February 1, 2002 - U.S.-Ukraine Foundation: Interview with Karl Beck, Director of Peace Corps in Ukraine

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ukraine: Peace Corps Ukraine : The Peace Corps in the Ukraine: February 1, 2002 - U.S.-Ukraine Foundation: Interview with Karl Beck, Director of Peace Corps in Ukraine

By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, September 12, 2003 - 11:11 pm: Edit Post

Interview with Karl Beck, Director of Peace Corps in Ukraine

Interview with Karl Beck, Director of Peace Corps in Ukraine



Karl Beck assumed the post of Country Director for Peace Corps/Ukraine in October 2000. For almost ten years previously, Beck was employed with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). From 199798 he served as IOM Director for Program and Fund-raising Support in Geneva, Switzerland, and from 198997 he worked as IOM Chief of Mission in Bonn, Germany. Beck has also had a long and distinguished career with the U.S. Department of State, serving as the National Opposition Politics Officer at the U.S. Embassy in South Africa, Counselor for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Europe, and Director for Africa and Latin America at the State Department Refugee Bureau. His previous positions with Peace Corps include Country Director for Togo and Associate Director in Botswana, and he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Lesotho. Beck has also taught at Duke University and written numerous publications on African issues.

Peace Corps in Ukraine
The U.S. Peace Corps is a nonpartisan, governmental organization. It was established in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy to strengthen peace and friendship between peoples in the world by involving volunteers to work in countries that need assistance with social, economic, and cultural development.

Ukraine became the first former Soviet country to welcome the Peace Corps, when in May 1992 Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and U.S. President George Bush (the elder) signed an intergovernmental agreement.

In cooperation with Ukrainian organizations and agencies, Peace Corps/Ukraine is currently working on three projects: economic development, teaching English as a foreign language, and natural-environment protection.
Partners: What kind of opportunities can Peace Corps/Ukraine offer to Ukrainian cities?

Karl Beck: Peace Corps/Ukraine has a long history of attracting Americans with considerable business and organizational skills. We have, at any given time, a fairly large number of people who are experienced in building and operating businesses in the United States, or who have considerable experience in working with medium-sized or large American companies. These people have a good knowledge of how business functions in the United States and of the things that American businesses look for if they want to make investments -- they know how to present ideas in such a way that they can gain the attention of American investors, and they can anticipate their questions, provide answers, and maintain a dialog. We also have people who have worked in civic organizations and who are in a position to help build these types of structures in Ukraine, define their purposes, and formulate programs that they can carry out. So, these are two sorts of people whom we can place with city administrations, and who can make a good contribution.

P: Can Peace Corps volunteers be placed with local governments?
Yes, in some places. I am speaking of Kalush now -- our volunteer Juan Carlos Campos has worked directly with the local government. In other situations -- Khmelnytsky, for example -- the volunteer is, in fact, working with a civic organization that the local government has organized to increase citizen participation and to formulate development projects for the city.

P: These volunteers are working in the areas of business, civil society, and local government. What about other fields -- education, for example?
As part of our business project in Ukraine, business volunteers teach at local universities, economic institutes, and other educational institutions that teach business management and other topics related to the formation of young Ukrainian business people, economists, and managers. We are also undertaking a new twist in our business education program -- we are hoping to place volunteers in educational institutions where they will teach young Ukrainians and, at the same time, consult with actual businesses. We've developed a number of these jobs where we will place people in April. We feel that our people can make a contribution in local business development, and particularly involve the young people whom they are teaching in that kind of consultant work as another aspect of their education. In addition, Peace Corps has an environmental program, in which we have people working, primarily with NGOs, to raise public awareness of environmental problems and to help communities work on solving these problems. And, finally, we have, of course, a very large program of teaching English. In this program, Peace Corps volunteers are working in teacher training institutes, universities, and secondary schools where young Ukrainians are learning how to speak and teach English. Volunteers are also working in recertification institutes at the oblast level.

