Peace Corps - Criticism of The Peace Corps

Criticism of The Peace Corps

In the Reagan Administration, in 1986, an article in the Multinational Monitor looked critically at the Peace Corps. On a positive note, the writer praises the Corps for aspects saying that it is "not in the business of transferring massive economic resources. Rather it concentrates on increasing productivity and encouraging self-reliance in villages that are often ignored by large-scale development agencies," and notes the "heavy emphasis on basic education" by the Corps. "Many returned volunteers complain that the Peace Corps does little to promote or make use of their rich experiences once they return... Peace Corps volunteer is sent in... relieve...the local government from having to develop policies that assure equitable distribution of health care...During the early years there were many failures in structure and programming...Some critics charge that the Peace Corps is only a somewhat ineffective attempt to counter damage done to the U.S. image abroad by its aggressive military and its unscrupulous businesses...Many observers and some returned volunteers charge that, in addition to public relations for the United States, Peace Corps programs serve to legitimize dictators...When he began evaluating the Corps in the 1960s, Charlie Peters found "they were training volunteers to be junior diplomats. Giving them a course in American studies, world affairs and communism...Although it seems unlikely that the Peace Corps is used in covert operations, wittingly or not it is often used in conjunction with U.S. military interests...In a review of the Peace Corps in March the House Select Committee on Hunger praised the agency for effective work in the areas of agriculture and conservation, while recommending that the Corps expand its African Food Systems Initiative, increase the number of volunteers in the field, recruit more women, and move to depoliticize country dictatorships."

The author suggests that "the poor should be encouraged to organize a power base to gain more leverage with the powers-that-be" by the Peace Corps and that "The Peace Corps is the epitome of Kennedy's Camelot mythology. It is a tall order to expect a small program appended to an immense superpower, to make a difference, but it is a goal worth striving for."

In December 2003, a report by the Brookings Institution praised the Peace Corps but proposed changes. These include relabeling Peace Corps volunteers in certain countries, greater host country ownership, reverse volunteers (have volunteers from the host country in the U.S.), and multilateral volunteers. The Brookings Institution wrote that a mandatory "one-year service commitment could make the Peace Corps more attractive to older Americans, possibly combined with the option of returning to the same site or country after a three-month break" and customized placement to a specific country would increase the amount of people volunteering.

In a critique by The Future of Freedom Foundation, James Bovard mixes history of the Peace Corps with current interpretations. He writes that in the 1980s, "The Peace Corps’s world-saving pretensions were a joke on American taxpayers and Third World folks who expected real help." He goes on to criticize the difference in rhetoric and action of Peace Corps volunteers, even attacking its establishment as "the epitome of emotionalism in American politics." Using snippets of reports, accounts of those in countries affected by the Peace Corps and even concluded that at one point "some Peace Corps agricultural efforts directly hurt Third World poor." At the end of the article, Bovard noted that all Peace Corps volunteers he had talked with conceded they have not helped foreigners ... but he acknowledges that "Some Peace Corps volunteers, like some Americans who volunteer for religion missions abroad, have truly helped foreigners."

BoingBoing editor Xeni Jardin describes criticism assault: "A growing number of ex-Peace Corps volunteers are speaking out about having survived rape and other forms of sexual assault while assigned overseas. They say the agency ignored their concerns for safety or requests for relocation, and tried to blame rape victims for their attacks. Their stories, and support from families and advocates, are drawing attention from lawmakers and promises of reform from the agency". Among 8,655 volunteers there are on average 22 Peace Corps women reported being the victims of rape or attempted rape each year. This rape rate of 2.544/1,000 is among the highest in the world.

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