advocacy, policy, & misperceptions
Bec Hamilton, author of the fantastic book on Darfur advocacy, Fighting for Darfur, is in the process of creating a discussion guide for those wanting to use her book in the classroom. To that end, she's asked several bloggers (including UN Dispatch's Mark Leon Goldberg, Tom Murphy of A View from the Cave, and me) to host discussions on these questions.
I got to choose the questions to ask here, so I picked ones that have to do with the relationship between advocacy, policy, and perceptions since that's always a popular topic on Texas in Africa. Bec would love to get your feedback, both on the questions themselves (Are they useful to think about? Are they clear?) and through answers to the questions. Keep in mind that these are designed to be used in a university-level classroom with students who may or may not have prior familiarity with the Darfur crisis.
Darfur activists spent years trying to build a domestic political cost into the calculations of U.S. officials responsible for acting on Darfur. In Congress this enabled them to secure significant amounts of funding for Darfur, but inside the administration perverse incentives sometimes came into play. In Fighting for Darfur, U.S. special envoy Andrew Natsios expresses his frustration that the narrative of the conflict presented by activists did not fit with events on the ground but he warns the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte, that trying to correct this misperceptions would be “politically dangerous.” What do you think of Natsios’ warning? To the extent Natsios was right, and advocates were out of touch with changes on the ground, what responsibility do policymakers have to correct those misperceptions? In a democratic system, how should they weigh that responsibility against any domestic political cost?Can we help Bec out? What do you think? If you don't want to answer here, she's also collecting answers to this question on her blog here. You can view and answer all the questions discussed in the series here.