Statement by Deputy National Security Advisor For Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes on the Opening of a Peace Corps Program in Burma
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 13, 2014) — The United States strongly supports the people of Burma as they continue their democratic transition and lay the foundation for a future of economic prosperity that strengthens civil society, empowers youth, and develops opportunities for all. There is no better way for the United States to demonstrate our commitment to the people of Burma than through people-to-people connections at the grassroots level. In this spirit, President Obama is proud to announce today in Naypyitaw that the Peace Corps will open a program in Burma.
Last year, the Peace Corps received a formal invitation from the Government of Burma to open a program to support the people of their country. The first Peace Corps volunteers will arrive in late 2015 and will undergo three months of comprehensive cross-cultural, language, and technical training before moving to their volunteer sites for two years. At their sites, they will partner with people to strengthen local capacity, facilitate cultural exchanges at the grassroots level, and build friendships that will last a lifetime and further strengthen the ties between our two countries.
The Peace Corps is ideally suited to enhance our engagement with the people of Burma at this historic and consequential moment in time. We look forward to continued efforts to deepen the people to people ties between our two countries.
Information on the Peace Corps:
The Peace Corps was established in 1961 as a symbol of world peace and friendship between the United States and other nations. Since then, nearly 220,000 Americans of all ages have served in 140 countries worldwide. This new program will make Burma the 141st country with a Peace Corp program.
The Peace Corps seeks to 1) help the people of interested countries meet their need for trained men and women; 2) help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served; and, 3) help promote a better understanding of other people on the part of Americans.
The Peace Corps sends the best and brightest Americans overseas to help meet the most pressing needs of people around the world. Volunteers live and work alongside the people they serve. They work in tandem with local government counterparts, work in schools, partner with their communities, and help local business organizations and entrepreneurs create sustainable, community-based projects that address challenges in education, health, community economic development, agriculture, environment, and youth development.
Today’s announcement further demonstrates the strong partnership and enduring relationship between the United States and Burma.
To learn more about the Peace Corps and apply to be a volunteer, please visit www.peacecorps.gov.
FACT SHEET: U.S. Assistance to Burma
U.S. assistance to Burma reflects the U.S. government’s goal of supporting Burma’s democratic and economic transition. Since 2012, the U.S. government has provided over $225 million in assistance to Burma (FY 2012-2013). In FY 2014, the United States provided over $150 million in additional assistance.
Assistance is targeted at five key goals:
National Reconciliation: U.S. assistance builds networks of cooperation and understanding within Burma’s diverse citizenry, and strengthens processes for peace and national reconciliation.
• U.S.-funded programs have increase the conflict-mitigation capacity of 35 local partners, ensuring their programs “do no harm” and reduce conflict in their communities.
• The Embassy’s Small Grants Program funds small-scale projects in ethnic states across the country to bolster civil society’s capacity and development, including women’s engagement in the peace and reconciliation processes, and promoting trust between parties in conflict.
Democratic Institutions: U.S. assistance builds the capacity of democratic institutions and a politically-engaged civil society, promotes human rights, and strengthens rule of law to strengthen the people’s ability to shape Burma’s democratic reform.
• In the last year, the U.S. Government provided assistance to over 300 civil society organizations throughout the country and supported local initiatives valued at more than $10.5 million, and implemented by 90 local partners.
• U.S.-funded programs strengthen parliamentarians’ ability to perform their legislative, budgeting, and oversight functions; help political parties represent the interests of their constituents; and work to improve the transparency of electoral processes in advance of the 2015 elections.
Economic Development: The U.S. supports Burma’s ongoing economic reform efforts, and believes that responsible investment and transparent policy dialogue will encourage further change, promote inclusive economic development, and contribute to the welfare of the Burmese people.
• U.S. support will reach 350,000 farm households with new technologies, strengthen targeted value chains, and improve land tenure security for small-holder farmers.
• U.S.-funded programs target the development of small and medium-enterprises and support reforms to establish a better business and trade-enabling environment as a means to create jobs and improve conditions of employment.
• The U.S. government is supporting programs to reform Burma’s tax system, strengthen the capacity of government institutions to supervise the financial sector, and improve governance in the extractive energy sector.
• The U.S. has also partnered with the International Labor Organization, Japan, and others on an initiative to modernize Burma’s labor code, improve compliance, and foster a robust dialogue on labor issues between the government, workers’ and employers’ organizations, and civil society.
Healthy, Resilient Communities: U.S. assistance improves the lives of millions in Burma. Programs aim to assist internally displaced people (IDPs) and reduce under-five child mortality and transmission of infectious diseases.
• U.S. assistance provided clinical services to over 57,000 clients through mobile health clinics.
• U.S.-funded programs have reached over 20,000 individuals at heightened risk for HIV with outreach services, and screened more than 70,000 people for TB, treating more than 23,000.
• U.S. emergency food assistance supports 172,000 IDPs in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states.
• Peace Corps is poised to open its first-ever program in Burma, where Volunteers will partner with Burmese counterparts to strengthen local capacity and facilitate cultural exchanges at the grassroots level, beginning with the first arrival of volunteers in late-2015.
Regional Cooperation: The U.S. government has supported Burma’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014 through dialogue with ASEAN-focused senior officials and training young diplomats on the principles, mechanisms, and protocols in ASEAN.