we have a winner
And the winner of Nina Munk's The Idealist is...
Comment #15, Kim Yi Dionne!
"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)
And the winner of Nina Munk's The Idealist is...
It's hard to come up with anything to say about Nina Munk's magnificent new book that hasn't already been said. The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty takes as its task trying to understand Sachs and his Millennium Villages Project (MVP). Munk, who had a high level of access to Sachs and his staff for about six years, details the MVP as the realities of development, culture, and community preferences slam up against Sachs' expertise and view that the solutions to global poverty are primarily technical.
I'll be at Duke University this Friday (4/19), speaking on conflict minerals in DRC at the Nicholas School of the Environment at 10am. Details are here. I'll also be speaking at a public event at Blacknall Memorial Presbyterian Church at 7pm that evening. Would love to meet anyone who'll be around!
(It's April Fool's Day, but this is not a joke.)
It's SWEDOW bracket time! For those first-timers, this is an NCAA men's college basketball tournament bracket competition with prizes for the winner that are considered SWEDOW ("stuff we don't want,") a phrase coined by the inimitable Tales from the Hood. All you have to do to compete is fill out a bracket and join the SWEDOW 2013 group via the ESPN Tournament Challenge.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and businessman and philanthropist Howard Buffett have a column in Foreign Policy this week titled, "Stand with Rwanda." In the piece, they argue that aid cuts to Rwanda in the wake of the UN Group of Experts' revelations that Rwanda is actively supporting the human rights-abusing M23 rebel movement in the DRC should be restored. They ignore the "generally democratic governments don't like to give money to war-mongering states" aspect of this issue, instead focusing on the negative effects of the cuts for Rwanda's population and how indisputably effective aid has been in Rwanda.
Then there is the international presence: the largest and most expensive U.N. peacekeeping operation in the world with almost 14,000 troops. At a cost of $1.5 billion each year, Western governments are paying a huge sum of money to maintain a U.N. force that does not have the mandate to actually secure the region. The international community should instead focus its support on African-led solutions to security, ideally through an African Union-led security force similar to AMISOM in Somalia."First, MONUSCO does not have "almost 14,000 troops," it has 17,090, as can easily be learned by searching Google for "MONUSCO troop strength," then choosing the first hit, the most recent UN "MONUSCO Facts and Figures" page. Aside from making an error resulting from poor fact checking, Blair and Buffett are also apparently unaware that the Security Council is likely about to greatly strengthen the MONUSCO mandate to do more to "actually secure the region" by increasing its capacity to fight rebels and to protect civilians. I've said it before and I'll say it again: DRC is not Somalia. The "AMISOM for Congo" idea Blair and Buffett and many other people who don't spend time in the DRC raise from time to time (as is the case with the "AMISOM for Mali" idea) is unlikely to work. In all the discussions of what to do about Congo, including discussions about a possible SADC or another neutral force, an African Union mission has never been considered as a viable possibility because it is not a viable possibility. Too many of the largest troop-contributing states to African Union missions - namely Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi - are entangled in the DRC crisis one way or another.
At the same time, it should support proposals currently being agreed to through the International Conference for the Great Lakes Regionand the current peace negotiations underway between M23 and the DRC government in Kampala. Already, there are encouraging signs of progress. On Feb, 6, 2013, the government of DRC and M23 signed a preliminary agreement in which both parties accepted responsibility for the failure of an earlier peace agreement.This defies reality. The Kampala talks have stalled over intractable issues and most of the major players have gone home. Getting the two sides to agree that the March 23, 2009 agreement failed to be implemented is the diplomatic equivalent of passing a resolution stating that the sky is blue. The likelihood that any sustainable peace will come out of the Kampala talks is, to put it mildly,minuscule. No reasonable observer disputes the fact that the Congolese's state's many, many, many weaknesses are a major factor contributing to the proliferation of armed groups in the region. But likewise, no reasonable observer thinks that domestic politics and issues are the only causes of violence in the Congo. There is no question that Rwanda's involvement in Congo has caused far more violence and suffering than would have otherwise been present. There is also no question that the Congo will not be at peace until some viable form of effective domestic governance emerges. To claim otherwise is disingenuous.
A few upcoming speaking engagements:
The Simon Fraser University Human Security Report for 2011/12 is out. This year's edition focuses on sexual violence in war, and the findings are astonishing. Essentially, SFU found that the data shows much of the conventional wisdom on such issues as rape as a weapon of war, who is committing rape in wartime, and negative effects on education is completely wrong. Among the report's findings:
It's October, which means it's time for the annual brouhaha over President Obama giving a partial waiver to the DRC for the sanctions that are required by US law to be imposed against countries that have child soldiers serving in their military forces. And, like clockwork, human rights advocates raised objections to this decision, arguing that the US should cut all assistance to DRC and to the other countries that received waivers, Libya, South Sudan, and Yemen. The partial waiver for DRC allows the US government to continue selling some arms to the DRC and to continue some military training programs in the country despite the fact that the FARDC clearly still has child soldiers within its ranks. Many have expressed outrage over the decision, which marks the third year in a row of waivers for some of the worst violators of international norms regarding the use of child soldiers.
"Jo Becker, advocacy director for the children's rights division at Human Rights Watch, told The Cable that where the United States has used some pressure, such as in the DRC, where there was a partial cutoff of military aid last year, there was a positive effect. 'After years of foot-dragging, Congo is close to signing a U.N. action plan to end its use of child soldiers.'"This is a positive step, and it likely would not have happened had the US not effectively leveraged its power to pressure the Congolese government to change through partnership within the system.
I have several speaking engagements coming up this academic year: