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Batman Saves the Congo: How Celebrities Disrupt the Politics of Development
 9781517907587, 9781517907594, 2020058650

Table of contents :
Cover Page
Title Page
Copyright Page
Contents
Abbreviations
Introduction: Batman Saves the Congo
Chapter 1. Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development
Chapter 2. Narrating the Congo: Dangerous Single Stories and the Organizations That Need Them
Chapter 3. Choosing the Congo: How a Celebrity Builds a Development Organization
Chapter 4. Marketing the Congo: Products That Sell Development
Chapter 5. Saving Congolese Coffee: Celebrities and the Business Model for Development
Chapter 6. Celebrities and the Local Politics of Development: As Seen from Kinshasa
Chapter 7. Conclusions on Celebrity and Development: Disruption, Advocacy, and Commodification
Epilogue: COVID-19 and Making ECI Relevant Again
Acknowledgments
Appendix A: Methodology and Data Collection
Appendix B: Affleck, ECI, and ECI Partner Interactions with Congress, 2011–2017
Appendix C: K&L Gates Lobbying on Behalf of the Eastern Congo Initiative
Notes
Bibliography
Index
About the Authors

Citation preview

BATMAN SAVES THE CONGO

HOW CELEBRITIES DISRUPT THE POLITICS

OF DEVELOPMENT ALEXANDRA COSIMA BUDABIN AND LISA ANN RICHEY

BATMAN SAVES THE CONGO

[This page left intentionally blank.]

BATMAN SAVES THE CONGO

. . .

HOW CELEBRITIES DISRUPT THE POLITICS OF DEVELOPMENT

. . .

ALEXANDRA COSIMA BUDABIN AND LISA ANN RICHEY

University of Minnesota Press Minneapolis London

Portions of chapter 1 are adapted from Lisa Ann Richey and Dan Brockington, “Celebrity Humanitarianism: Using Tropes of Engagement to Understand North–­ South Relations,” Perspectives on Politics 18, no. 1 (2020): 43–­59; reprinted with permission. Portions of chapter 3 are adapted from “Advocacy Narratives and Celebrity Engagement: The Case of Ben Affleck in Congo,” Human Rights Quarterly 40, no. 2 (2018): 260–­86; copyright 2018 Johns Hopkins University Press; reprinted with permission by Johns Hopkins University Press. Portions of chapter 4 are adapted from “Celebritizing Conflict: How Ben Affleck Sells the Congo to Americans,” Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development 7, no. 1 (2016): 27–­46; copyright 2016 University of Pennsylvania Press. Portions of chapter 5 are adapted from Alexandra Cosima Budabin, “Caffeinated Solutions as Neoliberal Politics: How Celebrities Create and Promote Partnerships for Peace and Development,” Perspectives on Politics 18, no. 1 (2020): 60–­75; reprinted with permission. Copyright 2021 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Published by the University of Minnesota Press 111 Third Avenue South, Suite 290 Minneapolis, MN 55401-­2520 http://www.upress.umn.edu ISBN 978-1-5179-0758-7 (hc) ISBN 978-1-5179-0759-4 (pb) Library of Congress record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020058650. Printed in the United States of America on acid-­free paper The University of Minnesota is an equal-­opportunity educator and employer. UMP BmB 2021

CONTENTS

Abbreviations  vii Introduction: Batman Saves the Congo  ix

1 Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development 1



2 Narrating the Congo: Dangerous Single Stories and the Organizations That Need Them  29



3 Choosing the Congo: How a Celebrity Builds a Development Organization  71



4 Marketing the Congo: Products That Sell Development 109



5 Saving Congolese Coffee: Celebrities and the Business Model for Development  137



6 Celebrities and the Local Politics of Development: As Seen from Kinshasa  163



7 Conclusions on Celebrity and Development: Disruption, Advocacy, and Commodification  187

Epilogue: COVID-­19 and Making ECI Relevant Again 213

Acknowledgments  217 Appendix A. Methodology and Data Collection 223  Appendix B. Affleck, ECI, and ECI Partner Interactions with Congress, 2011–­2017 231  Appendix C. K&L Gates Lobbying on Behalf of the Eastern Congo Initiative 233 Notes 237 Bibliography 271 Index 291

ABBREVIATIONS

A F CA

African Fine Coffees Association

A R C

American Refugee Committee

B4P

Business for Peace

BO G O

Buy One, Give One

CBO

community-­based organization

CGI

Clinton Global Initiative

CI

Congo Initiative

CR A

Congo Reform Association

CR M

cause-­related marketing

CR S

Catholic Relief Services

CSR

corporate social responsibility

D F ID Department for International Development D O C S

Doctors on Call for Service

D R C

Democratic Republic of the Congo

ECI

Eastern Congo Initiative

GDA

Global Development Alliance

GP G

Global Philanthropy Group

ICCN Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature ID P

Internally Displaced Persons   • vii

viii  • Abbreviations

IGO

Intergovernmental Organization

IR I N Integrated Regional Informational Networks KBY K

Kahawa Bora Ya Kivu

MON U C United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo MON U SCO United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo NGO

nongovernmental organization

O DA

overseas development aid

O E CD Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development O N C

Office National du Café

SC A A

Specialty Coffee Association of America

SDG s

Sustainable Development Goals

U N H CR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees U N I D O United Nations Industrial Development Organization U SA I D

U.S. Agency for International Development

WC R

World Coffee Research

INTRODUCTION Batman Saves the Congo

. . .

Development aid is not what it used to be with [donor] agencies . . . doing most of the work—­it’s now all about collaborations between the private sector, businesses and philanthropists. —­Official in a high-­ranking donor agency in Kinshasa, interview with author, June 15, 2016

Batman Saves the Congo On March 26, 2015, Ben Affleck, the star of the recent movie Batman, arrived at the U.S. Capitol flanked by a new Robin, the founder of Microsoft and prominent philanthropist Bill Gates. In their appearance before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, Affleck and Gates sat together at a table of witnesses that also included senior Congo experts (see Figure 1). But the attention of the media and senators was focused on the celebrities. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut tweeted his photo of the event: “Batman testifying before Appropriations hearing on importance of foreign aid (oh, and @BillGates is here too).”1 Gates was already a well-­known disruptor, having changed how we think about information technology by revolutionizing the personal computer. He has since moved on to education and global health at the helm of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, credited with making charity big business (McGoey 2016). Affleck delivered his testimony with self-­deprecation, inside jokes, and even a spoiler   • ix

x  • Introduction

concerning his then upcoming Batman movie. But, in his most serious moments, Affleck laid out his own vision of a Bill Gates–­style disruption of development aid: complex development puzzles could be solved through celebrity strategic partnerships that link players inside and outside the aid sector and are supported by U.S. diplomatic and financial investments. Rather than discuss the effectiveness of overseas development aid (ODA) in the abstract, the Caped Avenger quickly got to specifics, by drawing on the “case study” of the “transformation” potential of “smart, targeted public and private investments” in the Congo.2 Referring to the work of the organization he founded, the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), Affleck described how the “opportunity to revitalize Congo’s coffee sector” had materialized. Partnering with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) (“our government”), the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and Catholic Relief Services, ECI trained and supported coffee farmers and cooperatives with the help of capital from Westrock Coffee Company. Then, as Affleck explained, “the final puzzle piece was getting this

Figure 1. Ben Affleck and Bill Gates testifying before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee. Photograph by Ralph Alswang.

Introduction  • xi

coffee into American homes, so ECI brought in another investor: Starbucks.”3 The U.S. coffee behemoth would soon acquire coffee beans from the Congo for sale in U.S. markets as part of its reserve collection. Affleck concluded that the example of U.S. leadership combined with private-­sector partners was creating a “transformative impact” in “one of the highest risk environments in the world.”4 In ways that benefited both the Congolese and investors, Affleck stressed how these strategic partnerships are “a clear testament to what’s possible for Congo. This isn’t charity or aid in the traditional sense. It’s good business.”5 Like any sound “business model,” the example provided by Affleck was meant to be “scalable” and “replicable,” a model of U.S. engagement not only for other regions in the Congo but also for the continent and the entire developing world. Affleck’s presentation adopts the “win-­win-­ism” (Giridharadas 2018) heroics of neoliberal discourse, including the “opportunity to revitalize,” the “right partners,” “experts,” “investors,” “transformative impact,” and “donors-­as-­consumers” (see Marijnen and Verweijen 2016; Lynch 2013; Brough 2012). Affleck takes up an African cause and through his “affective visibility” as a celebrity seeks to brand and circulate an innovative narrative for resolving political and economic crises, a story-­line that often replicates colonial and postcolonial representations of African victims and Western saviors (Fadlalla 2019; Mutua 2001). Affleck displays the work of his small nongovernmental organization (NGO) as a disruption to the usual business of development: what kind of business opportunities did “helping” the Congo present for a celebrity humanitarian, and who would actually profit from its disruption? Anchored by celebrity-­ led organizations that link traditional actors (donor agencies) to nontraditional actors (corporations, capital asset management firms, and philanthropists), celebrity strategic partnerships rely on the infrastructure, the expertise, and even the exact same projects as traditional development actors. Celebrities function as elite players in North–­South relations (of humanitarianism, advocacy, development, and foreign policy) whose authenticity, convening power, and access are key to the creation of these disruptive partnerships. The contemporary landscape of development is

xii  • Introduction

predicated on “sustainable development through global partnerships,” the theme of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17, that make development financing, implementation, and ideals part of a global business model (Mawdsley 2018; Scheyvens et al. 2016; Vaggi 2018; van Zanten and van Tulder 2018).6 Thus, celebrity strategic partnerships become the new ways that traditional celebrity humanitarianism (Richey and Brockington 2020; Richey and Budabin 2016; Brockington 2014) is institutionalized as part of the development field. Yet, ironically, celebrity humanitarians loudly claim to be disruptors “working aid out of business” by providing private-­sector solutions to local development problems.7 Our book analyzes what celebrity strategic partnerships are doing to disrupt humanitarian space by focusing on the relationships celebrities create with other donors, implementers, and Congolese recipients. Our main argument is that while celebrity strategic partnerships claim to disrupt the usual politics of development and humanitarianism, they instead lay bare the practices of elite networking, visibility, and profitable helping that characterize these fields of North–­South relations. Combining ethnography, political economy, and narrative analysis, this study pushes knowledge of celebrity humanitarianism beyond critiques of mediatization or compassion-­fatigued donor audiences. Findings from our deep-­dive case study challenge arguments emanating from three academic areas of interest. First, international development scholarship would suggest that in these new and “disruptive” celebrity strategic partnerships, celebrity humanitarians on the ground might have acted differently from experienced, old-­fashioned, traditional donors and implementers. Instead, our book shows how celebrities and their partners (corporations, capital asset management firms, and philanthropists) are elite players in an elitist field who disrupt very little. Second, studies of celebrity politics would lead us to expect that the institutionalization of a long-­term investment and collaboration in celebrity strategic partnerships would make them more accountable than the more commonly found shortsighted celebrity do-­gooding. Our book explains why they are not. These forms of celebrity humanitarianism maintain an “affective visibility” to the benefit of elites and traditional aid actors in the field but

Introduction  • xiii

are subjected to limited demands for accountability to any constituency. Finally, understandings of global politics might have suggested that celebrity strategic partnerships’ ability to bring together a broader range of shareholders to direct the enterprise of development would have led to better representation of Congolese voices among them. This was not the case; instead, the postdemocratic politics of North–­South relations was cloaked in the attractive guise of partnership. While clearly not “working aid out of business,” these partnerships do differ from traditional development in three ways: (1) by bringing in new funding actors from the philanthropic and corporate worlds; (2) by drawing popular attention and the potential of public scrutiny to the work of development and humanitarian agencies; and (3) by successfully disseminating the business model for development to popular and elite audiences. Batman Saves the Congo shows how celebrity strategic partnerships bring the benefits of technological innovation, new types of expertise, and new sources of funding along with risks related to privatization, including lack of accountability, diminished transparency, and misaligned objectives. While some readers will question the value of so much research on a small organization founded by a rapidly fading star, this case of a celebrity strategic partnership is about understanding the misfit between the politics of high-­risk, innovation-­reliant, elite-­biased partnerships and the politics of sustainable development that relies on a more democratic agenda. These politics of development are at the center of transnational “helping” celebrity, or otherwise. This book charts Affleck’s disruptive practices to development through a bricolage approach (Kincheloe 2001) combining (1) ethnography (interviews and participant observation with humanitarian and development actors in Washington, D.C.; New York; London; Kinshasa; and Eastern Congo); (2) political economy (analysis of the partners, power relations, and funding involved in the strategic alliance); and (3) narrative analysis (texts and visuals that constitute celebrity humanitarian communications). Specific information about these methods and data collection is provided in Appendix A. Our research design that combines review of media events in the public domain with field research in the Global South will expand knowledge

xiv  • Introduction

within the fields of international development and humanitarianism, media and communication, and global politics. This interdisciplinary study is relevant for understanding the linkages between celebrities, businesses, and consumers in the North who want to “save the Congo” and the complex relationships they support that produce, at best, mixed results for humanitarian helping on the ground—­helping the helpers more than the helped. Our book offers a case of the neoliberalization of development through celebrity strategic partnerships, and our example comes from the policy interface between the United States and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (henceforth the Congo). Development and humanitarianism become “neoliberal” when the state–­society relationship is organized in favor of business actors and the market is considered the most efficient and most moral provider of public goods. While recognizing that international development or humanitarian interventions have never been predicated upon democracy but have been based on the drive toward modernization (see Brooks 2017), we conclude that these processes involving celebrity strategic partnerships still challenge democratic politics in specifically interesting ways.

