Citizen Diplomacy: Libya and KC Making History

Citizen Diplomacy: The Legacy of the International Visitor Leadership Program

Since its inception in 1940, the mission of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) has remained the same. As embassies examine their host societies, analyze trends, and attempt to identify future movers and shakers, the IVLP is one of our best tools for citizen diplomacy. This flagship US Department of State exchange program introduces current and future leaders to the United States, our diversity and complexity as a nation, and our core values of free speech, government transparency, and civil society engagement.

Unlike trade missions or formal diplomatic travel, IVLP has existed on the principles of mutual exchange and the sharing of best practices across borders. The program has historically created space for emerging international leaders to interact with their US counterparts in real, genuine ways, not bound by the rigidness of politics or business, but free to express themselves and their ideas completely. This is the pinnacle of citizen diplomacy.

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Bridging Cultures: Short-Term Exchanges Making History in Kansas City

From May 8-11, 2024, Global Ties KC welcomed one of the first International Visitor Leadership Programs from Libya in many years. Objectives of the program included illustrating the U.S. policy framework for advancing democracy and civic engagement in the digital age, and showcasing the multi-sector public partnerships that have been key to e-government, digital inclusion, and technology advancements in the U.S.

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Exploring Democracy in the Digital Age

The group included the Libyan Minister of Communications and Political Affairs, Mr. Walid Ellafi. He was joined by six advisors and members of his network, who were invited to the United States to explore information communication technology in Kansas City, and its important role in a functioning democracy. While in Kansas City, the delegation met with Google Fiber, the UMKC Cybersecurity Center, the KC Election Board, the Mid-America Regional Council and DEPO-KC, and Kansas City Mayor Pro Tem Ryana Parks-Shaw, and participated in the Global Ties KC annual Heartland Pop-Up. This came on the heels of their visit to Washington DC to meet with organizations such as the FCC.

Strengthening International Partnerships

While many American citizens still associate Libya with the Gaddafi-led dictatorship toppled in 2011, Libya has taken steps to democratize. Programs such as IVLP reinforce the value of relationship-building between leaders in Libya and the US, and the impact that comes from professional exchanges. On their visit to the United States, these leaders participated in discussions on the importance of free speech and its role in a functioning democracy, election administration, and of course digital transformation including digital community engagement, digital infrastructure, and cybersecurity.

They left the United States with a better understanding of information communication technology, but more importantly an understanding of values and structures important in fanning the flame of a growing democracy.