June 17, 2002 - PCOL Op-ed: Joanne Roll: The Future of the Peace Corps is in the hands of Returned Volunteers.
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June 17, 2002 - PCOL Op-ed: Joanne Roll: The Future of the Peace Corps is in the hands of Returned Volunteers.
Joanne Roll: The Future of the Peace Corps is in the hands of Returned Volunteers.
One of the purposes of PCOL is to encourage and facilitate the exchange of different opinions and views within the Returned Volunteer Community. PCOL sent out advance copies of the new draft Peace Corps legislation to RPCVs who have previously expressed themselves on our Message Boards and asked them to read the legislation and give us their reactions in op-ed pieces.
This op-ed piece on the new legislation written by RPCV Joanne Roll. We are publishing other op-ed pieces on the new Peace Corps legislation in this issue and in future issues of PCOL.
Read and comment on this op-ed piece on the new Peace Corps legislation at:
The Future of the Peace Corps is in the hands of Returned Volunteers. *
* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.
The Future of the Peace Corps is in the hands of Returned Volunteers.
by Joanne Roll
The future of the Peace Corps is in the hands of Returned Volunteers. Either we will fight to protect the original mission and integrity of the Peace Corps or we will be persuaded by the promise of funding and status to cooperate in the creation of a more vulnerable Peace Corps. RPCVs Senator Christopher Dodd and Congressman Sam Farr in their well meaning attempt to retool a post 9/11 Peace Corps have introduced legislation which changes the nature of the Peace Corps mission from the technical to the political.
The legislation, titled Peace Corps Charter for the 21st Century, divides the mission into two parts. The first is the traditional Peace Corps agency which recruits, selects and supports volunteers overseas and is protected by the historic prohibition against involvement in intelligence gathering. It is now directed to "meet basic human needs" and, significantly, to "promote understanding of American values." The second part gives to the Director of the Corporation for National and Community Service the authority and a $10 million dollar budget to fund community based activities managed by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to further Peace Corps Goals.
Although Peace Corps is the label which connects the two groups, they are separated not only by different funding sources and totally different agencies; but the second group, composed of returned volunteers does not appear, in this legislation, to be restricted by any prohibition against intelligence gathering; either foreign or domestic.
Section 2, (7) reads:
The Peace Corps is an independent agency, and therefore no Peace Corps personnel or volunteers should have any relationship with any United States intelligence agency or be used to accomplish any other goal than the goals established by the Peace Corps Act.Subsequently, in Section 3, are the following definitions:
(3) Peace Corps Volunteer. - The term "Peace Corps volunteers" means a volunteer or a volunteer leader under the Peace Corps act. Finally, Section 10 describes "Programs and Projects of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to promote the goals of the Peace Corps," but it does not repeat the prohibition against relationships with any United States Intelligence agency.
(4) Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.- The term ‘returned Peace Corps volunteer" means a person who has been certified by the Director as having served satisfactorily as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Returned Volunteers must insist that the language in Section 2 (7) be repeated in
Section 10 to specifically protect Returned Volunteers and the people with whom they would work from having relationships with any United States intelligence agency.
This is critically important because the Corporation for National and Community Service is the home of the Freedom Corps and is appropriately engaged in all those activities necessary for homeland security. There should be no confusion here.
Nor should there be any confusion over what the expanded mission means.
The debate in this PCOL forum over a ‘fourth goal, proposed in the draft legislation entered on how the terms, such as "principles of international peace" and "diverse cultures and systems of government "should be defined and what kind of impact this could have on host country programs. The final legislation avoids these questions. It simply eliminates any fourth goal. Instead it states "The three goals codified in the Peace Corps Act ..., can work in concert to promote global acceptance of the principles of international peace and nonviolent coexistence among peoples of diverse cultures and systems of government." But, the issues raised remain unresolved and the terms not defined.
In May, Congressman Farr talked about his proposed bill with Hugh Pickens of PCOL. Reviewing that interview in light of this legislation raises even more questions. Farr said it was important that there be" a good firewall between the peace corps and the military." But, in this bill, he doesn't describe any such firewall. For example, one interpretation of "principles of international peace" could be the elimination of terrorism and that is a military objective. How would PeaceCorps volunteers "work in concert?"
NGOs in Afghanistan, right now, are in conflict with our military because GIs are working in community development projects in civilian garb. The aid workers say this creates ambiguity about who is a soldier and who is a noncombatant and endangers everyone's security. What happens when Peace Corps volunteers; returned Peace Corps volunteers and American military personnel are all working in the same field?
Farr promised that "there will be a debate when this bill comes to the floor and we will address the issue of security concerns in the language of the bill. " We must hold Farr to that promise.
Farr was asked what would be the criteria for funding the returned peace corps non-profits and why the non-profts need to be incorporated in Washington, DC. His reply was "that this is something that we need to look at in the final legislation." But, the final legislation does not list any new criteria, maintains the requirement of incorporation in Washington, DC and narrows the number of nonprofits eligible. The Director of the Corporation of National and Community Service is urged "to balance the number of organizations against the overhead costs..."
