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  • Communications Intern 2 posted an article
    Black wrote the definitive book on U.S. interference in post-colonial Brazil. see more

    Jan Knippers Black (1940–2021) wrote the definitive book on U.S. interference in post-colonial Brazil.

     

    By Catherine Gardner

     

    Photo by Elëna Zhukova

     

    Professor emerita, world traveler, beloved role model and mentor to thousands of students, singer and songwriter, advocate and ally: These are just some of the many terms one could use to describe Jan Knippers Black, a prominent scholar and human rights activist. She wrote the definitive book on U.S. interference in post-colonial Brazil — some years after she was invited to play piano in Elvis Presley’s band. She was well known for her expertise on political dynamics within Latin America, specifically about the intersection of U.S. affairs in the region and the relationships between the U.S. and several of the Latin American countries. 

    Black’s first degree was a B.A. in art and Spanish from the University of Tennessee. Then, she said, “When I heard about the Peace Corps in 1961, I said ‘That’s it! That’s where I’ll find myself.’” She was among the first group of Volunteers in Chile. She returned and earned a Ph.D. from American University and later joined the faculty of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. She understood the importance of first-hand experience and led trips for students to Cuba, Iran, Bhutan, Chile, and the Balkans. 

    She was elected to the Amnesty International USA Board of Directors and spoke out on behalf of arrested activists. Upon her retirement in 2018, she launched the Jan Knippers Black Fund for Human Rights Protection to support student workers and speakers in the field. She died in August 2021 at age 81. 

     

    This remembrance appears in the Spring-Summer edition of WorldView magazine.

     


    Catherine Gardner is an intern with WorldView. She is a student at Lafayette College.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    During the U.S. Civil War, these weapons were lambasted as "offenses against democracy" see more

    America’s Buried History

    Landmines in the Civil War

    By Kenneth Rutherford

    Savas Beatie

     

    Reviewed by Nathalie Vadnais and Steven Boyd Saum

    Illustration from the cover of America’s Buried History

     

    There are tens of millions of land mines buried in dozens of countries around the world. Each year thousands of civilians are maimed and killed by them — despite the 1997 treaty to ban antipersonnel mines, an agreement to which 164 countries are party. Political scientist Ken Rutherford, who served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mauritania 1987–89, knows firsthand how cruel those weapons can be.

    While working for the International Rescue Committee in Somalia in 1993, Rutherford was in a vehicle that struck a land mine. He was severely injured; one leg had to be amputated. Several years later, so did the other. He co-founded the Landmine Survivors Network, now known as Survivor Corps, to help communities recover from war and break the cycle of violence. At the time, land mines killed some 26,000 people a year. Driving home that this is not a strictly military issue but a humanitarian one, Rutherford played a key role with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.

    Yet these weapons continue to cause suffering and death. Just this March, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a Red Cross official discovered that Russian troops had mined a proposed humanitarian corridor from the city of Mariupol. Ukraine is a signatory to the convention banning land mines; Russia is not. (Nor is the U.S., though under President Obama the U.S. said it would stop using mines everywhere but the Korean Peninsula. In 2020, President Trump put mines back on the table for use anywhere.)America's Buried History cover

    Take that as the present to which America’s Buried History is prologue. Rutherford delivers the first comprehensive analysis of the development and use of land mines in the U.S. Civil War, when they were first deployed on a widespread basis. Developed by Confederate General Gabriel Rains (who had experimented with explosive booby traps in wars against the Seminole people), mines were deployed across the Confederacy to compensate for a shortage of manpower and materiel. In response, Union generals at times turned the Confederate weapons upon those they had captured. Major Gen. George B. McClellan ordered Confederate “prisoners remove the mines at their own peril.” Generals Philip H. Sheridan and William T. Sherman ordered prisoners to march ahead of their own troops to identify or detonate land mines.  

     

    These weapons, initially lambasted as being “offenses against democracy and civilized warfare,” acquired an accepted place in arsenals around the world.

     

    But these weapons, initially lambasted as being “offenses against democracy and civilized warfare,” acquired an accepted place in arsenals around the world. In his review for Peace Corps Worldwide, Paul Aertker describes this book as one written with “intensity and heart” and assesses, “With an empathetic pen, Rutherford illustrates the devastating and powerful effects of these newly invented ‘infernal machines.’”

