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Chairman Kerry Introduces Legislation To Create A Professional Exchange Program With Muslim-Majority Countries

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) introduced the International Professional Exchange Act of 2010, which will establish a two-way professional exchange program between the United States and select Muslim-majority countries to promote career development and cross-cultural understanding for young to mid-career professionals. During his speech in Cairo last year, President Obama called for a new beginning between the United States and the world’s Muslims and committed to creating “a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries.”

“Today we stand at the crest of a demographic wave that will transform the early 21st century,” said Chairman Kerry. “Many societies are grappling with enormous economic strains as they struggle to keep up with the demands of a growing population. We need to meet these challenges head-on. This legislation is designed to help build professional capacity, strengthen civil society, and improve ties between the United States and Muslim-majority countries through a two-way exchange of professional fellows.”

“By targeting professionals like teachers, city planners, and public health workers, this program can be a valuable step in bolstering workforces around the globe. And by encouraging public-private partnerships, this program can help unite our institutions, governments, businesses, and charities around a common cause,” continued Chairman Kerry.

“After World War II, leaders such as Senator J. William Fulbright recognized the value of building bridges through academic exchanges. While the program began modestly in 1946, today some 300,000 men and women proudly call themselves ‘Fulbrighters,’ including 40 Nobel Prize winners and 20 heads of state. The  International Professional Exchange Act of 2010 builds on the legacy of the Fulbright program by emphasizing the next step: exchange programs for young professionals,” concluded Chairman Kerry. “I urge my colleagues in the Senate to seize this opportunity and unanimously approve this legislation just as the Fulbright Program passed in 1946.”   

Under the  International Professional Exchange Act of 2010 ( S. 3688):

  • The U.S. Secretary of State is authorized to establish a 3 year pilot program to help build professional capacity and contribute professional skills to local communities through a two-way exchange of fellows between the United States and select Muslim-majority countries. The program does not exclude non-Muslims from participating in the exchange.
  • Fellowships will last between 3 and 6 months, including time for relevant orientation, training, community service, and cultural and professional immersion.  The majority of the Fellow’s time will be spent in a position that complements the Fellow’s professional background and builds relevant professional skill sets. To the extent possible, Americans going abroad as Fellows should be placed with local companies, local governments, and civil society organizations. Each Fellow will receive a certificate upon completion of the program.  
  • Fellows will be between 21 and 40 years of age.  Americans will be selected to go overseas, and participants from Muslim-majority countries will be selected to come to the United States.  These experiences will lead to greater cross-cultural understanding that will be important as the Fellows move through their careers and assume greater responsibility.
  • Fellows will be selected from a variety of professional backgrounds with a preference for individuals who work in the public sector, including teachers, urban/city planners, public health workers, and public administrators; or civil society, including journalists, faith-based leaders, interfaith leaders and those working in nonprofit organizations.
  • The U.S. Secretary of State will choose four to seven Muslim-majority countries to partner with, paying careful attention to geographic diversity.
  • The U.S. Secretary of State is encouraged to form public-private partnerships to support program costs and goals; to build alumni networks to foster long-term relationship building among Fellows; and to use communications technology to train Fellows and provide networking opportunities.
  • The U.S. Secretary of State will submit an annual report to Congress that describes the administration and outcomes of the Fellowship.

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