ANCA ER: Maine State Legislature Commemorates Armenian Genocide

Armenian National Committee of America
Eastern Region
80 Bigelow Avenue
Watertown, MA 02472
Tel: 617-923-1918
Fax: 617-926-5525
[email protected]

PRESS RELEASE
March 24, 2004

Contact: Arin Gregorian
617-923-1918; [email protected]

MAINE STATE LEGISLATURE COMMEMORATES ARMENIAN GENOCIDE

— In a Joint Order, State Senators and Representatives Join Armenian
American Community of Maine in Marking 89th Anniversary of the Armenian
Genocide

AUGUSTA, ME–On Tuesday, March 23, the Maine State Legislature passed a
joint order recognizing the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian
National Committee of America (ANCA) Eastern Region.

“The Maine Armenian American community thanks the Legislature for
commemorating this great crime against humanity,” stated ANC activist Kathy
Durgerian. “Over the course of the past couple of years, our great state has
been a leading example in honoring the victims and survivors of the Armenian
Genocide. We owe a great deal of gratitude to our elected officials on a
local, state, and federal level,” concluded Durgerian.

The order, cosponsored by Portland’s entire legislative delegation, reads
“Expressions of Legislative Sentiment recognizing: the 89th Anniversary of
the Armenian Genocide. On April 24, 1915, a campaign was launched by the
Turkish regime of the Ottoman Empire against the Armenian people, resulting
in the death of more than 1.5 million Armenians. Some of the survivors
settled in the State of Maine and their heirs have made significant
contributions to the State. We join our citizens of Armenian heritage on
April 24th in remembering this event, and we express our deepest sympathy
for the families of those who perished.”

In 2000, Maine’s Senate and House of Representatives concurrently adopted an
Official Expression of Sentiment recognizing “the 85th Anniversary of the
Armenian Genocide” noting that “on April 24, 1915, a campaign was launched
against the Armenian people that resulted in the death of over 1.5 million
Armenians.”

In addition, in June 2001, the Legislature passed a joint resolution
“Honoring Armenian Americans and Commemorating the Armenian Genocide of 1915
to 1923.”

On the federal level, Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME)
as well as US Representative Thomas Allen (D-ME 1) are currently cosponsors
of the Senate and House Genocide Resolutions, which commemorate the 15th
anniversary of the US implementation of the UN Genocide Convention.
H.Res.193 and S.Res.164 cite the importance of remembering past crimes
against humanity, including the Armenian Genocide, Holocaust, Cambodian and
Rwandan genocides, in an effort to stop future atrocities.

####

www.anca.org

Lawmakers mark anniversary of Armenian genocide

Press Herald

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Legislative Dispatches

Lawmakers mark anniversary of Armenian genocide

AUGUSTA – The Legislature passed a joint order Tuesday recognizing the 89th
anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

According to the order, the Turkish regime of the Ottoman Empire launched a
campaign against the Armenian people on April 24, 1915, that resulted in the
deaths of more than 1.5 million Armenians.

“Some of the survivors settled in the state of Maine and their heirs have
made significant contributions to the state,” the order stated. “We join our
citizens of Armenian heritage on April 24th in remembering this event, and
we express our deepest sympathy for the families of those who perished.”

The order was sponsored by Sen. Michael Brennan, D-Portland, and
co-sponsored by the rest of Portland’s legislative delegation. “I felt it
was important for the Legislature to mark the anniversary of this tragedy
and honor those who suffered,” Brennan said.

Chechens’ Shifting Allegiances Blur Lines of Battle

Moscow Times

Wednesday, Mar. 24, 2004. Page 4

Chechens’ Shifting Allegiances Blur Lines of Battle

By Oliver Bullough
Reuters

Adlan Khasanov / Reuters

Aslan Maskhadov gesturing at a 1999 rally in Grozny. Akhmad Kadyrov, second
from left, later switched sides to support Moscow – Photo

GROZNY — For Moscow, it is simple: Chechen rebels are terrorists and must
be destroyed.

But on the ground in Chechnya, government supporters and rebels are
sometimes hard to tell apart.

Rebels who change sides are absorbed into the pro-Russian government’s ranks
without question. Many do not demand independence, while the government is
increasingly assertive toward Moscow.

