International Interconnectivity

by Lucianne Englert

Most of us seldom consider our connection with the rest of the world. It never crosses our minds to wonder about the daily routine of a shop owner in Egypt or a legislator in the Ukraine and how that person's actions may affect our lives and livelihood. Several professors in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) at Indiana University not only ponder these topics, they research these issues in depth and apply the conclusions of that research to solving problems throughout the world.

Wise Helps Build a Democracy
In the late 1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev began offering some autonomy to the republics that made up the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union permitted Ukraine, the second largest soviet republic, to hold elections to create a parliament in 1990. At that time, some outside colonial power had dominated Ukraine for all but two years of its recorded history. The Ukranians had no tradition of independent governance and no experience with democratic institutions like legislatures. The republic's newly elected parliamentarians needed help.

In the spring of 1990, Charles Wise, a professor of public and environmental affairs at Indiana University Bloomington, got a call from some Ukrainian friends living in the United States who had been called by their friends, some of the new Ukrainian parliamentarians. By April 1991, SPEA welcomed the first parliamentary delegation from the Republic of Ukraine to a conference designed specifically for their needs. "For most of the thirteen delegates, it was their first excursion outside the borders of the Soviet Union, and they spent their first day outside their country in Bloomington, Indiana," Wise says.

Most of the speakers at the conference attended by those first delegates were practicing public officials, including Indiana Lieutenant Governor Frank O'Bannon (now governor), Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepherd, and Indiana State Representative Paul Mannweiler, who was then minority leader in the Indiana House of Representatives. After a week in Indiana, the group traveled to Washington, D.C., where a variety of U.S. government officials instructed them, including former Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and U.S. Senator Dick Lugar and U.S. Representative Lee Hamilton, both from Indiana. "Lugar and Hamilton have provided immense assistance to IU on this project," Wise notes.

Although in 1991 the Communists still dominated the Republic of Ukraine and several of the delegates held high positions in the party, by the end of that first visit, all the delegates publicly expressed their expectation that Ukraine would become independent. In only two years, a third delegation returned to SPEA to discuss Ukraine's formal emergence into democracy and a market economy.

By April 1994, a $3.45 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), plus support from Indiana University and the U.S./Ukraine Foundation, allowed Wise to launch the Parliamentary Development Project for Ukraine (PDP). The project provides long-term technical assistance to members of the parliament and other government officials and focuses on reforming legislative executive relations, legislative processes, the budget process, committee structure and operations, and citizen relations. Ellie Valentine, former associate director of IU's Russian and East European Institute (REEI), serves as the PDP's field coordinator in Ukraine. "Her expertise and comparative perspective, coming from the REEI, are essential to the success of this project," Wise says. The PDP also employs six Ukrainians as executive directors, including Svetlana Svetova, a graduate of SPEA's Masters of Public Affairs (M.P.A.) program. "It sounds corny, but she came here to study public administration, and now she's returning to help develop democracy in her home country," Wise says.

A stable, independent democracy in the Ukraine means that the Soviet Union, or something like it, can never be reassembled, Wise notes. "Critics may complain, 'Why do U.S. academics care about supporting a new government in some country like Ukraine?' The premise of this question is that there isn't any benefit to us in such activity. But if you think of it as assisting the democratization of major areas of the world that six years ago had missiles pointed at us, the stakes are pretty high," Wise concludes.

Additionally, other SPEA faculty and several doctoral students, including Vladimir Pigenko (local government), Iryna Hmelko (committee staffing), Trevor Brown (intergovernmental relations), and Tom Sinclair (committee operations and legislative procedure), have been gaining valuable insight into the democratization process itself. Other IU professors of public and environmental affairs working with the PDP include Larry Schroeder, lead adviser for the budgeting area, and Robert Agranoff, lead adviser for the intergovernmental relations area.

Baker Assists Bulgarian Civil Service and Compares U.S. with European Union
Across the hall from Wise, Randall Baker, a professor of public and environmental affairs and director of International Programs at SPEA, focuses his research on Bulgaria, another country of the former Soviet Union. As a Fulbright Scholar, Baker spent part of 1992 researching the nature of civil service as the fledgling country struggled toward democracy. He also helped New Bulgarian University develop the country's first master's degree program in public administration. This spring, the university--and the country--will graduate its first class of M.P.A.'s. Baker received an honorary doctoral degree from the university in the fall of 1996 in recognition of his assistance.

Despite its new democracy, Bulgaria must contend with the civil service system that remains from the former Communist government. "The civil service is charged with being the arm of government," Baker notes. "Since the 'brain' of the government, the Communist Party, spent two generations convincing the people that there was only one correct way to do things, and this was already decided for them by an ideological elite, shifting public service attitudes toward effective democratic principles is no mean feat." Educators creating the M.P.A. program at New Bulgarian University understood that the first short-run task was to work with the existing system.

