June 25, 2002 - Statement at the Senate Hearings: NPCA President Dane Smith: The NPCA supports the bill and intends "to work hard for its passage"

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By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, June 26, 2002 - 11:17 pm: Edit Post

NPCA President Dane Smith: The NPCA supports the bill and intends "to work hard for its passage"


Six months ago PCOL began coverage of the new Peace Corps legislation that Senator Dodd and Congressmen Farr and Udall were preparing. On April 4, Congressman Sam Farr announced his proposal for legislation including Peace Corps independence from Freedom Corps, the Shriver Peace Fund, increased Peace Corps Support Staff, and a robust Peace Corps advisory board. On May 20, the first version of the legislation became available for comment and we reported on it and provided comment on the legislation and an exclusive interview with Congressman Farr on the legislation. On June 16, Senator Chris Dodd announced he would be introducing the new legislation in the Senate and provided another draft version which we analyzed and commented on.

Now the legislation has been introduced into both houses of Congress and on June 25, Senator Dodd held hearings in his Senate Subcommittee which has jurisdiction over the Peace Corps and we were there to provide coverage of the hearings. Please read this special report which includes a copy of the final bill as it was introduced in the Senate, our reporting on the hearings, a report on the hearings from the Orange County Register and from John Coyne and the statements of the following five individuals who were invited by Senator Dodd's office to testify on the bill.

Gaddi Vasquez, Director of the Peace Corps

RPCV Mark Schneider, Former Peace Corps Director and Senior Vice President of the International Crisis Group

RPCV Dane Smith, President of the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA)

RPCV John Coyne, founder and editor of the Peace Corps Writers and co-founder of the Peace Corps Fund

RPCV Barbara Ferris, President of the International Women's Democracy Center and co-founder of the Peace Corps Fund
Read and comment on the prepared statement by Dane Smith on the New Peace Corps legislation at:

The Peace Corps Charter for the 21st Century Act:*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

The Peace Corps Charter for the 21st Century Act:

Views of the National Peace Corps Association

Statement by Dane F. Smith, President, NPCA

June 25, 2002

Mr. Chairman, I am Dane Smith, President of the National Peace Corps Association. It is an honor to appear before this Subcommittee to represent the National Peace Corps Association and its membership. The NPCA, a 501(c)(3) organization, founded in 1979 as the National Council of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and incorporated in the State of North Carolina, is the only national organization which represents Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), former Staff of the Peace Corps and Friends of the Peace Corps. The NPCA has 15,000 members in all 50 states and has 141 affiliate Peace Corps alumni groups in 44 of the 50 states. The NPCA carries out programs in global education, service, and peace-building and has just launched a Microenterprise Program, in collaboration with the Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA) and the Calvert Foundation, which promotes investment in micro-lending programs in poor countries.

In early January of this year two members of the NPCA – Roger Landrum and David Hibbard, who both served in the Peace Corps in Nigeria – convened a small group to formulate ideas to be conveyed to the U.S. Congress on a “new mandate” for the Peace Corps, namely how to strengthen the Agency and position it for greater effectiveness in the post-September 11 world. NPCA leaders, including Pat Reilly, soon to become Chair of the NPCA Board of Directors, Ed Crane, NPCA Advocacy Coordinator, and I joined this group and hosted it at NPCA headquarters. By the time President Bush delivered his State of the Union message proposing a doubling of the Peace Corps within five years – a proposal we warmly welcomed – our group had reached a consensus on basic ideas and had visited Congressional offices, both Republican and Democratic, seeking support. Immediately after the State of the Union message, our group submitted recommendations at the request of offices in the Senate and the House. We have since participated in consultations on draft legislation with Congressional staff, including staff of this Subcommittee.

Why has the NPCA pressed for legislation embodying “a Peace Corps Charter for the 21st Century?

For the Peace Corps family, September 11 underlined more than anything else the vital importance to our security and well-being of America’s positive engagement with the rest of the world. No aspect of America’s engagement with the world over more than 40 years has been more positive and effective than the Peace Corps. It has had a positive impact on 135 countries already, with many more to come. Moreover, 165,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps over 41 years. These Americans return still on fire with a passion for service which they undertake in their own communities, nationally or internationally. The NPCA has just completed this past week-end a National Conference celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Peace Corps. The Conference brought over 2000 Peace Corps alumni to Washington. (Thank you for your participation in the Conference, Mr. Chairman, and for your kind remarks about its success.) The primary question before the Conference was: How can the Peace Corps – and Peace Corps alumni – make an even more effective contribution to a peaceful world through grassroots development and the promotion of harmony and understanding among peoples of different ethnicities and religions? Mr. Chairman, we believe that S-2667 goes a considerable way toward answering this question and that it should be supported by a strong bipartisan majority.

