Citizen Democracy International Makes Philadelphia Contacts, Friends and Peace

Sarai Flores, for GPA -- Building programs to prevent future wars, improving the image of America abroad and helping the lines of communication between governments around the world. These are just some of the key initiatives Citizen Diplomacy International has been setting out to achieve in Philadelphia since 1954.

Citizen Diplomacy International, formerly known as the International Visitors Council, was founded after the state department approached the city of Philadelphia with an idea to build a leadership exchange program that would improve the image of America around the world.

“Around the world Americans are not universally loved like we used to be after World War II when the image of our country was that of helping people,” said Nancy Gilboy, President and CEO of Citizen Diplomacy International for more than 20 years.

Now more than 60 years since its inception, this nonprofit organization works with the City of Philadelphia, the U.S. Government and everyday citizens to build and administer programs. These include the Sister Cities, First Thursdays, Discover Philadelphia, International Visitors Council Centers, NCIV, World Learning and Institute of International Education Fulbright and have helped to transform the image of Americans to many visiting delegations by providing one-on-one, everyday interactions with its citizens.

“It is the right, not the obligation of the American citizen to play a role in U.S. foreign affairs,” said Gilbroy. “Why leave it up to the government? We take it out of the hands of the government and put it in the hands of the people and that’s what this country is about.”

Citizen Diplomacy International has a 95 council network with more than 100,000 citizen diplomats and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. When hosting delegations, the organization emphasizes important subjects such as environmental issues, the importance of food safety, the role of local government and the dangers of white collar crime and human trafficking.

Between 2011 and 2012 the organization hosted 2,203 visitors from 154 countries and regions via its International Visitors Council. These include 119 people from Japan, France, Israel, Italy, China, Poland and The Republic of Korea.

Every year through the International Visitor Leadership Program, Citizen Diplomacy International handles 200 delegations a year providing them with tours of Philadelphia and hosting them in the homes of their citizen members who cook for them and take them through a daily routine to provide a view of American life and build friendships along the way.

With a full time board of 34 members and a staff of seven, Citizen Diplomacy International works on a budget of more than $1,211,276 with an in-kind support (donations from supporters, friends and experts) to compliment membership fees, program events, sponsorships, contributions, service fees and grants and contracts.

Now the proposal of a direct flight path from an airport based in Philadelphia to another country may be another initiative Citizen Diplomacy International can contribute to Philadelphia’s global profile.

“We have to prove that the region can support this airline economically. Do we have enough people and businesses to support people flying first class to this country which is many hours away?”

The organization recently started a program in India in conjunction with Arcadia University that involves the Honorary Ambassador to India from Philadelphia.

Image courtesy of CDI.