"The recruitment of the civil service, except for technical people, was advancement based on loyalty to the party," Baker says. No significant dissent and almost no creative thought were tolerated by the Communist regime. "The faculty at New Bulgarian University knew they wanted to reject the existing model, and they kept asking, 'What do you teach at Indiana?' and 'Have you got the Bulletin (which lists IU's courses)?'" However, existing public service systems, such as the public health and welfare systems, were firmly entrenched in Bulgaria, making the U.S. model inappropriate. Thus the curriculum finally settled upon, Baker says, is a mix of courses derived from his comparative research filtered through what he learned about Bulgaria and ideas brought forward by the Bulgarians. "The shift in attitude about civil service that is occurring in Bulgaria is a turning point for the country," Baker says. "It will take many years for the investment to pay off." With a sabbatical coming up, Baker is considering reviewing the changes in Bulgaria's civil service after ten years.

In the meantime, Baker is comparing the regulatory bodies of the United States with those of the emerging European Union. Balancing centralized authority with the rights of smaller entities is an issue in Europe just as it is in the United States. A battle of words is raging in Europe between those who wish to vest the union with more political power and those who wish to protect the sovereign rights of the member states and communitites. "The union obviously means more than a free trade area, but what do the people of Europe want it to mean? It has the power to set standards, but, unlike the U.S. EPA, for example, it doesn't have the enforcement power to do much about them," Baker says.

"I'm a great believer in the comparative method of study," Baker asserts. "By looking at the ways in which countries approach democracy or developed democracies approach common problems, you get a perspective on our own system that would not be there by simply thrashing out what we've done in the past."

Baker also pushes for SPEA's curriculum to expose students to comparative study and international affairs. "It's almost impossible to draw the line between statewide and national and even international issues," he says. "I can't think of any business in this state that isn't constantly driven by the international agenda. The educational system here is compared with that of Japan. Agriculture is fighting subsidized exports from Europe. The pharmaceutical industry faces a new international crime wave of counterfeit drugs. And the auto industry here is constantly pilloried by Japanese and German manufacturers, even as we try to attract Japanese business."

Morgan Looks at Economic Development in Africa and Asia
Looking at international issues from another perspective, Philip Morgan, an associate professor of public and environmental affairs, studies economic development in foreign countries. His analyses of economic development, particularly in the countries of Africa and southeast Asia, help global organizations such as the World Bank make funding decisions for the greatest value.

His research into African resource management brought a personnel paradox to light. "African governments have overwhelmingly bloated public payrolls, taking up most of the national budget, and they don't get very much performance for this expenditure," Morgan says. The first step in managing this excess is knowing who works for the government and what work they perform. "Implementation of this first phase of managing information and modernizing personnel operations has been very successful," he states, "but the next step--classifying by skill area, testing, and then beginning the retraining and terminations--has really gone very slowly. The point is that, if the government is the principal game in town, the very government that can't afford to keep lots of people on its payroll also can't afford, politically, to turn them out," he notes.

"In this adjustment, those countries that were already managing their budgets better, who had not come to use the public payroll as a substitute for a welfare system, have been quickest to meet the new standards of spending and rectitude," Morgan says. "Those that were deepest in the quagmire of political and social obligations have found it the most difficult to extract themselves."

Morgan notes the revealing nature of the balance of authority between traditional institutions and the contemporary governments in Botswana and Ghana. "The things that have to do with real wealth--mining, water where water is scarce--have been taken from the rule of the chiefs and headmen and put into so called 'modern' governments that supposedly have accountability," Morgan explains. "Interestingly, the world of family law--cattle theft, disruption of property between neighbors-- handled by traditional adjudication is very robust. Justice through the traditional means is cheap and timely. But when you have to go into the 'modern' government in the city, it's always slower and more expensive."

Morgan recognizes the significance to many African Americans of the current state of African affairs. "Many black Americans identify with Africa as some distant source of ancestry, and no matter whether this is authentic or contrived in a particular situation, it's an issue of import in terms of their own confidence as Americans. Most American immigrants put a positive construction on their homeland, again, whether or not it was warranted. Why shouldn't African Americans do the same? And isn't it tragic that such a significant population in the United States which came here under slave conditions, must now look back at a continent in which chaos and misery are the main themes rather than robust development, which would add to their own sense of pride in where they came from?"

Morgan also points out that the economic development of these regions has great significance to Indiana businesses. "If the economic collapse or the nonperformance of the African economies continues and they never become self sustaining, several negative results will occur. Not only will African citizens suffer, but they will be a source of instability. We'll see more large population movements, which not only cause dislocation in the countries receiving the influx of immigrants, but often bring epidemics and other kinds of unanticipated consequences," he says. On the positive side, he notes, "As African countries develop and become productive parts of the global economy, they also become markets for our products and producers of commodities we want to buy."

Bonser Draws on Experience to Direct Students
SPEA's founding dean, Charles Bonser, now the Ameritech Endowed Chair in Economic Development and a professor of public and environmental affairs, suggests that the provincial perspective of too many Americans could defeat us economically. "Educated Western Europeans, for example, are much more knowledgeable about the world and about us than we are about them, on the average. And they're going to eat our lunch down the road if we're not careful," Bonser says.

