Message from Assistant Administrator 
Brock Bierman

As Assistant Administrator at USAID, I have no shortage of inspiration given the successes we have seen throughout the region, but nothing makes me more enthusiastic than the young people we work with everyday who are hungry to effect change.

To be young is to be open to new ideas, eager to learn, anxious to make an impact. The next generation is any country’s greatest resource, but young minds are especially valuable for nations undertaking change. And there’s no question that the young nations of Eastern Europe and Eurasia are nations undertaking change. 

This November will mark thirty years since the Berlin Wall came down. The frenetic pace of change that defined the years following that historic event made the spread of democracy in this region appear inevitable and irreversible. But there is nothing predestined about democracy. Democracy requires every generation to commit, and recommit to its principles. In a democracy, every citizen is a shareholder, equally invested in their nation’s success.

The commitment this region's citizens have demonstrated over the years to forging new ground and shaping their new democracies has been tremendous. Success throughout eastern Europe and central Asia cannot be overstated given the dysfunction which permeated for three generations during the Soviet Union. 

And yet, in recent years the winds of change have begun to blow in a different direction. The steady march toward freedom, free markets and democracy has slowed. In some cases, we see movement away from these principles altogether. 

Despite this trend, I remain optimistic for the region’s future. When you step back and look at the last 30 years, keeping in perspective how much has changed in such a short period of time, it is actually quite amazing. Having said that, the future of democracy is not out of the woods yet and continued vigilance is required to build a bright future.

As Administrator Green said to an audience of university students in Prague last year, the pessimists among us talk as though authoritarianism is an unstoppable force. As though freedom is in irreversible decline — that its best days are past. But at USAID, we simply don't agree. For as often as the arc of history has been twisted by humanity’s most cruel capacities, we have likewise witnessed the power of dedicated individuals to bend it back toward justice. And time and time again, it has been young people who have led the charge. 

This is why I am so passionate about prioritizing our work around the next generation of leaders and the new European Democratic Youth Network (EDYN). 

EDYN, which will meet in North Macedonia for the first time next month, will serve as a bulwark against the divisive politics that pull people apart and set progress back. The network will bring ambitious young leaders together from diverse national, political, and social backgrounds to solve challenges that cross these same boundaries. The members of EDYN share the core belief that building a brighter future requires leaders to reach out to those whose views differ from their own, not despite these differences but because of them -- seeing intrinsic value in broadening and deepening engagement throughout their countries and region. 

Europe and Eurasia is at a critical time in its history. Many of the Eastern Block and former Soviet republics stand at a political crossroads and are still deciding which paths to take. Young leaders whose vision for the future is grounded in engaging with the West and safeguarding the rights guaranteed by democracy will help determine which path their countries choose. 

I was thrilled to spend time with the founding members of EDYN's leadership council last December when they spent a week in Washington, DC, developing a vision for their group, meeting with various experts across disciplines, and taking in the lessons available from America’s rich, and imperfect, democratic history. The openness and optimism with which each of these members greeted each other, evening knowing they held different views and come from different political backgrounds, was a reminder of our own founding motto -- e pluribus unum -- out of many, one. 

Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than a generation away from extinction” -- that it must be fought for. History has shown us time and again that youth are democracy and freedom’s greatest champions. Through our investment in the young leaders of EDYN, we’re betting on a brighter future for all. 

Meet a few founding members from Georgia, North Macedonia , Albania , Bosnia and Herzegovina and stay tuned for upda tes following their meeting in Skopje next month. 
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 - Belarus
Belarus, a small, landlocked country on the eastern border of the European Union, is home to 9.5 million people and a turbulent history. The young nation achieved independence in 1991 – facing development challenges from the legacy of war, a centrally-managed economy, and a tragic nuclear accident that continues to affect its people today. USAID began its support to Belarus in the mid 1990's. Over the years, Belarus has made notable progress towards self-reliance, particularly in its efforts to improve the health of Belarusians and address issues that affect vulnerable populations.

USAID’s impact in Belarus likewise can be felt most tangibly by its most vulnerable populations. Read the full story to learn more .
Private Sector Engagement - Solar panels heat up the Western Balkans
Fadil Hoxha returned to his homeland of Kosovo in 1999 after the country’s devastating war. After spending time abroad, Hoxha was eager to do something good for his country. But when the time came to pay his electric bill, he received a real shock. Rising energy costs, routine power outages, and heavy reliance on aging coal-fired power plants inspired Hoxha to find a sustainable, commercial solution to Kosovo's energy crisis.

