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09DUSHANBE100 2009-01-23 12:29:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Dushanbe
Cable title:  

Mission Mutual Understanding Goal

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1. Introduction and Summary: A recent review of the Mission
Strategic Plan provided a snapshot of what we achieved in the last
year and our top priorities looking ahead. This is the fourth cable
to provide a goal-by-goal look of what Embassy Dushanbe is doing. In
our mutual understanding goal all elements of the Mission work to
create greater public understanding of U.S. values and foreign
policy objectives; to increase Tajik exposure to American society
and values; and to create English speakers ready for the challenges
of regional and global integration. In 2008 we increased the number
of students studying in the United States, and increased press
coverage of U.S. activities and positions in the press, and expanded
our outreach to a number of audiences. We started a very successful
summer camp program. In 2009 we will open two American corners,
launch a new website design, and with added staff expand education
and outreach programs. End introduction and summary.


2. We saw a significant increase in applicants for UGRAD, Muskie and
FLEX exchange programs, up by more than 5%, and in visitors to our
information resource center, which were up from 1840 to 2400. Visits
to our website were up 32% and we averaged 6.72 reports about
Mission activity or placements of state Department articles per week
in Tajik media. Inviting journalists to join the Ambassador and DCM
during trips to Tajikistan's regions and issuing press releases
about our activities ensured media attention and public awareness of
our assistance. (Local press reported that the United States
contributed the most assistance to Tajikistan, 33.2% of the total.)
With an additional American officer we were able to coordinate
regular outreach out by all mission personnel to meet more people in
diverse venues on a variety of subjects including large university
audiences. We launched our English Teaching Mentor program to
provide yearlong, and much needed pedagogical instruction to 20
motivated teacher-trainers. We started Youth Enrichment Program
camps for 140 young Tajiks in rural, conservative regions and shared
with them positive messages about America. We created a listserv to
enable anyone to get program announcements automatically, rather
than relying on Embassy staff to send them. We increased public and
press outreach for consular and visa issues.

Selected 2009 Goals

3. In 2009 we plan to open two new American Corners to serve as
resource centers in Khorog in the remote, mountainous Gorno
Badakshan Autonomus area and in the southern regional center of
Qurghon-Teppa. To meet the demand of the youthful clientele, our
Corners will begin to offer basic educational advising to give more
Tajik youth the chance to qualify for scholarships at U.S.
institutions. We received funding to add three FSN positions, which
will allow us to focus more resources on press, English language
programs and our website. We will launch a redesigned Website and
upgrade and maintain it to provide timely, authoritative information
about U.S. policies. We will offer 20 more Tajik English teachers
intensive, yearlong mentoring and repeat the successful summer camps
for Tajik youth. Post will advocate for the establishment of Peace
Corps in Tajikistan to demonstrate democratic values of
self-sufficiency and community service and expand English language
instruction into rural areas.

Major Challenges and Opportunities

4. Limited infrastructure is a serious problem! Lack of internet
Q4. Limited infrastructure is a serious problem! Lack of internet
access, power shortages, and bad roads mean that simply connecting
with Tajik citizens either electronically or physically is a
challenge. Likewise independent media, represented mostly by weekly
newspapers with circulations of 5,000, have a limited reach, while
television and radio licenses are firmly controlled by the
government for official media. Most Tajiks get their news and
information from Russian satellite channels; without access to a
similar network, countering Russian "black propaganda" is not
possible. A struggling economy increases the number while reducing
the quality of visa applicants, raising our refusal rate. We had to
hire and assume direct supervision of American Corner coordinators
after corrupt officials tried to skim off funds from the modest
operating budgets. Security services have begun to target Fulbright
students and American language students. On the positive side, last
year, for the first time, the Tajik Government permitted us to speak
about American life and values in any university. We added a second
English Language Fellow position in Khujand, which is increasing our
ability to provide support to programs in the north including
invigorating the American Corner.