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Fri, 02/26/2016 - 16:09 — Kaitlyn Chriswell, alliance-exchange.org
International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) participants are contributing to U.S. counter-terrorism efforts through the State Department’s P2P: Challenging Extremism initiative, according to a recent article in Vice News.
The initiative aims “to combat the spread of hateful and deceptive propaganda,” the State Department explains on its website. P2P stands for “peer to peer,” an aspect of the program that the State Department sees as key to better engaging with young people across the globe. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Evan Ryan, says that ideally, P2P campaigns help the State Department reach youth abroad who are “vulnerable to recruitment” and “make them feel less isolated, part of a community, and give them a purpose."
A cohort of IVLP participants from Pakistan came in first place at the event finals held in Washington D.C. earlier this month. This past semester, out of 45 P2P groups, two of the three university finalist groups were IVLP participants: Lahore University of Management Sciences (Pakistan) and Universita della Svizzera Italiana (Switzerland).
The winning team’s project, FATE: From Apathy to Empathy, aimed to “combat apathy toward violence” especially around Lahore, Pakistan. The third place team from Switzerland, also IVLP participants, designed Faces4Heritage to urge others to take action against the destruction of cultural heritage.
While some ISIL experts have expressed skepticism about the program’s ability to affect change, Vice News notes that this is not unique:
“The State Department’s previous efforts to ‘counter extremism’ have also been marked by similar debates.”Tony Sgro, CEO of Edventure Partners, a company working with the State Department to help recruit university teams for the competition, explains the value of programs like P2P in enhancing State Department resources:
“The students are going to serve a social media tsunami— it's the largest pushback against violent extremism, outside of the military.”Sgro adds:
"Sure, a brand alone is not going to change your mind, but a peer, who reaches out using social media, that's a heck of a lot more effective.”More articles about: Department of State news Exchange Visitor Program Exchanges in the media Public Diplomacy