Opinions: Foreign Aid, Peace Corps, Wartime Sexual Violence

Don’t Cut ‘Lifesaving Aid’ To ‘World’s Most Vulnerable People’

“Throughout U.S. history, successive Republican and Democratic administrations and Congress have understood that foreign humanitarian assistance is vital to safeguarding both U.S. interests and our national ideals,” Refugees International President Michel Gabaudan writes in a Politico opinion piece. According to Gabaudan, the House’s version of the FY11 “budget reflects a devastating retreat of U.S. global leadership and influence. If the House’s drastic cuts to lifesaving aid are enacted, the U.S. would be shamefully abandoning the world’s most vulnerable people.”

Gaubaudan gives examples of “the effect that U.S. support has had in real terms for real people” and concludes: “If senators can restore humanitarian funding to at least fiscal 2010 levels, that would allow the U.S. government to continue providing critical assistance to victims of war, persecution and natural disasters. These small pots of money reap tremendous rewards for displaced people around the world. Such investment should be an obvious choice to make” (3/3).

Congressmen, All Former Peace Corps Volunteers, Honor Organization As ‘Beacon Of Hope’

Reps. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and Tom Petri (R-Wis.), who all served as Peace Corps volunteers in the 1960s, write in a Politico opinion piece they “saw firsthand that the power of good will can transform lives and communities in neglected corners of the globe – and our country’s image around the world.”  The representatives note that “[f]or the price of deploying one solider to Afghanistan, the Peace Corps can send 13 volunteers to serve their country in a developing nation,” and they write that the agency’s “total budget amounts to .01 percent of our total federal budget.”

With Peace Corps volunteers collectively contributing more than 400,000 years of service since the beginning of the program, they stand as “one of the federal government’s most effective agents of diplomacy and development, yielding an incredible return on investment,” the authors write, concluding, “With little resources, these volunteers serve with the spirit of public service that makes America an enduring beacon of hope and prosperity” (3/2).

‘Scrap’ Peace Corps To
Foster Job Creation For Young Professionals In Developing World

While “there’s no question that America has benefited from having a large number of citizens with deeply local experience overseas … I think it’s time to ask whether the Peace Corps, and indeed most aid programs, are a remnant of an outdated era,” former Nation managing editor Karen Rothmyer, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya, writes in a Nation opinion piece. The Peace Corps “might have been justified in the ’60s on the grounds that a newly independent country with relatively few trained professionals needed and welcomed help,” but many nations today have a highly educated population that is unable to find jobs, Rothmyer says, adding “[t]his pool of wasted talent not only means slower development; it also represents a potential threat to stability.” 

Rothmyer asks, “[W]hy not scrap the Peace Corps and instead underwrite jobs for young people who already live here so they can help their neighbors and live better lives? Or why not abandon the idea of aid altogether and instead encourage U.S. investment in businesses that create decent, long-term jobs – in my opinion the only sure way to development?” (3/1).

Despite Changing World, Peace Corps Remains Relevant 50 Years Later

“[I]n a world that has changed so much since the Peace Corps’s founding, it’s reasonable to ask whether we still need it,” Frank Sheed, former Peace Corps legal counsel, writes in a Nation opinion piece. But while other international development organizations may need to be reevaluated, the “Peace Corps’s enduring value can’t be measured by development metrics. Its real achievement is cultural exchange,” Sheed says. He adds that Peace Corps volunteers, who benefit as much from their two years in small villages as the villages themselves, are “viewed as representatives of the American people, not the American government,” because the organization “maintains a strict separation from U.S. foreign policy and from other U.S. government agencies.” 

To remain relevant in light of today’s challenges, “the Peace Corps must continue to find ways to address new problems and new approaches to addressing old problems,” Sheed says, concluding, “But through all the changes, the value reaped by people of different countries and cultures gaining a better understanding of one another has not diminished one bit. As long as this is true, the Peace Corps will always have an important place” (3/1).

Stop Wartime Sexual Violence Against Men, Too

In a New York Times opinion piece, Lara Stemple, director of the Health and Human Rights Law Project at the UCLA School of Law, writes U.N. documents pertaining to human rights contain “dozens of references to ‘violence against women’ – defined to include sexual violence – …, but most don’t mention sexual violence against men.” Stemple writes that “[i]gnoring male rape has a number of consequences,” including “neglect[ing] men and boys,” as well as “reinforcing a viewpoint that equates ‘female’ with ‘victim,’ thus hampering our ability to see women as strong and empowered.”

Stemple calls the U.S. commitment last year of $44 million for women’s empowerment worldwide “an important commitment. But the American government should expand its efforts to include the many international programs working with men and boys to challenge entrenched ideas about manhood and to stop the cycle of violence.” Similarly, she writes that the U.N. and the U.S. should “commit to ending wartime sexual violence against everyone” (3/1).

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