People-to-People Exchanges with Burma

Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
May 17, 2012

As the two governments strengthen their bilateral relationship, the United States seeks to build on its engagement with the people of Burma through increased people-to-people exchanges. More than 1,400 Burmese civil society members, young leaders, students, and journalists are alumni of U.S. government exchange programs.

American Center: The American Center in Rangoon is a popular and vibrant meeting place with over 16,000 current members and more than 175,000 total visitors per year. The heart of the American Center is the Baldwin Library, a lending and research library stocked with over 18,000 up-to-date books, journals, and other resources. The American Center offers courses in English to Burmese youth and adult learners, providing much-needed language skills to the Burmese people to compete in global markets. The American Center also offers a platform for discussion on current events, training for members of civil society, interaction with visiting American experts in a range of fields, and cultural events. The U.S. Mission runs a smaller American Space and library in Mandalay, Burma's second largest city.

Baldwin Library staff in the American Center train community librarians on how to establish and run small libraries, and regularly bring together library staff from across Burma for workshops. In March, the U.S. mission partnered with a large local charity to offer three days of basic library training for forty-two staff representatives from local libraries.

Building Youth Leadership: The Student Council at the American Center offers an important opportunity for Burmese youth to develop leadership skills. The Student Council organizes events and advises the Public Affairs Section on programs at the American Center. Also, the U.S. Mission offers Access scholarship programs to teach English to and share American culture with 150 underprivileged youth in four locations across Burma. Burmese undergraduates as well as scholars and teachers participate in Study of the U.S. Institutes on American campuses. The U. S. government supports several youth exchange programs, including the Burma Youth Leadership Program, which brought eighteen participants to the United States in May for a program focused on civic engagement and leadership. The Global Undergraduate Exchange program will place 12 Burmese university students at U.S. universities in 2012-2013.

Strengthening Women’s Leadership: The U.S. government focuses on the advancement of women and girls through a variety of training and leadership programs. This year, a Burmese woman leader is participating in the Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership, a public-private partnership between the Department and Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit. Several Burmese women participated in the Secretary’s inauguration of the Women in Public Service Project (WPSP), and will join the upcoming WPSP Summer Institutes in the United States.

Professional Exchanges: In FY 2012, the U.S. government will welcome 42 Burmese emerging leaders to the United States for professional exchanges, including 27 participants in the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), one of the Department of State's premier exchange programs. This year, the U.S. government will bring press and public relations staff from Burmese pro-democracy political parties on an IVLP program for exposure to managing media and public relations.

The Fulbright Program was reinstated in Burma in 2007 after a suspension of almost 20 years. For FY 2012, eight Burmese students will begin Fulbright programs in the United States to complete Masters Degrees in fields including Public Health, Public Policy, and International Relations. Under Fulbright auspices, five Humphrey Fellows will participate in a year of graduate level study and professional experience in the United States.

Journalist Training: The U.S. Mission brings journalism trainers to Burma to hold workshops that help local journalists at all levels hone their skills. Prior to the April 1 by-elections, a Fulbright Specialist in journalism conducted workshops on how to effectively cover local elections. Experienced American journalists have also consulted with local independent newspapers to help them improve their technical skills in photography and layout design.

Building Cultural Ties: In January 2012, three American documentary film experts visited Rangoon to conduct a two-week workshop for budding filmmakers. They also screened their films and led discussion groups.

Expanding Study Abroad: The U.S. Embassy offers educational advising and frequent public information sessions on the U.S. higher education system at the American Center in Rangoon and other locations throughout the country. According to the Open Doors report on international education, 796 Burmese students studied in the United States in 2010-2011, an increase from 695 in 2009-2010. Eighteen American students studied at the post-secondary level in Burma in 2009-2010, up from three in 2008-2009.

Alumni Programs: More than 1,400 Burmese are alumni of U.S. government exchange programs. Burma is home to the Myanmar-U.S. Friendship Exchange Alumni Association (MUSFEX) and the East-West Center Alumni Association. The State Department has financially supported several projects designed and implemented by exchange alumni, including a project that provides professionals, members of parliament, women, youth, and small entrepreneurs with resources to build legal capacity, enhance institutional governance, and facilitate adaption to political change. Another alumni project on the “Prevention of Teenage Marriage” brought together the Myanmar Council of Churches and 72 youth leaders from twenty organizations, including ethnic groups and religious associations.

PRN: 2012/781