Why our hype can harm: Congo edition

Simple stories make for very effective advocacy. The problem with simple narratives, arise, however, when they drive simple-headed policy.

Severine Autesserre takes aim at the Enough project and other activists in a thoughtful new paper:

The dominant narratives have oriented international programmes on the ground toward three main goals – regulating trade of minerals, providing care to victims of sexual violence, and helping the state extend its authority – at the expense of all the other necessary measures, such as resolving land conflict, promoting inter-community reconciliation, jump-starting economic development, ensuring that state authorities respect human rights, and fighting corruption.

Even worse, because of these exclusive focuses, the international efforts have exacerbated the problems that they aimed to combat: the attempts to control the exploitation of resources have enabled armed groups to strengthen their control over mines; the disproportionate attention to sexual violence has raised the status of sexual abuse to an effective bargaining tool for combatants; and the state reconstruction programmes have boosted the capacity of an authoritarian regime to oppress its population.

This is the problem with pushing advocacy agendas. If you are really good, and really lucky, you can get the UN or US to do one thing this year. That’s a big opportunity cost. Surely one had better make sure it’s the right thing?