= 10 reasons
that establish CBYX as one of the most renowned and unique international youth exchange programs.
not to cut US State Department funding for CBYX by 50%, but rather to maintain funding at the current $4M level.
The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) is an important instrument of foreign policy and public diplomacy that for more than 30 years has been jointly funded by the legislative bodies of both the United States and Germany.
The following 10 points emphasize the many facets of the program which make it unique. Each point alone would provide sufficient argument against the 50% budget cuts to CBYX (approximately $2M) currently proposed by the U.S. Department of State; the cuts would fundamentally affect a program that is one of the most outstanding exchange opportunities in existence.
The CBYX is one of the most renowned and unique international youth exchange programs because it is:
- Creating a Cornerstone of Transatlantic Relations
Created in 1983 in commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the first settlers from Germany in America, CBYX has been a symbol of the special relationship and close connections between the two countries for over 30 years. That relationship is rooted in historical and ongoing ties that link the two nations politically, economically, and culturally.
The substantial budget cut imposed by the State Department works against the foundation on which the program was built, namely the strengthening of bilateral relations and an understanding of our shared values. Not only that: a budget cut to this program in particular sends a strong message regarding the political and cultural significance of the German-American relationship at a time when solidarity, not a further shift away from each other, is necessary.
- Involving U.S. Congress and German Bundestag Representatives
CBYX emphasizes the idea of transatlantic solidarity, in that it directly involves hundreds of Representatives of the U.S. Congress and the German Bundestag each year in the selection and support of program participants throughout their exchange experiences. As such, Representatives are able to establish a direct link with their constituents and the host families, schools, and companies in their districts, who all benefit from this exchange. A funding cut would not only negatively affect the number of students who would be able to participate in the program every year, but would also significantly reduce the number of Representatives directly involved in the program. Hundreds of Representatives in both countries would lose their personal contact to the German-American partnership.
- Promoting reciprocal exchange and funding
In order to achieve the program’s goal of increased understanding between the peoples of the U.S. and Germany, CBYX was designed to be a 1:1 exchange. For each participant sent abroad, a participant from the partner country comes in, to promote the same level of understanding on both sides of the Atlantic. This principle of reciprocity is made possible by the funding structure of the program: each legislature finances an exchange of the same number of participants as the partner country. This bilateral sharing of funding means that a funding cut on the American side of the program automatically forces a cut on the German side. Funding cuts could therefore quickly spiral out of control. The German Bundestag has already indicated that it will reduce funding if the U.S. government does not restore previous funding levels. This threat of a funding cut on the German side, previously unheard of in this program, would paradoxically mean a reduction in the number of American participants who could take part in the exchange.
- Engaging Youth in Public Diplomacy
CBYX participants are selected and sent abroad explicitly with the purpose of acting as young ambassadors of their home country and culture. With this purpose in mind, they are prepared and trained to fill this role as young ambassadors with life every day of the exchange. Through their interactions with people from all facets of society in their host country, CBYX participants share the culture and values of their home society, promote a positive image of their country through the people they meet and through the media coverage they receive. A cut in funding would severely hurt the explicit public diplomacy mission that CBYX serves.
- Emphasizing Diversity
Closely tied to the role of citizen diplomacy is the importance emphasized by both legislatures that CBYX participants reflect the cultural diversity of their home countries. Participants come from diverse socio-economic, ethnic, educational, and regional backgrounds. Participants typically under-represented in opportunities abroad, including those with disabilities or who would otherwise not be able to partake in such a program due to their social or professional backgrounds, are especially encouraged to participate in CBYX. Thus, the program achieves a breadth and depth of participant diversity that cannot be found in any comparable programs.
This diversity is especially apparent in the case of the CBYX for Young Professionals program portion; by its small numbers, this very outstanding component of the CBYX is unfortunately especially susceptible to the State Department’s funding cut.
- Providing cultural, social, and professional immersion
CBYX places a strong emphasis on a holistic immersion experience to deepen the understanding for the host country’s culture. This is achieved over the course of a full year, through different phases and complementary program elements: living with a host family, attending school or university, intensive language training, and gaining professional experience in an internship. Another unique aspect of this program is that each participant volunteers their time outside of the above-mentioned activities to benefit their communities: charitable organizations, schools, religious institutions, environmental organizations, retirement homes, refugee housing, and other institutions all belong to the social organizations that benefit from CBYX volunteers, who seek out these opportunities on their own initiative to benefit their host communities.
- Sharing cost between public and private parties
The diversity of the CBYX program content necessitates the involvement of a wide array of individuals – mostly on a voluntary basis. This includes host families as well as countless supporters from schools, colleges, and institutions. Adding up the contributions of host families as well as the non-money services of all supporters and institutions listed, this would amount to about €2 million/year, which is currently applied in Germany as a private cost-sharing expense to benefit the program. On the U.S. side, participants, host families, host colleges, and host companies contribute a total of $2 million/year in expenses they pay personally, through tuition reduction, or compensation during internships. Thus, CBYX is a true public-private partnership, given all the various parties that invest in the program.
- Building and Multiplying German-American Networks
One of the main objectives of CBYX is to establish an extensive network of young people and young professionals, who create lasting transatlantic ties in the wake of their year-long stay in the host country. This goal supports the multifaceted and politically supported CBYX program structure, as well as the deliberately broad target group of young people between 15 and 24.
Currently 350 young people from each side of the Atlantic – both students and young professionals – participate in CBYX each year, accounting for a total of 700 annual participants.
Since the beginning of the program, over 23,000 young people from Germany and the United States have participated in the exchange. Maintaining the current levels of participants is essential to the scope and quality of the exchange and directly contributes to preserving a broad and sustainable transatlantic network.
Assuming that each participant tells 100 people in both their home country and/or host country about the CBYX program, the potential impact is 2.3 million Americans and 2.3 million Germans personally speaking with participants and hearing about their culture, language, politics, etc. – and not just once, but several times.
- Ensuring Sustainability in Transatlantic Relations
The goals of CBYX are designed to have lasting and sustainable effects. This is particularly achieved through self-initiated and self-funded alumni activities. Alumni continuously organize events to benefit German-American relations and are able to “pay the experience forward” in the form of hosting international exchange students and volunteering their time for CBYX. All of these aspects of the program contribute to its sustainability and to the lifelong commitment of its participants to the program goal of strengthening transatlantic relations.
- Supporting High-Potential Youth
CBYX promotes high potential at all levels – not just a small social elite. Today, a variety of CBYX alumni can be found as national and international leaders in politics, economics, culture, education, and society, thus guiding the future of both countries. These CBYX alumni are able to do this with the peculiar experience and perspective of a year-long exchange; an exchange that is not just like any other, but a transatlantic exchange that has existed, and still does, thanks to the special, shared vigilance of the political legislators of both countries.
These are the 10 points demonstrating the unique excellence of CBYX – in terms of its objectives, content, participants, and long-term success as a sustainable tool for the promotion and preservation of German-American relations.
These 10 points demonstrate why representatives of both countries agreed over 30 years ago to not only personally promote but also financially support the CBYX program.
A substantial unilateral reduction in the budget threatens to bring an end to this consensus. A reduction in funds – and thus number of participants – of 50% would have serious short and long-term consequences.
The planned budget cuts affect CBYX in its entirety – both its concept and objectives. Essential priorities and goals that are associated with the program would be called into question. The unilateral reduction will have exponential consequences and could affect the future of the program as a whole.
It’s a matter of two million dollars…
… A $2 million investment in 700 young people annually!
… A $2 million investment in the future of an essential transatlantic relationship!