News and Information

U.S. Must `Walk the Walk' in Africa
July 20, 2004

July 20, 2004
Posted to the web July 20, 2004

Jaclyn Schiff
Washington, DC

Chester A. Crocker is the James R. Schlesinger Chair in Strategic Studies and serves as an Associate in the Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. Crocker's teaching and research focus on international conflict management and mediation.

Crocker was part of a panel of policy experts that oversaw "Rising U.S. Stakes in Africa," a recently published CSIS report outlining seven new policy recommendations for Africa. In commenting on one policy suggestion from the report, he said "There's no question that this could have a dramatic impact on the entire sub-region, if we do it right." Crocker talked to AllAfrica's Jaclyn Schiff about the report.

Do the recommendations outlined in the report represent a shift from past policies?

I think they represent an effort to derive best practice from what we've learned and to urge a greater focus of efforts and greater concentration of political capital for dealing with these problems. Not surprisingly, that's the nature of the panel of this sort. So I think it's not so much a shift as it is, `Let's do more of it. Let's do it better.'

Among the recommendations, what is the most important priority?

That's really hard because we're going across a really wide waterfront of issues. I'd be personally a bit reluctant to single out one or two, but I think the key is staying power and keeping Africa and African issues on the radar on a consistent basis so that we're not just fooling ourselves with rhetoric - that we actually deliver and follow-up on initiatives that relate to financial sector liberalization and the whole Millennium Challenge Account. That implies that we're going to have the resources to make all of this work. That's really important. It's a signal to Congress and the administration alike. I think it's really a case of being serious rather than just talking the talk. We've had far too much of talking the talk on Africa, both in the distant past and in the recent past.

Which recommendations are most likely to be implemented?

There is a lot of focus right now on transparency in the extractive industries. I think that's certainly up there in terms of something that is likely. But I think the conservation initiative will certainly attract some degree of attention and I would hope that we carry it forward. After all, what is being described in that particular paper has implications for job creation [and] has implications for health. It has implications for avoiding the looting of resources, tropical woods and timber particularly, as well as creating a balanced relationship between conservation interests and the economic survival interests of local people. The counter-terrorist threat is very high on the agenda and let's hope that people take those recommendations seriously because they are very much focused on the current high-profile concern with terrorism.

How would U.S. interests benefit from the implementation of these recommendations?

U.S. interests, of course, would be served by a demonstration of the success of American diplomacy, in partnership with African and European diplomacy. That is exactly what we need. We need success stories, cases of crisis management and conflict management that work. Where you don't only get to the point of signature, but that you implement what you have signed, that parties actually turn the page and go forward. We have too many examples of failed peace processes or ones that don't really work well as we're seeing right now in the DRC. I'm not predicting failure there, but it sure is rough and rocky. We need better examples and I just think it would be a very strong plus for American credibility - not only in Africa, but vis--vis the War on Terrorism and vis--vis our engagement with moderate Muslims around the world - by trying to show that we can work successfully with societies that are partially or largely Islamic to bring about change towards a better future. [That] would be a very big plus.

The Sudan section was completed some time ago. With the recent happenings in Darfur, what should the United States and the international community be doing to promote peace in that country?

The paper remains valid in that regard, because you're not going to end the Darfurs of this world unless we get the North-South peace process fully finalized, signed and implemented. Through the Nibasha process, there will be a possibility for really moving towards a political accord on Darfur. But without the North-South process, I would despair that Darfur would get resolved any time soon. There has been a lot of commentary suggesting that we should just drop our attention from the North-South process and focus on the emergency in Darfur. I think that is very wrong-hea

Is there anything else you would like to add about a specific part of the report?

The paper on crisis, diplomacy and peace operations, I obviously have very strong feelings about. I think it's a good paper and it clearly addresses some very important high profile concerns right now: whether it's making a more effective case for engagement and leadership with these issues, whether it's sector specific as in more aid, more support for capacity building and African peace-keeping or whether it is the small arms and light weapons set of issues that are in that particular section of the paper. These are all very important initiatives and I think the administration is behind them in a sense, but there are some more things that could be done in terms of dedicating more people to these issues and expanding our diplomatic presence in some key regions. But I think that's a very strong paper.


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