Message from
Assistant Administrator 
Brock Bierman

With all the political dissatisfaction and dire warnings we seemed to be exposed to lately, one might think that democracy is on the decline. From Facebook walls to the Twitterverse , people everywhere seem unhappy with the status quo, fearful to engage with those that disagree with them, and impatient for sweeping change.

Despite alarms raised on social media, I couldn't be more optimistic about the future. Just last week, near the ancient Lake Ohrid in North Macedonia, I spent time with over forty young political and civic leaders from across Europe and Eurasia as they met for the first time. They came from different countries, different political parties (some directly opposed to one another), and different points of view. Before this meeting, I believe some of them probably could not imagine working side by side with the other attendees. However, coming out of this first gathering, they expressed that the only way to solve the problems their generation faces, both within their home countries and across the region, is to reach out to those who see the world in a different way. The European Democracy Youth Network (EDYN ) exemplifies the spirit that animates democracy: collaboration. The members of the network recognize that young people face common problems across borders. Corruption, distrust in institutions, political polarization, disinformation, unemployment, and brain drain are collective problems whether one lives in Moldova or Armenia. They require collective solutions. In the words of Juela Hamati, the Vice President of EDYN, “In Europe there are many youth organizations. I’ve been asked this question a lot. Why are you different? None of the organizations are diverse as we are. Diversity is our strength. And even though we have different ideologies, we have some common problems.”

While I was in North Macedonia, I had the opportunity to witness citizens going to the polls to elect a new president. As a veteran election observer, I still get excited to see people seizing the opportunity to engage in the foundational exercise of democracy. They wanted their voices to be heard. And I was personally proud of USAID’s Mission in North Macedonia, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems and the State Election Commission in their work to ensure that elections were free and fair. Ukraine also recently held its own presidential elections, deemed by international observers to be secure and well-administered. This month USAID released a new Country Development Cooperation Strategy with Ukraine, which will guide USAID’s efforts from 2019-2024. USAID’s approach responds to the foundational demand expressed by Ukrainians during the Maidan Protests of 2014 that they should live in an independent, democratic, prosperous, and healthy Ukraine united around core European values. For the next five years, USAID will focus on ensuring that Ukraine is more secure from the existential threats of corruption and the Kremlin’s aggression, and that its capacity and commitment to self-reliance is advanced through transformational reforms of key sectors, such as health, energy and the economy. This strategy is a testament to USAID’s long- term commitment to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.

I believe that democracy ebbs and flows like a pendulum. This allows countries and societies to have democratic development occur in an organic way. The arm will sway back and correct itself over time, allowing democracies to grow and mature.

While it is true that we face serious challenges in the region -- struggling economies, malign attempts to undermine democratic progress -- every day I see signs of hope. The region has heroes in its corner on both sides of the Atlantic. From those who exercised their right to vote this month to the many dedicated election observers I met, to the young members of EDYN, I believe that the pendulum is swinging back in the right direction. To quote Vice President Hamati once again, “We should not take things for granted. Freedom, democracy, liberty...It was not easy to achieve any of these values. We should fight for them every day.”

We hope you will follow this journey through our newsletter and by following me on Twitter @BBiermanUSAID and the Europe & Eurasia Bureau @USAIDEurope .
USAID Mission of the Month - Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is a country blessed with natural resources, educated people and stunning landscapes – that sits next door to an EU market of over 500 million people. And yet BiH struggles to convert those advantages into real broad-based prosperity. USAID continues to refine its focus to ensure programs are tailored to issues most important to Bosnia and Herzegovina's ongoing journey to self-reliance.
Private Sector Engagement - Public-Private- Community Partnerships Strengthen WASH Access
As development challenges grow increasingly complex, public-private partnerships are all the more valuable as each sector offers unique skills and resources to help create change. The private sector brings funds, project management and marketing expertise. NGOs have community contacts, local knowledge and cross-cultural skills. Governments have regulatory and legal authority and understand their communities’ needs and priorities. Organizations like Rotary have excellent reputations for their convening power and ability to get things accomplished. And donors like USAID have found that coalitions and partnerships can help leverage development contributions so they are stretched farther and accomplish more.

Steve Werner, a Colorado-based Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene expert, has spent 30 years building public-private partnerships to create enduring WASH programs in the United States. A member of Rotary International, he has recently lent his expertise to WASH programs in Georgia. Read his full blog here.
Innovation - USAID Moldova Wins 2018 Digi Award
The Digital Development Awards ( the Digis) recognize USAID projects that embrace technology and data-driven approaches to achieve solve development challenges. 