Ben Affleck, the Eastern Congo Initiative, and Strategic Partnerships Ben Affleck is a well-­known Hollywood figure. He has been featured in more than fifty films and has earned major awards for his work as a screenwriter, director, and producer. His personal life has made him a popular figure for tabloid scrutiny, especially his dating life and marriage (now ended) to fellow actor Jennifer Garner. He has also been active in various causes and charities, from voting to cancer awareness to support for veterans.8 In 2016, Affleck took his turn playing the wealthy Bruce Wayne turned Gotham superhero Batman for the Warner Bros. DC film series. According to media reports, it was around 2007 that Affleck began thinking about becoming more intentional with his philanthropy, “with both a renewed reputation and abiding political aspirations at stake.”9 He got advice from fellow celebrities and contracted with a strategic management consulting firm to lay the groundwork for an NGO that would provide him

Introduction  • xv

foreign policy expertise. These elite contacts are just one part of the story. In 2010, Affleck launched the Eastern Congo Initiative, an NGO with offices in Washington, D.C., and Goma. From the start, ECI was presented to the American public as a “disruptor” that would change how humanitarianism and development would be “done.” The organization takes a two-­pronged approach as both an advocacy organization and a grantor, thus straddling political and humanitarian objectives. Moreover, these activities take place across two sites—­ the United States and Eastern Congo. ECI’s structure and approach have been considered innovative by experts and observers in the field.10 Affleck’s organization operates with special access, diversified funding, and significant support of elite actors within philanthropy, development, and humanitarian circuits.11 These attributes set ECI apart from other development organizations in its potential for influence and impact. Results include Affleck’s repeated invitations to speak before the U.S. Congress, leading one blogger to ask: “Can Batman Save Congo?”12 Aside from a few snide remarks about Affleck’s lack of expertise and his connection to the Batman series, there have been no publicly voiced objections to his work or that of his organization. To the contrary, there has been a wholesale embrace of his work by development and humanitarian circles; endorsers include the Borgen Project,13 The Chronicle of Philanthropy,14 and the Global Philanthropy Forum.15 He was given a Global Child Advocate Award by Save the Children (alongside Tony Blair)16 and an honorary doctorate degree from Brown University that, in addition to his artistic accomplishments as a director, filmmaker, and actor, recognized his contributions as a humanitarian advocate.17 Affleck has also received extensive friendly media coverage for his organization and has had his own writings published in the New York Times, Politico, Time magazine, and the Los Angeles Times.18 These connections and public endorsements form the basis for his credibility and have their roots in connections from williamsworks, the strategic management consulting firm that he engaged to support his humanitarian activities. One outcome of this elite network is the four invitations Affleck has received to provide witness testimony at congressional hearings (see

xvi  • Introduction

Appendix B). The other outcome is his access to financial capital that supports a series of interventions that reach their pinnacle in the use of celebrity strategic partnerships. With advice from experts and consultants, Affleck has avoided many of the missteps of previous celebrity humanitarians. Some academics and Congo experts have been cautiously enthusiastic about Affleck’s work. Kate Cronin-­Furman, an expert in mass atrocities and human rights, sees Affleck as “the rare celebrity who has gotten involved in advocacy in a careful, productive way. He educated himself on the issues, hired good people on the ground and doesn’t run his mouth on stuff he doesn’t know about.”19 Meanwhile, the Africanist expert Laura Seay finds more to criticize in congressional hearings themselves than in Affleck’s remarks: “What we see in [his] testimony is someone who clearly understands the issues at hand, who has a smart staff that has briefed him well and, more importantly, who isn’t afraid to admit when he doesn’t know the answer to a question.”20 Political actors have been delighted at the attention drawn to the Congo. According to the Global Philanthropy Forum, media coverage of Affleck’s work has reached 500 million viewers across the world.21 The U.S. special envoy to the African Lakes region, Russ Feingold, said admiringly, “Ben’s group and the people involved are one of the few who are really helping make it obvious to the American public that this requires our attention.”22 This warm reception has led to high-­level access for Affleck and ECI (see Appendix B). As Rajiv Shah, Administrator of USAID, recounts, “They’ve been in to see the president, the secretary [of state]. Their efforts have made a huge difference.”23 In addition to drawing attention to the Congo, as is expected of a celebrity humanitarian, Affleck has promoted the use of celebrity strategic partnerships, reinforcing development trends that favor neoliberal interventions. In his most high-­profile partnership to date, Affleck assembled the Kahawa Bora project, a four-­year project to support coffee farmers in Eastern Congo with funding from USAID and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, loan capital from Westrock Coffee Company, implemention by Catholic Relief Services, World Coffee Research, and ECI (on which we elaborate in chapter 5). The

Introduction  • xvii

vision promulgated by Affleck during the Senate hearing in 2015 became a reality the following year. Starbucks launched its first single-­ origin specialty coffee from South Kivu in 1,500 stores across North America and online. A high-­ranking donor in Kinshasa explained, in the quotation with which we began this chapter: “Development aid is not what it used to be with [donor] agencies . . . doing most of the work—­it’s now all about collaborations between the private sector, businesses and philanthropists.”24 USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah has called this a “new model of development,” one that relies on high-­impact partnerships “to harness innovation and scale” as described.25 With his convening power as a celebrity figure, Affleck has built strategic partnerships with players like USAID Administrator Shah (see Figure 2) inside and outside development including foundations, philanthropists, and corporations. This power is called out by other humanitarian workers on the ground in the Congo, as we demonstrate in chapter 6. Reflecting on the personal relationships between celebrities and authorities in the development world, one aid worker in Kinshasa explained: “If the celebrity said that

Figure 2. Ben Affleck and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah at the conference Child Survival Call To Action held in Washington, D.C., in June 2012. Photograph by USAID.

xviii  • Introduction

something was going to happen, then it would, regardless of if it’s the right thing to do.”26

Congo Context: Batman’s Roots in Empire and Colonialism The site of Affleck’s intervention is Eastern Congo, known in many Northern advocacy, development, and policy-­making spheres as a region plagued by political instability, a crisis of governance, and fighting between security forces and armed militias. As a country, the Congo maintains prominence on the world stage due in large part to its supply of ivory, gold, rubber, and other valuable minerals. Despite its rich stores or in spite of its resources, the Congo is today one of the least developed countries in the world, and its status has worsened over the past decade, dropping from its rank of 167 in 2006 to 179 in the 2019 Human Development Index.27 On the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) list of fragile countries, the Congo is fifth from the bottom, with continuing deterioration in its security and political dimensions.28 Because of atrocities committed in the name of natural resources from slaves to coltan, the Congo also has a history as a “land of humanitarian interventions” (Kabemba 2013). In particular, Eastern Congo has long been a site of externalization that has been on the receiving end of a parade of “helpers” and “do-­gooders,” including development and advocacy NGOs and celebrities. We follow Robert van Krieken by situating “a critique of celebrity humanitarianism as an exercise in contemporary colonialism in the context of the history of colonialism itself” (2016, 190). Many trace the origins of the Congo’s descent to the fragile Congo Free State created during the colonial period 1885–­1908 under King Leopold II of Belgium, whose legendary exploitation of the region instilled a patrimonial system mimicked by later leaders. Exploitation of the Congo’s resources and land acquisition was accompanied by grave human rights violations such as killing, rape, and mutilation, among other humiliating practices (Hochschild 1998, 166). In particular, a rubber boom ensued when demand rose rapidly for wiring and machinery

Introduction  • xix

and, later, for transportation purposes for bicycles and the automobile (Pavlakis 2016, 8). Affleck’s twenty-­first-­century celebrity humanitarianism has historical roots in early twentieth-­ century campaigns to “save” the Congo. To coerce change by the Belgian authorities in their colony, a movement coalesced that included public awareness campaigns, witness accounts, media coverage, atrocity photographs, and celebrity humanitarians. What was the determination to “save” the Congo a hundred years ago has today become the endeavor to “solve the Congo,” sustaining an inexorable moral impulse that links Northern do-­gooders to complex humanitarian situations in the South, particularly Africa (see Fadlalla 2019). The role of the celebrity humanitarian can be placed in the nineteenth century as part and parcel of empire; as van Krieken argues: as European empires expanded, the contact between Europeans and indigenous populations intensified, provoking increasing violence and abuse, stimulating greater concern among those with a particular Christian morality about the treatment of other human beings, in turn, requiring the mechanism of celebrity to influence public opinion and official policymakers. (2016, 206)

In the colonial Congo, it is therefore unsurprising that celebrities were key figures among the many do-­gooders who waged their own type of “intervention” to correct the mistakes of Belgian colonialism. That these celebrity humanitarians emerged from colonial powers like Britain makes their efforts on behalf of an indigenous population a tainted affair. Many twenty-­first-­century celebrity humanitarians will be no less circumspect in considering chains of responsibility for “empire” or “Western hegemony” that both enable and justify their interventions. The radical reform movement to save the Congo evolved over many decades. In the 1890s, firsthand accounts of the violence that accompanied rubber extraction began to trickle out through missionaries and journalists (Hochschild 1998, 306). The first full exposé of the conditions in the Congo was an “Open Letter to King Leopold II

xx  • Introduction

of Belgium” published in the New York Herald by the Black American lawyer and author George Washington Williams. As a model for future op-­eds on human rights issues, the piece was a “public accusation armed with measured and detailed testimonial account” (Sliwinski 2006, 338). Following a 1903 parliamentary debate, the British House of Commons dispatched a British consul based in the Congo to gather evidence. Roger Casement produced a series of reports indicting King Leopold, rebutting the “humanitarian” and “civilizing” motivations that had led him to take control of the Congo as his personal property. Casement’s diary registered his unwavering judgment: “Infamous. Infamous, shameful system” (Hochschild 1998, 203). A precursor to the celebrity strategic partnership promoted by Affleck can be seen in the work of the Englishman E. D. Morel at the turn of the twentieth century. In the heyday of linking fame to good causes overseas, the Victorian era saw a number of Britons like Morel gaining acclaim for campaigns against slavery, missionary activity, and imperial conquest (Brockington 2014, 56–­58). Morel, like Affleck to follow, became one of the “white men trying to stop other white men from brutalizing Africans” (Hochschild 1998, 207). He used facts and figures available to him in his capacity as a clerk in a shipping line company to connect the dots between the Belgian King Leopold, Congo collaborators, and corporate allies that resulted in forced labor abuses (Hochschild 1998, 177–­85). Morel quit his job, began to work as a journalist, and created a publication, West African Mail, to begin what we’d call now a “name and shame” campaign, wielding evidence to make a case against a perpetrator in the court of public opinion. His targets included King Leopold in Belgium and his allies, along with corporations and the Congo administration. In 1904, Morel founded the Congo Reform Association (CRA), with chapters in Europe and the United States to exert pressure on the Belgian, British, and U.S. governments. He mobilized public endorsements from a network of celebrities from across sectors—­political, religious, and literary—­that included members of Parliament; the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England; and the writers Joseph Conrad, Anatole France, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mark Twain (Hochschild 1998, 207). In a parallel to later

Introduction  • xxi

celebrity humanitarianism, Morel amassed both fame for himself (he was later elected to Parliament) and support for his campaign against the Belgian Congo from a public that was receptive to the notion of bringing “civilization and progress to other parts of the world” (Brockington 2014, 56). In an early version of commodity activism, links were made to consumer responsibility by raising awareness to Northern dependence on rubber. With the visceral invocation of bleeding, Morel’s book Red Rubber (1906) connected the newfound commodity to the brutal extraction processes, a precursor to the “blood” or “conflict diamonds” of 1990s advocacy campaigns. In its review of Red Rubber, the Daily Chronicle extended the mantle of complicity: “Rubber black with promises broken before the Powers of Europe and the United States, rubber red with blood, rubber which should stink in the nostrils of the Englishmen who—­to their shame—­grow fat on the profits of shipping it home.”29 Yet, unlike other goods, such as sugar and cocoa, that spurred principled boycotts as part of antislavery campaigns, rubber was considered integral to the British economy, and no boycott was ever called for (Pavlakis 2016, 8). Likewise, in chapter 2, we will see how conflict minerals campaigns in the Congo that attempted boycotts would give way, later on, to buycotts (Kothari 2014). Photographic evidence played a pivotal role in the Congo reform movement and contributed to a visual grammar of humanitarianism. The Congo reformers signaled the “first nongovernmental, humanitarian campaign to use atrocity photographs to mobilize sustained, international protest” (Grant 2015, 65). The English missionary Alice Seeley Harris furnished photographs of atrocities that were included in the Red Rubber book and in press coverage and were also shown as lantern slides in lecture tours that crossed the United States, England, and Europe (Hasian 2015). The photos show posed Congolese, children too, gazing at chopped-­off feet and hands lying next to them or looking solemnly into the camera’s lens.30 As Susie Linfield writes, “the Congo reform movement’s ability to force its audience to visualize Leopold’s cruelty . . . was a new and powerful tool” that not only stirred emotional responses among audiences but also “moved to action” (2007, 22). These atrocity photos encouraged “the belief

xxii  • Introduction

that the liberation of strangers’ suffering was in the hands of distant spectators” (Sliwinski 2006, 356). The slide lectures, argued organizer John Harris, “appeal to the popular mind and . . . give people an idea of how the thing works out without laboring their minds with a burden of detail” (quoted in Pavlakis 2016, 189). Included in the Harris lantern slides was a photo of E. D. Morel (Figure 3), circulating and connecting his image to the campaign. Sitting at his desk in Africa, Morel gazes not at the camera but on distant space, a celebrity humanitarian pose that is familiar to us as one of heady contemplation and sense of purpose.

Figure 3. E. D. Morel sitting at a desk in a photograph from the Harris lantern slide collection. Anti-­ Slavery International. Photograph by Panos Pictures.