It would seem logically, that the way to address all of this would be to establish a separate Peace Corps Foundation and charge it with funding and administrative responsibility for Returned Peace Corps volunteer projects. Congress then could spell out criteria and it would save money and strengthen Peace Corps independence. But, Farr says that President Bush wants to "bring it all under one umbrella and create a one-stop information office to promote volunteerism" and that this is to be the Bush legacy. He argues further that compromise is necessary in order to get the funding for an expanded Peace Corps. So Peace Corps is loosely linked to the Freedom Corps and Returned Volunteers are locked into the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Let's protect the Kennedy legacy first. I urge my friends and my fellow Volunteers to insist that the Section 10 of the Charter for the Peace Corps in the 21st Century be amended to include:
" No Returned Peace Corps volunteers receiving funding through this Act should have any relationship with any United States intelligence agency or be used to accomplish any other goal that the goals established by the Peace Corps Act."
And if this can't be done, then I say, "Don't Ask", "Just Say No" to this new Charter.
After all, we are celebrating 39 years of RPCVs coming home; sharing all their experiences and insights; and working to make the world better. Those efforts didn't wait for Congressional funding or Sargent Shriver's kind advice.
Now is not the time to sell the Peace Corps heritage for a mess of pottage or trade heart equity for a back seat on the Beltway bus.
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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Special Reports; Peace Corps - Congress; Speaking Out
Joanne's articulate article doesn't miss a beat. I hope Senator Dodd's crew is listening -- a lot of statements have been made by the Farr/Dodd/Udall team that led us to believe that the intelligence concerns would be addressed in the Senate version of this bill. It is understood that very progressive or politically sensitive language cannot pass the House at this time, but there is no good reason why the Senate should not consider a harder line against potential abuses and legislative loopholes.
I fully agree with Joanne Roll's assessment and her proposed amendment to Section 10, though I suggest that the "RPCVs" in her proposed amendment be replaced with "U.S. persons," a broader term (meaning organizations as well as individuals) which is used by the full spectrum of government agencies. I also would recommend that Joanne's "should" be changed to "shall" -- since in my experience reviewing local government policy, "shoulds" never actually create legal mandates. Yet, even that is not enough. As we have seen, proposed legislation gets diluted as it goes through the process. So we must all back as strong a stance as possible for the prevention of intel involvement so that the final legislative product will be beneficial and worth supporting.
Here is a suggestion for a letter to copy and paste to Senator Dodd's staff, which you can quickly do by opening a new browser window to:
Dear Senator Dodd:
At the request of your office, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers have reviewed the second discussion draft of the proposed Peace Corps Charter Act. Enclosed please find draft language critical to preserving and protecting the Peace Corps, especially with respect to maintaining security of Peace Corps Volunteers and maintaining seperation of Peace Corps from intelligence activities in a post-9/11 culture.
It is strongly felt that Section 10 of the
Charter for the Peace Corps in the 21st Century should be amended to include the following:
"No U.S. persons receiving funding through this Act shall have any relationship with any
United States intelligence agency or be used to accomplish any other goal that the goals established by the Peace Corps Act."
Essential to this goal are the creation of definitions which strictly enforce the concept of Peace Corps as an independent agency. The following text draws from the definition of foreign intelligence used in U.S. Signal Intelligence Directive (USSID) No. 18, with the intent being to protect Peace Corps from Section 908(a) of the PATRIOT Act and Section 3(f)(iii) of Presidential Executive Order 13254. Mr. Ned Steiner in Congressman Farr’s office has been made aware of RPCV concerns in this area. The following proposed definition is referred to as the “4/2/63” definition, as it is thought to express the spirit of Sargent Shriver’s conversation with President Kennedy on 4/2/63 in which they discussed how to effectively keep the CIA out of the Peace Corps:
"For the purposes of disclosure of information describing activities undertaken pursuant to this Act, the term “relevant information” shall not include information from Peace Corps which relates to the capabilities, intentions, and activities of foreign powers, organizations, or persons, where such information will become foreign intelligence or is used as such by agencies other than Peace Corps."
At this time, similar language has gained the support of 450 individuals ( see petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/632965389 ), many of them Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Thank you for considering this proposal, and thank you for your time spent helping to protect Peace Corps.
(your name), RPCV
(your address, state, zip code)
So, now it is completely up to us as RPCVs to make it happen. What are your thoughts? Can we do it? Is the endeavor misguided -- would it be better addressed in seperate legislation? In any case, one thing is clear: The future of Peace Corps depends not on our Senators or Congresspersons, but on you.
Peace Corps is lucky to have Colin Gallagher and his dedicated and eternal vigilance. I thank him for his letter and his direction. Right now, our country confronts a monumental task. If we are to prevail, the integrity of all our goals must be protected.