Public Diplomacy

For the first time in 15 years, an increasing number of people worldwide are learning German as a foreign language, the ICEF Monitor reports. According to the results of the 2015 “Deutsch als Fremdsprache weltweit” (German as a foreign language worldwide) survey, conducted every five years, 15.4 million individuals across the globe are currently studying German.

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As a direct result of her experience as a participant in the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program, a young Afghan woman has dedicated herself to educating and empowering women in her home country, Public Radio International reports.

The Japanese government will invest $15 million to support Japanese studies at nine U.S. universities, reports University World News, noting that the funding decision was reaffirmed during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent week-long official visit to the U.S.

At the Summit of the Americas last week, Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the importance of educational exchanges in economic development:

“… [E]ducation more so than ever before, is the ladder of opportunity for people all across the planet… It is why President Obama launched 100,000 Strong in the Americas.”

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.

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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.”

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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.” 

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