Artemivsk Peace Corps volunteer Judy Mandel presents Mykola Kolino, Head of the Department of Education, with a letter acknowledging the participation of six local schools in the annual Peace Corps essay contest for 9th-11th graders. This year's subject was "How is HIV/AIDS a problem in Ukraine and what can I do to help solve the problem in my community?" The two winners in Donetsk oblast both came from Artemivsk.
P: If a city wants to make the best use of a volunteer, it should take some steps to create an environment conducive to the volunteer's work. What are the most important steps?
The crucial thing is that we find cities or counterparts in Ukraine -- whether it will be a school or a city administration, an oblast administration, an NGO, or another entity -- that have made the fundamental decision: "We want to change -- we want to bring about processes and create systems that are either compatible with or can relate successfully to those that are found in the West." That's a good place for a Peace Corps volunteer to work. Of course, there are some practical things to do. We ask the city or organization to provide modest housing and a workplace for the volunteer, which must have a computer with Internet access and English software. And there are nonmaterial things, which have to do with creating the conditions in which the volunteer can work. The city or the organization should be willing to invest the time to inform the volunteer thoroughly of the issues that relate to the work they want the volunteer to do, and of the personalities and issues that are involved. For example, if a city wants the volunteer to act as a consultant for local businesses, then they have to inform the volunteer about the local business climate and the basics of doing business in Ukraine, and to introduce him or her to the business community in such a way that the businesspeople will know what the volunteer is there to do. And this initial investment can be a good one, because, from the Ukrainian city's point of view, the potential return can be very great.

P: Could you please give us some examples of the successful work of volunteers, illustrating this "return on investment" that you mentioned?
I think the main return on the volunteer's work is always the human development aspect. It's to teach people in the places where the volunteer works, to equip them to do things on their own when the volunteer leaves: learning how to write grant applications, to work with potential investors, to develop plans, etc.

Kalush volunteer Ann Duncan talks with students during an AIDS awareness program.
We had a volunteer, an American businessman, Wolfgang Price, who helped the Khmelnytsky oblast government set up an NGO, Podillia Pershyi, that promotes growth. In particular, the organization introduced the cluster-based approach to economic development, which is quite popular in cities in Khmelnytsky oblast now.

An American architect, John Zvosec, is working in the city of Ternopil, where he has trained a Ukrainian architect in city planning, and he has also attracted a lot of investment from people in the United States who are interested in supporting the projects that he is undertaking.

Carolyn Andrews, who was a member of the National Board of Directors of the American YWCA (Young Women's Christian Association), an enormous charity, and Yacov Rohalin, have developed a method to provide Donetsk clinics, orphanages, and prisons with food and medicines that would otherwise expire and be thrown away. There are as many possibilities as there are ideas from the people in cities, who know what their needs are. Carol McLaughlin, a former senior executive with Kodak, is helping plan projects and attract investment in Crimea.

P: In dealing with the Peace Corps, does a Ukrainian city's task start with just specifying exactly what the city wants?
What I am saying is that the possibilities are virtually limitless, and we'll be very happy to talk with all cities that are thinking about including a volunteer to work with them. If the city came to us and said, "Our principal problem is that we cannot find employment for our people," we would talk about how our volunteer might be able to work on either consulting with local businesses to help them grow, or in training people so that they can open their own businesses, or perhaps looking for foreign investment. There are many ways to approach these issues and a range of options to consider. I would never want to say that we offer a volunteer to do only one thing in a city government, but we would ask that the city explore with us the possibilities of using our volunteer to address the problems that they identify as important to them.

P: Since 1992, how has Peace Corps/Ukraine adjusted its activities specifically to the Ukrainian environment?
At this time we would like to find more municipalities and oblast governments with which we could cooperate, because we consider this to be a very important aspect of the overall development of Ukraine. We are also seeing a proliferation of nongovernmental organizations in Ukraine, some with government encouragement. If the government helps an NGO to get started, gives the NGO favorable conditions -- such as providing work space, equipment, things like that -- we have nothing against it.... We are very interested in participating in all efforts to strengthen NGOs in Ukraine because we have a strong interest in the strengthening of civil society.

Interview by Oleksandr Lototsky. Prepared by Sviatoslav Yarynych, CPP-Kyiv.

For more information, contact the Peace Corps: 01001 Kyiv, Central Post Office Box #204, Peace Corps/Ukraine; phone (044) 220-1183, 220-5706, 220-1793; fax 220-6351.

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Story Source: U.S.-Ukraine Foundation

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ukraine; Country Directors - Ukraine



By Dr. Fenge ( on Saturday, January 03, 2009 - 8:55 am: Edit Post

Hallo Mr. Beck,
nice to hear of you by this opportunity. Are You still there or has You changed the job?
I am still in Bonn and fight my hemiparesis.

Greetings Dr. Horst Fenge

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