I was home with my son, and I said to him that we will be the first ones to open the first solar company, ” says Hoxha.

Looking for a reliable and honest partner, Hoxha turned to USAID’s  EMPOWER Private Sector project, which sparks job growth in Kosovo by helping businesses identify and pursue opportunities for growth. USAID provided co-financing to Jaha Solar to obtain 14 product certifications. With these certifications, Jaha Solar can sell its solar panels in Kosovo and abroad. Read more
Innovation - Media Outlet Launches First Live Debate News Program in North Macedonia -- Now Aired Without Need for USAID Assistance
If you turn on the television in North Macedonia and flip to a news channel, odds are you will come across a debate show featuring a local politician or a civil society representative expounding their views on the latest issue. But that was not the case back in 2015, when Otvoreno began as the first ever debate show with a live studio audience.

Otvorevo was launched with financial and conceptual support from USAID, the   National Endowment for Democracy and the   National Democratic Institute to provide a platform for public discourse. The success of this show has eliminated the need for further foreign assistance. Read more here .
Empowering Women - Azerbaijan Carpet Video
A small group of dedicated women in Azerbaijan are working to ensure that as their communities modernize and enjoy the benefits of economic development, they hold on to the ancient, storied tradition of carpet weaving that has defined the region for generations. With USAID support, these women developed a carpet center as part of an activity with the Ministry of Economy and East-West Management Institute that supports community-led projects. The center is revitalizing Guba's ancient carpet tradition while providing employment and economic opportunities for women in the community.
Investing in Youth - ICT Empowers Young Moldovan Girls to Change the World
Moldova’s Information and Computer Technology (ICT) industry is one of the biggest opportunities for young people to find good-quality, well-paying jobs at home in Moldova, but the current education system doesn’t equip students with the skills they need to access the sector. Through the Moldova Competitiveness Project (MCP), USAID Moldova and Embassy of Sweden in Chisinau helps fill this gap by supporting CoderDojo clubs in Chisinau. The clubs provide access to cutting-edge programming and technology skills, taught directly by volunteers from the private sector. Read more
One in four developers begin coding before they turn 16

“I started studying coding when I was 10. Since I discovered the CoderDojo club in Chisinau, I can’t imagine a Saturday when I don’t go. CoderDojo is where I feel my passion take shape!” - Victoria Mutruc, 13

Read more
Staff Reflections - Trust, Understanding, and Responsibility in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Officially, BIH is a secular country, yet in practice, religion features prominently in political life. USAID’s PRO-Future program helps religious leaders leverage this influence in their efforts to keep peace. The program promotes visible public engagement among religious leaders and enables them to lead both national and community-level reconciliation activities. PRO-Future also brings together former war prisoners of different faiths to share their experiences and impart to young and old alike the importance of reconciliation.

Deputy Assistant Administrator Gretchen Birkle reflects on an afternoon spent with diverse group of students, professors, war victims and peace activists working alongside PRO-Future. Read more here .
Staff Highlight - Shannon Maguire, Senior Media Advisor
How does your role contribute to USAID's mission in Europe & Eurasia?
My work helps citizens access independent news and information and become more engaged, informed participants in the development of their democracies. It also helps shape leaders who are more transparent and accountable to their electorate. Ultimately, these democratic communities become more stable, secure, and long-term U.S. partners and allies.

What are you proud of in your work? I'm proud when I get to meet with organizations and journalists whom we're helping and to see the tangible impact of their work, like legislation getting passed, outlets increasing their revenue as a result of our assistance, or arrests being made as the result of an investigation.

What are you most excited about that's coming up? I'm most excited about how much more of our assistance is being directly implemented by local organizations. It's so satisfying to see the hard work that our international partners and Mission staff are doing to build capacity of local organizations paying off. I'm also excited to see an increase in cooperation, exchanges, and networking among journalists. The presence of stronger networks and partnerships across borders raises the cost of stifling journalists' work and makes efforts by such political and financial elites much less effective.

How did you become involved in development work? I became interested in development work after serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan. I had always been involved in community work and loved the idea of doing it overseas.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself. I was co-captain of the girls' rugby team in high school and loved playing in the rain. The muddier the field, the better.

What others say about Shannon: Shannon is our go-to person for an honest, critical, and always constructive, analysis of a situation, be it a development problem, a bureaucratic hurdle, or a question of personalities. She is a road warrior as well, traveling widely and frequently for work, commuting by bike, and running long races just for fun. Shannon is a whirlwind who we all work hard to keep up with!
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