EISCC was one of nine sister city partnerships to be awarded a grant of $5,000 by Sister Cities International to fund joint projects focused on sustainable development in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. The grants were funded and managed by the Office of Citizen Exchanges, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State.
The grant recipients are: (1) Arvada, Colo. - Kyzylorda, Kazakhstan; (2) Bloomington-Normal, Ill. - Vladimir, Russia, (3) Cambridge, Mass. - Yerevan, Armenia, (4) Eugene, Ore. - Irkutsk, Russia, and World Services of La Crosse, Inc., representing (5) Blount County, Tenn. - Zheleznogorsk, Russia, (6) Fox Cities, Wis. - Kurgan/Shchuchye, Russia, (7) La Crosse, Wis. - Dubna, Russia, (8) Livermore, Calif. - Snezhinsk, Russia and (9) Los Alamos, N.M. - Sarov, Russia.
Sustainable development is a key focus for the growing international organization, say organizers. "Engaging communities in projects that can be sustained for the long-term is important," said Tim Honey, executive director of Sister Cities International. The organization began a network focused on sustainable development two years ago to facilitate collaboration and share best practices.
Citizen exchanges will play a critical role in developing these projects. "Ordinary citizens can transcend cultural divides and unite across cultures to tackle a difficult problem together," said Honey. "Citizen diplomacy can be amazingly effective."
These are the first grants the network has awarded. A total of $45,000 will be distributed as $5,000 seed grants. Funded projects will tackle issues such as micro-financing, tourism development, economic development, government, youth education, health care and environmental management.
Arvada, Colo. and Kyzylorda, Kazakhstan will survey water management, power supply and community planning. The partners aim to develop an ongoing relationship that will design and help finance improvements to the water and power supply system in Kyzylorda through joint planning.
Bloomington-Normal, Ill. and Vladimir, Russia are working to develop tourism in Vladimir. They will assess and inventory existing tourism resources, compile a tourist market profile and develop a strategic plan for the Vladimir region.
Cambridge, Mass. and Yerevan, Armenia will develop school-based projects on energy efficiency in both communities to educate youth about sustainable development and focus on linking students from opposite sides of the globe. A children's summer camp will focus on environmental issues and provide training to help teachers expand the program in Yerevan.
Eugene, Ore. and Irkutsk, Russia will create an entrepreneurial partnership to sell native Siberian artwork in the Pacific northwestern region of the U.S. This project builds on previous art exchanges between the two communities and will help fund future exchange activities.
The final five sister city pairs - Blount County, Tenn. and Zheleznogorsk, Russia, Fox Cities, Wis. and Kurgan/Shchuchye, Russia, La Crosse, Wis. and Dubna, Russia, Livermore, Calif. and Snezhinsk, Russia and Los Alamos, N.M. and Sarov, Russia - funded through this program are part of a unique consortium called the Communities for International Development. Under the management of World Services of La Crosse, the consortium will sponsor exchanges to Russia to conduct planning sessions and develop a strategic plan addressing education, economic development, federalism, health and the environment.
Representing more than 2,400 communities in 123 countries, Sister Cities International (www.sister-cities.org) is a citizen diplomacy network creating and strengthening partnerships between the U.S. and communities abroad. Begun in 1956 after a White House summit where U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower called for people-to-people exchanges, sister city partnerships are tailored to local interests and increase global cooperation at the grassroots level. Sister Cities International promotes peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation by focusing on sustainable development, youth and education, arts and culture, humanitarian assistance and economic growth programs.
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State (http://exchanges.state.gov/) conducts over 30,000 exchanges annually, bringing professionals and academics to the United States as well as sending Americans abroad for study and research. The Bureau supports programs that promote respect and mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.