Introduction  • xxiii

In their wide diffusion, the photographs and narratives from the colonial Congo era became iconic. Nancy Hunt explains: “some images from Leopold’s Congo traveled and were recycled, repackaged, and reframed, over and over again” (2008, 222). Sharon Sliwinski describes how the stories of a few subjects came to stand in as universal experiences; for example, “maimed children’s stories were obsessively repeated at hundreds of thousands of meetings (although usually without proper names)” (2006, 352). Other aspects of the colonial repression, however, did not come to the fore. Charlotte Mertens has shown how eyewitness accounts and stories that had been buried in the archives offer evidence of practices of “sexual abuse as constitutive of colonial power,” but these were not included in movement narratives (2016, 8). Due to charges of prurience, Kevin Grant argues, “the reformers carefully gendered their displays of atrocity” (2015, 66). We see how humanitarians in the Victorian era struggled with encapsulating atrocity in ways that garnered support for and not rejection of the messengers. With its “modest” goals that did not include taking on the larger structural systems of oppression, the Congo reform movement did reap some returns. The Belgian parliamentary committee affirmed the evidence laid out in the Casement Report in 1905 (Deibert 2013, 17). Three years later, King Leopold handed over authority to the Belgian parliament, and the country became the Belgian Congo. But the scramble for the Congo’s mineral wealth would continue—­as the demand for rubber waned, the first diamond was discovered on the territory. We will see how the environment that Affleck entered in the 2000s sustains many tropes of the colonial era to address conflict and crises in the Congo. This includes first of all the circulation of dominant narratives that paint the Congo as a site in need of humanitarian intervention by foreign entities. Claude Kabemba regards this historical practice of external engagement as “directed by an imperial/ colonial mindset that sees the Congolese as backwards and ‘other’ and therefore as inferior and needing intervention” (2013, 140). The Congo reform movement revealed the conditions surrounding the extraction of rubber in the manner of fair-­trade narratives that focus on the site of production of a commodity (Lekakis 2013), an

xxiv  • Introduction

extraction coordinated by myriad actors such as the Belgian government and army, companies, and native armed groups. Second, the influence and access of the early movement was due in large part to celebrity figures such as Mark Twain and E. D. Morel working in partnership with political actors such as the British consul to the Congo Free State. Celebrities were key in engendering both emotional responses as well as political support among popular audiences (Sliwinksi 2006, 344). Third, the campaign’s use of testimonies and photographs was a forerunner to the “name and shame” methodology that has become standard practice in human rights work (Orentlicher 1990). Yet the narrative circulated by the movement was limited, narrowly constructing ideas about the effects of colonialism in the Congo that were tailored to the audience. Overall, the turn of the nineteenth century witnessed the muddled politics of addressing empire and capitalism. The Congo Reform Association focused on the extraction practices as violating inhabitants’ property and human rights. Notably, though, the Congo movement was a movement to reform, not decolonize. Morel was not antibusiness: indeed, he was a supporter of free trade, believing that “what was good for the merchants of Liverpool was good for Africa” (Hochschild 1998, 189). This patriotic stance shifted during World War I, when Morel became one of the few Britons to criticize the war and what he called “secret diplomacy”—­a rare example of a celebrity humanitarian who turns his indignation inward toward domestic targets and causes. Thus, a wholesale condemnation of “the business of empire and colonialism” and the larger structural imbalances of global trade practices was lacking. This history can contribute to contemporary debates that seek to unravel the connections between burgeoning celebrity humanitarianism and the persisting practices of empire and imperialism (see Kapoor 2013 and Biccum 2016). The rest of this book discusses how celebrity strategic partnerships draw on these legacies of colonialism and “helping” in ways that reflect and advance neoliberal logics, particularly as they link to privatization in development and justify external engagement to “save” and “solve” the Congo.

Introduction  • xxv

Structure of the Book Chapter 1, “Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development,” presents the main concepts that anchor this book. We introduce and underscore the configuration celebrity strategic partnerships as neoliberal artifacts. We review the history of celebrities as political actors who have long been deployed as ambassadors for states and international institutions but now are headlining NGOs and corporate campaigns for causes, bringing about shifts in communication practices. We situate our case study of Affleck and ECI’s disruption as it reflects trends around deepening ties between corporate actors and traditional players in development and corporate social responsibility (CSR). We argue that the neoliberalization of development depends not only on strategic partnerships but also on market-­based solutions that rely on the public, and thus on celebrity figures, to “sell” ideas of “helping” to both mass and elite audiences. We briefly introduce Eastern Congo as the fragile site where Affleck brought his neoliberal intervention, through unaccountable practices that are based on and further entrench elite politics in development. Chapter 2, “Narrating the Congo: Dangerous Single Stories and the Organizations That Need Them,” lays the background for external engagement in the Congo by celebrity humanitarians and advocacy organizations. We draw on narrative analysis as a means for capturing the ways in which ideas about how to “save” and “solve” the Congo are circulated. We give a historical overview of recent interventions in the Congo involving both humanitarian relief and advocacy as transnational practices that emerged from the cycle of crises in the late 1990s. We argue that this terrain in the Congo has been slowly overtaken by (new) elite actors in political, cultural, and economic spheres in ways that produce and reproduce hegemonic narratives. This process has had mixed results, leading to increasing attention and funds to a neglected conflict but also refracting the country through narrow lenses. We explore the political economy of this terrain as resources—­including celebrity humanitarians—­were distributed across a handful of NGOs that came to dominate thinking about the Congo while Congolese organizations struggled to promote alternative narratives.

xxvi  • Introduction

Chapter 3, “Choosing the Congo: How a Celebrity Builds a Development Organization,” situates Affleck and his organization within elite networks in development. We introduce Ben Affleck and trace his creation of a development NGO as a multimandate organization that was originally focused on poverty and conflict in Eastern Congo. We show how, with the help of an elite cadre of consultants, politicians, and development experts, Affleck styled himself as a different type of celebrity humanitarian and the Eastern Congo Initiative as a disruptive organization. What celebrities typically do in development is advocacy and fundraising, but Affleck is also engaged in implementing and promoting development initiatives that contend with dominant narratives about the Congo as well as prevailing approaches. We argue that Affleck’s ability to distinguish himself and his organization by his choice of the Congo, an approach grounded in advocacy and grant-­making and the fast assembly of financial and political capital, reflects the elite nature of development, where Affleck was confirmed with relative ease as a legitimate player. Despite the presence of a celebrity founder, ECI’s approach and secure funding precluded the need to mobilize public support. Chapter 4, “Marketing the Congo: Products That Sell Development,” examines celebrity representations of market-­based solutions as ECI partnered with TOMS shoes and Theo Chocolate in an ongoing cultivation of business partners that marked a shift in their approach. We argue that celebrity convening power was instrumental in marshaling the financial capital of corporate partners as well as designating a newfound need for consumer publics. We demonstrate how Affleck and ECI came to rely on the “transformative” potential of celebrity strategic partnerships as a more workable and scalable solution to development after it became clear that the security sector was not amenable to swift policy changes. We then explore how Affleck brought these market-­based solutions before Congress to promote the idea that “giving” farmers access to the international market to advance social and economic development is “neither charity nor aid, . . . [just] good business.” Chapter 5, “Saving Congolese Coffee: Celebrities and the Business Model for Development,” lays out the political economy of the Kahawa Bora Ya Kivu (KBYK) project to promote coffee as a “change

Introduction  • xxvii

agent.” Compared to the projects we analyzed in chapter 4, the coffee project involves more partners, higher media visibility, larger stakes, greater reach, and more political advocacy to support economic investment. From work including original qualitative research done with coffee farmers’ cooperatives in Eastern Congo, we argue that the expansion to strategic partnerships with both public-­and private-­ sector partners is dependent on the convening power of a celebrity humanitarian, who, drawing on political capital, is able to promote the partnership to both mainstream and elite political circles. Affleck acts as an expert technical link and a humanitarian affective link to the Global South in appearances on news shows and at elite gatherings in places such as Aspen, before the U.S. Congress, and at the Clinton Global Initiative, together with corporate partners. Meanwhile, ECI staff have appeared on Tedx with the slogan of “driving aid out of business.” This additional focus on political and financial elites exposes the stakes of the coffee project, which promotes a narrative in which the business model is a political solution rather than a way to increase public participation. Chapter 6, “Celebrities and the Local Politics of Development: As Seen from Kinshasa,” offers a uniquely grounded perspective of Affleck and ECI’s activities in the Congo. Based on field interviews and participant observation, this research explores how development and humanitarian actors see the donor landscape and interventions by the U.S. government, humanitarian agencies, and celebrity humanitarians. This chapter argues that celebrity engagement in development has both opportunities and costs, involving funding and expenditures, authority, and accountability that are more related to Northern than to Southern spheres. Celebrity humanitarians and the strategic partnerships they convene remain important for promoting the work of traditional actors in development who remain under duress from funding cuts and lack of public support. Chapter 7, “Conclusions on Celebrity and Development: Disruption, Advocacy, and Commodification,” reflects on the previous analysis considering how Affleck and ECI’s strategic partnership signals increasing privatization of development with both prospects and pitfalls. We argue that postdemocratic politics are solidifying Northern and elite power through the investment of celebrity capital in ways

xxviii  • Introduction

that may or may not benefit local recipients in Africa. Celebrity strategic partnerships are an innovative means to raise awareness and funding for otherwise neglected causes such as peacebuilding in Eastern Congo; they also draw elite and public attention to the work of development and humanitarian agencies. Despite these benefits, celebrity strategic partnerships signal a troubling trend in an environment of unaccountable elite leadership in North–­South relations. Celebrity humanitarians like Affleck are occupying the public domain yet not engaging meaningfully with any public—­they are an unruly bunch of new actors and alliances in development who amplify business solutions by amassing political and financial capital for their partnerships. Understanding how “the dark superhero” Batman saves “the dark continent” in Eastern Congo helps us to explain the power of celebrity strategic partnerships and the development contexts of rule by the benevolent elites they create.

1 CELEBRITY, DISRUPTION, AND NEOLIBERAL DEVELOPMENT . . . In the previous chapter, we introduced the celebrity strategic partnership model of development intervention spearheaded by the celebrity humanitarian Ben Affleck and his celebrity-­led development organization, Eastern Congo Initiative. The upsurge we have seen in celebrity humanitarianism around the globe has typically resulted from the “asks” of the NGO sector for more publicity, which NGO officials hope will lead to more popular interest and therefore increased funding (see Brockington 2014). Celebrities are thus part of a “business as usual” yet “broader and increasingly prosperous development-­and-­ humanitarian-­NGO system whose publicity effectively directs people’s attention to their wallets and to themselves, rather than to distant strangers” (Brockington 2014, 159). This demand side is easily linked to the supply of celebrities wanting to do good as part of their job profile (see the classic Littler 2008). Yet, Batman’s interventions in the Congo are different. In this scenario, Ben Affleck launched his own organization, ECI, which had to depend on a complex network of elite linkages with development organizations, businesses, consultants, and politicians in the United States. Because Affleck’s intervention is a more durable form of celebrity engagement than we normally see with stars who bandwagon onto the cause of the moment and then change roles frequently, its effects on the real work of development and humanitarianism stand to be more significant. In fact, the hallmark of Affleck’s   • 1

2  •  Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development

celebrity humanitarianism is its claim to disrupt development business as usual. To do this, he relies on institutional collaborations and corporate logics. The result is a more fundamentally elitist and neoliberal version of global helping that continues to prioritize the powerful in the name of “partnership.” This chapter examines the principal themes for understanding what is at stake when Batman tries to save the Congo. We begin with an explanation of our use of the highly contested term “neoliberal.” Then we move to situate the importance of understanding celebrity engagement as a form of elite politics that enables contemporary practices of celebrity humanitarianism. These engagements are typically understood as most powerful for their creativity and performances that call attention to the suffering “other” and mobilize responses from distant givers. Affleck wields his celebrity capital to position his intervention as a “disruption” of the practices of traditional development actors. To understand what makes this possible, we highlight how the corporate logic of disruption has entered through the door alongside business as a much-­celebrated development actor. The disruption brought to the Congo by Affleck’s work is that of business in the context of Brand Aid, cause-­related marketing (CRM) and other forms of corporate social responsibility (CSR) with humanitarian claims. Finally, we introduce scholarship locating our understandings of the neoliberalization of development. Because Affleck’s celebrity humanitarianism works both in the United States and the Congo and across both advocacy and implementation, his celebrity-­led organization and its partnerships are welcomed into a humanitarian and development realm where new actors and alliances are increasingly taking on roles previously assigned to states. Thus, while the previous chapter introduced readers to the contemporary intervention and the historical baggage for “Batman saves the Congo,” this chapter grounds our argument about what this case teaches us about celebrity humanitarianism, disruption by corporations, and their logics and neoliberalization of development as a field shifting significantly from collaborations between accountable states and international organizations to those among genial elites, including celebrities.

Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development  • 3

Trends in Neoliberal Development In this book, we argue that by coalescing and promoting strategic partnerships as a disruption, celebrities are embodying and reinforcing certain trends in neoliberal development. The term “neoliberalism” was one of the most popular concepts in social science during the late 1990s and 2000s, typically used to refer to “the deep transformations undertaken by national economics toward a greater role for markets, less regulation, and the erosion of state-­enforced social solidarity” (Ban 2016, 8). While some scholars use a narrow definition of “neoliberalism” that maps onto established camps of classical liberals versus Keynesians, others take a hybrid approach that uses some parts of the neoliberal ideology but understands them within the confines of history and geography (see Ban 2016 for an extensive literature review). In reference to the set of economic policy shifts implanted in the post–­World War II era with intellectual roots in the work of Friedrich Hayek, neoliberalism has been understood as “the specific market-­triumphalist manner in which capitalist globalization has been shaped and reproduced in recent decades” (Kingfisher and Maskovsky 2008, 116). Yet, after the global financial crisis of 2008 and the COVID-­19 pandemic of 2020,1 there has been revived scholarly interest in the resilience of neoliberalism, in spite of the clear empirical challenges to its triumphalism (Schuurman 2009). Many have come to consider neoliberalism a polyvalent term with little utility but still recognize that, whether a doctrine or a practice, neoliberalism(s) “always include a valorization of private enterprise and suspicion of the state, along with what is sometimes called ‘free-­market fetishism’” along with “the deployment of ‘enterprise models’ that would allow the state itself to be ‘run like a business’” (Ferguson 2009, 170). Beyond economic practices, Wendy Brown sees neoliberalism as a political rationality that can be understood and studied for its suffusion into other areas of human life, in particular effecting a “discursive production of everyone as human capital” (2016, 3). For the purposes of this book, two aspects of neoliberalism are important in studying celebrity strategic partnerships as neoliberal artifacts of our times that are “nothing necessary or natural” but

4  •  Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development

rather reflect the “social constructedness of our worlds and identities” (Wilson 2018, 7). First, we underscore the reorganization of relations between state and society that favors privatization and entry of new actors such as NGOs, businesses, and celebrities. This draws on a history of scholarship focused on NGOs and development that characterizes the NGO form as an indication of neoliberal cooptation (see for example Mitlin et al. 2007; Mercer 2002; Kamat 2004; Grewal 2005) but that also examines the increasingly uncertain resource context in which NGOs operate and their effects in producing political subjectivities (see contributions to Bernal and Grewal 2014). Even the mere presence of celebrities in policymaking is part of the neoliberal political trend of inviting elite private actors into democratic spaces to solve humanitarian and development problems (Majic 2017, 5; Wilson 2018, 189). As a result, celebrities need to be taken seriously not only for what they represent but also for their legitimation of actors, policies, and practices that make up neoliberal politics (see Richey and Brockington 2020). Second, we focus on the neoliberal emphasis on the “free-­market fetishism” that holds the market to be “the most efficient and moral institution for the organization of human affairs” (Springer et al. 2016, 3). The “triumphalist” assumptions of neoliberal practices can be detected in the discursive and visual strategies employed by state and nonstate actors to justify policies and actions that favor market-­ based solutions. We draw on Julie Wilson’s work in considering celebrity strategic partnerships as “indicative of neoliberalism’s privatization of the political” that furthers the notion that a social-­economic issue such as advancing development in the Congo is “something that can be addressed by and within the market” (2018, 189). Here, we explore how Affleck and ECI advance the neoliberalization of development with both their presence and the content of their ideas.

