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08_03

08_03

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02/02/2013

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LGB RPCV NewsLetter - August 2003 
1
NewsLetter
August 2003In This Issue
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Pride Events at PeaceCorps
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International LGBTNetwork
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Peace Corps Priority
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NPCA Conference
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Advocacy Network
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LGB RPCV Updates fromD.C. and Bay Area
Gay Pride Events at Peace Corps
...the decision to be“out or not” was anindividual decision, notone mandated by anyoneat Peace Corps.
T
he August newsletter covers a broad range of Peace Corps issues and the support of former volunteers.
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We start with a report on Gay Pride events at PeaceCorps Headquarters this June.
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Emilia Rastrick is looking for a network of LGBT people working in international development.
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Tom La Belle describes theconflict between Peace Corps goals and geopolitical policy.
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Mike Learned reportson the recent NPCA Conference in Portland, Oregon and the NPCA Advocacy Net-work.
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Chris Hrabe and Wayne Hill tell us about events and plans of the LGB RPCVgroups in D.C. and the Bay Area.
This year’s June Gay PrideEvents at Peace Corps in Wash-ington involved lots of people anda couple of great events. Com-pared with the reluctance somefederal agencies had supportinggay pride events for their employ-ees (the Department of Justice asan example), support from PeaceCorps’ top management camethrough loud and clear. See thesidebar with Director Vasquez’sstatement to all Peace Corps staff on page 7.The kickoff was on June 3 atPeace Corps headquarters. Itstarted with comments by ShirleyEverest, Peace Corps’ Managerfor the American DiversityProgram, then remarks by JodyOlsen, Deputy Director. Jodydiscussed the Stonewall riots asthe birth of gay and lesbian civilrights, along with the origins of therainbow flag and pink triangle assymbols of gay and lesbian pride.She discussed the murder of Matthew Shepard as evidence thathatred of gays is still alive. Shethen read a poem by WaltWhitman.Peace Corps GLOBE member,Bill Salisbury continued with someadditional remarks. Then five gayand lesbian RPCV panelists spokeabout their experiences as PCVs,discussing things Peace Corps didright or could have done better tosupport them.About a week later the secondPride event at Peace Corpsheadquarters consisted of anintroduction of the two speakersby Dave Ermisch who coordinatedthis part of the program. Patrick Hogan, Associate Director forSafety and Security discussedsecurity issues as they relate tolesbian and gay volunteers. Hetalked about his intention toexplore the collection of assaultdata by categories, such as hatecrimes. Peace Corps currentlydoes not collect data in thismanner - nor does the Departmentof State. He talked about hisempathy for lesbian and gayPCVs who are “out” in the U.S.,but who may need to be muchmore discrete in their countries of service for safety reasons, and thedifficulties this can cause lesbianand gay volunteers. He said thedecision to be “out or not” was anindividual decision, not one man-dated by anyone at Peace Corps.He mentioned that the countryWelcome Books discuss issues for
Continued on page 7
 
LGB RPCV NewsLetter - August 2003 
2
Peace Corps: Priority to People or the State?
- Tom La Belle, RPCV Colombia
Since the 1960s, PeaceCorps involvement inthese government togovernment and govern-ment to NGO programsseem to sanction animplicit support for thestatus quo rather thanchange.
Many of us go into the PeaceCorps with an idealistic bent, thinkingthat somehow our investment will payoff in greater equity, access, andequality for those with whom wework. And many of us are able towork with a handful of people and seethose benefits accrue. On the otherhand, thinking back over the life of the Peace Corps as an organization,buffeted by the politics of the day, Idon’t believe it has lived up to theideals which many of us, no doubtnaively, thought it might. Instead, ithas often found itself at the service of short term U.S. or multilateral policiesbased upon who is in the WhiteHouse or who determines U.S. foreignpolicy. In reflecting on its forty plusyear history, either such idealisticexpectations have not been realisticor its contributions should be judgedby other criteria.In the 1960s, and probably much of the 1970s, Volunteers in Latin Americawere likely to be assigned to work abroad through host country govern-ments rather than non governmentagencies (NGOs). In recent years,because of more frequent assignmentto large, multinational NGOs, thepattern has been different. But ineither case, Peace Corps alignmentwith both governments and NGOshas often meant representing thosewho set policy in seats of power orthose, like the World Bank, whoprovide a majority of NGO funding.These patterns of association havemeant that Peace Corps has oftenmissed working with the moreinnovative grass roots programs andinitiatives in the region, programswhich have been more aligned withthe poor and disenfranchised thanwith policy makers.
Government to Government:The Early Years
I was in Colombia in the mid 60sduring the heyday of Kennedy’sAlliance for Progress when most of the 700 Volunteers there worked withand through government to govern-ment programs. Volunteers wereassigned to government schools anduniversities, community developmentagencies, a national educationaltelevision initiative, agricultural andhealth extension programs, and so on,almost always associated with somelevel of the Colombian bureaucracy.Our particular group taught physicaleducation and coached athletic teams,so we were often in normal schoolstraining teachers or we worked withstate affiliated sports teams. Forawhile, one of my jobs, for example,was to train the swimming team fromthe National Police Academy, which Iwas scheduled to do several times aweek before sunrise, at an army baseoutside of Bogota. Another examplefound Volunteers helping prepareColombian athletes for the PanAmerican Games.Since the 1960s, Peace Corpsinvolvement in these government togovernment and government to NGOprograms seem to sanction an implicitsupport for the status quo rather thanchange. If change was intended, itwas usually gradual rather thanradical. The more radical change wasgenerally occurring around PeaceCorps, rather than with it. Radicalchange was also being put down, aswhen Lyndon Johnson landed U.S.military forces in the DominicanRepublic in the mid-1960s forcing thePeace Corps out. The left, however,kept pushing for progress in the1960s and 1970s. The Cuban literacybrigades, for example, brought a newperspective to rural education with afocus on political socialization. It wasa time when the Catholic Church, ledby relatively radical Bishops, spon-sored community based social actionprograms. It was also the time whenPaulo Freire was said to have severalhundred community based organiza-tions associated with his conscious-ness raising pedagogy of liberation inNortheast Brazil. His method usedgraphics to show the daily life of poorpeople in contrast to the wealthy. Hedisplayed these graphics to organizedcommunity groups of the poor andthen discussed the causes of beingrich and poor. By labeling thegraphics he also taught literacy.Originally associated with the Church,he influenced similar programselsewhere, including that of theBishops. He was exiled from Braziland then used the method underAllende in Chile. While some of theactivity in the region wasn’t soradical, like radio schools in Colom-bia, or family schools in Argentina,they nevertheless operated with aview from the community rather thanthe state. And while there were someinnovative government initiatives, likethe Brazilian (MOBRAL) and Ecua-dorian literacy and numeracy pro-grams, most attention was on thepolitical left, outside of governmentchannels, and associated with grassroots organizations. These wereloosely knit groups, maybe financedby the Church or a philanthropicfoundation, or perhaps operating withno funding at all. While individualVolunteers no doubt were influencedin their own work by what was goingon around them, they were not likelyto be officially placed with suchorganizations.The left was active because the
 