    More than 15 years ago, a Fulbright took Rutherford to the University of Jordan to teach politics and to research disability rights. In 2006, he participated in U.N. work to adopt the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities treaty, and in 2008 played a key role in the drafting of the Convention on Cluster Munitions treaty, which banned that category of weapons. While 100 countries have signed that treaty, the U.S. and Russia are not among them.

    Since 2012, Russian forces have used cluster munitions to devastating effect on civilians in Syria; since 2014, Russian-backed forces have used them in eastern Ukraine. And in the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Russian forces have used them to broadly target civilian areas. One can glean many insights from Rutherford’s study. A hard and brutal one, given current events, is about failing to learn from the past.

     

    This review appears in the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine. Story updated May 2, 2022.


    Nathalie Vadnais is an intern with WorldView. She is completing a degree in international studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

    Steven Boyd Saum is the editor of WorldView.

  • Communications Intern 2 posted an article
    A perspective from Kenya. July 18, 2020 global ideas summit: Peace Corps Connect to the Future. see more

    A host country perspective from Kenya. Remarks from the July 18, 2020 global ideas summit: Peace Corps Connect to the Future.

    By Dr. Mohamud Sheikh Nurein Said

     

    On July 18, 2020, National Peace Corps Association hosted Peace Corps Connect to the Future, a global ideas summit. NPCA invited three winners of the Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award to share their perspectives. Here are remarks delivered by Dr. Mohamud Sheikh Nurein Said  — volunteer, philanthropist, and humanitarian engaged in a wide range of medical service and human rights activities on the local, national, and international levels. 

    Below is an edited version of his remarks.

     

    Hi everybody, I’m happy to be given this chance to share with you some experiences. I’ll talk about three episodes regarding the Peace Corps. Peace Corps came at the correct time when many countries just gained their independence; the young people who came as Volunteers were disciplined and they really interacted with the community.

    People in Kenya knew very little about the United States. With the coming of the Peace Corps Volunteers, who worked mainly in rural areas, people came to know more. And that was during during the Cold War. Discussions took place, and people felt at home with the Volunteers — and the Volunteers themselves felt at home. Thus that aim of the Peace Corps was achieved immediately. 

    The majority of the Volunteers were teachers, and I'm happy to say that most of the people who went through those schools — special high schools — and because of the Peace Corps, they did well in school and they have really served the community. That's the main aim of the Peace Corps: to empower the people. 

     

    Watch: Remarks by Dr. Mohamud Sheikh Nurein Said from July 18

     


    As the years went on, especially in other fields, what Peace Corps Volunteers did was marvelous. In technical terms, whether in agriculture or in otherwise empowering people, they did a good job. The policy of the American government was seen on the ground; to see and talk to people and exchange ideas is when you learn more about the country. And it came as a cultural exchange: We learned technical fields, and we learned more about American culture and American people. 

    After the Cold War came another era — the era of terrorism, which really affected the work done by Volunteers in several countries. In some countries, the Volunteers couldn't go too deep in some areas. And as things change, especially in Kenya, they had to be pulled out; that was very sad. That also interfered with the work of the Peace Corps Volunteers. 

    And now there is a reckoning because of this pandemic. I think this a big a big blow to the Peace Corps itself — especially in Kenya, because we were just planning to bring in new Peace Corps Volunteers. We were ready to receive them, after they were pulled out about seven years ago. They were coming back. And unfortunately, all of a sudden this pandemic came. 

    Now is a very difficult time, especially for the work of the Peace Corps — because the Peace Corps Volunteers work with communities and interact with communities. With this pandemic, we don't know how long it will take. So unfortunately, that interaction is no longer there. Because when people are living together and working together, they learn from each other — and they learn each other's culture, even how to prepare traditional dishes. We shall miss all that. 