Celebrities as Political Actors How a celebrity from the entertainment world came to be the trusted face of neoliberal development is the outcome of deepening and widening celebrity engagement in politics. The elevated visibility and varying activities of celebrities have produced considerable debate in

Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development  • 5

academic circles and mainstream media. Celebrities are considered influential actors in international politics (Richey and Budabin 2016), particularly in the shaping of North–­South relations (Richey 2016), in ways that capitalize on their status as outsiders. We draw on concepts from communications, political science, and sociology to identify the resources and distinctive forms of capital (Driessens 2013) that celebrities as elite actors have at their disposal. Coming from spheres related to culture, sports, and entertainment, celebrities may be distinguished by their path to fame, based on lineage, accomplishments, or notoriety (Rojek 2001). What celebrities do share is the “public recognition and circulation” that make them known to broad audiences (Drake and Miah 2010, 52). Thus, they are paradoxically both extraordinary and “ordinary people” (as described in the classic Dyer 1979). This intertwining of the private and the public lives of celebrities leads us to follow with the same assiduous attention not only their careers on stage or on a basketball court but also their private lives, which can include charitable and political involvement. Celebrity is created and supported by surrounding industries, which today expand beyond Hollywood press offices and sports agents. Multiple sectors revolve around the fulcrum of celebrity to exploit the attention garnered; as Dan Brockington argues: “Celebrity describes sustained public appearances that are materially benefi­cial, and where the benefits are at least partially enjoyed by people other than the celebrity themselves, by stakeholders whose job it is to manage the appearance of that celebrity” (2014, xxi). This understanding of celebrities as a “sharing of benefits” in an elite politics is further explained by what Oliver Driessens (2013) sees as the unique properties of celebrity power. He draws on Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory to argue that celebrities possess their own capital, based on “recurrent media representations or accumulated media visibility that can be converted into economic, social, symbolic, and political capital” (2013, 550). Celebrities can thus marshal their capital to gain additional assets from elite networks, both financial (through resources and merchandising, for example) and political (through access or gaining of political power). In this way, celebrities are themselves commodities: “produced, traded and marketed by the media and publicity

6  •  Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development

industries” (Turner 2004). They are also brands whose images are packaged, bought, and sold across national borders (Littler 2011). Various sectors from corporations to NGOs engage celebrities to leverage this acquired capital in marketing product lines, mobilizing political activism, or promoting charitable engagement—­activities that gain attention from both elite and mainstream audiences. Celebrities are also characterized by their liminal position, operating between “the people” and “the system” to represent popular habits and dispositions. An important measure of celebrity influence is their ability to gain access to decision makers. In the arena of politics, celebrities leverage their “outsider” position to seek “to influence the exercise of political power by way of their fame and status” (Street 2012, 347). Politicians, in turn, lean on celebrities because, as Darrell West argues, they are “seen as white knights, not tainted by past partisan scandals or political dealings, who can clean up the political establishment and bring new ideas to public policymaking” (2005, 62). Moreover, playing off assumptions that celebrities are wealthy, West claims that celebrities “are seen as too rich to be bought” (2005, 62). Using their celebrity capital as political capital, celebrities are appreciated for their ability “to frame issues in a manner that attracts visibility and new channels of communication at the mass as well as the elite levels” (Cooper 2008, 7). Andrew Cooper has traced the development of an “outsider-­insider” status of celebrities with mass appeal that enables celebrities like Bob Geldof, Bono, and Angelina Jolie to enter exclusive spaces of global governance, including the United Nations, the White House, 10 Downing Street, and Davos to discuss Third World debt, poverty, and refugees (2008). Their status as “outsiders” with fan bases transforms them into powerful “insiders,” capable of pushing forward particular visions or supporting the agendas of others. Research has found, however, that the outsider-­insider status of celebrities aligns with advocacy practices that leverage mass engagement for access. Following interest group theory, scholars distinguish between inside lobbying (attempts to influence policy processes through direct interaction with decision makers) and outside lobbying (pressuring decision makers through mobilization of public opinion) (see Dellmuth and Tallberg 2015). Rather than mobilize

Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development  • 7

broad audiences to engage in protest, organizations “become experts in institutional advocacy and lobbying at the expense of generating broader public debates” wherein NGOs represent “proxy publics” to the government (Lang 2013, 8, quoted in de Waal 2015b). On behalf of Southern causes, Alex de Waal finds that insiders in government “quickly learn to use this brokerage process to their own advantage” (2015b, 35). Thus, advocacy organizations can become “institutionalized, focusing on providing expert policy analysis, commercialized, catering to the consumerism of their national constituents” or part of “a transmission belt of ideas and policies generated within government to a broader public” (de Waal 2015b, 37–­38). The end result is that “the principal impacts of this brand of advocacy/lobby organization are within Western societies” (de Waal 2105b, 38). The notion of operating on behalf of “proxy publics” reinforces Brockington’s work that finds celebrity advocacy to be the terrain of elites in the North, in spite of popular misconceptions that celebrities are successful because of their appeal to “the people” (2014; Brockington and Henson 2015). The use of celebrities, as presumed “public” figures with a large fan base, becomes a crucial link in this “brokerage” across insider and outsider strategies. This explains why celebrities in the United States have enjoyed extensive access to democratic processes. In support of both sides of the aisle, celebrities have played key roles as elected officials (Ross 2011) and as advocates on behalf of a wide spectrum of human rights and social issues (Brysk 2013). Matthew Atkinson and Darin DeWitt find that “interest groups and members of Congress invite celebrities to Capitol Hill with the intention of capturing public attention and building support for an issue position” (2019, 99).2 For advocacy groups, congressional hearings have become popular vehicles for attracting media and public attention, although coverage and influence are often overestimated (Thrall et al. 2008, 375; see also Demaine 2009, 88). Research has shown that celebrity advocacy gains media coverage for issues in the short term (Hawkins 2011) but has little effect on attendance by members of Congress and thus fails to increase public engagement in meaningful ways (Atkinson and DeWitt 2017, 2019). Yet, for celebrities like Affleck, appearances at congressional hearings (see Appendix B) remain a popular vehicle that

8  •  Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development

demonstrates high-­level access with the potential of “disrupting” the field of development. What is still left out is the impact of celebrity advocacy on the ground in both Northern and Southern spheres. For example, one U.S. State Department employee described advocacy as the “mass mobilization of ill-­informed people.” He continued: “Advocacy gets people riled up and they come in demanding things that are not helpful.”3 Accountability in this instance is attenuated since the celebrity is not beholden to his or her public in the same manner as the elected official. Our informants in the humanitarian sector in the Congo also expressed concerns, as we shall see in chapter 6. Misguided proposals and ineffective interventions that take place in a foreign country will not endanger a celebrity, whose status at home is ensured by both financial and political elites. Meanwhile, constituencies on the receiving end of celebrity interventions have no recourse for accountability.

Celebrity Humanitarianism: Bringing Attention to Distant Suffering and Mobilizing Responses Celebrities have a long history of taking on public and visible roles in raising funds and awareness for humanitarian causes on behalf of various national and international bodies. As we noted in the previous chapter, the Congo’s celebrity humanitarianism can be traced back to the Victorian-­era work on behalf of overseas causes by Morel and his countrymen (Brockington 2014, 56–­57). The birth of international development after the end of World War II was linked to its own celebrity humanitarianism. Beginning in the 1950s, the U.S. State Department sent celebrities abroad in what was called “jazz diplomacy” to endorse U.S. democratic government in the Cold War period (Davenport 2009, as cited in Wheeler 2013). Later, at the UN, celebrities were enlisted as “ambassadors” in order “to raise funds, affect diplomatic agendas and draw attention to development causes” (Wheeler 2013, 144). Early celebrity ambassadors were expected to stay on script and respectfully represent their institutions; recently, a set of celebrity humanitarians has come to operate in more “freelance” terms (Cooper 2008) with the support of philanthropic consultants or their own organizations (Budabin et al. 2017). Along with

Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development  • 9

their links to causes, celebrities perform the role of a specific type of mediated communicator, with the capacity to advance traditional views or reinforce uneven power relations (Van den Bulck 2018). The term “celebrity humanitarianism” has come to be understood as encompassing the expanding ambit for celebritized forms of global humanitarian and charity work (Richey 2016). The attention that celebrities bring to humanitarianism spotlights prevailing trends and debates in the field. Scholars of international relations use the term “humanitarianism” to make a specific historical reference to the 1864 Geneva Convention’s recognition in international law of humanitarian principles intended to govern the moral practice of war. Yet, now the term also captures institutional responses to the root causes of the suffering: development, human rights, and gender equality (Barnett and Weiss 2008, 6–­7). Humanitarianism was critiqued for its elitism before celebrities became involved. For example, Roberto Belloni (2007) argues that intervention in domestic affairs on behalf of needy others, justified on the grounds of a shared humanity, supports the interests of powerful elites and undermines the moral basis of human rights on which this intervention is predicated. Increasing competition among humanitarian actors for funding and attention has heightened the stakes for representations of “helping” such that communication, image management, and even branding have become part of the humanitarian space. Lilie Chouliaraki regards humanitarian communication as messaging that “aims at establishing a strategic emotional relationship between a Western and a distant sufferer with a view to propose certain dispositions to action towards a cause” (2010, 109). The study of the histories of affective bonding in humanitarian governance through representations of “helping” is extensive and underscores the ways in which imagery and texts have entrenched conceptions of North–­South relations (Malkki 2015; see extensive review in Richey 2018; Chouliaraki 2013). Liza Tsaliki et al. suggest that we can read celebrity attempts at do-­gooding in the arenas of activism and charity as a way to “collapse the distance between us and them” (2011, 10–­11). Celebrity spokespeople perform on behalf of organizations to “communicate good done and/or to make aid look good in the eyes of various audiences,” though this has troubling effects for democratic deficits across the

10  •  Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development

donor–­recipient equation (Enghel and Noske-­Turner 2018, 1). They serve as emotional witnesses in ways that not only demonstrate personal growth but also have the effect of marginalizing suffering others while elevating the Northern subject as “naturally superior” (Bull Christiansen and Frello 2016, 4). Compared to actual humanitarian workers, “the celebrity is a different kind of expert, whose knowledge is not derived from numbers, deduction, or semi-­structured interviews, but from ‘feeling the pain’ of the poor and from offering an emotional connection to the subjects of development” (Abrahamsen 2012, 141). The presence of a celebrity figure intersects with debates on the ethics of representation in humanitarianism, undermining the presentation of local solutions in favor of gazing upon a famous “altruistic savior of a suffering ‘other’” (Müller 2018, 47). What sets celebrities apart as humanitarian figures and defines their unique power is this mediated performance of emotional labor of the White Savior, an “affective visibility” that has become embedded as a practice servicing both elites and popular audiences. Celebrities accompany the increasing presence of other private actors, which is shaping the humanitarian communications field (see Scott, Bunce, and Wright 2017, 2019). For humanitarian agencies, communication practices intent on building audiences take a page from corporate branding practices, making humanitarian “helping” a branded commodity that can be consumed by Northern audiences like any other product or service; in this sense, Devika Sharma argues that “humanitarian organizations operate today much like brands and speak to us as consumers just as any other brand would do” (2017, 1). Monika Krause focuses on the selling of beneficiaries themselves as a commodified product that distinguishes NGOs in an ever-­competitive funding battle, noting that “relief organizations hand out shoes and tents and medicines to beneficiaries, but at the same time they also sell projects including beneficiaries to donors,” extracting value from them in the process of helping them “under circumstances over which they have very little control” (2014, 41). Denis Kennedy (2009) sums up the effect of this $10 billion-­a-­year industry of images: “When we imagine humanitarianism—­indeed, when we think of much of the non-­Western world—­we imagine it through frames advanced by aid agencies and the mass media.” With the help of marketing firms and

Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development  • 11

his NGO’s carefully curated “brand,” Affleck and ECI represent their work as disruptive of traditional ways of “helping,” through texts and images that bridge Northern audiences to the Southern cause of the Congo and impart ideas about how humanitarianism operates (see Figure 4). The establishment of celebrity-­led development organizations is one way in which celebrity humanitarians like Affleck raise awareness of distant suffering. As we discuss further in chapter 3, more than a dozen celebrity-­led organizations link specific celebrities to a region or issue, through advocacy, grant making, or the use of strategic partnerships to sell branded products (see Tables 2 and 4). These celebrity-­led organizations benefit from elite connections that enable celebrities to quickly amass political and financial capital (Budabin et al. 2017) and recast ideas about credibility and accountability in the field. They become the cornerstones of celebrity strategic partnerships in neoliberal development. While celebrity humanitarians have appeal based on their claims to authenticity, building an organization demands the careful cultivation

Figure 4. Affleck meets with members of the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) during a visit to the Congo in 2008. UN photograph by Marie Frechon.

