McHale announces grant support for binational centers, creation of "American Spaces"

Speaking last week at a conference of the Association of Binational Centers in Latin America (ABLA) in Cali, Colombia, Judith McHale, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, stressed that binational centers, or BNCs*, are an integral part of U.S. public diplomacy and that the establishment of “American Spaces” are essential to moving “beyond the walls of our embassies.”

McHale announced during her speech that the Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs would further fund the growth and programming of BNCs:

We have strengthened our grants program in support of BNCs. This year we doubled grants to BNCs, providing over $1.3 million to more than 30 different BNCs in 15 countries. These grants cover infrastructure and equipment, library collections, and -- for the first time -- cultural programs.

McHale also noted that the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) would “support the growth of American Spaces, including BNCs, as centers of learning and showcases of America.” Earlier this year, McHale’s office established a Working Group on American Spaces, which concluded, “We need to move beyond the walls of our embassies to speak with people from all backgrounds and walks of life.” McHale said that she plans to have an office of American Spaces in IIP “up and running in the next few months and we will be in touch with our Embassies and the BNCs to explain how that office will help serve your needs.”

[*NOTE: BNCs are autonomous, foreign institutions dedicated to the promotion of mutual understanding between the host country and the United States. These institutions were at one point directed and funded by the U.S. Information Agency, but now are wholly independent institutions. The Department of State’s Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau hosted a conference last summer on “Re-launching the Partnership” between BNCs and the State Department.]