Posts by: Alex DeWaal

Celebrity philanthropists like Bono, Madonna, George Clooney and Angelina Jolie have become the public face of the humanitarian agenda, along with gala events such as Comic Relief in Britain and its counterpart Red Nose Day in the USA. There’s nothing new about the social elite becoming publicly involved in ‘good causes,’ but today’s highly-networked configurations of power, business, media and charity are different: ‘designer’ activists, campaigners and philanthropists are flourishing as never before. But there’s a puzzle: there is little evidence that celebrity endorsements contribute to higher levels of donations to their favored charities, and opinion polls suggest that celebrity advocacy has a peculiar legitimacy with the public.

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I’ve studied famine and humanitarian relief for more than 30 years, and I wasn’t prepared for what I saw during a visit to Ethiopia last month. As I traveled through northern and central provinces, I saw imported wheat being brought to the smallest and most remote villages, thanks to a new Chinese-built railroad and a fleet of newly imported trucks. Water was delivered to places where wells had run dry. Malnourished children were being treated in properly staffed clinics.

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Why Corruption is Only Part of the Story in the Misgovernment and Immiseration of Africa — Africa loses at least $50 billion a year—and probably much, much more than that—perfectly lawfully. About 60 percent of this loss is from aggressive tax avoidance by multinational corporations, which organize their accounts so that they make their profits in tax havens, where they pay little or no tax. Much of the remainder is from organized crime with a smaller amount from corruption

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In a WPF policy briefing of March 24, 2016, Alex de Waal warns that South Sudan is entering a dangerous new phase. Below is from the introduction to briefing.

Access pdf of the full briefing.

Introduction

This policy briefing provides an analysis of the risks that South Sudan faces given the current convergent economic, […]

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Back in 2002, Meles Zenawi, then prime minister of Ethiopia, drafted a foreign policy and national security white paper for his country. Before finalizing it, he confided to me a “nightmare scenario” — not included in the published version — that could upend the balance of power in the Horn of Africa region.

The scenario went like this: Sudan is partitioned into a volatile south and an embittered north. The south becomes a sinkhole of instability, while the north is drawn into the Arab orbit. Meanwhile, Egypt awakens from its decades-long torpor on African issues and resumes its historical stance of attempting to undermine Ethiopia, with which it has a long-standing dispute over control of the Nile River. It does so by trying to bring Eritrea and Somalia into its sphere of influence, thereby isolating the government in Addis Ababa from its direct neighbors. Finally, Saudi Arabia begins directing its vast financial resources to support Ethiopia’s rivals and sponsor Wahhabi groups that challenge the traditionally dominant Sufis in the region, generating conflict and breeding militancy within the Muslim communities.

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Winning the peace in the Horn of Africa — and its neighbors across the huge arc of turbulence from the Maghreb to Central Asia — means studying the warlord’s playbook, updated for the 21st century. Countries beset by factionalism, corruption and violence can’t be fixed with the 20th century tool kit of peace talks leading to new constitutions, plus using aid to build institutions, backed by U.N. peacekeepers. Worse, the U.S. strategy of outsourcing counter-terrorism programs to regional proxies just funnels ready cash into precisely the most skilled and ruthless operators in the political marketplace, as well as giving them the means for repression.

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