12  •  Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development

of contacts, funds, and endorsements. These steps build credibility, defined as “attributes such as trustworthiness and believability in the eyes of other actors” (Brown 2008, 2). For celebrities with no development experience, this credibility might come from figures with greater “legitimacy”; pairing with an indisputably credible expert is increasingly common in celebrity circles.4 The relationships make sense to help the celebrity learn the ropes; for experts the benefit is that they themselves become “aid celebrities” who provide the guarantee that the intervention will be effective (Richey and Ponte 2011, 26). The contacts may come from expert advice from strategic management or philanthropic consultants (Budabin et al. 2017). It has become important to see who is standing next to (or behind) a celebrity humanitarian, as these bonds form the basis of legitimacy that allows celebrities to enter the field and be disruptors. In promoting their visions and adopting new approaches, celebrity-­ led organizations further trends of accentuating Northern voices over Southern stakeholders. Despite operating as legal entities, these organizations operate with a weak degree of accountability, defined as “the means by which individuals and organizations report to a recognized authority (or authorities) and are held responsible for their actions” (Edwards and Hulme 1996, 967). They may follow some of the customary accountability mechanisms such as disclosure statements and reports (Ebrahim 2003), but this is understood as being oriented upward to their donors rather than downward to their beneficiaries. Celebrity-­led organizations like Affleck’s ECI operate with the appearance of “official” controls but exhibit lopsided accountability (Partzsch 2018), directed upward to their elite supporters without the inclusion of those affected (see also Dieter and Kumar 2008). This changes, slightly, when celebrity-­led organizations become anchors for celebrity strategic partnership in collaboration with traditional development actors such as USAID, which puts additional monitoring processes in place. Celebrity humanitarianism is above all an elite politics and, as such, offers all the opportunities of resources, both financial and attention—­and all the pitfalls of what has come to be called “postdemocratic” agenda setting (see Brockington 2014; Budabin 2016). Colin Crouch’s term “post-democratic” characterizes politics in Western

Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development  • 13

countries in which public participation is dependent on “top-­down publicity campaigns” that are directed by political elites, often acting in concert with corporate entities (2004, 19–­20). Ilan Kapoor maintains that the machinery of celebrity humanitarianism epitomizes this “postdemocratic order” by obfuscating power and privilege, strengthening top-­down political processes, and closing down disagreement and conflict without popular input (2013, 7). Rather than represent the interests of the majority, celebrities become yet another category of select individuals who exercise greater influence, ostensibly on behalf of the mass public that gave them their popularity in the first place.

Disruption: Business, Brand Aid, and CSR In this book, we argue not that Affleck has disrupted the field of development and driven aid out of business but instead that he has wielded his celebrity capital to position himself as a disruptor. As a key artifact of neoliberalism, the moniker “disruptor” signals an individual who is trying to change the everyday, “disrupt a field,” portending upheaval and improvement and a more efficient use of resources. Previously, disruption had a negative cast, suggesting a path that has been interrupted or a meeting that received an unwelcome visitor. In a 1995 Harvard Business Review article, Joseph Bower and Clayton Christensen gave the world the theory of “disruptive innovation” to understand how small companies were able to challenge established companies by focusing on overlooked market segments.5 In a broadening of usage within the business field, the term has come to “describe any situation in which an industry is shaken up and previously successful incumbents stumble.”6 In today’s parlance, disruption has come to be understood as a force for good, albeit one that involves experimentation and a trial-­ and-­error process. Richard Slaughter warns us that “reinventing the world—­whether by innovation or disruption or both, is not a trivial matter” (2017, 3). He points to the scale of the resources that is needed as well as the lack of oversight. In the realm of technology, there is widespread acknowledgment and concern that “we have fetishized ‘disruption,’” according to Carol Wadwalladr, with the

14  •  Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development

consequence of also disrupting normal democratic processes.7 Recent work by Jonathan Tepper on the Internet’s monopolization by Google, Facebook, and Amazon suggests that the original decentralizing and democratizing vision has given way to a democracy-­ endangering force (2018). Disruption has formerly been used to describe the entrepreneurship and hubris of Silicon Valley, but the term has begun to migrate as a way to capture the use of private-­sector thinking in its application to other sectors.8 The Guardian has an entire series on “Development Disruptors,” which features “the people who are thinking and working differently.”9 To promote disruptive thinking, humanitarian organizations and international agencies have created “innovation units” and “innovation labs”; the World Humanitarian Summit 2016 even had “transformation through innovation” as a key priority area (Carbonnier and Lightfoot 2016, 179–­80). The teleological view of disruption that sees any change or innovation in a positive light limits accountability and implementation of traditional mechanisms that exist in the development field. Affleck and ECI’s strategic partnerships resonate with the disruptive practice of relying on private philanthropy as a source of aid donations, an idea that is gaining in prominence. A 2012 report from the Overseas Development Institute uses the lens of disruption to investigate “new institutions, business models and practices [that] are challenging long-­established ‘aid industry’ actors.”10 The report underscores “new philanthropy and social-­impact investors” as a “significant disruptor.”11 The notion of “impact philanthropy as a substitute for ODA [official development assistance]” barters in the expectation that competition brings greater effectiveness, championing the virtues of market forces. But the report notes the perceived distortion of democratic practices: the implication is that philanthropists are “more responsive to their contributors or ‘investors’ than are national aid bureaucracies to their underlying funders, the voters.”12 The report also speaks of convergence between the agendas of private philanthropic and ODA agencies, such that “private philanthropies can be considered more as substitutes for official agencies [. . . providing] similar services in many cases.”13 Other actors that implement this disruptive idea include internet-­based platforms

Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development  • 15

such as kiva.org (see Schwittay 2016) and globalgiving.org that promote public funding of development projects through private channels. The emphasis on private funding—­by philanthropists and consumer citizens—­is a defining feature of Affleck’s celebrity strategic partnerships. Moreover, Affleck’s disruptive vision receives airings with both mass and elite audiences. Throughout our book, we point to the attempts at disruption of international development by examining the spaces where Affleck and ECI’s staff market their ideas about and for development. These include awards shows and TV soft news programs, where Affleck is subjected to friendly interviews and enthusiastic company. But these spaces also extend to sites of elitist discourses and practices (see Denskus and Esser 2015), such as the U.S. Congress, which Affleck has visited four times to speak about the Congo (see Appendix B); the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI);14 the Council on Foreign Relations;15 the Center for Strategic and International Studies;16 and the TED conference circuit.17 ECI country director Harper McConnell delivered a TEDx talk that asked the provocative question “Can Aid Work Itself Out of Business?” Finally, a platform has been made available to Affleck and his political and corporate supporters in mainstream newspapers to which they have contributed essays and op-­eds. For Affleck’s claimed “disruption,” his texts, videos, and accompanying materials champion ECI’s approach as “the next big thing.” When we move to the perspective of humanitarian workers in the Congo in chapter 6, we see that there has been a mixed reception to the disruption caused by celebrity strategic partnerships. The market-­based solutions at the heart of Affleck’s disruptive vision for development remake the concerned public into “consumer citizens.” This amounts to “building a movement founded on convenience [that] cultivates consumers rather than activists, for whom political struggle is depicted as an entertaining pastime with quick fixes” (Pruce 2014, 213). Citizens are reimagined as “market actors” (Brown 2016) and are encouraged to act on their social, ethical, or political stances through either boycotts or buycotts (Mukherjee and Banet-­Weiser 2012). The mobilization of “consumer citizens” replaces traditional political activism with ethical consumption, defined as “a

16  •  Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development

set of practices which mobilise a diverse range of motivations, incentives, and desires in developing large-­scale forms of collective action that are able to induce meaningful change in the patterns of conduct of powerful economic and bureaucratic systems” (Barnett et al. 2005, 5; see also Youde 2009). Deeper political participation is replaced by the embrace of humanitarian branded products such as chocolate, shoes, soap, and coffee (see chapter 4), which are the entry points for philanthropic platforms that enable the global public to become “an active participant in financing development” (Brainard and LaFleur 2008, 12). These disruptive practices in development funding have serious policy implications: “if taxpayers perceive a greater poverty ‘bang for the buck’ through individual giving, which at the same time provides a greater measure of choice and individual participation, they will no longer be as supportive of the paying of taxes for official aid agency programmes.”18 Celebrity humanitarians elevate the role of businesses in promulgating market-­based solutions to development, with consequences for social and political engagement. Celebrity strategic partnerships are the latest iteration of the increasingly popular Brand Aid (Richey and Ponte 2011) initiative, a concept built around three pillars—­a branded product, celebrity, and a cause. As “brands that provide aid,” Brand Aid initiatives follow the cause-­related marketing (CRM) business model in linking a purchase to the support of a cause; in turn, they are also “aid to brands,” enabling businesses to fulfill corporate social responsibilities in a more public fashion than simply making donations (Richey and Ponte 2011, 10–­11). The Brand Aid initiatives identified by Lisa Richey and Stefano Ponte (2011, 2014) are directed toward overseas causes in ways that complement and complicate traditional development and humanitarian financing. Interestingly, assessments of the success or failure from the business perspective of helping initiatives typically stop at the level of “fundraising.” If there is money raised, then the impacts are deemed “positive.” The vast political and ethical consumption literature has examined the role of fair trade and other labels in promoting (or in failing to promote) “development” but has so far failed to recognize that Brand Aid initiatives and celebrity strategic partnerships are moving attention away from the social and environmental

Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development  • 17

conditions of production and toward the intended beneficiaries of causes, as Ponte and Richey (2011) elucidate. In our book, we examine further impacts, both material and representational, on the other actors in the development and humanitarian space and, even more consequentially, on the beneficiaries themselves. The co-­branding effects of a celebrity spokesperson for Brand Aid initiatives offer great appeal to business. The Western celebrity figure provides “the lubricant for this political-­economic formation, acting as emotional sovereigns, mitigating the threat to capitalist accumulation posed by the need to display corporate social responsibility” (Richey and Ponte 2011, 13). With the lure of aid celebrities like Jeffrey Sachs, Paul Farmer, and Bono, major companies like Amex, Apple, and Armani signed on to the Brand Aid initiative (PRODUCT)RED to support the Global Fund to Fight HIV/Aids, TB and Malaria. In these partnerships, celebrities are significant for increasing not only media coverage but also the “credibility and believability of international development in the eyes of the public” (Richey and Ponte 2011, 179). (PRODUCT)RED has since been followed by other initiatives such as TOMS One for One campaign (linking the Olsen twins to children’s health) and Johnson’s Baby Cares (linking Hilary Duff to Save the Children’s work) (Ponte and Richey 2014). Celebrities are often found advertising the products, endorsing the benefits of the cause, and co-­branding helping as cool, and they are important for the “fit” between a cause and a company (see Richey and Ponte 2011; Hawkins 2012; Brockington 2014). In this iteration of Brand Aid, we consider how the presence of a new actor—­the celebrity-­led organization—­supports and enables celebrities who wish to convene strategic partnerships across traditional and nontraditional actors (see Table 4). While strategic partnerships suggest a nimbler use of celebrity capital, there are also more opportunities for promoting and entrenching the neoliberal politics that make such models possible (and, to some, necessary). Since the use of such models risks “the degrading effect of market valuation and exchange on certain goods and practices” (Sandel 2012, 111), celebrity figures with popular appeal help their strategic partners maintain a moral high ground in promoting business solutions to development, as we will see in chapters 4 and 5.

18  •  Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development

Corporate Social Responsibility and Cause-­Related Marketing Understood as part of the umbrella of business practices known as corporate social responsibility (CSR), celebrity strategic partnerships provide another high-­visibility opportunity for corporate do-­ gooding with links to both traditional and new aid actors. As defined by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), CSR is “a management concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with their stakeholders.”19 The term “CSR” goes back to mid-­ twentieth-­century practices when stakeholders were immediate and often local, but, by the 1990s, the concept had broadened to see companies’ beneficiaries as global (Carroll 2008, 13). This shift to global beneficiaries has been assisted by traditional actors in humanitarianism and development. The international community, along with the UN and its agencies, have encouraged businesses to take up responsibilities and duties that were previously the purview of states, most prominently in the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (see Carbonnier and Lightfoot 2016; Voiculescu and Yanacopulos 2011; Ruggie 2013). When the UN turned to the promotion of private-­sector development in the 1980s, Catia Gregoratti argues, “multinational corporations [were] quick to reap the opportunity to partner with a moral authority” (2013, 310). Rather than being limited to making donations, multinational corporations are integral actors for peace and development interventions, with the help of marketing departments and advertising firms. Thus, it has become important to consider not only the material effect of this shift on developing countries (Blowfield 2007; Newell and Frynas 2007), particularly in Africa (Idemudia 2011), but also the representational impacts. Corporate marketing for CSR initiatives foregrounds consumer-­ friendly imaginaries of “helping” while distancing, obfuscating, distorting, or erasing root causes, deleterious extractive practices, and other on-­the-­ground realities (Newell 2008). In some cases, CSR enables a company that has suffered from the loss of its reputation to curate a more positive brand identity (Harris 2011); for example,

Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development  • 19

Nike successfully recovered from harmful practices to rebrand itself as “a caring company” (Beder 2002; Moeller 2018). This is especially the case with the use of Brand Aid, wherein Richey sees corporations remaking themselves as “helping” brands that operate through the practices of dissociation, in ways that commodify humanitarianism and lead to a “de-­linking of real or imagined ethical obligations across networks of solidarity” (2019, 3). This dissociation is reminiscent of charges of inadequate transparency, a feature of CSR initiatives that results from uneven disclosure practices that mask the extent of the material resources raised, their distribution, the exact nature of partnerships with local NGOs, and long-­term impact. Seeking accountability for CSR practices (Richey and Ponte 2011) extends earlier calls to root out corruption in multinational corporate practices and to ensure their respect for human rights (see Avery 2000; Ramasastry 2015). The presence of traditional and nontraditional actors in celebrity strategic partnership with businesses wanting to “help” adds a further layer of insulation to these practices of dissociation. Scholars have begun to examine the corporate marketing of “helping” as a form of humanitarian communication, with stakes for the representation of causes, beneficiaries, and the nature of the field. Brand Aid and other forms of cause-­related marketing (CRM)—­the model at the heart of the celebrity strategic partnerships studied here—­ have conventionally been considered a win-­win for all participants: NGOs raise funds and educate consumers, while corporations increase revenue and staff loyalty, enhance reputations, and gain market share for their brands (Eikenberry 2009). CRM’s appeal is demonstrated in its prominence and growth (Berglind and Nakata 2005, 443); the company Engage for Good tracks trends in the field and shares reports titled “Brand & Stands: Social purpose is the new black.”20 But even business analysts note that campaigns must walk “the fine line” between advocacy and exploitation of causes (Berglind and Nakata 2005, 443). The fields of geography and development studies have produced sharp insights into the ethics of the representations of development embedded in corporate marketing materials. Hawkins finds that these models emphasize individual consumption, the selection of favored

