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International horizons.

The GFOA International Relations Task Force, Formed in 1988, has matured in 1991 to a full-fledged committee whose major goals are:

* prefessional education;

* networking with finance officials and others from foreign countries;

* learning about and sharing innovations with finance officials; and

* helping finance officers in the United States and Canada develop skills to compete in a global economy.

Pursuing these goals, the GFOA has identified and communicated with several organizations representing finance professionals in other countries, including Israel, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Officials from Israel and Egypt have been hosted at GFOA annual conferences, while members and staff have received visitors from a variety of countries. Government Finance Review participates by regularly publishing articles on international affairs. At the 1991 annual conference, global perspectives were spotlighted at a session devoted to worldwide trade issues and the development of export promotion programs.

The initial scope of the committee was to interact with English speaking or Western European countries; however, given recent political and economic developments and the changes in Eastern Europe that were unimaginable only a few years ago, that scope has broadened considerable.

Through the initiatives of the committee and of many other interested members, the GFOA has become a successful player in teaching and learning activities with finance professionals and governmental officials in the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe. Executive Board member Lynn Hampton tought public finance at a seminar in the Soviet Union for local government officials under the auspices of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. In the summer of 1991, GFOA member Leah April, senior budget analyst with Loudoun County, Virginia, traveled to the City of Czestochowa, Poland, at the inviation of local government officials. As a volunteer consultant on personal leave from her government position, whe provided on-site training and technical assistance in techniques of budgeting and financial management to the staff of that industrial city of some 250,000 inhabitants.

GFOA staff is assisting the United States Agency for International Development on a cooperative initiative to help the Polish people reestablish democratic self-government at the local level. The goal of the project is to develop the organization and management capacity of 15 Regional Training Centers which will serve as resource centers for local governments. These centers are being disigned to provide information derived from solutions responsive to local conditions and successfully adapted in other regions or municipalities. GFOA is assisting with development of a local finance and budgeting training program and educational materials for these centers.

The most organized group interaction focusing on a range of public finance concerns has been, perhaps, the September 1991 delegation of government finance professionals who visited the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia as part of the Citizen Ambassador Program. The chairwoman of the GFOA International Relations Committee served as the leader of this group, most of whom were GFOA members. In the personal account of the trip accompanying this article, she tells of their professional encounters and lasting impressions offering this concluding thought:

So the task before all of us is to move toward a better understanding of other economic, legal and political structures. We will learn, as the delegation members did, that there are other ways of doing things, some better than on our own ways. There are other values and other cultures to be embraced, and in turn we enrich our own. But the hopes and dreams are the same, to live "za mir e drusba," in peace and friendship.

Bonnie Kraft, a former member of the GFOA Executive Board, helped launch GFOA's International Relations Task Force in 1988. She is management services director for the City of Gresham, Oregon.
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Title Annotation:Profiling GFOA; Government Finance Officers Association's international activities; includes related article
Author:Kraft, Bonnie R.
Publication:Government Finance Review
Date:Feb 1, 1992
Words:606
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