Year in Review: Educational and Cultural Affairs

Posted by Ann Stock
January 3, 2012

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) had a busy and exciting 2011, marked by a bevy of accomplishments, quick responses to foreign policy challenges, and a swath of new people-to-people exchange programs that help advance American standing and interests around the world.

Many of our most exciting programs responded to the needs and opportunities generated by changes in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia. Throughout these regions, ECA bolstered English teaching and the Fulbright Program. We also added new International Visitor Leadership Programs to give rising leaders in countries like Tunisia and Libya a look at American entrepreneurship and democratic, transparent governance.

Our cultural and historical preservation work also helped raise the U.S. profile abroad. For instance we restored the historical citadel of Herat, our largest-ever Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation project. ECA and Embassy Baghdad staff helped provide $650,000 in private funding for the Iraqi Institute for Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage. We also compiled a list of 242 critical heritage sites in Libya, which NATO safeguarded during its efforts there. And in Europe, Secretary Clinton signed an ECA-implemented bilateral agreement with Greece to protect its cultural heritage.

ECA also continued to advance its perennial mission of engaging with youth, women, and other underserved audiences. We were particularly excited by TechWomen, a new initiative that welcomed 37 women from the Middle East and North Africa to Silicon Valley technology companies for month-long mentorships with key women leaders. In partnership with the five leading U.S. women's colleges, we also launched the Women in Public Service Project, which aims to build a future where women are at least half of the world's political and civic leaders. ECA also celebrated the 100th university of International Women's Day in March with 100 women leaders from 92 countries, and we saw a second thrilling year begin with the African Women's Entrepreneurship Program.

On the youth outreach front, the State Department has welcomed high school and university students from all over the world, ranging from three dozen Brazilian Youth Ambassadors in January to almost 500 Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program participants at the end of their time in the U.S. this summer. We also introduced the new J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program website and are reforming and better monitoring the programs that bring foreign students to the United States on J-1 visas.
To boost our internal efforts, ECA launched several new public-private partnerships that expand our outreach and technical capabilities. These included mEnglish, an English-teaching software program for cell phones in Tunisia that came about with the help of a local NGO and Tunisia's largest mobile service provider, reaching millions of subscribers.

Another exciting partnership is with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. We teamed up with the Met to spread the show of respect for -- and interest in -- all cultures and faiths found in the recently reopened Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia. 270 U.S. embassies -- including 25 in the Arab world -- will display exhibit highlights, and our English-teaching classrooms will use the museum's educational materials.

ECA also managed the higher education, study abroad, and other academic components of strategic bilateral dialogues with Brazil, India, Indonesia, Russia, and others. We held exciting and productive higher education summits with India and Indonesia in Washington, D.C. and launched new programs and engagement efforts in each of these countries.

All in all, 2011 was a successful year for ECA and public diplomacy. Together, our programs helped the State Department to shape the foreign policy narrative and to foster mutual understanding among Americans and the international community.

When formal relationships between governments are tense, public diplomacy can often forge a way forward. ECA programs continue to support U.S. policy in high-priority countries: our programs are key parts of every major bilateral Strategic Dialogue, and the people-to-people connections that are at the heart of our mission strengthen and expand our relationships with our allies.

Comments

Comments

Buket E.
|
Turkey
January 3, 2012

Buket E. in Turkey writes:

Dear Madam,

I had the golden opportunity of participating in a Youth Leadership Program of ECA and AED in 2009. I can honestly say that I have learnt and achieved so far.I immediately started Youth Innovations and Entrepreneurship project in my school.Since then my young entrepreneurs and I have had many success stories.I appreciate your contribution to youth achievement in exploring the dimensions of economics,government and business. We are looking forward to more collaborations with you and global friends around the world.

Kind regards,
Buket E.

Peter T.
|
District Of Columbia, USA
January 4, 2012

Peter T. in Washington, D.C. writes:

Your blog fails to mention the Bureau's deeply unpopular effort to preclude American citizens from importing ancient coins widely available abroad or the fact that the public comment the Bureau solicited and then ignored was 70% opposed to the Bureau's efforts.

Eric H.
|
Maine, USA
January 10, 2012

Eric H. in Maine writes:

You forgot to mention the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps. There were gatherings and parties worldwide in 2011.

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