The challenge in Moldova: Flavesence dorée (F. dorée), a contagious, incurable pathogen threatens Moldova's growing wine industry, a sector that employs over 200,000 people and makes up five percent of the country’s exported goods. The contagion can be isolated, but the manual process of inspecting and testing each vine is a long, laborious one, allowing the pathogen time to spread and spoil the crop that so many in Moldova depend on as their source of income. Read the full story to learn how USAID uses drones and GIS data to digitize the vineyard inspection process, allowing farmers to quickly inspect, identify, and isolate vines infected by F. dorée.  Full story here.
Empowering Women - Harnessing media to strengthen democratic, accountable and citizen-responsive governance in the Balkans
In Kosovo , Albania — and around the region — the Balkans Investigative Research Network (BIRN) operates within an environment in which journalists often face physical attacks and intimidation, difficulty in gaining access to information from government officials, and a lack of effective regulations to ensure media ownership transparency.
To curb this trend, USAID is equipping the BIRN network of 300 journalists in Bosnia, Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania with technical expertise to strengthen their reporting. USAID is also providing advanced multimedia skills for young reporters.
Investing in Youth - Encouraging the Next Generation of Democracy Heroes in Georgia
Lado Apkhazava is a civic's teacher in Guria. In 2018, he won Best Teacher in Georgia, and this year was named among the world's Top 10 Teachers in the world. Lado is helping train the next generation of change-makers in Georgia by empowering students put their civics lessons to test, empowering them to take action on issues affecting their communities today. Check out the video to learn more about how USAID promotes civic engagement among Georgian youth.
Staff Reflections Special Edition - Georgian organizations can and will cope with challenges
"USAID is committed to expanding its partner base to organizations, including social and citizen movements, beyond what one may consider well-established or traditional civil society groups. In fact, USAID has a program entirely committed to building the capacity of formative civil society organizations, particularly those outside Tbilisi, to mobilize their communities, address community needs and engage elected officials in policy discussions at all levels of government. This program is meant to prepare organizations to foster a 'new generation' of well-established civil society organizations."

Staff Highlight - Steve Burns, E&E Energy & Infrastructure Division Chief
How does your role contribute to USAID's mission in Europe & Eurasia? Reliable energy systems and public services are a cornerstone of prosperous, democratic societies - a cornerstone that can also be used for political leverage. My work helps countries build the infrastructure and establish the laws and institutions necessary to diversify energy supply and to limit threats from corrupt and political influences. Once released from the worry of obtaining heat, light, and other basic needs, countries can focus on building stable societies and becoming strong U.S. allies.

What are you proud of in your work? Our work showcases the best of the United States. The program's cooperative agreement holders have supplied over 4000 regulatory and utility volunteers to help rebuild and develop the region's energy sector. There is barely an energy sector institution in the E&E region, including in former assistance countries that doesn't have at least one plaque, training certificate, etc. from USAID on its walls. The transformative impact can't be overestimated - I now have the pleasure of meeting with Ministers of Energy and Utility CEOs that used to be junior staffers receiving USAID training.

What are you most excited about that's coming up? The Game of Thrones finale! With respect to work, I'm excited to see several long engagements come to completion but also to see new collaborations begin. The Chernobyl Shelter is close to completion, and (hopefully) the power plant project in Kosovo is nearing financial close. Those projects took a lot of Mission and Bureau time and effort, and we should be proud of our work. 

Tell us a fun fact about yourself. Like some others in the Bureau, I brew my own beer. I've spent weekends over the past 18 months building a bar in my home, so I can share my brews with guests. Come over and join me for a pint!

What others say about Steve: Steve is among the sharpest technical minds in the U.S. Government on energy issues. His vision and leadership have placed our energy programs at the cutting edge of innovation, countering Kremlin influence, and promoting self reliance all while ensuring that our work in the sector is creating an environment where our partner countries will enjoy secure, diversified, modern, and efficient energy services in the future.  
News & Events -
  • Inaugural Illinois - Azerbaijan Agricultural Forum: Chicago, April 4
  • AA Bierman travels to Belarus, April 11
  • European Youth Democracy Network launch event: Skopje, April 22-26
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