Moscow’s bearded foot soldiers in the region, with their mismatched
uniforms, Kalashnikovs and habit of firing volleys of gunfire as wedding
parties drive past not only look like the people who defeated Russia in 1996
— they are the same people.

In Argun, just east of the regional capital, Grozny, one 25-year-old member
of the security service said most of his comrades were rebels who had
changed sides.

“We nearly all were,” he said, as he leaned against a wall and chain-smoked.
“I only changed sides three months ago; before that I was up in the hills,
dodging the federals.”

Higher-rank personnel are crossing over as well.

Top rebel Magomed Khambiyev surrendered this month, faces no criminal
charges and has asked to join Moscow’s side. Officials in Chechnya say they
would welcome him.

Pro-Moscow Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov’s son Ramzan — the region’s
second-most powerful man as head of the security service — said he wanted
rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov to come and join the government as well.

“He is a good military man, let him train our soldiers,” said the burly
27-year-old in his home village of Tsenteroi in the foothills of the
Caucasus Mountains.

President Vladimir Putin vows to destroy the “terrorist” Maskhadov, and
refuses to negotiate with him. His peace plan centered around a referendum
last year to anchor Chechnya in Russia and internationally criticized
elections, which were won by Akhmad Kadyrov.

Maskhadov spearheaded the drive that forced Moscow first to the negotiating
table and then to grant Chechnya de facto independence in 1997, but Ramzan
Kadyrov spoke highly of the former Soviet colonel.

“Maskhadov is an educated man. … We need such people and it’s right to
make use of them. He should not be president, but he should be military
commander,” he told reporters.

Politically, the two sides are closer than Putin says. Rebels who ran
Chechnya until Putin sent troops back in 1999 now speak vaguely of
compromise — some form of autonomy within Russia, perhaps, with current
guerrillas invited to participate.

Kadyrov, on the other hand, is making increasingly tough demands of Moscow.

Last month, he demanded Russia pay transit fees for the gas that crosses
Chechen territory on its way to Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Russian
newspapers reported.

He wants control of the military campaign, and his long-term demand that all
revenues from Chechen oil should revert to Grozny is a major stumbling block
in Moscow’s attempts to define Chechnya’s status.

Hard-line rebels, who have staged a string of suicide bombings in the
Caucasus and Moscow, refuse to consider any compromise with Russia. But
moderates take a line more conciliatory than Kadyrov’s.

“No one is talking about independence any more,” rebel envoy Akhmed Zakayev
said in a recent interview in London, where he is in exile.

Kadyrov says only former rebels have insight into rebel plans required to
catch their former comrades-in-arms. But Zakayev says the presence of former
separatists in Kadyrov’s ranks has undermined Moscow’s rule.

“Money for our armed forces comes from Russia, it comes via Kadyrov’s
administration. There is not one minister, manager or village head who does
not give us money,” he said.

“While the Kadyrov administration continues, we will never have trouble with
our finances.”

ILM FESTIVAL: Political dynamite from new directors

Newsday, NY
March 24 2004

FILM FESTIVAL: Political dynamite from new directors

BY JOHN ANDERSON
STAFF WRITER

The New York film fan’s equivalent of spring training and the Final
Four, New Directors/New Films begins its 33rd year tonight with as
much international flavor and political volatility as it’s probably
ever shown.

Presented jointly by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Film
Department of the Museum of Modern Art, the annual showcase for
filmmakers and movies fresh to the area kicks off tonight with the
multiculti, multicharacter “Everyday People” – a touching populist
portrait of a transitioning Brooklyn neighborhood by returning
director Jim McKay (“Our Song”). Between now and April 4, the series
will screen 28 films from 23 countries (including Armenia, Mongolia,
Israel and Peru) and probably set off more than a couple of
firestorms, with work topical enough to qualify as news bulletins.

Most notably among these is “Control Room,” (USA-Egypt, 2004), in
which young Egyptian-American filmmaker Jehane Noujaim explores the
inner workings of the Arab news agency Al-Jazeera during the onset of
the current Iraq War. As implied by the title, however, “Control
Room” is not just about the Arab perspective but the U.S. military’s
carefully crafted dissemination of combat information, the media’s
willingness to swallow it and the general dilemma of news during
wartime.

