- By Josh Rogin
U.S. President Barack Obama announced today that Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams has resigned.
"From working tirelessly to improve volunteer support to his leadership in reforming and modernizing the agency, Aaron has been a champion of the thousands of remarkable Peace Corps Volunteers serving across the globe," Obama said in a statement. "I know the positive change that Peace Corps Volunteers make, and under Aaron’s leadership the agency’s work has been at the forefront of this Administration’s efforts to increase global engagement. I want to extend my thanks to him for his dedicated service and wish him and his family the best."
Williams has been heading the Peace Corps since being confirmed in August 2009. A lifelong development professional and former USAID official, Williams presided over several changes in the aid agency, including its expansion into countries including Sierra Leone, Indonesia, Columbia, Tunisia, and Nepal.
In a statement, Williams cited "personal and family considerations" as the reason for his departure.
But his tenure will likely be remembered for the sexual-assault scandal that rocked the corps in 2011 and brought significant congressional criticism of Williams’s handling of the revelation that the Peace Corps had not properly responded to increased reports of attacks on female volunteers in foreign countries.
ABC News did a series of reports highlighting cases of rape and sexual assault against Peace Corps volunteers in which the victims said that Peace Corps leadership discouraged them from reporting the assaults and failed to take steps to ensure their safety.
After initially resisting cooperating with the ABC investigation, Williams testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and pledged to change the policies and culture of the Peace Corps, which several victims testified was focused on blaming the victims of sexual assault.
"There is no doubt that what these courageous women have done has opened our eyes to what we need to correct and we need to correct it now," Williams testified at the May 2011 hearing. "Rest assured, this type of thing, blaming the victim, will not continue in the Peace Corps of today."
Senate Appropriations State and Foreign Ops Subcommittee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), praised Williams’ handling of the scandal and his time as head of the Peace Corps in a statement today.
“I have great admiration for Director Williams. I watched him restore the credibility and reaffirm the mission of one of America’s finest organizations. What he and the Peace Corps have achieved shows the best face of America," Leavhy said.
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.| Passport |