Posts Tagged ‘Peace Corps’

Does Peace Corp REALLY want to ‘make a difference’

January 16, 2010

Every time there is a new Peace Corps  Director (we have a new administration, so  of course there is a new person at the helm), the National Peace Corps Association attempts to influence policy, as do the many ‘country-of-‘service’ groups. We are advocates for the  communities and countries we served in, and  try to do a better job of advocacy than paid lobbyists, but I wonder…

Peace Corps was in Haiti for a very long time. I  served with a woman in Malawi who had been evacuated from Haiti (Peace Corps does this) due to lack of security.  Haiti was a dictatorship of the Duvalier family for decades, and the U.S.  gave them money. Oh, sure, it was earmarked foreign aid, but there was never any accountability.  Part of the foreign aid package is often Peace Corps Volunteers. We don’t work for the State Department—we are totally separate, but when negotiations start for the foreign aid package—we are part of it.

For about the same  number of years, Peace Corps volunteers also served in Thailand.  People who should know better always talk about corruption in Thailand—but is there more corruption in Thailand than in India? or—Chicago?  I believe there is less.

A major industry in Thailand is tourism, and their infrastructure, including topiary in the boulevards–is amazing.  I told a guide that, after all the politicians steal whatever they can, there’s still enough left over to make the city of  Chang Rai look like Disney World.

The Cold War is OVER—yet our foreign policy has not been updated.  We are still sending foreign aid to countries whose elites  pay no attention to  government transparency, good governance, or respect for rule-of-law.  & what you get for all that aid is—failed states. No infrastructure, an illiterate population with no access to education, information, or health care.   In short, HAITI…but it could also be Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cambodia, Honduras (right next door to Costa Rica—which is very stable & developed) & look what’s happening to Zimbabwe after it has been a jewel of development for so long—even under  Mugabe.

Really, if Peace Corps—indeed–the U.S. Department of State–really cares about making a difference & not about enriching elites—they should insist on changes for government transparency and  respect for rule-of-law.  They should insist that Peace Corps Volunteers always  have counterparts, and support from their ministries. They should ask for accountability of funds granted to projects.

Peace Corps should stop  sending people who only have business school or accounting experience—and no real microbusiness experience—to work with small businesses.  Certainly  they should stop sending  English Lit & philosophy majors who have no community development experience to  do community development.  Peace Corps should stop partnering with ‘faith based’ in-country groups, which are not only as corrupt and inefficient as government agencies—but have a proselytising agenda as well.

It’s really sad what’s happened to the people of Haiti—but all the governments who are sending emergency relief, and all the missionaries could have been more proactive before this disaster  waiting to happen—happened.