International Visitor Leader Program

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The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), formerly the Foreign Leader Program, is a professional exchange programme funded by the U.S. Department of State. A BBC Magazine article reports that: 'As part of the highly prestigious - and expensive - programme, participants are hand-picked to spend typically three weeks visiting Washington DC and three additional towns or cities, meeting their counterparts and other VIPs and experts - all highly valuable networking experience for any ambitious young man or woman on the climb.' [1] The article notes that in the UK alone, over 2,500 citizens have travelled to the US as part of the scheme including former UK prime ministers Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher.

Key New Labour figures like Robin Cook, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson also participated in the scheme. Giles Scott-Smith argues that the programme helped to counter the Labour Party's 'drift towards the left' in the 1980s, noting that, 'What was at stake was the future direction of the party and the need to realign its international stance with American interest.' [2]

The BBC reported in Match 2011 that 11 members of the UK cabinet are alumni of the scheme. [3]


  1. Jon Kelly, 'How do you spot a future world leader?', BBC News Magazine, 29 March 2011.
  2. Giles Scott-Smith, 'Searching for the Successor Generation: Public Diplomacy, the US Embassy’s International Visitor Program and the Labour Party in the 1980s', British Journal of Politics and International Relations, Volume 8, Number 2, May 2006 , pp. 214-237.
  3. Jon Kelly, 'How do you spot a future world leader?', BBC News Magazine, 29 March 2011.