WASHINGTON, D.C. /eNewsChannels/ — Today, the U.S. State Dept. announced that 60 disability and civil society orgs from 20 countries and the United States have been selected to participate in the U.S. Department of State’s “Professional Fellows EMPOWER Program.” This two-way exchange program will expand the capacity of organizations in the United States and overseas to promote inclusive communities and advance disability rights around the world, a key theme of U.S. public diplomacy efforts globally.

US Department of StateIn August and September, U.S. participants will travel to their partners’ home countries to gain an understanding of disability issues in their communities. In October, international participants will be hosted in the United States by Mobility International USA (MIUSA) and their American counterparts to collaborate and develop projects that promote the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities.

Participating countries include: Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, India, Israel, Kenya, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Serbia, South Korea, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and the United States. EMPOWER teams will focus on a range of topics from inclusive education, independent living, healthcare, law and policy, legal aid, recreation and sports, access to public services and advocacy for all persons with disabilities.

The participants and their U.S. hosts will gather in Washington, D.C., for a three day conference at Gallaudet University, October 31 – November 2, 2013, to network with other leaders in their field and share plans for long-term programming that they will implement upon their return home.

By placing persons with disabilities at the center of the U.S. Department of State’s efforts to promote more just, equitable and inclusive societies, emerging leaders like those on the EMPOWER program have an important role to play in strengthening democracy and promoting human rights around the world.

To learn more about disabilities and U.S. Department of State exchange programs, visit .