Principles for a Mandate for the Peace Corps in the 21st Century

Having examined an initial draft of legislation and aware that the bill was likely to undergo further change, the NPCA Board of Directors last month adopted a set of general principles it wanted to see reflected in the legislation in its final form so as to enable the Peace Corps and its alumni to address new challenges of peaceful, grassroots development in the 21st century. These principles are as follows:

1. Support for President Bush’s proposal to double the number of Peace Corps Volunteers over five years, in a context of Volunteer security, quality in programming and in volunteer placement and broader, more innovative initiatives of people-to-people development assistance.

2. The historic independence of Peace Corps, from its inception, from other agencies of foreign policy and from any and all forms of intelligence gathering.

3. A well-funded Strategic Planning Unit within the Peace Corps with the expertise and authority to guide the expansion of volunteer numbers and programming initiatives with improved research, evaluation, and forward planning.

4. A streamlined, bipartisan Advisory Council to the Peace Corps composed of Peace Corps alumni representing a broad range of international knowledge and relevant career expertise.

5. An RPCV Innovation Fund providing grants to support selected innovative projects and programs proposed by RPCVs, both domestic and international, consistent with the goals of the Peace Corps and experience gained through Peace Corps service.

6. A restructured “Crisis Corps” that better utilizes the career expertise of RPCVs to extend the mission and goals of the Peace Corps into challenging new contexts of peaceful development in the 21st century.

7. A new era of collaboration between the Peace Corps agency, the National Peace Corps Association, other Peace Corps alumni organizations and initiatives and other international volunteer programs.

NPCA Support for S-2667

Mr. Chairman, the National Peace Corps Association considers that S-2667 is consistent with the Mandate principles we have formulated and strongly supports its passage. We believe the bill, if enacted, would provide a reinforced mandate for the Peace Corps and important suggestions about how the Agency can be strengthened. We particularly favor the important role envisaged for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers in contributing to a strengthened agency. There are 165,000 Americans who have served in the Peace Corps. They have derived important knowledge and experience from their service overseas, and they continue to serve in their own communities as well as overseas. And we are pleased that Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez has indicated a strong desire to draw on the insights and talents of RPCVs in moving the Peace Corps forward and that he has proposed a joint Peace Corps-NPCA task force to move this cooperation forward.

Funding Projects of Peace Corps Alumni

In closing I would like to make a few comments on Sec. 10 concerning the Peace Corps Innovation Fund. The National Peace Corps Association has been promoting service initiatives of the kind envisaged for the proposed Fund for more than 15 years. In 1986 we first awarded the Sargent Shriver Award for Outstanding Humanitarian Service. In the intervening years this award has been given to Peace Corps alumni who have done such things as establish a family hospital in Appalachia, create an eye clinic in Haiti, carry on reconciliation between warring ethnic groups in the Balkans. This year the award was given to Molly Melching, who through her Senegalese NGO Tostan, has brought about decisions in hundreds of Senegalese villages to halt the practice of female genital cutting. We also confer the Loret Miller Ruppe Award annually to an NPCA affiliate groups for group service projects. In recent years the Ruppe Award has been given for such projects as a mentoring program at a high school in inner-city Chicago, to include a carefully tailored three week visit to West Africa for several students; conflict resolution work in civil war-ravaged Sierra Leone; and efforts by Ethiopia and Eritrea Returned Volunteers to encourage a peaceful resolution of the Ethiopia-Eritrea war. We not only encourage such projects, but we are beginning to provide funding for them. The NPCA has just launched a program of Continuation of Service Grants, seed money to be made available for projects undertaken domestically or internationally by our affiliate groups under a set of criteria endorsed by our Board of Directors. During our Conference, which just ended, we raised $10,000 to support the Continuation of Service grants.

In anticipation that this legislation will be enacted, the NPCA is proceeding with planning for organizing a separate non-profit corporation which would meet the criteria established in Section 10. We expect to draw on the talents of our “new mandate” group led by Roger Landrum and Dave Hibbard and on others with experience in particular project areas and in project design and evaluation. We anticipate that the new entity would give emphasis to projects for educating Americans about the developing countries; for AIDS education; for community, national and international service, including youth service programs; and for conflict resolution.

Mr. Chairman, the National Peace Corps Association supports S-2667 “The Peace Corps Charter for the 21st Century Act” and intends with its affiliate groups to work hard for its passage. Thank you.

Click on a link below for more stories on PCOL

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