Determined to make a fresh start in relations between the U.S. and Russia, Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitriy Medvedev created, during their meeting in Moscow in July 2009, the U.S.-Russia Presidential Commission. Its purpose is to improve coordination between our governments and our peoples, to address shared challenges, and to develop new partnerships in areas of mutual interest.
The commission is made up of sixteen working groups, each dedicated to identifying common problems and areas for cooperation. The Commission’s agenda is broad and ambitious, covering diverse issues such as nuclear energy and counterterrorism, and drug trafficking, to business development, science and technology, and education and culture. The broad-based Civil Society working group aims to bring together non-governmental organizations, community groups, advocates, and individuals in the United States and Russia to share experiences and develop collaborative solutions to problems faced by both Russians and Americans. Its first meetings have focused on migration issues, prison reform, anti-corruption, and preventing the exploitation and trafficking of children.
In addition to engagement through the Civil Society Working Group, citizen organizations from both countries have met during parallel Civil Society-to-Civil Society Summits, held in July 2009 and in late June. These summits were convened on the margins of the official working meetings between President Obama and President Medvedev.
This year’s Civil Society Summit included an Innovation Marketplace, which allowed participants to explore how technology can be helpful in spurring innovative approaches to serve the public, improve free flow and access to information and advance societal change.
Speaking to Civil Society Summit participants, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted that civil society is critical to democracy. “We need creative, committed, courageous organizations to find innovative solutions, to expose corruption, to give voice to the voiceless, to hold governments accountable to their citizens, to keep people informed and engaged on the issues that matter most to them.”
The Secretary praised the efforts of civil society organizations to share best practices and to develop new avenues of collaboration, citing the example of a Russian text4baby model, a new initiative developed by Russian and American NGOs to provide health information to new mothers through SMS texting.
"We will continue to seek ways to support and expand your work," said Secretary Clinton. "And we are very excited and very hopeful about what we can do together. I think that the potential is just enormous, and we cannot grow weary making progress together."