Elsewhere, “Checkpoint” by Israeli filmmaker Yoav Shamir was filmed
over two years at the dozens of border crossings along the occupied
West Bank and Gaza Strip and documents the frustrating, humiliating
and destructive daily encounters between Israeli soldiers and
Palestinian travelers. Insightful, unflattering and often
infuriating, “Checkpoint” offers yet another angle on the Byzantine
relationship between the Israeli and Arab worlds.

On the lighter side is the ravishing “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
… and Spring,” which will do nothing to diminish the growing
stature of Korean filmmaking throughout the world. Directed by Kim
Ki-duk, “Spring … ” is set on a secluded lake and floating
monastery, where a monk and a young boy traverse the seasons of life.
Beautifully shot (and metaphorically shameless), the film has been
getting raves at festivals worldwide.

Its stylistic counterpoint might be “Le Monde Vivant,” a fairy tale
in blue jeans in which French theater director Eugene Green
re-imagines a world of medieval chivalry and adventure with
modern-looking people and a lion played by a golden retriever.
Alternately whimsical and enchanting, “Le Monde Vivant” is joyful,
and more than a little thought-provoking.

“I’m very pleased with ND/NF this year,” said Richard Pena, who, with
Joanna Ney and Marian Masone, composes the selection committee’s Film
Society component (MoMA members are Laurence Kardish, Jytte Jensen
and Mary Lea Bandy). “It’s a nice, broad selection, internationally
and stylistically.”

And politically. And intellectually. And, perhaps, in the case of
“Spring, Summer … ” even poetically.

WHEN&WHERE

New Directors/New Films, today through April 4. For complete list of
films and descriptions, go to
Screenings will be held at three venues: Alice Tully Hall, the Walter
Reade Theater at Lincoln Center and the MOMA Gramercy, 23rd Street
near Lexington Avenue, Manhattan. Call 212-875-5050.

www.filmlinc.com/ndnf/ndnf.htm.

Nicosia: Armenians plead school case in Parliament

Cyprus Mail, Cyprus
March 24 2004

Armenians plead school case in Parliament
By George Psyllides

THE Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) yesterday failed to
convince the House Education Committee on why it wanted to shut down
the Melkonian Educational Institute (MEI), though deputies admitted
there was little parliament could do to reverse the decision.

The AGBU decided to close down the school, saying it no longer
fulfilled the duties it had been set up to carry out.

But the Armenian community is furious at the decision, and has
claimed financial interests are dictating the fate of the historical
school.

The representative of the Armenian community in Parliament, deputy
Bedros Kalaidjian, appealed to the government for help, otherwise the
Armenian community would be left without any secondary education.

`We cannot imagine an Armenian community without the Melkonian,’
Kalaidjian told the committee.

`It is a national treasure,’ he added.

In a statement read by lawyer Freda Georgiou, AGBU said the vision of
the benefactors – the Melkonian brothers – could be better achieved
through new programmes that would be more beneficial to a much larger
spectrum of the diaspora and those of Armenia itself.

`AGBU regrets the painful decision to close the Melkonian Boarding
School but taking into consideration the long term goals of the
benefiting Armenians globally, this decision must be adhered to, as
will be future decisions concerning schools in other host countries,’
the statement said.

The AGBU stressed that the MEI matter was not a political one, but
concerned an internal decision of a philanthropic organisation, which
is managing its assets in the wisest possible manner with a view to
serving the best interests of the Armenians.
But a member of the school board charged that the AGBU wanted to
close down the school and set up summer camps in other countries
where they would try to teach the Armenian language and culture in
two or three months.

The alumni association disputed the AGBU’s jurisdiction on the
school, adding that the Union’s arguments were not convincing.

On November 14, 2003, the AGBU had said they were not shutting down
the school, yet just three months later this was exactly what they
were doing, the association said.
The alumni urged the government to intervene, declare the school of
national importance, and minimise the building coefficient to deter
developers.

Some say the land on which the school is built is worth £40 million.

AGBU representative Dr Gordon Anderson said a very small number of
Armenians went to the school to justify its operation.

