Yesterday, the Peace Corps Director announced that:
President Obama [has] signed into law the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011, codifying a number of the reforms the Peace Corps has put into place over the past two years to better protect and support Volunteers. The Act is named in honor of Kate Puzey, a Peace Corps volunteer who died while serving in Benin in 2009.
The new law codifies and expands many of the reforms the agency has put in place to enhance safety and security and ensure compassionate and effective response and support to all volunteers. The Peace Corps has:
• Hired a nationally recognized leader in victims’ rights to serve as the agency’s first victim advocate. Victims of crime can now turn to a skilled and experienced Peace Corps staff member dedicated to making certain volunteers receive the emotional, medical, legal, and other support they need both during and after their service.
• Updated and expanded training for volunteers and staff on sexual assault awareness, risk-reduction strategies, bystander intervention, and reporting and response procedures.
• Created an external body of leading experts in the field of sexual assault and returned Peace Corps volunteers to provide advice on Peace Corps’ sexual assault risk reduction and response strategies.
• Established procedures to ensure that allegations by Peace Corps volunteers are handled confidentially and appropriately.
You can read the bill at the Library of Congress website, here.
In addition to codifying measures the Peace Corps already has in place, the law also creates a new requirement that will involve Diplomatic Security more directly with the safety and security of PC volunteers.
SEC. 7. CONFORMING SAFETY AND SECURITY AGREEMENT REGARDING PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS SERVING IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES.
(a) IN GENERAL.— Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Director of the Peace Corps shall consult with the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security and enter into a memorandum of understanding that specifies the duties and obligations of the Peace Corps and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security of the Department of State with respect to the protection of Peace Corps volunteers and staff members serving in foreign countries, including with respect to investigations of safety and security incidents and crimes committed against volunteers and staff members.
This MOU will be something to watch. Exactly what duties and obligations concerning Peace Corps volunteers will DS pick up? And how much can anyone really do about volunteer safety and security, given the very isolated nature of volunteer assignments?