20  •  Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development

causes as those that are “easy to market,” and the circulation of “catchy slogans” that result in simplification of complex social issues (2012, 1799). The marketing also follows hackneyed tropes about humanitarianism that, as Patricia Daley argues, “reinforce hegemonic discourse by tapping into preconceived images and stereotypes of people and (distant) places” (2013, 376). These representations encapsulate the shifting dynamics of the development landscape where private actors such as celebrities, businesses, and the consumer public are seen to be playing an ever larger and important role (Budabin 2017). These “partnerships” between responsibilized actors and their consumers effect “the neoliberalization of consumers and of international development” and entwine the two (Kipp and Hawkins 2019, 14). When marketing needs are married to the fraught terrain of helping, the outcomes reflect the distorted practices of North–­South relations: power dynamics, simplification of complex situations, racial overtones, and hierarchies of victimhood. Consumers also become unwitting parts of the marketing machine that diffuses these heuristic devices for representing development. The use of new media technologies offers a key outlet for the visual culture that links ethical consumption for humanitarian causes and commodity activism (Brough 2012). Companies provide social media platforms for consumers to build loyalty as “fans,” sharing their own interactions with the product in what amounts to free advertising (Budabin 2017). We will see how the figure of the celebrity uses his or her social media platform to further reshape the visual culture of CSR to build public support for what are marketed as vital and effective development interventions. Despite the widespread promotion of new actors in the humanitarian and development fields, debates continue over the appropriate role for business in navigating humanitarian contexts and engaging with both conflict and informal economies (Miklian and Schouten 2014). In formulating celebrity strategic partnerships, ECI not only promotes but also expands the presence of the business sector, thereby influencing the delivery of development assistance in conflict-­affected zones. This is a stark reversal of traditional dynamics, since business was once considered to negatively affect peace outcomes and stability (see Rone 2003). Historically, the impact of NGO efforts to shame businesses to keep them from operating in conflict zones has been

Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development  • 21

mixed; sometimes the departure of targeted companies has created a void that less scrupulous businesses have rushed to fill (Patey 2009). Now, business is considered a stakeholder (Ford 2015), and an agenda around “Business for Peace” has slowly taken root, replete with its own global governance moniker B4P. Designating and delimiting a role for business in peace is considered a vital but thus far untested approach to expand the tool kit of the international community (Sweetman 2009). Engagement can be either direct (involving active participation in humanitarian delivery) or indirect (through the financial and in-­kind support of humanitarian actors) (Hotho and Girschik 2019, 210). Beyond normative concerns, B4P research considers not only the benefits to businesses but also the effects on the local spaces in which they operate (see Oetzel and Breslauer 2015). Scrutiny of CSR practices has meant monitoring the extent to which the presence of business in the peacebuilding field is based on self-­serving interests that have the possibility of further destabilizing fragile situations. As private contractors or sources of philanthropic funding, businesses participate in humanitarian work in ways that “can prove highly cost effective in managing reputational risks and bolstering public image” (Carbonnier and Lightfoot 2016, 172). Additionally, Jasper Hotho and Verena Girschik find that instrumental rationales of businesses include access to new markets, the reduction of business risks, and the ability to build relationships with other humanitarian actors, including intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), governments, and local communities (2019, 209–­10). In partnership with relief agencies, companies “influence the political economy of humanitarian crises by affecting the distribution of wealth, income, power and agency in typically fragile institutional environments” (Carbonnier and Lightfoot 2016, 174). Promoting the claims around the positive effects of business partners in conflict zones faces particular resistance in a place like the Congo, which has been the site of capitalist and colonial extraction for more than a century. Partnership activities in the Congo have been mainly philanthropic and centered on issues like health and education; transformative partnerships that address aspects related to conflict are fewer (Kolk and Lenfant 2012). For example, a major multinational like Heineken exaggerates the challenges of operating in the Congo in order to push “a narrative in which the company’s

22  •  Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development

own achievements are enlarged and responsibility for its wrongdoing lies elsewhere.”21 In practice, however, Jason Miklian and Peer Schouten find that Heineken’s subsidiary “flirts with the boundaries of the permissible.”22 Meanwhile, Esther Marijnen and Schouten (2019) argue that in much-­lauded public–­private projects, business imperatives subsume peace dividends in ways that replicate rather than redress troubling power dynamics within society. In adding the celebrity strategic partnership to the toolkit for sustaining development and stabilizing peace efforts in the Congo, Affleck brings in Northern business partners to enhance their reputations, with the risks of continuing a legacy of failed interventions while reinforcing neoliberal practices in development.

Neoliberalization of Development: New Actors, Alliances, and Partnerships The fields of development and humanitarianism have reorganized and expanded in recent years as part of neoliberal practices. In the 1980s, Western governments encouraged NGOs to administer social services at home and to act as vehicles for government aid abroad (Lynch 2013, 56). Yet, the use of NGOs to deliver goods previously guaranteed by the states has not led to the expected gains despite the use of more efficient, market-­based mechanisms; these circumstances explain why the state has not in fact “retreated” from the equation in terms of humanitarian delivery and development aid but rather has adopted a new role as a donor and monitoring agency (Lynch 2013, 57). In turn, NGOs have adopted their approaches to suit funding and reporting practices in this new configuration. Lynch has shown how this reorientation has led to an adoption of and reliance on terms such as “capacity-­building,” “partnership,” “innovation,” and “entrepreneurial endeavors” (2013, 58–­61). This neoliberal-­inflected discourse permeates the texts of celebrity humanitarians and their NGOs as a justification for seeking collaboration with corporate entities as well as the high expectations for their “disruptive” approaches. The possibilities offered to celebrity-­led organizations to build strategic partnerships to raise private funds come about because of the rapidly changing context of international development aid and

Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development  • 23

humanitarian intervention. In The End of Development, Andrew Brooks concludes with the changing terms of economic relationships set by China and other new donors that are not based on the same premises common to previous Western-­led international development programs (2017, 242). He argues that “in parallel American and other new transnational philanthro-­capitalists have become the standard bearers for renewed calls for modernization, liberalization and entrepreneurship in the Global South” (2017, 242; see also McGoey 2016). According to the Hudson Institute’s Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances, the sum of private funds transferred to the developing world is more than five times the amount of official flows. While official flows hover around $150 billion a year, private sources have doubled and quadrupled since the 1990s.23 Sub-­Saharan Africa receives the lion’s share of the aid. The United States is the largest donor, giving more than $33 billion in overseas development aid in 2014, but this was exceeded by private sources that include philanthropy, remittances, and private capital flows.24 Private philanthropy swelled from $4.9 billion in 2011 to nearly $44 billion in 2014; this covers donations from foundations, corporations, private and voluntary organizations, universities/colleges, and religious organizations.25 The advent of celebrity strategic partnerships reflects intersecting trends across celebrity humanitarianism, the postdemocratic political landscape, and business practices that advance neoliberal development. Their increasing number and diversity attest to smooth access for new actors such as corporations and a favorable environment for new alliances. As we discussed earlier, “global development” and humanitarianism today are not taking the same historical configurations as they had in the post–­World War II period until the early twenty-first century (Horner 2019). One trend that began in the international development era (see Brooks 2017) and continues in the postdevelopment era is the increasing role and influence of NGOs that partner with nontraditional actors (see Fejerskov et al. 2017; Brainard and Chollet 2009). The NGO impulse to partner with business emerges partly out of the expectation that business will bring ideas about corporate culture and management to the humanitarian field (Carbonnier and Lightfoot 2016, 179). The new actors and alliances shown by ECI’s celebrity strategic partnerships are using the NGO

24  •  Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development

platform to provide greater legitimacy for business through claims to local traceability; in turn, they are linking large philanthropic donors with increasingly underfunded development aid programs. Infusions of cash are seen in a positive light for many; as J. Gregory Dees writes, philanthropists “can take the risk, subsidize higher costs structures, and be more patient than profit-­seeking investors and the entrepreneurs” (2008, 126). By bringing in Howard Buffett to support Affleck’s Kivu program with investment and funding (chapter 5), ECI is furthering neoliberal practices that undergird the age of philanthrocapitalism. This epoch, so dubbed by Matthew Bishop and Michael Green (2008), is seen to be a source of innovation, that favorite buzzword of neoliberal discourses, since the approaches of philanthropists import business methods and logics. Anand Giridharadas sees the recent embrace of market-­based solutions by philanthrocapitalists as a part of the “win-­win-­ism” mantra that has come to dominate charitable practices (2018). As Wilson writes, “philanthrocapitalism suggests that saving the world and good business are one and the same” (2018, 186). Celebrities link their activism to political consumerism with the effect of legitimizing philanthrocapitalist practices (Farrell 2012). Backed by their own “branded” organizations, celebrities not only reinforce these trends but also elevate these strategic partnerships and neoliberal interventions in political spheres. We explicate the capacity of celebrities to bring in new actors and create alliances by underscoring structural advantages such as convening power, defined as an “interaction and coordinated effort where elites are able to bridge network disjunctures for mutual advantage” (Lindsay 2008, 75). Or, put more colloquially, celebrities’ convening power is “the ability famous people have of making all the rest of us abandon our plans to fit around their agenda and needs” (Brockington 2014, 4–­5). In particular, elites use their convening power to bring other elite actors together, even from different spheres. The use of convening power is both a demonstration and a legitimating move; D. Michael Lindsay argues that convening power “enables elites to marshal resources, share information, and deflect criticism” (2008, 75). Convening power is usually identified with political leaders; it is a demonstration of their success in getting elected, pushing forward a

Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development  • 25

legislative agenda, or achieving a policy goal.26 The possession of this trait also extends to “cultural icons, professional athletes, celebrated individuals, and corporate titans” and explains how these leaders get each other to join a common cause (Lindsay 2008, 76). The ability to wield convening power depends on the celebrity’s political and financial capital, which signals access, elite networks, the celebrity’s authentic performances, and his or her credibility. In the case of Affleck, the use of a strategic consulting firm played a key role not only in building ECI but also in situating Affleck at the center of an elite network that was crucial for building strategic partnerships. The celebrity strategic partnership that brought the Congo’s coffee to American consumers and brought American businesses, philanthropies, and celebrity capital to the Congo needs to be contextualized in light of trends related to development practices in conflict-­related areas. This work fits into political science scholarship that studies the effects of new actors in the field of development in conflict-­affected areas through what has been called the “local turn” as a critique of the hegemonic, hierarchical, and exclusionary ideas and practices that constitute the more mainstream liberal peace approach (MacGinty and Richmond 2013). Notably, Mark Duffield has studied the inside of what he terms “the aid industry” from an everyday perspective (2010). From the perspective of practitioners we spoke to in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa, there should be a separation between the kinds of initiatives that are “humanitarian assistance,” aimed at people in urgent need because of crisis and regulated by international humanitarian (legal) principles, and “development assistance,” which involves working with country partners to produce long-­term and sustainable effects (see chapter 6). Humanitarian initiatives are intended to operate in an apolitical fashion, insulated from working with the host country’s intelligence sector, while development relies more substantially on ongoing collaborations between donor and recipient governments.27 These local perspectives do fit with larger trends, with the expansion of the humanitarian agenda for chronic crises such as Somalia, Afghanistan, Colombia, and the DRC (Sezgin and Dijkzeul 2016, 7). These types of fragile settings “demand a multiplicity of types of aid, varying from emergency aid to development

26  •  Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development

to support for institution building” (Hilhorst and Pereboom 2016, 90). In the Congo, USAID has a portfolio that is almost evenly split between humanitarian and development aid, and these have distinct funding channels. Affleck’s ECI can be considered a multimandate organization in its approach that takes into account root causes, along with development, human rights, and rehabilitation tasks in confronting the humanitarian crises in the region. This multimandate approach moves ECI “further afield from the humanitarian norm” where the principles of impartiality, neutrality, and independence have long been held (Sezgin and Dijkzeul 2016, 3). This raises tensions in balancing short-­ term and long-­term approaches, while also violating the impartiality principle (by favoring specific groups), the principle of neutrality (by identifying sources of conflict), and the principle of independence (by seeking structural solutions that involve collaboration with national and international governments) (Hilhorst and Pereboom 2016, 94). Against this backdrop, ECI’s political lobbying confronts hallmarks of humanitarianism in discussing conflict, working with governments, and focusing on specific vulnerable populations. Meanwhile, ECI does not provide emergency relief and services but rather re-­ grants to community-­based organizations as a form of development assistance. We will see in chapter 4 how ECI’s promotion of strategic partnerships to address humanitarian needs related to conflict will evolve in light of ongoing development challenges. One of the particular challenges that celebrity strategic partnerships might be able to meet is what has been termed “Congo fatigue” (O’Neill 2016, 113). The Congo and its eastern region continue to struggle for stability after decades of war and conflict.28 In addition to the Congo’s political fragility, major humanitarian crises have arisen repeatedly. Ongoing interventions in the Congo, which include humanitarian, development, and peace-­building initiatives, resume the country’s complex history of extraversion (Bayart and Ellis 2000) and raise questions about the effectiveness of aid in building state capacity (Katoka 2018). Indeed, analysts maintain that the extensive intervention has been unsuccessful in fully halting the cycles of violence, addressing the humanitarian crisis, and returning the rule of law

Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development  • 27

(Autesserre 2010, 2014). An alliance of humanitarian NGOs asserts that “robust peacekeeping is a necessary but not sufficient condition for peace in Eastern DRC, for what is also necessary is political dialogue” (O’Neill 2016, 117). From a three-­page mandate in 1999, the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) adopted a seventeen-­page version in 2018, in part because of the absence of good governance.29 In contrast to the rest of the country, where a fragile peace has taken hold, Eastern Congo is characterized by a precarious political and security situation made worse by a thin government presence and dozens of armed groups that were never fully demobilized (Quick 2015, 20–­21). The region has experienced intermittent phases of armed conflict and war, thus putting it in the category of communities “that now fall somewhere in between humanitarian emergencies and regular development contexts, with many donors not wanting to fund longer-­term projects out of fears of future conflict” (O’Neill 2016, 113). Critically, across nearly three decades, humanitarian funding for the Congo has fluctuated as crises in other parts of the world (such as Syria, South Sudan, and Haiti) have siphoned away funds; aid workers have termed this cyclical process “Congo fatigue” (O’Neill 2016, 113). Efforts to bring stability to the Congo will secure more funding for development. Meanwhile, the narratives circulated about the Congo by advocates and other “helpers” will affect the degree to which attention is sustained, for either conflict or development related concerns, along with levels of funding from donors such as USAID. One surprising solution to “Congo fatigue” is provided by the intervention of Ben Affleck and his organization, Eastern Congo Initiative. Affleck’s advocacy with Northern audiences in the United States works differently from his implementation of development projects with Southern recipients in Eastern Congo; yet both promote unaccountable, elite politics that support business solutions to development problems on the ground. This is the first book to understand how these celebrity humanitarians are bridging contexts in the North and in the South through their strategic partnerships. In the following chapters, we demonstrate and analyze the complex linkages between elites across humanitarian space. We show how celebrity strategic

28  •  Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development

partnerships are more than NGOs responding to funding scarcity by courting celebrities or businesses pushing into Brand Aid relationships to market their ability to “do good” work as part of their CSR; they manifest the core values of “disruptive innovation” and the “partnerships” model of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The next chapter lays the groundwork for Affleck’s intervention by presenting the expanding list of external actors in the Congo, from state actors and humanitarian agencies to advocacy NGOs and of course celebrities.

