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Cultural Exchanges: Strengthening Ties between the U.S. and the World

Background on Cultural Exchange Advocacy

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) at the State Department is responsible for our nation’s public diplomacy activities including international cultural exchange programs. Within ECA is the Cultural Programs Division of the Office of Citizen Exchanges. This division focuses on cultural diplomacy, arts exchanges, and collaboration. Its programs share the rich artistic traditions of the United States in the visual and performing arts, film, arts education, arts management, and cultural studies with nations abroad.

The Cultural Programs Division provides grant opportunities to U.S. nonprofits for cultural exchange activities; residencies, mentoring, and training programs; programs sponsored by U.S. Embassy public diplomacy offices; and presentations at major international visual arts exhibitions and cultural centers. Support for cultural exchange and cultural diplomacy has never fully recovered from the elimination of the United States Information Agency (USIA) and its Arts America Program in 1999.

PAA continues to advocate with the broader arts and exchanges community for appropriations and increased capacity for the cultural programs division, for research and evaluation on the impact of cultural diplomacy, and for increased outreach and transparency about cultural exchange programs.

See the Cultural Exchanges Issue Brief for background information and talking points about What’s At Stake.

What We're Asking For Right Now

We urge Congress to:

  • Appropriate $115 million to the Office of Citizen Exchanges at the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs within the FY 2021 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill.
  • Direct the State Department to dedicate increased resources to--and increase operational capacity within--the Cultural Programs Division's arts diplomacy programs.
  • Encourage the State Department to evaluate and publicly report on the impact, value, and success of arts diplomacy as part of its strategies to build cross-cultural understanding.
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Recent Activity

Senate Appropriators Finish State Dept. Bill; House Begins Discussions

At the end of June, the Senate Appropriations Committee met to mark up the FY17 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs bill. This bill contains funding for cultural exchange programs in the Office of Citizen Exchanges. The Office is within the State Dept.’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

The committee recommended $107.69 million for the Office of Citizen Exchanges, an increase of $5.69 million over FY16. The overall recommendation for ECA is $627.8 million, a $36.89 million increase over FY16. The next step for this bill is consideration by the full Senate.

On July 6, the House Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its version of the bill. A draft released before the markup showed a recommendation of $112 million for the Office of Citizen Exchanges. This would be $4.31 million more than recommended by Senate appropriators and $10 million more than FY16. The draft also showed an overall recommendation of $602.79 million for ECA, which would be $11.89 million over FY16. The next step for this bill is consideration by the full House Appropriations Committee.

The amounts reported for the Office of Citizen Exchanges represent the total funding for a variety of exchange programs, including arts, sports, and youth programs. Federal budgets do not indicate totals for each individual program. PAA and arts advocates are asking for at least $110 million for the Office of Citizen exchanges in FY17.

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