Dr. Dan Davidson, president of the American Councils for International Education, testified last week in front of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, discussing the merits of people-to-people exchanges and their ability to foster “positive social and economic changes.” He urged the subcommittee to increase support for exchanges in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, recent areas of conflict.
Earlier this month, Mexico and the United Kingdom (U.K.), signed a mutual qualifications recognition agreement aimed at increasing student mobility between the two nations, the Pie News reports. The treaty will permit the use of academic qualifications, for work or study, for up to 170,000 students.
Five former U.S. ambassadors to Germany believe that the decision to cut funding for the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange program (CBYX) by 50 per cent “runs contrary to U.S. interests”:
“At a time when our two countries need to work together more closely on numerous transatlantic and global issues, slashing this successful program is the wrong decision for German-American relations.”
In an interview with VICE, President Obama tackled the subject of ISIL and anti-terrorism by promoting ‘soft’ power initiatives:
“[We] can’t keep on thinking about counter terrorism and security as entirely separate from diplomacy, development, and education - all these things that are considered ‘soft,’ but in fact, are vital to our national security.”
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the Summer Work Travel (SWT) program, released this afternoon, commends the Department of State on its strengthened oversight of SWT, while acknowledging the public diplomacy value of this exchange program that brings up-and-coming leaders to the U.S. for summer cultural experiences.
Shifting current attitudes in the Middle East away from fear and towards trust-building is best accomplished through people-to-people exchange programs, according to Richard LeBaron, a retired U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait. LeBaron suggests that in order to counter terrorism, we need only look at the decade long studies of the roots of radicalization coupled with serious consideration of exchanges as strategic tools rather than “a nice thing to do.”
Earlier today, Secretary of State John Kerry delivered opening remarks to the inaugural Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women/U.S. State Department entrepreneurship program. Through this initiative, 29 women from 15 Middle Eastern countries will take part in a 2-week seminar focused on entrepreneurial skills training.
Funding cuts to the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX), a bilateral exchange program supported jointly by the U.S. and Germany, are facing bipartisan criticism from members of Congress, as well as from the German government. In addition to opposition from CBYX program alumni, the cuts have “spawned an unusual coalition in Washington that is working hard to reverse the partial defunding of the program,” Deutsche Welle reports.
Exchanges are a strategic imperative to current national security goals, according to Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan. Assistant Secretary Ryan specifically referenced the importance of the State Department’s educational and cultural exchanges, English language learning, and cultural heritage preservation efforts as key to current anti-ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS) efforts.
Secretary of State John Kerry, throughout the past two days, testified before several congressional committees with regard to the President’s FY16 State Department budget request.