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Senate Foreign Relations Committee Approves Legislation To Create A Professional Exchange Program With Muslim-Majority Countries

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee today passed legislation written by Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) to establish a professional exchange program between the United States and Muslim-majority countries. The International Professional Exchange Act will help build professional capacity, strengthen civil society, and improve ties between the United States and Muslim-majority countries at a pivotal moment.

“Educational exchange programs like the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program trained and inspired generations of global leaders and deepened ties across the world. The International Professional Exchange Act would build on this legacy by establishing the next phase -- exchange programs for young professionals. Through this program, participants will develop valuable work skills while learning what life in their host country is all about. These experiences will help energize a new generation of leaders and lay the groundwork for improved relations between the United States and Muslim-majority countries,” said Chairman Kerry, who introduced the bill in August 2010.

Under the International Professional Exchange Act, S.3688:

  • The U.S. Secretary of State is authorized to establish a three-year pilot program to help build professional capacity and contribute professional skills to local communities through a reciprocal 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 three and six 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. 
  • 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 employees of nonprofit organizations.
  • The U.S. Secretary of State will choose at least 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 program.



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