May 23, 2011 – Washington, D.C. – The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD), on behalf of our nation’s more than half a million Americans of Macedonian heritage, applauds U.S. Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton and the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Partnership on the successful organization of the first-ever Global Diaspora Forum. To learn about the Forum, please click HERE.
Speaking to more than 250 American leaders of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, Secretary Clinton stated: “You have the potential to be the most powerful people-to-people asset we can bring to the world’s table. Because of your familiarity with cultural norms, your own motivations, your own special skills and leadership, you are, frankly, our Peace Corps, our USAID, our OPIC, our State Department all rolled into one.”
The Forum’s goal was to recognize and celebrate the contribution of diaspora communities to America’s relationship with their countries of origin or ancestry; foster diaspora-centric partnership models; and encourage intra-diaspora collaboration and learning.
On May 19th, to build upon the main themes of the Global Diaspora Forum, UMD and The Heritage Foundation co-hosted a ground breaking roundtable discussion that brought together officials from the State Department, Capitol Hill staff, the Ambassadors of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Macedonia and diplomats from the Embassies of Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey. Leaders of Diaspora organizations represented the Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Greek, Macedonian, Serbian, and Turkish-American communities in the United States.
The roundtable’s purpose was to map out the direction in which these Diaspora groups can cooperate in assisting the development of the Southeast European region and furthering its relationship with Euro-Atlantic institutions and the United States.
“The Heritage Foundation was pleased to partner with UMD in this historic occasion. As the conversation unfolded it became increasingly clear that the best path forward for a more secure, free and prosperous future for the people of Southeast Europe depends on advancing reconciliation, security cooperation, good governance and economic freedom,” said The Heritage Foundation’s Deputy Director of Government Studies James Dean who opened the event.
Dean went on to say that “at the same time of our discussion Queen Elizabeth II was on an historic visit to the Republic of Ireland for the first visit by a presiding British monarch in 100 years. This was an inspiring example of reconciliation with dignity while moving forward to a better future as neighbors working together for peace and prosperity. Another example of reconciliation was how the Nordic countries, the land of my ancestors, put over a thousand years of conflict behind them, are increasingly working together today and can even enjoy hanging-out together as friends with a healthy dose of good humor. I urge our friends in Southeast Europe to likewise move forward.”
UMD put forward the idea of instituting an informal body, the Southeast European Coalition, to build dialogue and strengthen relations among all Southeast European-American groups. All participating organizations during the roundtable discussion pledged overwhelming support for such an initiative.
The U.S. Department of State’s Director of the Office of South Central European Affairs Jennifer Brush spoke about increasing collaboration between the Department of State, USAID, and Diaspora communities from Southeast Europe, especially in the context of State-to-State Partnerships. The U.S. Congress Subcommittee on Europe Minority Staff Director Jesper Pedersen expressed interest in working with the Coalition participating organizations in strengthening U.S.-Southeast European relations.
“Like the United States, Southeast Europe is incredibly diverse with a rich cultural heritage. Unfortunately, for much of the last century our region has been plagued by ethnic conflict. Serious challenges remain current, however, it is up to all of us to turn those challenges into opportunities for greater engagement and partnership,” said UMD President Metodija A. Koloski. “The United States, which I am proud to be born and raised in, is a beacon of democracy and human rights, and our region can learn tremendously from the path the United States has taken to get to where it is now.”