Citizen diplomacy, or public diplomacy, is the grassroots of foreign relations. Traditional diplomacy takes place between states, whereas public diplomacy occurs in person-to-person contact between citizens of different countries. The interaction of citizens – whether professionals, volunteers, students or travelers – helps shape public opinion and understanding. In this era of globalization and the increasing engagement of private citizens in international business, citizen diplomats have more opportunity and more responsibility than ever before.
While citizen diplomacy often occurs in independent, private initiatives, the U.S. government also recognizes its importance to U.S. foreign relations and national security. For this reason, the U.S. government has long supported programs like the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), Peace Corps, youth exchanges, fellowships, and others. Such programs are long-term investments, impacting individuals and communities in the U.S. and abroad over time.
WorldBoston is proud to have implemented local public diplomacy initiatives since 1961, when the organization was founded as the Boston Center for International Visitors. We continue in our efforts by fostering international exchanges such as the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program and other professional exchange programs. You can learn more about IVLP, our visitors, and how you can become a citizen diplomat in the Boston area.
Video: “Expand Your World” citizen diplomacy video featuring Michelle Kwan, originally posted by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
The problem is for people to get together and to leap governments…to work out not one method but thousands of methods by which people can gradually learn a little bit more of each other…I am talking about the exchange of professors and students and executives, the providing of technical assistance, and of the ordinary traveler abroad. I am talking about doctors helping in the conquering of disease, of free labor unions showing other people how they work…In this way, I believe, is the truest path to peace.”
-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 11 September 1956