December 27 - USC: Background on the Peace Corps Safety Support System

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Library: Peace Corps: Safety and Security of Volunteers: Peace Corps Facing New Perils with Safety and Security of Volunteers [8/3/01]: December 27 - USC: Background on the Peace Corps Safety Support System

By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, December 27, 2001 - 8:20 pm: Edit Post

Background on the Peace Corps Safety Support System

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Background on the Peace Corps Safety Support System *

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Background on the Peace Corps Safety Support System

by Mike O'Neill Volunteer Safety Coordinator Office of Special Services United States Peace Corps

The Peace Corps mission is predicated on the development of close interpersonal relationships between Volunteers and host-country community members as a means of meeting the three goals stated in the Peace Corps Act. The traditional Peace Corps approach to safety and security has been characterized by obtaining and maintaining the acceptance and consent of host country authorities and the population-at-large for its presence and the work Volunteers have been recruited to perform. The operative assumption has been: the better integrated the Volunteer becomes with the local culture and people, the safer the Volunteer will be. This approach presumes a higher level of integration into the local culture than most other bi-lateral development entities. Peace Corps' commitment to this integrative approach is manifested in the type of individuals it recruits, the programs it develops, and the language/cross-cultural focus of its training.

In the last ten years the operating environment for Peace Corps Volunteers has become more threatening. The breakdown of social control structures, increased poverty, urbanization, proliferation of arms, and cultural displacement have had a negative impact on nearly all the countries in which Volunteers serve. The past decade has witnessed a marked increase in violence and property crime against Volunteers. In order address the emerging safety and security concerns facing Volunteers, Peace Corps has established a comprehensive approach to Volunteer safety and security. The Country Director at each post has ultimate responsibility for establishing and maintaining a Volunteer safety support system. The reality is that this responsibility must be shared with every staff member and every Volunteer and Trainee. Through planning, delegation of responsibility, training and resource allocation, the Country Director facilitates the effective implementation of this system.

The Volunteer safety support system is comprised of the following components:

A total team approach to Volunteer safety. Peace Corps staff, Volunteers, trainers, local authorities, and host communities all have a part to play. Individual Volunteers must take responsibility for, and the Agency must prepare and support them in their efforts to, adopt a lifestyle that promotes their personal safety;

Positive working relationship with the U.S. Embassy and Regional Security Officer. While maintaining our distinct autonomy, the Peace Corps should endeavor to consult with the RSO on issues of site selection, emergency planning, reporting of crimes and assaults against Volunteers;

Informed consent. Information should be provided to prospective Volunteers that reflects the true nature of safety and security issues at post and describe post's support strategies for addressing those issues;

Site selection criteria and procedures. Each post develops specific criteria for determining that Volunteer sites meet a minimum standard for communication, transportation, housing, proximity to other Volunteers and access to support services. Volunteer sites shall be developed and approved by a Peace Corps staff member prior to the Volunteer's posting;

Integrated safety training throughout the Volunteer cycle. To reflect the Volunteer reality and the lifestyle focus of safety and security, training is integrated into language, cross-cultural and Volunteer health sessions.

Procedures for reporting crimes and assaults against Volunteers. Volunteers have the responsibility to report any crime committed against them. This information (in addition to other sources) provides Peace Corps staff with essential data to assess locations, frequencies, patterns and trends. This analysis will enable staff to keep Volunteers apprised of safety issues, revise policies and procedures as needed, provide timely and appropriate training, and direct resources appropriately;

Procedures for responding to safety incidents at post. Each post prepares procedures to provide medical support, and address the myriad of legal, investigative, press and other issues that may result from the sexual or physical assault of a Volunteer;

Emergency contact procedures for all Volunteers and Trainees. Site Locator Forms that include Volunteer location data (contact persons, telephone numbers, radio frequencies, maps, etc.) are completed by the Volunteers and updated regularly. With this information Peace Corps staff can readily contact every Volunteer in the event of an emergency;

Emergency Action Plans. The EAP, developed at each post to prepare for, manage and recover from a variety of crises (including evacuation), is revised, updated and tested at least annually. Copies of the EAP are submitted to the U.S. Embassy and Peace Corps Washington.

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