2 NARRATING THE CONGO Dangerous Single Stories and the Organizations That Need Them

. . .

Eve [Ensler] did The Vagina Monologues in Bukavu. Many Panzi survivors were pressured to tell their stories publicly. There was Yoga for Congo, Clowns without Borders. . . . When the clowns showed up, we knew it was a circus. —­Laura Seay, researcher on Eastern Congo, interview with authors It is no secret that the Democratic Republic of Congo faces many challenges ranging from humanitarian to environmental issues. Many celebrities have dedicated their time, effort and finances to help this beautiful country and its people survive and have a better life. Celebrities are able to use their worldwide popularity as a tool to raise awareness about causes that they feel strongly about. Some celebrities have such power in the media that they have the ability to exert a strong influence on the minds of a huge percentage of the population, which is effective for rapidly raising awareness, increasing fundraising and encouraging volunteers for various causes. —­Hear Congo, Florida-­based NGO, website

Shortly before Christmas in 2008, Ben Affleck debuted a short documentary titled Gimme Shelter that he had directed to help the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) with its fundraising. Sir Mick Jagger donated the rights to the Rolling Stones song   • 29

30  •  Narrating the Congo

“Gimme Shelter,” originally written as a plea for shelter amid the social and political unrest surrounding the Vietnam War. The song serves as the anxiety-­provoking soundtrack with the lyrics “War, children, it’s just a shot away” and “Rape, murder yeah! / It’s just a shot away.” More music video than educational material, the film uses short texts to introduce the viewer to the Congo: a place with twenty-­two armed groups, gender-­based sexual violence, the loss of five million lives, and mass displacement.1 The camera moves through a camp in North Kivu, where the inhabitants turn to look into the lens without expression (or even recognition of the famous filmmaker). The main drama occurs when a UNHCR truck arrives and there is a confusing muddle where a group of people is hauled into the truck, including a woman holding a machete. Smiles emerge when food is distributed and during a parade of children through the camp. The shots, in both color and black and white, speed up into a collage of industriousness on the part of both the Congolese camp inhabitants and the UNHCR staff. The viewer is left with a sense of confusion over the circumstances, but with some belief that the

Figure 5. Affleck introduces a short film, Gimme Shelter, at an event at the UN in 2008. UN photograph by Jenny Rockett.

Narrating the Congo  • 31

renowned humanitarian establishment actor UNHCR is bringing relief and hope. As a directorial effort, Affleck’s movie Gimme Shelter is unlikely to win any awards in Hollywood. But this contribution marked his entry into the challenging landscape that is Eastern Congo and, more generally, made visible the work of celebrity in the politics of humanitarian assistance and postconflict reconstruction in a developing country. Affleck was more specific on the crucial role played by external actors when he came out from behind the camera to present the film at a screening at the United Nations in 2008 (see Figure 5). He explained his motivations in making the movie: “in order to focus attention on the humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at a time when too much of the world is indifferent or looking the other way.”2 The assumption was that the situation in the Congo was receiving inadequate attention vis-­à-­vis other conflicts and crises. He mirrored the anguish of many scholars, activists, and observers who wrung their hands over what they saw as a “forgotten” or “invisible war.” Affleck even cracked a joke at Angelina Jolie’s expense when he said, “UNHCR needs to find a Goodwill Ambassador who can get some sort of press attention.”3 The line earned laughs from the audience, but the incident refracts one of the vexing paradoxes about the Congo: despite the severity of the crisis and the staggering loss of life, the situation is less known among the general public than that in Darfur or Kony’s war in Northern Uganda. Meanwhile, another paradox is that the more attention has been drawn to the Congo, the narrower the scope of understanding it has become. Though many celebrities have paid visits and participated in campaigns, the Congo was lacking an emissary, a twenty-­first-­century missionary, to perform “affective visibility” and act as a bridge to educating Northern audiences about the situation and to promoting solutions. What the Congo was lacking was its own dedicated and effective celebrity humanitarian. Enter Ben Affleck. What sort of situation was Affleck entering into as a celebrity humanitarian? How has the Congo’s external engagement from humanitarians, NGOs, and celebrities shaped Northern understandings while also producing faulty narratives? What follows is the story of how a lengthening list of actors—­both traditional

32  •  Narrating the Congo

and recent entries, such as celebrities—­came to the task of “saving” the Congo, accomplished in part through narrating its challenges to elites and global publics over the past three decades. The reality is that, far from being a place suffering from Northern indifference, there has been extensive humanitarian and, more recently, development engagement. Instead of colonial rulers as we saw in the introduction, recent interventions in the country known today as the Democratic Republic of the Congo come from international organizations, humanitarian agencies, neighboring states, and business interests from overseas. From the standpoint of Northern advocacy, however, the Congo has been the focus of only a small handful of celebrities and organizations that sought to foster mass engagement by global publics (Coley 2013). In this chapter, we describe the background for Affleck’s engagement into humanitarianism and development in the Congo. For details on our methods, see Appendix A. First, we discuss the ways in which the field of transnational advocacy around peace and conflict in Africa has come to rely on celebrity humanitarians. We present a narrative approach for studying how texts and visuals have shaped and continue to shape perceptions of the Congo and subsequently impact attention, funding, and policies. Second, we explore the Congo as a site of need, following the Rwandan genocide, thus precipitating the entry of external actors. Then we unthread the dominant narratives that have been spun to justify these patterns of external engagement by celebrities and advocacy organizations. Finally, we highlight the presence of alternative narratives, often promoted by the Congolese in the U.S. context. We map the political economy around helping the Congo where Northern-­based resources, including celebrity humanitarians, are distributed across a handful of advocacy NGOs that dominate thinking about the Congo in Washington, D.C. We argue that this terrain has been slowly overtaken by elite actors in political, cultural, and economic spheres that circulate narrow understandings of the Congo. This foundation of both external actors and the discursive limits of representing the Congo serves to analytically situate Affleck’s choice of the Congo, his humanitarian engagement, and the contention with dominant narratives that we discuss in chapter 3.

Narrating the Congo  • 33

Celebrities in Transnational Advocacy for Humanitarianism and Development in Africa Affleck’s organization, Eastern Congo Initiative, is positioned in a vast and crowded field where Northern actors operate on behalf of African issues. The 1990s saw a rise in NGOs engaged in transnational advocacy due to new communications technologies that enabled organizations to transcend borders to launch global campaigns against land mines, for the establishment of the International Criminal Court, and against the use of child soldiers (Roth 2000, 229). Other defining factors of this growth include partnerships across local and international human rights groups and increasing press interest along with greater professionalization (Roth 2000, 230). A perspective on NGOs as entities with interests remakes the landscape of transnational advocacy into a field of contestation for scarce resources of attention, donations, and influence. For example, Aseem Prakash and Mary Kay Gugerty regard NGO activities as pragmatic and instrumental, adopting strategies to gain influence in national and international bodies (2010, 13). Applying the “theory of the firm” to decision-making, Prakash and Gugerty (2010) argue that advocacy organizations are just like corporations in endeavoring to lower collective action costs and thrive in an environment of resource scarcity that explains decisions taken on behalf of causes and situations.4 As part of intrasector competition for funds and awareness, the communication practices of NGOs have come to depend on simplified messaging to appeal to mass publics. In a corresponding development, this universe of advocacy NGOs has come to rely on celebrity figures. This rationalist approach also extends to the reconfiguring of linkages across local groups and external NGOs, long considered part and parcel of deepening transnational relations that work around, with, and against governing structures. In the 1990s, these linkages were conceived by Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink as network structures, wherein domestic organizations “bypass their state and directly search out international allies to try to bring pressure on their states from outside” (1998, 12). Among these international allies, NGOs can be regarded as one of the key nodes in a network made up of local social movements, foundations, media, churches, regional and

34  •  Narrating the Congo

intergovernmental organizations, and sympathetic governments (Keck and Sikkink 1998, 9). Yet, more recent scholarship on NGOs has begun to address the social dynamics across actors within networks that typify this landscape (Murdie and Davis 2012), uncovering power dynamics and the replication of privileged roles. First, not all issue campaigns are initiated by domestic organizations or with the voice of a Southern activist; Alexandra Cosima Budabin (2014) showed that the Save Darfur Coalition was created without linkages to Darfur or Sudan-­based organizations that had asked for help. Second, in terms of distributing resources and attention, studies have made clear that not all issues and causes receive equal amounts of NGO engagement despite appeals from Southern stakeholders. Research by Clifford Bob has theorized which victim groups are likely to receive attention (2002a) in what he sees as a competitive global “marketplace” for moral movements (2002b). Charli Carpenter has identified the crucial role played by “gatekeeper” network organizations in providing recognition to peripheral movements (2007) and has explored why certain movements fail to gain traction (2014). This has been the case for conflicts and mass atrocity in the Congo, which has not received as much attention as Darfur and Uganda (Coley 2013). Third, when causes do receive attention, the need to appeal to mainstream and elite audiences has led NGOs to adopt styles of messaging and action that may lead to misrepresentation and faulty narratives, as we discuss later. This is explained by the political opportunities present in Northern political spheres and the power dynamics across networks; de Waal observes, “the substantive matter of concern, initially voiced by the Southern activist, becomes translated into a question of what the transnational advocate can do” (2015b, 32). These recent developments are visible in a new style of transnational advocacy that emerged around conflicts and crises in Africa in the early 2000s. In this period, advocacy NGOs put greater emphasis on public campaigns aimed at fundraising and mobilizing mass audiences in the North (de Waal 2015a). This approach was strategic, based largely on the reckoning conducted in the wake of the 1994 Rwandan genocide (Hamilton 2011; Pruce and Budabin 2016). In explaining the failure of the United States to respond to the mass atrocities in Rwanda, the late U.S. senator Paul Simon, then chairman

Narrating the Congo  • 35

of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee, suggested that greater public pressure might have made the difference.5 Samantha Power featured Senator Simon’s hypothesis in her Pulitzer Prize–­winning book A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide to support her argument that the United States failed to respond to genocide because of a lack of political will that resulted from the American public’s indifference (2002, 277). From this perspective, political leaders could not blame an information deficit. Yet, in transferring the blame to the lack of collective will, politicians could point to the absence of a constituency that could transmit public preferences that would shape U.S. foreign policy and its response to conflicts and humanitarian crises. Responding to these political blockages, organizations that arose to address mass atrocities and conflict in Africa such as Save Darfur and Invisible Children (both founded in 2004) became convinced of the need to amass a large constituency to push the United States to assert leadership in the international community (Pruce and Budabin 2016; Lanz 2011; Hamilton 2011). They spent heavily on marketing materials as part of large-­scale public campaigns helped by Madison Avenue advertising firms (Pruce 2018). These efforts painted a narrative of Africa as a place in need of “saving” by Northern, often youth, audiences (see Taub 2012); communication strategies adopted “light hearted, postmodern pastiche and youth culture aesthetics” (Brough 2012, 176). With this new style of engagement after Rwanda, a small but visible group of advocacy organizations pivoted toward raising awareness and mobilizing a mass public as central objectives in their work, thus opening space for celebrity humanitarians to play a key role in transmission. As discussed in chapter 1, celebrities had for decades appeared for international organizations such as the UN as ambassadors and emissaries. In the U.S. landscape, celebrities appeared in fundraising appeals and more recently joined various causes and protests ranging from capital punishment to environmentalism. While there was a period in which celebrity humanitarianism was seen as part of countercultural activities as symbolized by Band Aid in the early 1980s, today’s involvement is aligned with more mainstream politics (Müller 2013). Interest groups on both the right and the left have brought in

36  •  Narrating the Congo

“politicized celebrities” to lobby on behalf of gun rights, arts funding, and farm policy (Wheeler 2013, chapter 5). For many advocacy organizations, celebrities became an integral part of reaching out to mass audiences: Mark Wheeler explains that celebrities bring NGOs, small donors, and youth audiences while enhancing recruitment (2013, 153). This was certainly the case for the situation in Darfur; according to the organization’s first executive director, it was a celebrity that propelled the Save Darfur organization to its numeric strength following its lean early years: “George [Clooney] exploded the awareness of Darfur” (Budabin 2020). Other celebrity figures that advocated on behalf of Darfur included Don Cheadle, Mia Farrow, and Matt Damon (see Huliaras and Tzifakis 2012; Budabin 2015). Likewise, in raising awareness of the cause of child soldiers, the film Kony 2012 reached 100 million views and is widely believed to have reflected a mass movement of spontaneous solidarity across social media; however, Invisible Children courted a select group of celebrity influencers to engage in highly organized promotional work for the film (Daley 2013). Thus, the outsize exigency of public support of NGOs, for both fundraising and political actions, and the need to distinguish one’s “brand” have led to professionalization in the sector (Richey 2018). As part of their need to gain a foothold in capturing the imagination and attention of the public, NGOs have turned to celebrity humanitarians. Meanwhile, as we will see in the next chapter, celebrities began working with consultants to burnish “charitable” images for themselves, to complement branding exercises that relied on linking the public and private personae of celebrities. This chapter discusses how celebrity humanitarianism has contributed to contemporary understandings and approaches to “saving the Congo.” Our case study must be contextualized in terms of how the continent came to be a site for celebrity engagement. In 2010, the North American magazine Mother Jones reported on how Africa had become “the hottest continent for A-­list do-­gooders.”6 It listed exemplary moments in a chronology including Bono and Bill Gates’s call for a “Marshall Plan for Africa” (2002); Angelina Jolie’s adoption of an Ethiopian girl (2005); “I Am African” ads featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, Liv Tyler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Gisele Bündchen (2006); Madonna winning custody of a boy from Malawi (2006)

