Another full and exciting year for the International Affairs Committee

Jerry Fay
National Program Director for Public Works
Phoenix, Arizona
Chair, International Affairs Committee

As I write this article I am surprised at how fast my two years as chair of the International Affairs Committee (IAC) have passed and how much has been accomplished during that time. The members of the IAC and the three task forces—the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia (IPWEA), the Asociacion de Municipios de Mexico (AMMAC) and the Slovak Public Works Association (SPWA)—have made my tenure a thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable experience. The following recap of the past year's accomplishments is a testimony to their dedication and hard work in furthering international cooperation in public works. It has also been gratifying to have the backing of the APWA Board of Directors and to have again received their letter of support for the continuation of our international activities for the upcoming year. In this letter the Board commended the International Affairs Committee and the International Task Forces on their work toward their goals.

Of the many achievements over the past year there are two that stand out. The first is the reinstitution of the Jennings Randolph International Fellowship Program, funded through the Eisenhower World Affairs Institute. Randolph said, "Public works is a powerful instrument for understanding and peace." With that in mind, this program will provide an opportunity for APWA members to broaden their knowledge and to exchange experiences and information on trends and advances in public works through contacts with international partners; in addition, it will promote friendship and understanding among public works' staffs on a global basis. The program will enable APWA members to present public works/infrastructure-related papers at APWA's international partnership countries' public works conferences. For more information on the Fellowship Program see the following article and visit the APWA website.

The second notable achievement is the establishment of sessions at the upcoming 2003 Congress that will have simultaneous translation into Spanish. This first-ever, simultaneous translation of Congress sessions was made possible by the AMMAC Task Force and through the generosity of the APWA Board of Directors; by funding this program the Board acknowledges the value and importance of our relationship with Mexico. I would like to especially recognize Julio Fuentes, the AMMAC Task Force chair, for his work in developing this program. It includes not only a daily track of technical sessions but also all four general sessions. In addition, a special brochure in Spanish was also developed to promote the Congress through AMMAC.

Along with this pair of highlights was a variety of significant activities that took place throughout the year. Visits to our international partners again played an important role. In April, President Marty Manning represented APWA at the SPWA Spring Conference in Senica, Slovaka. Marty met with SPWA President Petra Benes and his board to discuss ways to strengthen our relationship. They focused on pursuing active participation and presentations at one another's annual conferences, providing a reciprocal exchange program for public works managers and looking for opportunities for vendors to participate in SPWA's Annual Conference.

In May a delegation of APWA members, including President Manning and myself, attended the AMMAC Congress in Tijuana. This Congress was unique because it was co-sponsored by the Mexico Construction Chamber. Through the San Diego chapter we acted as a U.S. sponsor for AMMAC for the purposes of obtaining Fair Trade Certification by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Fair Trade Certification provides substantial benefits with regard to AMMAC's relationship with the U.S., and the APWA Board of Directors has now formally approved APWA's Fair Trade Certification sponsorship of AMMAC permanently. Meetings were held with AMMAC representatives to discuss our partnership, and AMMAC Task Force members made presentations on issues related to transportation, solid waste and desalinization. With our proximity to Mexico we are expecting a large contingent of AMMAC members to attend the San Diego Congress.

One issue that has arisen with the ongoing development of the IAC is the difficulty of funding the travel of our International Partners. Fortunately, the Texas Chapter has issued a challenge to all chapters to assist in financing visits by our international colleagues. They have put up $1,000 to establish a fund for international travel. Other chapters have already begun to meet the challenge. I urge all chapters to participate in this very worthwhile endeavor, and I compliment the Texas Chapter for their initiative and interest in supporting our international activities.

After getting off to a slow start, it appears that our agreement with the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) to work collaboratively on international issues is gaining momentum. Two APWA members traveled to Bulgaria to work on stormwater management issues and recently ICMA requested engineering professionals who are willing to relocate immediately to Iraq to help with the rebuilding. Assignments are anticipated to be three to twelve months long. We have alerted our membership through APWA's InfoNOW Communities and we are already receiving responses.

Other accomplishments over the past year include a diverse series of articles in the APWA Reporter. Topics have included the benefits of international collaboration, stormwater practices and asset management in Australia, the new airport proposed in Mexico City and the response to the floods in Prague. Each Reporter also included facts regarding international relations and communication.

