Georges Clemenceau once quipped that war is too important a subject to be left to the generals. The same is true for efforts to reshape and stabilise countries in crisis.
The stakes are very high and our choices about how to engage are not esoteric, nor hugely technical in nature. They would benefit from informed debate in the media, on charitable boards, and in parliamentary institutions.
Yet it often feels as if the available accounts deliberately complexify and obscure what’s going on.
International institutions issues mountains of documents, but they are marred by both impenetrable technical jargon and public-relations optimism. The academic specialists are not a great deal more help. They double down on the jargon, while puncturing the optimism all-too-violently.
None of this encourages constructive engagement. Nor does it do justice to the compelling human stories that lie just beneath the jargon.
So here’s the pitch: Short online talks, delivered via YouTube, that break down complex challenges in fragile states. That’s the new Lunchtime Seminar Series.
For right now, I’m pleased to launch a six-parter, “How Stabilisation Failed in the Congo”, that pulls the key stories and lessons from my 2015 book.
Here’s Part #1, introducing the approach and why it matters what happened in the DRC. (It’s hi-def, so I recommend watching it in bigger format if you have the option.)
For subsequent instalments, please head over to the Youtube channel. The next few videos are packed with compelling stories and walk through two key weaknesses of international engagement in the DRC: the Makeover Fantasy, and Geography Denial.
About the Lunchtime Series
The background here is a series of presentations that I gave over the year following the publication of Follies. These were directed to the usual suspects: in foreign ministries, think tanks, and the UN. And they were all engaging, good discussions. I think that they nudged policy debates, and my own advisory work, in constructive directions.
However, something felt a bit off. The book was written with practitioners over the course of years on the ground, and it’s also very story-driven. There’s no reason to keep it locked in a board room.
So I wanted to reach out to a different audience—the folks going out for their first piece of work in the region, or pledging fifty bucks to a charity talking about the DRC, or showing up to an event on sexual violence in war.
It’s an experiment. I hope it works. Let me know what you think.