International Idea Exchange

International Affairs Committee Congress meeting is an affair to remember

Jerry Fay, P.E.
National Program Director for Public Works
HDR Engineering, Inc.
Phoenix, Arizona

From the size of the crowd to the buzz in the room prior to the International Affairs Committee (IAC) meeting on September 10, 2001, it was obvious that there is a significant interest in international activities among APWA's membership. And the interaction, discussion and interest in international issues during the meeting only increased the enthusiasm. Of course, this interest is directly attributable to the outstanding job done last year by the committee and the individual task forces. We that follow are fortunate to have such a solid foundation to build on.

Committee meetings at Congress are usually a time to review the events of the past year and plan for the upcoming year. However, this was not the case for the IAC. Yes, we did those things, but we also accomplished several significant items.

The first and most exciting is our agreement with the Diversity Committee to co-sponsor an educational session for the 2002 Congress in Kansas City on cultural issues. As the world continues to shrink, effective cross-cultural communication becomes more important. Behaviors and mannerism such as personal space, silence, gestures, body language, and volume of speech can vary in meaning from culture to culture. If different cultures are to be effective in communicating with each other, they will need to share their differences openly. The session planned for the 2002 Congress will provide our members of all cultures with the ability to better communicate in this "Global Village." A committee made up of representatives from the IAC and the Diversity Committee has been established to develop the session.

The second achievement is the approval of a Letter of Understanding between APWA and the International City/County Managers Association (ICMA). Mark Bidus from ICMA briefed the IAC on the various activities they are involved in at the international level. ICMA has been very active in international activities, and they have a Resource Cities Program to establish relationships and cooperative arrangements to utilize their members' expertise in technical international capacities. This letter of understanding is definitely a win-win agreement for both organizations.

The third area is the establishment of an International Guest Program at the 2002 Congress in Kansas City. Doug Wesselschmidt from the Kansas City Metro Chapter met with the IAC to discuss how we can make our international guests' visit a worthwhile and relevant experience. The KC Metro Chapter will be developing visits to facilities/technical tours and will also be assisting with accommodations and transportation problems. This program will enhance our relationship with our international partners and guests and make their stay more enjoyable.

The last area involved a briefing by Sherif Gamal, from the Federal Highway Administration's Office of International Programs (OIP). The OIP has an extensive international technology exchange program and they are willing to work with the IAC to assist us with our international partnerships.

Finally, the IAC has established an ambitious work program for this year. We have active task forces with Australia, Mexico, and Slovakia. We will be exploring the expansion of the Slovakia task force to include neighboring countries. We are also looking at possible alliances with Saudi Arabia and Russia. We will continue to support attendance by APWA delegates to conferences of our partnering countries and we will be working with our Mexico partners to expand their participation in the 2003 Congress in San Diego.

In closing, the IAC would like to encourage our members to read the articles on international activities in the APWA Reporter and to watch for the sessions we have scheduled for the 2002 Congress.

Jerry Fay can be reached at (602) 508-6623 or at jfay@hdrinc.com.