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Local Democracy in Poland (LDP) was established by Dr Joanna Regulska, professor of women’s and gender studies, in October, 1989 following the major political and economic reforms that began after 1989. LDP’s initial mission was to respond to the pressing need for pre- and post-election training of local officials involved in the first local elections.semi-free elections. LDP’s partner in Poland was the Foundation in Support of Local Democracy, a Polish non-governmental organization founded only two months earlier. LDP began with an award from the German Marshall Fund of the United States and went on to win many other awards from both private foundations such as The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the National Endowment for Democracy, and public agencies such as the Milwaukee County Courthouse, the United States Information Agency, the Agency for International Development. The grants provided LDP with the resources to begin with the prompt development of training materials, both audio-visual and text based, to address the rapidly emerging training needs at the local government level in Poland. Subsequent efforts focused on longer term leadership development. Candidates, elected officials, policy-makers and faculty members came to the US for visits and internships of shorter or longer duration; US experts, many of Polish origin themselves, went to Poland to offer workshops, courses, seminars and assist in the development of local government system with standards of transparency, efficacy, and public participation.
By the end of 1990s, Polish democracy was maturing and Polish local authorities became more and more independent, but help was needed by other countries of the region to build democracy. Consequently joint programs that aimed at transferring Polish experiences to other countries of central and eastern Europe were developed. New LDP projects involved women’s rights and women’s political participation and on higher education reform in central and east Europe. More recently LDP has focused on the Northern Caucasus, especially Georgia, engaging in active research on internally displaced persons (IDPs) (http://georgia.idp.arizona.edu/ ), mentoring of faculty members in Georgia, Russia and Uzbekistan, and assisting in the development of new academic programs and curriculum enhancement in women’s and gender studies.