3rd Annual UMD Global Conference in Washington, D.C. – Huge Success!

UMD successfully completed its 3rd Annual Global Conference (UMD GC2011) at the JW Marriott in downtown Washington, D.C. from June 23-25, 2011. Macedonians and friends of Macedonia from Australia, Canada, Macedonia, and the United States traveled to attend UMD GC2011 making it a truly global event!This year marks the 20th Anniversary since Macedonia’s Independence; therefore, UMD’s Board of Directors titled UMD GC2011 “Shaping the Future,” and envisioned a policy-oriented conference where participants could discuss Macedonia’s progress, current state of affairs, and future.

 

 June 30, 2011 – Washington, D.C. – The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) successfully completed its 3rd Annual Global Conference (UMD GC2011) at the JW Marriott in downtown Washington, D.C. from June 23-25, 2011. Macedonians and friends of Macedonia from Australia, Canada, Macedonia, and the United States traveled to attend UMD GC2011 making it a truly global event! This year marks the 20th Anniversary since Macedonia’s Independence; therefore, UMD’s Board of Directors titled UMD GC2011 “Shaping the Future,” and envisioned a policy-oriented conference where participants could discuss Macedonia’s progress, current state of affairs, and future.

Thursday, June 23

 The conference began with Arizona Senator John McCain receiving the prestigious UMD International Freedom Award. UMD’s Board of Directors select candidates for the International Freedom Award based on his or her impact on society, public service record, and success in promoting justice, peace, democracy, individual freedom, and economic opportunity; such stringent criteria make this award one of UMD’s most prestigious honors.

Senator McCain welcomed UMD’s delegation to his office, expressing gratitude toward UMD and toward those who recognize his support for Macedonia. Senator McCain pledged to advance U.S.-Macedonia relations, praised Macedonia’s contributions to U.S.-led efforts in Afghanistan, and promised to advocate for Macedonia’s NATO membership.

Later, about 60 conference attendees visited over 135 congressional offices to encourage representatives to join the Congressional Caucus on Macedonia and Macedonian-Americans. Several members immediately vowed to back the Caucus.

 That evening, Ambassador Ljubica Z. Acevska, UMD GC2011 Honorary Chair and 1st Macedonian Ambassador to the U.S.; Jovica Palashevski, Macedonian Consul General to Chicago; and Stojan Nikolov, UMD Board Chairman welcomed conference-goers at the Macedonian Embassy. Staff representatives from Senator Frank Lautenberg and Senator Joe Lieberman’s offices received the UMD International Freedom Award for each Senator’s friendship with Macedonia. New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell praised UMD and Macedonian-Americans for strengthening U.S.-Macedonian relations. Although Michigan Congresswoman Candice Miller, chair of the Congressional Macedonia Caucus, could not attend the reception, her Deputy Chief of Staff Sean Moore read a letter from the Congresswoman expressing her friendship and encouraging stronger U.S.-Macedonia relations.

Friday, June 24

Following introductory remarks from Ambassador Acevska and UMD President Metodija A. Koloski, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman delivered a keynote speech addressing the strategic importance to U.S.-Macedonia partnership. Subsequently, a panel debate entitled “Assessing Macedonia’s Progress – 20 Years after Independence” featured The Honorable Mary Catherine Andrews, the National Democratic Institute’s Robert Benjamin, U.S. Helsinki Commission’s Robert Hand, the Heritage Foundation’s Sally McNamara, and InvestMacedonia’s CEO Viktor Mizo. Former North Dakota Congressman Earl Pomeroy concluded the panel by discussing his most recent trip to Macedonia. The thought-provoking panel gave way to a stimulating question and answer session.

At a luncheon dedicated to promoting U.S.-Macedonia strategic partnership and cooperation, Ambassador Acevska discussed how U.S.-Macedonia relations have progressed since Macedonia’s independence in 1991. In addition, producer of the film “A Name is A Name” Jason Miko received the UMD Macedonia Friendship Award. He urged all Macedonians to unite in support of Macedonia and he promised to continue fighting for the Macedonian cause.

UMD hoped to present the UMD International Freedom Award to Secretary Lawrence S. Eagleburger during the luncheon; however, he unfortunately passed away recently, and thus UMD will present a posthumous award to a member the Eagleburger family later this summer. Similar to suggestions that former Macedonian Foreign Minister Srgjan Kerim and current Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki have offered, UMD supports their idea renaming a major street in Skopje after Secretary Eagleburger. Additionally, UMD intended to present the UMD Macedonia Friendship Award to Major General Michael Dubie of the Vermont National Guard; however, he could not attend due to illness. UMD will present the award to him at another time.

Later that day, Steven Grimberg moderated a panel regarding Macedonia’s judicial system. Panelists included Justice Department’s Marcus Busch, Justice Department’s Thomas Peebles, Massachusetts District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns, and World Bank specialist Tea Trumbic. The panel concluded that political elites should not interfere with the judicial system and that Macedonia’s judicial system requires further reform.

UMD Board Chairman Stojan Nikolov moderated the panel “Generation M – The Young Leaders Program of UMD,” which featured Generation M Board Members Andrew Ananievski from Melbourne, Australia; Alexander Karapancev from Toronto, Canada; Anthony Naumoff from Skopje, Macedonia; and Dimitar Popov from Chicago, Illinois. They recommended ways of encouraging young Macedonians to become leaders and ambassadors in the Diaspora community. Special guest panelists included Emil Gjorgov from the University American College in Skopje, Aditi Ramchandani from the Network of South Asian Professionals in D.C., and Beril Unver from the Turkish Coalition of America, who detailed experiences within their own ethnic communities.