Looking toward the future, the IAC and the Task Forces have again developed an excellent lineup of sessions for the San Diego Congress. Topics include: 1) cultural etiquette in the work place, a program that will discuss cultural differences in business relationships with other countries, 2) responses based on the experiences in the Czech and Slovak Republics regarding the major floods in August of 2002, 3) how former communist countries in Central Europe are developing unique ways to provide infrastructure services, and 4) a new airport for Mexico City that will look at the environmental and political challenges to siting an airport. The IAC will for the second year host an International Guest Reception and for the first time sponsor an International Roundtable on international issues, facilitated by Jimmy Foster.

The preceding are just some of the accomplishments of the IAC and the Task Forces. If space allowed more could be added, along with a list of the names of the members who made these achievements possible. Instead, I would like to recognize the members collectively for their hard work and dedication. And I would also like to commend our APWA staff liaison, Kaye Sullivan, and her staff for the outstanding support they have provided the IAC. As I turn over the reins to next year's chair, Jimmy Foster, I would like to thank all of the IAC and Task Force members for their friendship and support and to wish Jimmy the best as he leads the IAC over the next year.

Jerry Fay can be reached at (602) 508-6623 or at

APWA relaunches Jennings Randolph International Fellowship Program

The APWA International Affairs Committee is pleased to announce the rejuvenation of the Jennings Randolph International Fellowship Fund. This fund was originally established by the APWA International Public Works Federation (IPWF) at the Eisenhower World Affairs Institute in May of 1987. Since 1995, the fund has not been utilized.

It is the intent of the International Affairs Committee (IAC) to award up to two fellowships per year, beginning in 2004, for APWA members to travel to countries with which APWA has formal international partnerships with other public works associations.

The criterion for the program is as follows:

APWA members will present public works/infrastructure-related papers at APWA's international partnership countries' public works-related conferences; coupled with typically a one-week or more extended study tour of public works facilities in that country; and a paper regarding that tour presented at the next available APWA Congress and other professional organizations; and preparation of an article in the APWA Reporter.

APWA anticipates that the registration for the host conference will be complimentary and the host country will provide housing for the grant recipient either through a hotel or home hosting. The fellowship will cover the cost of travel to and from the specified country.

APWA international partner conferences are generally held as follows:

  • Slovakia Public Works Association (SPWA) — April of every year
  • Asociacion de Municipios de Mexico, A.C. (AMMAC) — May of every year
  • Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia (IPWEA) — August of every odd year
At this time, it is the intention that fellowships be made available for attendance at the IPWEA and SPWA conferences every second year and the AMMAC conference annually. The Jennings Randolph Fellowship will be awarded on the basis of funding available each year through interest earned in the fund without taking the fund below $50,000. Some years may be more lucrative than others and the committee hopes to be able to award more than one fellowship per year.

A desirable option to this program is to arrange for a member exchange with the specified partner country to exchange members between cities. In doing so, the exchanging members would each be hosted in a residence (with meals included) in their respective cities for up to two weeks, with the first week at the host's conference and the second week studying an aspect of public works in that country.

For additional information and an application form, please access APWA's website at and locate an e-brochure about the program on the "About APWA" page. Or you may contact Kaye Sullivan, APWA Deputy Executive Director, at (800) 848-APWA, ext. 3523 or To be eligible for 2004 fellowships, applications must be received at APWA headquarters by 5:00 p.m., Central on October 15, 2003. The successful applicant(s) will be notified by January 15, 2004.


The impact of socio-cultural differences on cross-cultural communication
The world is becoming smaller. Cross-cultural communication is much more important today than it was perceived to be twenty or thirty years ago. It is also much more complex. We in North America have learned to think, feel, believe, and strive for what our respective cultures consider proper. Language, friendships, communication practices, eating habits, economic influences, political influences, social acts, and technology all influence cross-cultural communication. Culture and communication are considered by many to be inseparable.

In the book Understanding Intercultural Communication, the authors identified a spectrum of socio-cultural differences that influence communication. For example, which of the following would you consider to be the most extreme cultural difference when attempting cross-cultural communication? (The answer can be found at the end of this article.)

(a) U.S. American/British,
(b) U.S. American/Greek, or
(c) White Anglo-American/Reservation Indian.

People may speak the same language, share the same general religion, or live in similar geographical areas, but their worldviews can be dramatically different. These different worldviews will influence communication.

[Answer: (b)]

Cultural Proverbs:

"The beginning is the half of every action." — Greek Proverb

"Don't throw away the old bucket until you know whether the new one holds water." — Swedish Proverb

"A man is not where he lives, but where he loves." — Latin Proverb