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NAFSA to support US-Cuba mobility, partnerships

One year on from President Obama’s historic announcement that the US would begin restoring diplomatic and economic relations between the US and Cuba, NAFSA has launched an initiative to build academic relationships and student mobility between the two countries.

President Obama announced the restoration of diplomatic and economic ties with Cuba in a televised speech last year,President Obama announced the restoration of diplomatic and economic ties with Cuba in a televised speech last year,

"Congress needs to act to lift the remaining travel and trade restrictions if we are to truly utilise education as one of the greatest foreign policy and economic tools at our disposal"

The NAFSA Cuba Engagement Initiative aims to build on the move to normalise bilateral relations, which was welcomed by international educators last year, by promoting sustainable partnerships between Cuban and US institutions.

“International education and partnerships have always played an important role in building understanding and collaboration between nations”

It will consist of two interconnected projects, beginning in early 2016: the Cuba-US Higher Education Dialogue Project and the advocacy-focused Educators for Cuba Campaign.

“As the US and Cuban governments continue the historic process of normalising relations, it is important that people and cultures that have been separated for more than 50 years have a structured and meaningful framework in which to engage and learn from each other,” said NAFSA CEO and executive director Marlene Johnson.

“International education and partnerships have always played an important role in building understanding and collaboration between nations, and we now have an opportunity to positively impact this historic process.”

The dialogue project will include an ongoing programme of events to inform educators about the higher education landscapes in the US and Cuba.

The initiative will also provide travel grants for Cuban education leaders to attend NAFSA’s annual conferences in 2016 and 2017, as well as other international education events.

Meanwhile, the Educators for Cuba Campaign will provide advocacy leadership for those in higher education wishing support the diplomatic normalisation process and to end the US embargo on Cuba.

The group will work to mobilise political support for easing trade and travel restrictions with Cuba, working with other organisations including the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the Latin America Working Group, Civitas Global Educational Services, the Washington Office on Latin America, and Engage Cuba.

Lifting trade restrictions has become a key lobbying aim for NAFSA, which will focus on the issue in its annual Advocacy Day in March 2016.

“Ultimately, Congress needs to act to lift the remaining travel and trade restrictions if we are to truly utilise education as one of the greatest foreign policy and economic tools at our disposal,” commented Jill Welch, NAFSA deputy executive director for public policy.

“By coordinating efforts amongst higher education stakeholders, NAFSA aims to create the tipping point needed to reverse the embargo.”

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