LGB RPCV NewsLetter - August 2003 
3
As NGOs filled in byproviding some of thesocial services govern-ments used to provide,they became known asthe implementation armof agencies like theWorld Bank.
politically conservative right, by theend of the 1960s was in power – 15 of 21 countries were ruled by themilitary. The left used grass rootsorganizations to challenge thedependency status of their communi-ties, ethnic groups, and nation states.In the 1970s, these efforts receivednew support from some internationalagencies, like the World Bank, whichfocused on the “poorest of the poor”.Beyond the rhetoric, however, localprograms were where the real actionwas. Popular education at the timeincorporated consciousness raisingwith social action, and sought to formcross class coalitions for greatereconomic and political power. Whilethere were revolutionary movementsoccurring at various stages through-out the region, especially in Nicara-gua in the late 1970s, they were oftenpreceded by years of clandestineeducational efforts. In the case oNicaragua, Somoza’s ouster followedwidespread radio programs, literacyprimers, poster campaigns andcommunity discussion groups, oftensponsored by the Church. The 1980Nicaraguan literacy campaign,employing elements from the Cubancampaign and Friere’s consciousraising, will be recalled as an extraor-dinary effort by a nation devastatedby war and debt.
IMF, Privatization, and NGOs
The late 1970s also saw nationalgovernments, at the insistence of theInternational Monetary Fund (IMF),begin their move to slowly pull back from supporting social actionprograms. They were told to reducefinancial sponsorship and increaseprivatizing services involvingcommunity development, literacy,extension, technical vocationaleducation and similar programs. Theeconomic crisis of the 1980s, whichsome have called the most seriousfinancial crisis to hit the region in thelast century, meant the acceleration of privatization through increasedpressures from the IMF, World Bank,USAID, and others. As the IMFassumed control over the region’seconomies, the gap between rich andpoor widened, increasing unemploy-ment, and fueling social protest.Accustomed to receiving basic socialservices, the resolve of some commu-nities increased and filled the gapthrough strengthening local organiza-tions.Peace Corps appears to havefollowed this government exodus fromcounterpart Peace Corps programsand began assigning Volunteers to thelarger NGOs. But this change inalignment didn’t seem to have muchimpact on the relation of Peace Corpswith the top rather than the bottom.Local opposition to the IMF hasincreased over the years as the effectsof globalization and U.S. inspiredeconomic policies have materialized.Economic nationalism and oppositionto free market and free trade policieshave led to mass protests and riots.Promises of prosperity have simplynot materialized. The backlash has ledto more loosely affiliated groupscoalescing around the indigenous,women, farmers, squatters, ecologyactivists, and human rights organiza-tions. As NGOs filled in by providingsome of the social services govern-ments used to provide, they becameknown as the implementation arm of agencies like the World Bank. In otherwords, the Bank designed theprojects and then found NGOs todeliver them. The web of connectionsbetween large corporations, multina-tional agencies and individual nationshas become more transparent and thePeace Corps is now aligned with allthree. An example of this web is theBush Administration’s effort toensure the loyalty of NGOs, whichreceive and distribute aid from theU.S. government. Through the use of funding as an incentive, NGOs arebeing reminded that as “partners”,their allegiance belongs to the U.S.and that part of their mission is toextol the virtues of U.S. foreignpolicy. “Silence” and”complicity” arewords used to describe U.S. relationswith NGOs.Perhaps the only alignment of aU.S. government agency with locallyfunded programs on the left in whichPeace Corps did have a role has beenthe Inter-American Foundation. Butpolitics caught up with its funding of grass roots organizations and itsexistence today is a much smaller andmuch more conservative one thanthat which existed in the 1970s and1980s. At that time, it actuallysupported groups form across thepolitical spectrum in Latin America,and almost always at the local,community based level.
Conclusion
As I said from the outset, weprobably shouldn’t expect PeaceCorps to be more than a U.S. govern-ment agency intended to deliverpeople to people services from theperspective of corporate and interna-tional financial market interests. Thechallenge remains, however. TheInternational Fund for AgriculturalDevelopment (IFAD) reports thatsome 90 million Latin American andCaribbean campesinos currently livebelow the poverty line and 47 millionare living in extreme poverty. Clearly,
Continued on page 6

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