|Amid a time of unprecedented crisis for the Peace Corps and our nation as a whole, the Peace Corps community has come together to chart a way forward: with specific, actionable steps that will help reimagine and retool the Peace Corps for a changed world. Those steps are outlined in “Peace Corps Connect to the Future,” a report months in the making and made public today.
The report itself was prepared by a special National Peace Corps Association advisory council drawn from the broad Peace Corps community inside and outside the United States. It provides specific and actionable recommendations for multiple stakeholders: policymakers in the Peace Corps agency and the federal Executive Branch’s leadership; the United States Congress; and the Peace Corps community, particularly National Peace Corps Association.
The report comes at an inflection point for the Peace Corps, after all Volunteers were evacuated from service around the globe earlier this year. Harnessing the experience, commitment, and innovative ideas of the Peace Corps community, in July NPCA convened a series of national community discussions and a global ideas summit to ask some far-reaching questions about the future of Peace Corps in a changed world. The conversations tackled two key questions. First, whether the Peace Corps as an agency should continue to exist; on that count, the response was a resounding “yes.” And second, when the Peace Corps returns to the field, what should it look like? The responses to this second question yielded this report.
We heard loud and clear from the community that the Peace Corps needs to change and adapt if we want it to endure. That’s from Volunteers who have served across the decades and around the world, and from people who live in communities where the Peace Corps has worked. You have offered big ideas in conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as recruitment and recalibrating programs, including critical health support. You have looked hard at the three goals of the Peace Corps agency, as well as policies, funding, and how the Peace Corps communicates.
“Peace Corps should reflect the fullness of America and provide the country’s best and truest face to the world,” the report notes. “It should return to the field better, bolder, more inclusive, and more effective.”
The Peace Corps agency has reported that partner nations have all asked for the return of Volunteers as soon as conditions permit. A small number of Volunteers are already scheduled to return to the Eastern Caribbean and Cambodia in early 2021. The act of their return — or arrival in countries for new programs — will signal that a country can engage internationally in a post-pandemic world.
The report takes as a touchstone some remarks by diplomat Kul Chandra Gautam at NPCA’s global ideas summit. Gautam was born and raised in Nepal, and as a student he was taught by Peace Corps teachers. His career has included serving as Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF. “Our increasingly interconnected world demands global solidarity, not charity, to solve global problems that transcend national borders like the specter of war, terrorism, racism, climate change, and pandemics like COVID-19,” he said. “I sincerely believe that the Peace Corps can be a great organization dedicated to promote such global solidarity at the people-to-people level.”
Above all, this report reflects the commitment that you have shown to Peace Corps ideals. Thank you for the time and care you have devoted to making this report possible. As you’ve made loud and clear in the conversations that shaped this report, our community has work to do. And we have the possibility of ensuring that the impact of Peace Corps in years to come is even greater and more profound.
President & CEO
National Peace Corps Association