For the international mediator, it’s not his war: he is neither tainted by the crimes nor related to the victims. But his conscience is also on the table, and he may believe in peace not as an exercise in political calculus, but as a humanitarian necessity. He doesn’t choose the parties or the dispute, and his control is limited to skill in handling the agenda, and moral suasion.

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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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Since the first day that African people stepped foot on this western shore, in bondage and draped in chains, they have struggled within and against the controlling images that have been imposed on black life. Those images—accompanied by a particular narrative and reality–have and continue to have a devastating impact on the lives of African Americans.

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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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In the next few months, the African Union is set to choose its next Chairperson: the woman or man who will lead the Commission and guide the entire continent for the next four years, or possibly eight. It’s a hugely important post, and Africans should care who fills it.

The Chairperson is in charge of […]

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