He said the AGBU was looking into three alternatives: setting up a
day school, entering a partnership with an existing institution, or
creating an Armenian department in one of the existing schools.

DISY deputy Ionas Nicolaou asked whether the school’s trust fund was
deposited in Cyprus, only to be told that the AGBU had nothing
deposited or registered in Cyprus.
However, the school receives government subsidies and only
Cyprus-registered philanthropic organisations are entitled to such
funding.

The alternative for the Cyprus government is to declare the school a
historical site and its surroundings a protected environment thus
putting an end to any plans for its development.

But one deputy told the Cyprus Mail that this would be a hostile act
and should only be used as a last resort.

Anderson stressed that there were no plans to demolish or sell the
buildings, but when asked by DISY deputy Nicos Tornaritis whether
AGBU would agree to listing the buildings, he said the AGBU objected.

`I think AGBU likes to have flexibility on the use of the buildings,’
Anderson said.
He said the AGBU also strongly objected the area being designated as
a forest.
`If we are going to assist Armenians we need to maximise assets,’ he
said.

The proceeds of a commercial centre operating next to the school all
go straight to the Armenian community, he added.

He repeated that pupil numbers were declining – averaging just 5.7
pupils per year from the island’s Armenian community in the last few
years, with the others coming from abroad.

The AGBU plans to shut the school down in June 2005.

Armenia seeks to release its arrested pilots

Pravda, Russia
March 24 2004

Armenia seeks to release its arrested pilots

The Armenian foreign ministry is taking further efforts to set free
Armenian pilots who have been arrested for their participation in a
plot against the government of Equatorial Guinea, spokesman for the
ministry Gamlet Gasparyan told reporters on Wednesday.

According to Mr. Gasparyan, in line with the contract signed with the
Armenian-based Dvin Kontsern airlines, six Armenian pilots had been
staying in Malabo, capital of Equatorial Guinea, since January 2004
and using an AN-12 aircraft registered in Armenia. Late on March 7
the Armenian pilots were arrested.

The authorities of Equatorial Guinea are accusing them of organising
a coup in this country, of being mercenaries and of espionage.
Allegedly, the pilots gathered political, economic and military
information.

“The charges forwarded against the pilots are very contradictory and
have nothing to do with their work. The authorities of Equatorial
Guinea present them as militant mercenaries while they are
professional and experienced pilots. The Guinean authorities claim
that the Armenian citizens had infiltrated their country by ship. The
espionage charges are not logical either because the pilots knew
nothing about the country’s customs, its language and the territory,
and therefore could not have been involved in espionage in Malabo,”
said Mr. Gasparyan.

According to the spokesman for the Armenian foreign ministry,
Armenia’s diplomatic representations in Moscow and New York are
negotiating the release of the Armenian pilots with the Guinean
authorities.

Besides, the Armenian foreign ministry has appealed to the Red Cross
and the Amnesty International organisations for help.

“The Armenian foreign ministry is ready to send its diplomats to
Equatorial Guinea to address these problems, if need be,” said Mr.
Gasparyan.

Southern Caucasus: Towards TB-free prisons

International Committee of the Red Cross News
March 24 2004

Southern Caucasus: Towards TB-free prisons
Every year, two million people die of tuberculosis (TB), and another
eight million contract the disease.

In most countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, it has
proven difficult to bring the disease under control because of the
social and economic situation and the breakdown of the health-care
system. In the southern Caucasus, where TB causes enormous suffering
and death in the prisons, the ICRC has been working with the national
authorities for many years to provide treatment for prisoners. In
1995, when the ICRC launched a TB-control programme in the prisons of
Azerbaijan, the disease was at least 60 times more prevalent among
inmates than among the country’s civilian population. In 1998, the
ICRC began providing support for implementation in Georgian prisons
of the DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment, Short Course) strategy
recommended by the World Health Organization. In 2002, the ICRC
extended its support for this programme to Armenia.

If prisoners have TB when they are released, they bring the disease
with them back into society. Since TB is a national public-health
issue that also affects the population outside prisons, the ICRC is
coordinating its activities in prisons with others working on behalf
of the population at large, including the donor community, to
reinforce joint efforts to fight the disease. Since 1995, the ICRC
has provided support for the treatment of more than 8,000 prisoners
in the southern Caucasus. One of the problems it has encountered is
that prisoners are sometimes released before they have completed
treatment, without proper coordination between the authorities
responsible for health care inside prisons and those responsible for
national TB programmes.

