Sunday, December 27, 2009

How Will Increased Funding for Peace Corps Affect Safety?

It's a historic moment; the Senate approved the highest single-year dollar increase in 49 years for the Peace Corps. Funding to the tune of $60 million dollars was approved for Fiscal Year 2010, which is $23 million more than President Obama called for in increasing funding. Visit MorePeaceCorps for more information.

This effort was originated by Rajeev Goyal, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) who served in Nepal. His site, posted the news about the increased funding on Tuesday, Dec. 15. You can read more about pushforpeacecorps here. It's priority goal is to expand the number of volunteers, posting on their website their list of four main priorities: "(To) Increase the size of the Peace Corps from under 8,000 to at least 16,000 volunteers with improved programs and better placements."

What concerns me about this is the focus on numbers, not necessarily quality. Although the goal statement is qualified by stating "...with improved programs and better placements" there is no specific plan I could find that outlines the changes he'd like and what will make them better programs or placements. This $60 million appropriation is a lot of money. However, when you are trying to double the amount of volunteers (with no timeline of how long it will take to double volunteers as I'm not confident 8,000 could shoot to 16,000 in Fiscal Year 2010 alone) you need to increase in-country staff, increase benefit packages, add staff training, add volunteer training, medical supplies, etc. Then stretch that appropriation over 170+ countries where Peace Corps Volunteers serve. I think the money will dissipate quickly.

This truly is a step in the right direction. Some Peace Corps figures have not been adjusted for inflation - such as the Returned Volunteer's readjustment allowance - and have remained stagnant since the 1960s. Change is needed. Money is needed for this change to happen. I am enthused with the knowledge that Peace Corps will have increased resources for the Fiscal Year 2010, however I remain skeptical of the direction of that funding.

How will safety planning be affected? Will more funding go in the direction of safety so that volunteers get the information and resources they need? One of the points in my outline for safety reform - namely surrounding sexual assault, rape, murder and other assault cases - is that countries need more training. Staff need to be trained, volunteers need to be trained and resources need to be added to the existing materials. This is vitally important to the functionality of Peace Corps and it also costs money. I will keep looking for information about where this $60 million may be directed. I will keep you updated.

If you have any additional information about this historic increase in appropriations, please let me know. You can comment or email I always welcome comments, thoughts and more information.