Emerging leaders from Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) get ready for UK residential programme

Were delighted to welcome 11 emerging leaders from the EECCA region to the John Smith Fellows’ community. These inspiring young professionals are taking part in our first Fellowship Programme since 2019 and are now preparing to come to the UK.  

John Smith Trust runs fellowship programmes that give exceptional young professionals the chance to gain detailed insights into the values, ways of working and challenges faced by people and institutions in the UK, the solutions we’ve tried and what we’ve learned.  

This year, our programme is in a new, hybrid format with two components: a series of online workshops, followed by a residential programme in the UK in March. 

Our new Fellows are currently preparing for their 12-day residential programme. A jam-packed schedule of events includes meetings with notable UK figures, senior politicians, civil servants and grassroots activists. Fellows will spend a day at Westminster and at Holyrood, where they will meet with the First Minister, Humza Yousaf 

Director of the John Smith Trust, Maija Paasiaro, says: “We are excited to welcome a new cohort of Fellows to the UK and to re-launch the fellowship programme after a hiatus following the pandemic.” 

Celebrating John Smith’s legacy 

As the Fellows will be in Edinburgh on International Women’s Day, they will join an evening to celebrate women in public life and mark 30 years of the legacy of John Smith QC MP. The event is jointly organised by John Smith Trust, the John Smith Centre and the Faculty of Advocates and brings together three inspiring women connected by John Smith’s memory – Helena Kennedy KC, Lesia Vasylenko MP and Leah Duncan-Karrim – in conversation about building fairer, safer and more equitable societies for women and girls.  

Building leadership skills 

In the run up to their visit to the UK, Fellows have been taking part in a series of online sessions to hone their leadership skills and increase their understanding of UK institutions and policy making processes. They have already joined sessions including one on challenges in the policymaking process by the Institute for Government and one on public speaking and debating skills with Alex Just, trustee and governor of the English-Speaking Union, in preparation for a show debate which Fellows will take part in while they’re in Scotland. 

Sharing expertise 

The Fellows are also working with the John Smith Trust team to fine-tune their action plans before they meet relevant experts in the UK. These action plans are policy ideas which Fellows will implement in their home countries and are related to their own field of expertise in one of our thematic areas: climate and sustainability, governance and justice, equality, diversity and inclusion. Previous years’ John Smith Fellows will also provide advice and support on the best way to fulfil their action plan.

New John Smith Fellows 

Our new cohort comes from diverse backgrounds, including law, business and finance, journalism and the NGO sector. They support values of democracy, better governance, social justice and climate action in their countries. 

Among them is Gulkhanim Mammadova – a researcher from Azerbaijan, currently based at the think tank Topchubashov Center in Baku. For her action plan, she hopes to promote a gender-sensitive approach to conflict resolution through a new platform providing a safe, supportive space where women can engage in dialogue. Gulkhanim says of her plans, “I’m committed to empowering women in the process of peacebuilding between countries.”   

Another of our new Fellows, Ilie Chirtoaca, is executive director of the Legal Resources Centre in Moldova – a non-governmental, non-profit organisation which seeks to strengthen democracy and the rule of law in Moldova. Ilie’s action plan builds on his work at the Legal Resources Centre. “We want to have an accountable and robust justice system in Moldova. That’s what I’m working on”, he says. Specifically, Ilie hopes to make the process for judicial appointments more transparent and effective.