Russian political and civic leaders to the United States on intensive short-term visits that expose them to the workings of America's democratic and free enterprise system through high-level, substantive meetings and on-site experiences. Some 3,650 participants from virtually all of Russia's 89 regions have been hosted in 48 states and the District of Columbia under the exchange. Dr. Billington provided the vision for the program in a 1999 speech to Members of Congress; Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, sponsored the legislation creating the RLP pilot projects and the new center.

The Sliska delegation's Open World visit will focus on trade, economic development, and women in politics. During the Washington portions of their program (June 2122 and June 2628), the group will meet with House leaders and women Members of Congress; participate in a U.S.-Russian Business Council forum; discuss party building at the International Republican Institute, and join top Russia analysts and policy makers in a round table on Russian politics and U.S.-Russian relations hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Former Representative James Symington, chairman of the RLP Advisory Committee, will host a dinner for the group.

While in San Francisco, Mrs. Sliska and her party will meet with business and political leaders and Russian-American citizens. The high-level delegation will be hosted by Peace Links, a grass-roots organization of women dedicated to promoting peace through citizen diplomacy. The Russian Consulate in San Francisco is assisting with the program for the visit.

Open World 2000's parliamentary exchange brought 92 State Duma deputies (more than 20 percent of the Russian State Duma) and 14 members of the Federation Council (the Russian Parliament's upper chamber) to the United States. The parliamentary delegations were grouped by area of interest, such as national security, federalism, environment, and energy. Twenty-one representatives, four senators and five governors served as hosts. "The RLP provides an opportunity for those who participate in our democratic process to offer insight on a one-on-one basis with our Russian counterparts," said Senator Stevens in announcing the establishment of the Center for Russian Leadership earlier this year.

The 2001 Open World exchange and the RLP's ongoing transition from a pilot program to a permanent center are financed by a fiscal year 2001 appropriation of $9.978 million. The Center will also seek contributions from the private sector to ensure continuation of the Open World program in the long term. The Center will be directed by a nine-member board of trustees from the public and private sectors. The Board members to date include Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Rep. Amo Houghton (R-N.Y.), and Dr. Billington.

The American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS has managed the logistical aspects of the Open World Program on behalf of the Library. Members of nonprofit and governmental organizations with expertise in operating exchange programs act as hosts for the program's nonparliamentary participants.