The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has a steadfast and enduring commitment to safety and security. This commitment extends not only to U.S. citizens and diplomats overseas, but also to the thousands of participants from every sector of society who participate in educational and cultural exchange programs abroad and here in the United States.
On February 26, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Jennifer Zimdahl Galt hosted a dialogue with ECA cooperative partners and sponsors that administer exchange programs to discuss how to continue to strengthen efforts to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of exchange participants.
During the webinar, Ambassador Galt reaffirmed the paramount importance of keeping all exchange participants safe and reinforced a culture of accountability across partner organizations. She said: “Ensuring the safety and security of more than 300,000 exchange participants a year is a weighty responsibility; it is one that I take to heart each and every day and that requires our collective, sustained focus. We must continuously strive, working together, toward that goal.”
Safety and security considerations are infused in every step of the Department’s implementation of exchange programs. Safety and security continues through all phases of the program including pre-departure and arrival briefings, monitoring and oversight, 24/7 hotlines, health benefits programs, and providing active, skilled and compassionate responses when emergencies arise.
“We want every exchange participant who has a problem to feel comfortable reaching out to their host employers and sponsor, to know that their concerns will be taken seriously, to report incidents without fear of retaliation, and to receive the best qualified assistance as quickly as possible,” said Ambassador Galt. “No exchange participant – wherever they are in the world – should ever be alone without recourse.”
Participants, or anyone concerned about a participant, can contact the State Department at any time via the hotline 1-866-283-9090 or at firstname.lastname@example.org with concerns about health, safety, or welfare.
Together, the Department, cooperative partners, and sponsors are striving to strengthen and improve safety and security measures to ensure the best experience possible for exchange participants and their American communities.