Peace Corps’ Commitment to Addressing Racial and Social Injustice

June 10, 2020

WASHINGTON – Director Jody Olsen delivered the following message to the Peace Corps today, June 10:

The Peace Corps family—both at home and around the world—is outraged and saddened by the killing of George Floyd. We mourn his life and all Black lives lost to beliefs, behaviors, and practices that continue to be embedded in systems of racism throughout the United States.

Hundreds and thousands of peaceful demonstrators here in the U.S. and in many countries around the world, including countries where our Volunteers serve, have gathered to demand long-overdue change. As the horror settles into anger, sorrow, and deep hurt, our RPCV community and staff are rightfully demanding that Peace Corps leadership and the agency at large step up to demonstrate our commitment to addressing racial and social injustice via informed, meaningful, and sustained action.

Over the last week, I have heard from many of you. I am grateful for your willingness to share, and I am clear that this moment calls for each of us to courageously align our words and deeds so that, in all we do, both our words and our actions center on human dignity—particularly for those to whom it has been denied. I am simultaneously humbled and energized by your courage and your honesty. I commit to you that under my leadership, Peace Corps is taking the opportunity of this unprecedented moment to step up—and will continue to step up—to model our principles and goals.

With these and many more considerations in mind, I commit to working with leadership to create spaces to engage Peace Corps staff and RPCVs in respectful, authentic conversations about racial injustice. We each have a role to play in creating more transparent, just, and equitable systems.

Transforming the powerful conversations we have had—and will continue to have—into actionable items for the agency will involve short-, medium-, and long-term changes and objectives.

First, I am establishing a Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion. They will report directly to me and listen, challenge, and provide a voice and a plan to make changes in how we work to erase discrimination in our agency.

Second, as an active component of the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, I have asked the director of OCRD and the Chief Diversity Officer to continue facilitating ongoing discussions to help define our path forward. We can benefit from their guidance and wisdom as we encourage conversations on race and inequality both here at home and in the countries we serve.

Third, we are re-energizing the Barriers Analysis group. This group was created just before COVID-19 and was tasked with taking a detailed look at recruitment, hiring, and advancement barriers. Their goal is to ensure more diverse personnel throughout the agency. The group, chaired by our director of OCRD and the CHICO, begins work anew today.

Fourth, I am re-filling my senior advisor position with a former Country Director who has just completed eight years with Peace Corps. Her primary emphasis will be on supporting our offices as they plan our return to service. She will work in collaboration with existing efforts to further strengthen U.S. and international staff tools and strategies for supporting a diverse work and Volunteer force.

Additionally, I commit to putting funding behind developing systems for the:

  • transparency in communication of your recommendations, subsequent leadership decisions, and proximate steps towards all goals that come out of our work from this day forward;
  • recruitment, selection, and retention of staff and Volunteers that reflect the diversity of our nation—with a particular focus on underrepresented groups;
  • strengthening leadership tools, strategies, and accountability for applying an equity lens that can effectively support a diverse workforce and Volunteer force; and,
  • establish a Racial Diversity and Equity Advisory Committee to continue educating leadership.

About the Peace Corps: The Peace Corps sends Americans with a passion for service abroad on behalf of the United States to work with communities and create lasting change. Volunteers develop sustainable solutions to address challenges in education, health, community economic development, agriculture, the environment and youth development. Through their Peace Corps experience, volunteers gain a unique cultural understanding and a life-long commitment to service that positions them to succeed in today's global economy. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 235,000 Americans of all ages have served in 141 countries worldwide. For more information, visit peacecorps.gov and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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