Major challenges still lie ahead. Outbreaks of multidrug-resistant TB
in prisons could cause these dangerous strains to spread into the
community through the families of prisoners, released prisoners, and
prison staff. In addition, as the number of AIDS cases rises
throughout the former Soviet Union, opportunistic TB infections will
increasingly destroy families and whole communities. In response, the
resources of the entire public-health system must be brought to bear
on this already devastating epidemic. Urgent action must be taken, in
particular to treat drug-resistant patients and reduce the
progression of HIV.

BAKU: OSCE monitors cease fire

Baku Today, Azerbaijan
March 24 2004

OSCE monitors cease fire

OSCE observers have not fixed violations while watching Azerbaijani
and Armenian armed forces to follow cease fire rules at their contact
line.
Field assistants of OSCE chairman’s special representative Imre
Palatinus and Yurgen Schmidt have monitored cease fire conditions
from Azeri side. Other filed assistants of the special representative
Ken-net Pikles and Gen-nad-iy Korzh have conducted monitoring from
Armenian side.
The monitoring was conducted in western Borsunlu village of
Azerbaijani Goranboy region.

Diverse Standouts From Strong New Directors/New Films Selections

Indie Wire
March 24 2004

Diverse Standouts Emerge From Strong New Directors/New Films
Selections

by Howard Feinstein

A scene from Jim McKay’s “Everyday People,” which will open the 33rd
New Directors/New Films series.

The 33rd edition of New Directors/New Films, MoMA and the Film
Society of Lincoln Center’s series that runs today through April 4,
offers the finest selections in recent years. Especially not to be
missed are a feature from Armenia and a short from Peru — and these
are just two of the standouts. The short is called “Porter” (I prefer
the Spanish title, which translates to “Only a Porter”), and it’s
directed by New York-based Peruvian director Juan Alejandro Ramirez.
(It plays with “Kounandi,” a nice feature about village jealousy from
Burkina Faso.) “Porter” feels like a documentary: A peasant, Chuqui
Orozco, who makes his meager living carrying gringos’ gear up and
down the Andes mountains, tells us in voiceover his observations of
those around him of higher rank in such a stratified society, as well
as his acceptance of his lowly place in the hierarchy. Ramirez says
he was inspired by stories he was told in southern Peru, but for
greater veracity, he consolidates them and stages the shoot.

Hiner Saleem is a refugee from Iraqi Kurdistan, now living in France,
who shot “Vodka Lemon” in Armenia. Not surprisingly, his protagonist
is a Kurd, Hamo, a poor widower living in a snowy village. Two of his
sons have moved away in an attempt to further their fortunes; only
his drunken son Dilovan and his beloved granddaughter remain. During
his daily visits to the cemetery where his wife is buried, Hamo
meets, and begins an affair with, an even poorer widow, Nina. Hamo
shleps into town to sell old wardrobes and his tv, while Nina sells a
drink called vodka lemon in a roadside kiosk. An economic cloud hangs
over the entire film, but Saleem’s deft use of magical realism — a
bed and a piano glide along the icy road, horses fly through the
frame — adds an enchanting edge.

Three of the finest films have at their center fully-realized
females. In fact, two of them are directed by women. Sabiha Sumar, a
Pakistani filmmaker residing in Germany, sets her brilliant “Silent
Waters” in the Pakistani Punjab in 1979, just as a nation under
martial law is on the verge of becoming an Islamic state. Ayesha is a
Muslim widow in the village of Charkhi who scrapes by on her
husband’s pension and earnings from teaching the Koran to young
girls. Her 18-year-old son, Saleem, is a nice, well-behaved boy and
the apple of her eye. Once he gets involved with some Muslim
fundamentalists, however, he rejects his girlfriend and even turns
away from his uncomprehending mother. We realize after occasional
striking flashbacks that she had suffered somehow during the nasty
1947 partition that carved up India into Muslim-dominated Pakistan
and predominantly Hindu India. At the time of the fighting, Sikhs and
Muslims were forcing their single women to kill themselves to protect
family honor, and those that got away were abducted. When Sikh
pilgrims come to Charkhi for their annual pilgrimage, Ayesha’s secret
surfaces, with tragic consequences.