An off-the-record briefing with State Department Desk Officers handling Albania (Sarah Hutchinson), Greece (Chris Snipes), and Macedonia (Sammie Smith) ended UMD GC2011’s policy-oriented segment.

The evening finished with a reception on the JW Marriott terrace overlooking Washington, D.C. and the cultural program “Experience Macedonia.” Macedonian Consul General Jovica Palashevski received a plaque from UMD President Koloski recognizing him as the 1st ever Consul General to Chicago and acknowledging his efforts in establishing Macedonian representation in Chicago. Elizabeth Naumovski emceed the cultural program, which featured the Aleksandrija Macedonian Folk Dance Ensemble and Kardelen Turkish Dance Ensemble. Moreover, prominent Macedonian-American artists Irena Gapkovska and Blagojce Stojanovski opened their first exhibits in Washington, D.C. Blagojce presented his mural “Double Holocaust,” which represents the similar struggles of the Israelites and Macedonians. Nostalgija, a Macedonian band from New Jersey, ended the evening with Macedonian ora that brought everyone to the dance floor.

Saturday, June 25

UMD’s Annual Board Meeting started the day’s events. Board members publicly reviewed UMD’s operational and financial progress. Dame Krcoski, UMD’s Regional Representative in Perth, secured a position on the UMD Board of Directors. UMD members and supporters engaged in a question and answer session with UMD’s Board.

Following the Meeting, UMD Vice President Aleksandar Mitreski moderated a panel in which Ambassador Acevska; Victor Bivell of Pollitecon Publications from Sydney, Australia; and Ivan Trposki of the Literary Society of Grigor Prlichev from Sydney, Australia recollected their involvement with Macedonia and the Macedonian community abroad since independence. Mitreski presented Bivell and Trposki with plaques distinguishing their longtime service in advancing the Macedonian cause. The panel grew emotional, as all in attendance shared personal stories, including Olga Sandalowich, the 2010 recipient of UMD’s Outstanding Achievement in the Arts Award, who is 81 years of age.

A Gala celebrating 20 years since Macedonia’s independence rounded out UMD GC2011. Honorary Chair Ambassador Acevska opened the event with welcoming remarks. Current Macedonian Ambassador to the U.S. Zoran Jolevski also spoke. Following these speeches, UMD Board Secretary Ivona Grimberg introduced a video message from Ambassador Philip T. Reeker, who could not attend the Gala, and then presented the UMD Macedonia Friendship Award to Ambassador Reeker’s wife, Mrs. Solveig Reeker. Mrs. Reeker thanked UMD on the Ambassador’s and her behalf. UMD Chairman Stojan Nikolov then presented the UMD Macedonia Friendship Award to Professor Victor Friedman, who, speaking in perfect Macedonian, fondly recalled visits to Macedonia and his scholarship on Macedonian issues.

UMD President Metodija A. Koloski presented the next UMD Macedonia Friendship Award to Ambassador Christopher R. Hill, the first U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia, who praised Macedonia’s 20 years of progress and called for the Diaspora’s continued engagement in Macedonia.

Macedonian-American businessman George Atanasoski received the 2nd ever UMD Lifetime Achievement Award. In presenting the Award, UMD Vice President Aleksandar Mitreski referred to Mr. Atanasoski as “the largest Diaspora investor in Macedonia” who has advocated for Macedonia more vocally than almost anyone else. Mr. Atanasoski pledged to “never back down,” and to continue supporting Macedonia. He praised UMD and remarked that all Macedonians must unite to support UMD and the Macedonian cause.

UMD Advisory Council Member Mark Mitskovski addressed Gala attendees and announced his idea for a “Macedonian Companions” program, with hopes of attracting 300 Macedonians and friends of Macedonia to donate $1,000 per year for three years. The campaign would furnish UMD with an annual operating budget of $300,000 over three years, totaling $900,000. By financing UMD’s operating needs, the Companions would ensure UMD’s continued success promoting and advancing Macedonian culture and interests worldwide. During UMD GC2011, 35 Macedonians and friends of Macedonia pledged their support for this important initiative and committed to advancing the Macedonian cause alongside UMD. These individuals received a standing ovation.

Last but not least, UMD President Metodija A. Koloski presented the prestigious UMD Macedonian Heritage Public Service Award to Ambassador Ljubica Z. Acevska for her service to Macedonia and the Macedonian people. Overwhelmed with joy, Ambassador Acevska thanked UMD and pledged to continue working in Macedonia’s best interests. She also vowed support for the “Macedonian Companions” program.

The Gala featured a special performance from the Tanec Macedonian Folk Dance Ensemble and concluded with more traditional Macedonian music from Nostalgija.

Overall, the UMD GC2011 was a huge success! UMD would like to thank all donors, participants, panelists, and awardees. UMD gives a very special thank you to the volunteers headed by Diana Booth for making this event possible. UMD is also especially grateful to our sponsors. Without their support, UMD’s 3rd Annual Global Conference would not have succeeded.

UMD’s Board of Directors will convene in the next two weeks to decide where and when to hold the 4th UMD Global Conference.

Click HERE (9.25 MB) to download the UMD GC2011 Commemorative Journal in celebration of Macedonia’s 20th years since independence. UMD will post pictures from the conference and complete video coverage on its website shortly. UMD Voice magazine’s next issue will detail the panel discussions and other conference activities.

Pictures courtesy of Dejan Stankovski.

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