The roster of Bonser's research, teaching, and consulting experiences stretches from the development of executive education programs for public officials in Egypt, France, and the United States, through research projects on nongovernmental organizations based in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Western Europe. So it's not surprising that he is quite vocal about the importance of all students obtaining global experience. "They need an understanding of what's happening internationally that they can't get in regular course work alone," Bonser says. "I challenge you to ask ten random students on campus to explain what issues are discussed by the main international organizations, such as the World Bank, the United Nations, or the International Monetary Fund. They won't be able to do it. Yet these issues are about the world these young people will live in--they need to know about them," he urges.

Bonser wants all students to have the opportunity to go abroad--and not just for a vacation. "On a short vacation, typically you don't meet people, really. You don't really have contacts outside typical tourist fare," he says. "But when American students go abroad, it changes their outlook and understanding about the world." Similarly, Bonser believes international students studying here at IU have so much to learn from and to teach American students that they shouldn't live together in international groups on campus.

Bonser tells a story of taking students on a two-week program in Paris. "I know some of them are scared to death. Never been out of the country before, not sure what they're going to get into," he recalls. "They know they're dealing with a different language, a different culture, and not knowing their way around, and they're wondering if they can deal with it. But after two weeks, there's a huge difference in them. Even if it doesn't affect them professionally, it affects their personal self-confidence and their ability to handle different situations and environments in the future, at the same time as it is enhancing their understanding of other cultures, other people, and the problems of those people and cultures. It also gives them a different perspective on the United States. They start thinking about what is common, what is accepted here, and how that may be totally different from another culture."

IU faculty also need this experience, Bonser says. "Applied research has to be more hands-on. For example, unless you go to Egypt and tramp around those dirt streets and those villages, you're never really able to understand what Egyptians' problems are and what you might be able to do in terms of an economic development program for them," he says. "I think there needs to be more joint international faculty research, and more international emphasis in course work across the board."

Hopkins' International Research Points to Specifics
Jack Hopkins' international research resembles that of his colleagues, as do some of his opinions. Hopkins, who recently became professor emeritus of public and environmental affairs, says, "The plain truth is that, even though Americans tend to be provincial in a lot of ways, they are involved in international programs and projects in many ways that they may not even be aware of. The World Health Organization (WHO) is a classic case of a program that affects people's lives all over the world, including in the United States. The World Meteorological Organization tracks weather and makes predictions affecting all sorts of things all over the world. The Universal Postal Union makes our mail go correctly. You could name twenty of these things, and most Americans wouldn't realize how intimately we're involved with them."

He continues, "What really rankles me is when a lot of Americans say, 'Get out of the United Nations,' and yet they don't realize how much their lives are affected by what an organization like that does," Hopkins says. "That's why it's important to study international affairs. Students need to understand what the international organizations are doing and how closely they're connected with our lives."

Hopkins has a deep understanding of the power of international organizations in effecting worldwide change. The author of The Eradication of Smallpox, Hopkins has researched the multinational efforts to halt one of the world's most devastating diseases. "For several years, I taught a course on international development, and over and over again I found examples of failures in foreign aid projects, criticisms of ineffective and wasteful efforts," Hopkins says. "So I deliberately looked for a program that was successful. After I completed my research with the World Health Organization and the Communicable Disease Center, I wrote the book to see what we could learn from that experience and what we might be able to apply to other international health problems, particularly."

The successful program for controlling and minimizing the spread of smallpox was headed by WHO, which brought medical and lay experts from all over the world together in a cooperative effort. "Cooperation was obviously a key, but that had to be preceded by a number of technical accomplishments," Hopkins explains. "For example, we'd known how to prevent smallpox for nearly 300 years, but nobody had been able to bring together a reliable vaccine that could work in a great variety of environments. Combining the management aspects with the technical know-how created a miraculous accomplishment that hasn't been duplicated since."

Cooperation across international borders is also a theme in some of Hopkins' other research. His work in Latin America points out value differences and the need for cooperation between some United States citizens and some Latin Americans regarding conservation and economic development. "It's unbelievable how scarce the resources are in most Latin American countries to run national parks and to try to protect the environment," Hopkins says. "Most of those countries are working mightily to try to develop economically, which inevitably puts them in conflict with trying to protect the environment." Consultants and activists from the United States are seen as interfering in local affairs. "Costa Rica is a good example," Hopkins says. "Some Costa Ricans say, 'What do you Americans mean? You come down here after you ruin your environment to develop your country economically and tell us we can't do it, that we've got to save our forests and set aside national parks.' They've got a legitimate point, I think."

With a goal of bringing home practical aspects of his fieldwork whenever possible, Hopkins says, "I'm a firm believer in trying to connect academic work with real life. If we don't do that, what we do here is not worth very much."

Speaking with these professors or reading their research, one soon recognizes the relevance of international affairs in our own lives: emerging democracies not only affect United States politics, but influence our safety from nuclear attack. Conservation efforts in tropical rainforests affect us differently than they do those who live in the countries in which rainforests occur. Economic difficulties in Africa can create change in our economy, and can also potentially affect our health and welfare. Most importantly, as this and future generations of students study at IU, their international interactions and efforts will have an affect on the future of the world.