Given the general state of moviemaking in Western Europe, the Swiss
film “Strong Shoulders” by the female director Ursula Meier is a
revelation. Although it is formally cinematic, it was, surprisingly,
made for television. Meier focuses on Sabine, a 15-year-old
obsessive, ambitious runner who attends a special school for
athletes. They are preparing for a major track-and-field meet. She
does not get along with her coach, because he frustrates her desire
to run with the boys. She has no qualms about using anyone, her
girlfriends or a young runner named Rudi, to further her ambitions;
she is left almost totally alone. Her self-absorption is so extreme
that her action at the eagerly awaited event is so unexpected that
you are left breathless.

A scene from “Vodka Lemon” by Hiner Saleem, one of the standout
selections at the 33rd New Directors/New Films. Photo courtesy Film
Society of Lincoln Center.

In the Chilean film “B-Happy,” 14-year-old Manuela becomes
increasingly isolated. Director Gonzalo Justiniano emphasizes the
point by surrounding every scene with a slow fade to black, a device
that lovingly softens her youthful existential dilemma. That her
ne’er-do-well father is in prison makes her the black sheep at her
provincial school; only one handsome newcomer shows her any
affection, and even that leads to a one-afternoon stand. Her mother
dies. Her closeted brother leaves town. She goes to work for the same
abusive grocer for whom her mom had worked. It’s all too much, and
she flees to the city, where she searches for her father and, out of
money, becomes a streetwalker.

Some of the most astounding movies take place in the world’s
flashpoints. Jehane Noujaim’s haunting documentary “Control Room,”
which deals with American control of the media during the invasion of
Iraq and offers an inside look at the Arab TV broadcaster Al-Jazeera,
has been written about extensively out of Sundance. The others are
“Fuse,” a fiction film from Bosnia, and “Checkpoint,” an Israeli doc.

In “Fuse,” director Pjer Zalica concocts a fluid political satire
that captures the dark humor and sarcasm that is endemic in the
Balkans. It’s a given that the postwar mixture of Serbs, Muslims, and
Croats is not going smoothly. In the film’s Muslim town of Tesanj,
the mayor calls for a major overhaul: Bill Clinton will be visiting.
Not only does the town leader push what is mostly a fake
rapprochement with a neighboring Serb town (“I need Serbs!”), but he
also calls for an end to corruption. Smugglers and pimps must hide
their wares, or at least turn them into something more palatable.
Zalica foregrounds an elderly, deranged, retired police chief, one of
whose sons died in the war, and another of his sons, a fireman. When
the motorcade arrives, it is the old man who has the last word.

“Checkpoint,” on the other hand, eschews humor. Filmmaker Yoav
Shamir, a former Israeli soldier, shoots Israelis on duty at a
variety of checkpoints in the Occupied Territories, both the West
Bank and the Gaza Strip. He also films the Palestinians who are at
their mercy. Shamir’s access is unbelievable. You see that most of
the combatants are very young and very, very bored. Out of ennui,
hubris, and racism-this is all in the film-you see them wield their
power over the hapless travelers like a sword. “Let them wait,” says
one soldier. People, cars, and trucks often wait for hours, even in
the rain and snow, just to get to their home cities or villages. One
young man at the Kalandia-Ramallah main entrance tells Shamir, “All
of Ramallah are animals: monkeys, dogs. We are human.” Whether these
checkpoints serve much of a purpose is arguable. As one waiting
Palestinian says on camera, “Terrorists don’t come through the
roadblocks.”

http://www.indiewire.com/onthescene/onthescene_040324newd.html

Nine Sister City Partnerships Awarded Sustainable Development Grants

PNN, VA
March 24 2004

Nine Sister City Partnerships Awarded Sustainable Development Grants
Posted by: aneiberger

Topic PNN Worldwide

Nine sister city partnerships were awarded $45,000 in grant funds by
Sister Cities International to fund joint projects focused on
sustainable development in Eastern Europe and Eurasia.

The grants are 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 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 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.