    How can the Peace Corps change and work from outside the country they're supposed to be in? How can the Volunteers work? It's a big challenge. And I think this we have to look at very critically. I don't see Volunteers coming back to the countries in the near future. So I think the best thing is to plan and see how we can interact. What we are doing now through Zoom most these days — people have learned to communicate. People are working from home; is it possible to give some technical advice from home? That's one thing we should look at.

     

    I hope things which would have changed a long time ago should change now, and people should be respected. 

    How can we revive or continue with the work that Peace Corps Volunteers were doing? They have left, and I'm sure that local people that are trying to contact them to do some work; it's a continuous train which goes on. 

    How can we survive during this pandemic? We need to look at ourselves and bring our heads together and see how the work can be done. We have seen it at the national conference taking place. And is it possible, at least to some extent, to carry on with the work we are doing in the stations we were through Zoom?

    The other issue is the American situation. Just recently people were really shocked when the [government] said that international students who are there had to come back. I'm very happy that decision was revised. Such decisions sometimes, unfortunately, affect ordinary people who have children there and who are starting their own family; they hope that they will get the education they need in America and then come back. So if all of a sudden they said that "No, because of this pandemic, you have to go back," it becomes difficult. 

    But also, if I can mention what has happened recently in the States — especially the brutality which is going on: That really affected so many people all over the world. I'm glad that things are being worked out, and I hope things which would have changed a long time ago should change now, and people should be respected. 

    People are very sensitive, especially in terms of human rights; people are saying that especially that America, this democracy, is usually the first to talk about and harass other countries when there is abuse of human rights. And here people are looking at especially the security guys and themselves doing such things. As human beings, we should all learn to live with each other and respect each other — and work together.


    Dr. Mohamud Sheikh Nurein Said of Kenya is a volunteer, philanthropist, and humanitarian engaged in a wide range of medical service and human rights activities on the local, national, and international levels. He is the 2013 recipient of the Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award.

  • Communications Intern 2 posted an article
    An open letter from hundreds of returned Volunteers and three former U.S. ambassadors see more

    An open letter from 350 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who have served in Ethiopia and Eritrea — signed by former U.S. ambassadors and more

     

    By Jake Arce

     

    AS BLOODSHED IN THE TIGRAY REGION of Ethiopia drew toward the end of its third month, more than 350 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and a trio of former U.S. ambassadors issued an appeal to Congress asking for the U.S. to condemn the violence and demanding better humanitarian access, heightened protection of civilians, a U.N. investigation into human rights violations, and the lifting an information blockade. The returned Volunteers were joined by scores of former Fulbright fellows and other concerned citizens. They did not advocate for any political entity but “in support of human dignity.” 

    Violence in the region was triggered by an election in Tigray in November 2020 that the government of Ethiopia deemed unconstitutional. Fighting flared between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and government forces, sending tens of thousands of people fleeing into neighboring countries. Now more than 2 million people have been displaced.

     

    “We ask that the United States does not forget that its strongest allies are not simply constituted of politicians in Addis Ababa,” the letter states. “They are also the students, teachers, farmers, and healthcare workers that Peace Corps Volunteers collaborated with in the urban and rural communities currently embroiled in turmoil.” 

     

    There have been extensive reports of civilians killed, tortured, or internally displaced, as well as destruction of infrastructure, including health clinics, which are crucial during a deadly COVID-19 pandemic. In late March the prime minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, confirmed the presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray, with many organizations reporting human rights abuses — including extrajudicial killings and the ransacking of Eritrean refugee camps by these forces. 

     

    Mother and child, refugees in Sudan: some of the more than 2 million people displaced by violence in Tigray. Photo by Nariman El-Mofty / Associated Press

     

    The letter was written by returned Volunteers who served in Ethiopia and Eritrea and sent in February. It urged humanitarian aid to Tigray amid reports of starvation. Over 5 million people remain food insecure; famine stalks.

    “We ask that the United States does not forget that its strongest allies are not simply constituted of politicians in Addis Ababa,” the letter states. “They are also the students, teachers, farmers, and healthcare workers that Peace Corps Volunteers collaborated with in the urban and rural communities currently embroiled in turmoil.” 

    In March, the U.S. State Department declared it was looking into cases of human rights abuse in Tigray and offered additional humanitarian aid in response to the conflict.