Exchanges sponsored by Open World

Through a series of successful programs sponsored by the Open World Leadership Center at the U.S. Library of Congress, the Sister City relationship between Greater Portland Maine and Arkhangelsk, Russia has remained strong. Through the efforts of Open World (OW) delegations and committed partner reciprocal visits, Arkhangelsk and Greater Portland have established a strong bond and mutual commitment to high standards of Rule of Law, civic engagement, accountable governance, public safety, culture and education.
 
In 1988, the cities and towns that make up Greater Portland Maine established an Official Sister City relationship with the City of Arkhangelsk.
 

NOTE: There are 3 sister city relationships between 3 cities in the Arkhangelsk Oblast and 3 cities in Maine and New Hampshire:

 

• Greater Portland and the City of Arkhangelsk

• Waterville Maine (60 miles north of Portland) and the City of Kotlas (200 miles south of Arkhangelsk)
• Portsmouth New Hampshire (60 miles south of Portland) and the City of Severodvinsk (30 miles west of Arkhangelsk).

All 3 sister city relationships have received inbound OW delegations – only Greater Portland has received OW Rule of Law delegations, but all 3 cities have received OW delegations with other themes .

As the partnership between the two regions strengthened, there have been several Arkhangelsk delegations to Maine funded by the Open World Program that were facilitated by such national grantee organizations as the Academy for Educational Development (AED), World Services of La Crosse, Inc. (WS), and the Russian American Rule of Law Consortium (RAROLC).

  

OW Programs with RAROLC

 In August 2000, a delegation of eight Arkhangelsk Oblast judges and two program facilitators visited Maine as guests of Maine Law School and the State and Federal Judiciary. The program was designed to familiarize the delegates with all aspects of Maine's judicial systems. The judges visited Maine Superior and District Courts, the Federal District Court in Portland, Maine Law School and Clinic, and four private law firms of varying size and specialty. It was the first visit of Arkhangelsk judicial officials to Maine funded by Open World through RAROLC.

 

Since 2000, there have been eleven inbound OW RAROLC Rule of Law delegations from the Arkhangelsk Oblast to the State of Maine. These delegations included not only judges and legal professionals, but local legislators and officials involved in advancing economic, cultural, educational, and environmental development. Two examples follow.

 

In September 2008, an Open World delegation of four Arkhangelsk judges and one judicial administrator arrived in Maine to participate in a program focusing on juvenile justice. They visited the juvenile justice clinic at University of Maine Law School, and the Long Creek Correctional Facility, which provides pre-trial and post-incarceration adjudication of juvenile offenders. Committed youth at Long Creek have the opportunity to receive education, vocational training, mental health and substance abuse treatment, support services and off-site employment and learning opportunities. Christine Thibeault, Senior Juvenile Prosecutor with the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office, moderated a roundtable discussion between delegates, members of the Maine Department of Corrections, and Defense Bar about juvenile legal matters in each country.

 

The delegates were also exposed to other agencies that work with juvenile offenders. Their successes and challenges illustrated the need for a collaborative and productive approach to youth justice, as opposed to a strictly punitive one. American participants were eager to hear how the Russian juvenile justice system contends with structural threats, such as budget deficits and other barriers, that limit the efficacy of juvenile offender rehabilitative efforts.

 

In Augusta, the delegates had the opportunity to meet with Maine’s Secretary of State, Matt Dunlap, who himself had visited Arkhangelsk as part of the Rule of Law project. Finally, the delegates wrapped their busy program with a day spent observing Protection from Abuse and Juvenile Drug Courts, hosted respectively by Maine District Court Judges Joseph Field and David Kennedy.

 

In June 2009, the last of eleven RAROLC Open World delegations of Arkhangelsk judicial officials traveled to Greater Portland. Building upon the experiences brought back by their colleagues, this delegation was interested in developing a juvenile court system in Arkhangelsk mirroring the one that a previous delegation had observed and interacted with. The delegation met with youth advocacy groups, as well as legislators, judges, and court officials. As a result of these meetings, the delegation’s facilitator reported that the delegates were very impressed by the way juvenile offenders are treated by the criminal justice system in Maine, and were very interested in implementing these practices at home in Russia.

 

The Bangor Daily News, a local newspaper in Maine, also covered the highlights of the visit by publishing the article “Russians learn about juvenile justice system” (June 24, 2009).

 

 

OW Programs with AED

In December 2005, the first of several AED sponsored Open World delegations arrived in Greater Portland. These visits were designed to strengthen already existing partnerships between the regions surrounding Arkhangelsk and Greater Portland, and to extend ties between their municipal and regional governments and schools.

 

All delegates were very impressed by the dedication and results of non-profit organizations in Maine, and by the active, voluntary involvement of local citizens in their communities.

 

As a result of these visits, all delegates and their Greater Portland hosts made progress in strengthening the relationship between communities and local governments over the course of numerous meetings, presentations and roundtable discussions. For example, everyone made great steps toward continuing a strong relationship between the school departments of Greater Portland and Arkhangelsk. Finally, the visiting delegates and Greater Portland participants discussed further possibilities to improve communication and discussion between their cities and governments.

 

OW Programs with World Services

In December 2008, 2009 and 2010, WS Open World delegation visited Maine. The groups focused on strengthening the ties between the Solovetsky Islands and the Maine islands of Chebeague and Peaks, the people of Greater Portland and Arkhangelsk, and the Maine Legislature and Arkhangelsk Oblast Assembly. The delegations were divided into even smaller specialized interest groups to maximize the utility of their meetings. Government lawyers from Arkhangelsk, for example, met with public-sector lawyers in Maine, and Arkhangelsk school administrators enjoyed a program that focused on education.

 

The delegates also provided citizens of Greater Portland the valuable opportunity to learn about Russian culture and professional life. Teachers spoke to students at different Maine schools. Other delegates gave large presentations to their professional counterparts as well. In this way, Maine hosts were able to learn about the challenges Russians face in the areas of education and self government.

 

Group discussions, job shadowing and observation allowed all delegates to gain the most knowledge, because during these activities, the delegates were able to address specific aspects of their own work and ask those questions pertaining to a specific job. All delegates also indicated that they would make a presentation to their Russian colleagues about their participation in the Open World Program.

 

OW Programs with Direct Grants to the Archangel Committee

In 2011, the Archangel Committee began receiving Direct Grants from the Open World Leadership Center and thus hosted Open World delegations from Arkhangelsk in December 2011, October 2012, November 2013, November 2015, November 2016, May 2017, October 2018 and November 2019. Each of these delegations has focused on public and private partnerships to address community challenges here in Greater Portland and in Arkhangelsk. In addition, the November 2013 Open World delegation participated in the Official Ceremony that Celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the founding of our Sister City Relationship back on November 18, 1988, and the October 2018 delegation participated in our 30th Anniversary.

 

Conclusion

Clearly, the OW Program has been the central component of our sister city exchanges since 2000 (see attached list). The OW delegations have had great impacts on all aspects of the relationships - and have resulted in several reciprocal outbound delegations.

 

The Open World Program has allowed us to build strong and lasting relationships between the northeast corner of the USA and the northwest corner of Russia. The genuine professional and social friendships that have developed during this time will never fade. The exchanges and visits planned for the future are based on the strong foundations built by the Open World Program.

© 2020 by Greater Portland Archangel Committee