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Regional and local legislative, government, business and nonprofit leaders discuss local governance issues and civic initiatives
May 27, 2005

For Immediate Release

R to L: U.S. District Judge Michael M. Mihm, interpreter Aleksey Orlov, Open Worlds Lewis Madanick, Elena Shalomentseva of the Vladimir City Council, and senior Vladimir regional legislator Aleksander Sinyagin at the conference.
May 27, 2005 Vladimir 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 have gathered for an Open World alumni conference in the city of Vladimir. At this conference, Open World alumni will discuss the major issues of self-governance, community development, and civic initiatives as well as share best practices for addressing critical community needs and fostering the vitality of civic institutions.

Librarian of Congress and Open World Leadership Center Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. James H. Billington noted that it is a great honor for the Open World Program to conduct such a timely conference in the Vladimir Oblast. As a result of Open Worlds rule of law programming, the court systems in Peoria, Illinois, and the Vladimir region have formed a concrete and continuing sister court relationship nurtured over several delegations. We are proud that one of the architects of this relationship, U.S. District Judge Michael M. Mihm, is able to join us at this conference to discuss pertinent issues of local governance and the role of the rule of law in the process of local governance.

Open World Program Manager Lewis Madanick welcomed the conference delegates, The Open World Leadership Center encourages its alumni to stay in touch with each other and their hosts after they return from their U.S. visits. Continuous networking is an integral component of the program to disseminate best practices across the oblasts, small towns and rural areas where more than 9,000 Open World alumni live and work.

The Open World Program in general and this conference in particular provide a unique opportunity to develop Russian-American relationships at the federal, regional and local levels, said Judge Michael M. Mihm of the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. Russia has its own strong historical context for proceeding with development at the community level. I know that Open World is pleased that it can contribute to the debate over how to strengthen self-governance and advance civil initiatives. I am pleased to be here with such an impressive group of professional alumni from different spheres of society to discuss important areas of local governance and citizen participation.

Our sister courts Peoria and Vladimir regularly share experiences and tackle difficult issues together. My family has hosted Open World delegations of Russian judges at our home. Frankly speaking, my interaction with my Russian colleagues has been perhaps the most life-altering experience of my life, Judge Mihm added.

It is impossible to solve vital social issues without a mature civil society, as the quality of the day-to-day life depends on the social and political system, in particular the actual ability to use the right for local governance. Fostering the local governance system is a core principle for the evaluation of Russia as a state. There cannot be a strong Russia without strong and all-sufficient local communities, said Elena Shalomentseva, who chairs the Vladimir City Council Committee on Local Governance, Justice and Rule of Law.

As an Open World alumna and administration official I am pleased to see so many of my colleagues here today. This conference perfectly illustrates that the Open World Program is effective and results-driven. Today we will focus on issues of self-governance and recent legislation that affects this subject. This is just one of the aspects of local governance that my colleagues and I observed during our visits to the U.S. I absolutely agree with Judge Mihm that such visits are a unique experience both personally and professionally, said Shalomentseva.

During the conference Open World alumni will discuss regional aspects of local governance, municipal economic development, financial sustainability, and the role of NGOs and their participation in local elections, as well as promote the merit of the development of civil initiatives to improve the lives of people with disabilities, and the development of public and private partnerships as effective tools for resolving problems of local self-governance. The delegates will share their experiences in developing cooperative relationships between government entities and nonprofit organizations, increasing the role of local communities in municipal development, improving property and financial relationships between federal and municipal bodies, and other vital issues of local governance.