Narrating the Congo  • 37

and adopting a girl (2009); and the opening of Oprah Winfrey’s girls’ academy in South Africa, which was attended by Quincy Jones, Tina Turner, India.Arie, Chris Rock, Mary J. Blige, and Mariah Carey. Students at the academy received uniforms designed by Winfrey and pillowcases embroidered with Os (2007).7 In the Mother Jones article, an accompanying map showed the “celebrity recolonialization of Africa.” Readers were invited to click on the countries and see the celebrities who had visited and what they had done. Possible suggested activities included taking a fact-­finding trip, building/rebuilding a school, starting a charity, singing a song, making a film, writing a book, getting a royal title, or adopting a child.8 These short-­term, highly mediatized encounters reflect the ways in which issues and conflicts in Africa are picked up as causes on which American celebrities can lavish their money and through which they can display their charitable sides. They also set the stage for a more protracted engagement by celebrities like Affleck, along with Winfrey and Madonna, among others, who create and “brand” their own organizations for fundraising and advocacy. The activities of celebrities, along with the partnership building of celebrity-­led organizations, feed into ideas of helping—­how it’s done, for whom, and by whom—­as we will see in the next chapter. But first we need to consider the circulation of celebrity narratives that accompany these tropes of engagement, in particular for representing “truths” of the Congo. Studying Celebrity Narratives of Helping Celebrities who perform as spokespersons for causes, vulnerable groups, or even entire countries produce narratives that shape understandings and action. We use narrative analysis to study texts and visuals to theorize their impact on the politics of development (see Appendix A). As simplified versions of complicated problems, narratives are studied for the ways in which they obfuscate and lead to potentially harmful actions. Narrative analysis has shown that understandings of “what the problem is represented to be” (see Bacchi 2009) can have an impact on external engagement and interventions. This has certainly been the case for the country toward which Affleck would direct his celebrity capital; as Kevin Dunn argues, “discourses and imagery on the Congo’s identity have directly influenced political

38  •  Narrating the Congo

policies toward the Congo” (2003, 5). The presence and expansion of external actors are justified by dominant frames on the Congo that maintain (and sustain) this engagement. When a celebrity humanitarian chooses to step into the fray, he or she becomes the face of helping and a source of discourses on how humanitarianism works. Indeed, distortions of aid policies have been produced by celebrities in Africa who cement “specific hierarchical subject positions” of the North and Africa as well as “elaborate colonial formations and imaginaries” (Yrjölä 2011, 178). Affleck’s decision to focus on the Congo means that his presence, along with the narrative constructions for helping, risks reinforcing dominant narratives. On the other hand, there is also the opportunity for celebrity humanitarians to adopt and circulate alternate narratives. Narratives circulated by humanitarian agencies and advocacy NGOs are discursive devices that simplify complex situations in a moralizing fashion. Narratives are studied for how they present problems and issues through basic understandings of causes, consequences, and solutions (Autesserre 2012); narratives pertaining to human rights and humanitarian issues also include characters such as saviors, victims, and savages (Mutua 2001). Appeals by do-­gooding actors follow a mixed logic in the exigency “to arouse concern by claiming that the problem is deep-­seated and intractable” while “simultaneously elicit[ing] support by claiming that [the organization’s] work has led to some improvement” (Cohen 2001, 220). These claims are often made by organizations (would-­be saviors) with weak on-­the-­ ground connections; Seay argues that alternative narratives with a stronger basis in evidence and local knowledge may fail to gain traction in a crowded advocacy field (2015). Meanwhile, the imperative of mobilizing others to “do something,” whether to donate money or to engage in advocacy, is augmented by embodying a sense of identification, but not with the supposed beneficiary (victim). Social movement scholars observe that an emotional connection to one of these characters is important for audiences (Polletta and Gardner 2015); when advocacy is directed to Northern publics on behalf of distant causes, audiences want to identify as the potential savior. But, as we discussed in chapter 1, political participation yields to market-­based solutions; as Melissa Brough argues, the shift in the would-­be identity

Narrating the Congo  • 39

of the “savior” has resulted in “glamorized and playful representations of the humanitarian ­donor-­as consumer” (2012, 176). This trend is visible in the engagement by celebrity humanitarians on behalf of the Congo, which, even before Affleck, came to champion consumerism over activism. We will see in chapter 4 how celebrities spin narratives on behalf of strategic partnerships that adopt the rhetoric of the White Savior to construe themselves, along with businesses and their consumer audiences, as redeemers (Bell 2013). Critically, the story line of an advocacy narrative contains a solution, a course of action to spur mobilization. This may involve support for a certain foreign policy tool, such as economic sanctions, or a push for increased funding and support for an issue. The futility of Northern political participation as a solution flows from representations of the Congo, which follow a gross misunderstanding of the African continent. Ferguson argues that “journalistic and policy visions of ‘Africa’ thus continue to rely on narratives that anthropologists readily recognize as misleading, factually incorrect, and often racist” (2006, 3). This has been explained by the production and circulation of singular narratives with easy story lines; the Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina, in his tongue-­in-­cheek piece “How to Write about Africa,” tells us, “Whichever angle you take, be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important book, Africa is doomed.”9 The Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie has described this as the “danger of a single story.”10 Narrow understandings of Africa are not only the result of narratives emerging from advocacy organizations based in Washington, D.C. The universe of advocacy is populated by well-­resourced NGOs and struggling diaspora movements, not to mention domestic groups. Recent work by Amal Hassan Fadlalla (2019) on the interaction across advocacy players in and outside Sudan and South Sudan shows “how national and transnational narratives about violence, rights, and humanity circulate, and how they shape and reterritorialize ethnic identities, disrupt meanings of national belonging, and rearticulate notions of solidarity and global affiliations” (5). Fadlalla urges us to keep in mind the voices that are included at the exclusion of others as well as to take into account the “alternative alliances and spaces of expression” that marginalized voices may adopt in situations

40  •  Narrating the Congo

where narratives interact, compete, and clash (2019, 5). The national and transnational spheres of Congo advocacy experience similar contestation in representing the country’s challenges. The Congo is seen to be one of the extreme cases of narrative distortion, especially when we consider the actual or hypothetical role of external actors. Dunn describes how “many observers have asserted that the region is inherently chaotic and that there is nothing Western powers can do about it,” helping to spread a sense of futility based on perceptions of the country’s political dynamics as “incomprehensible” (2003, 4). As Dunn argues, “Western understandings of the Congo, even in the twenty-­first century, rely heavily upon earlier representations generated by Westerners” (2003, 4). These include Congo representations embedded and made popular through Joseph Conrad’s novel, the stories of Tarzan, the magazine National Geographic, and “media reports on the Ebola virus, AIDS, famine, or continuing ‘tribal’ violence” (Dunn 2003, 5). When presented as a mobilizing discourse for transnational action, Ngwarsungu Chiwengo argues, “the narration of the Congolese body depends on Western publishers and media” (2008, 91); further, Patience Kabamba holds social scientists responsible for characterizations of the Congo as a “failed state” filled with corruption, criminal acts, and misery (2010, 270). Northern elites, including celebrities, would be the ones to cohere and amplify the single story line around Congo. The next section briefly traces how the Congo has become a site of increasing external engagement by Northern actors in response to an array of political, security, and humanitarian crises in the 1990s.

Security Crises and Interventions in the Congo The calamities that befell the Congo have their roots in local, regional, and global dynamics. Following independence from Belgium in 1960, the country became the Republic of Congo and was established as a parliamentary democracy. During the fragile period following independence, interventions from the UN, the Soviet Union, and the United States added to the chaos that ushered in the country’s seizure by Lieutenant General Mobutu Sese Seko. He ruled over the country as a one-­party state, now named the Republic of Zaire, until the end

Narrating the Congo  • 41

of the Cold War. The Congo’s artificial borders, drawn across previously unmarked territories, failed to establish authority and order over various political, ethnic, and regional divisions. This intra-­and interethnic competition continues to dominate politics today (Hoffman 2015). Attempts in 1992 to devolve power brought inner turmoil that soon collided with other crises in the Great Lakes region, including interethnic violence. In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, two million refugees crossed the border into the Congo, causing a destabilization that persists to this day. The instability resulting from the massive displacements and refugee movements led to, as Dunn writes, a decade in which the Congo “underwent two rebellions, invasions from several of its neighbors (some welcome, others not), a change in leaders, a change in its name (back to the Congo), and re-­emerged yet again as a symbol of contemporary Africa—­the embodiment of all the continent’s woes” (2003, 140–­41). The challenges plaguing the Congo would become framed “by local actors and foreign observers alike” (Lemarchand 2013, 418) in ways that would have enduring effects, particularly in shaping future interventions. Against the backdrop of the political fragility of the Congo, major humanitarian crises arose in the region during the postgenocide period. At this time, UN agencies arrived, followed by international aid agencies and other NGOs. President Bill Clinton sent a humanitarian relief effort called SUPPORT HOPE, with operations based in the border town of Goma, the capital of the North Kivu province of Eastern Congo, the place where half the refugees had fled, and the United States would remain a lead donor to Eastern Congo for the next three decades. Goma became a base of operations for nearly 150 humanitarian organizations, with attendant controversies related to a hypercompetitive relief market and the manipulation of aid by former Hutu militias. This led to the outsourcing of relief activities to locally based organizations.11 A first civil war (1996–­97) precipitated regime change in Kinshasa and the installation of Laurent-Désiré Kabila as president. Internal mayhem led to a second civil war (1998–­2002) when Uganda and Rwanda gave military backing to rebel movements that were intent on removing President Kabila. He remained in power with the

42  •  Narrating the Congo

support of Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Angola. This second civil war or “Great African War” is often described as “Africa’s first world war,” since it involved nine African countries along with foreign and local armed groups (Prunier 2009, 335). According to Human Rights Watch, this war was characterized by “indiscriminate attacks on civilians, extrajudicial executions, rape, and destruction of property, with the result of massive displacement of population.”12 In this period, capture and control over natural resources became “the most important motivation and stake of the conflict” (Berwouts 2017, 29). For René Lemarchand, the two civil wars “stand out as exceptionally brutal phenomena” in which “it is the sheer scale of human loss that defines their singularity” (2013, 422). Following upheaval in the 1990s, significant resources and the work of numerous foreign interveners helped stabilize the Congo and put it on a path toward a peaceful future. This process extended the Congo’s history of extraversion (see Bayart and Ellis 2000) and consisted of various peace agreements, ceasefires, and power-­sharing arrangements supported by international actors. The Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, signed in July 1999, laid down a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign groups and created an interim Congolese government, which included representatives of Congolese rebel groups from the eastern part of the country. A half-­year later, the UN Security Council approved a peacekeeping operation under a Chapter VII “use of force” mandate, the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) for the eastern provinces. The Mission was authorized by the UN to “protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence and contribute to the improvement of the security conditions.”13 Thus, efforts to stabilize the Congo also included the takeover of public functions by international actors (Quick 2015, 21). Overall, the Congo wars of the late 1990s would elicit international aid and UN peacekeeping troops, but without “much cooperation from the Congolese authorities” (Prunier 2009, 246). Reports suggest that cooperation with the host state continues to diminish while neighboring states produce instability.14 Ten days after the assassination of his father, in January 2001, a transitional government was created under Joseph Kabila. An Inter-­ Congolese Dialogue was held in Sun City, South Africa, followed by

Narrating the Congo  • 43

a Global and Inclusive Peace Agreement, signed in 2002. This led to the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country, although Eastern Congo continued to experience violence. There was a reduction in “fighting from a continental war to a regional low-­intensity conflict” (Berwouts 2017, 26). But as the country stabilized politically, the plunder of natural resources by multinational mining companies and other foreign players increased. Peace and Stabilization in Eastern Congo Eastern Congo, which is both mineral-­rich and densely populated, experienced fighting between armed forces and militias in the northeast portion of the country that had a devastating impact on civilians and livelihoods. The majority of deaths stemming from preventable diseases have been the result of the deterioration of infrastructure, food provision, and health care systems that has accompanied mass internal displacement.15 In 2000, Integrated Regional Informational Networks (IRIN) quoted a U.S. mission representative to the UN who declared the situation in the Great Lakes “the greatest threat to peace and security today” and “one of the greatest humanitarian crises ever.”16 The International Red Cross reported in 2006 that health conditions in the eastern part of the country were much worse than the conditions in the west.17 Overall, the lack of security had a direct effect on the scale and severity of the humanitarian crisis. The entry of UN agencies and international NGOs to manage recovery was part of the increasing humanitarian presence in Eastern Congo (Sesnan 2004).18 After the Global and Inclusive Agreement was signed in 2002, there was “a surge” in net development assistance to more than $4.5 billion, also including debt relief; this was followed by outlays of $1.6 billion (2004), $1.2 billion (2005), and $2 billion (2006).19 The peacekeeping operation MONUC would grow to become the UN’s largest and most expensive peacekeeping operation, with around 20,000 military personnel, 1,500 police, and an effective staff of nearly 5,000 people. The majority of these resources were deployed to the eastern part of the country.20 The presence of peacekeepers did not always lead to blanket protection for the local population. Theodore Trefon and Noël Kabuyaya observed that “the Kivu population believe that the operation has not done

44  •  Narrating the Congo

enough to protect them,” pointing out that when Bukavu was under siege in 2004, the MONUC troops stayed in their barracks (2018, xvi). As Kris Berwouts writes, “international interventions, though very expensive, did not create the conditions for the Congolese state to rise from its ashes” (2017, 3). This environment of a weak state in turn enabled actors such as NGOs to gain a foothold, sometimes with moderate success (see Lake 2018). The humanitarian NGOs based in Eastern Congo continued to operate under difficult conditions. As an officer from a European-­ based NGO working in the Great Lakes region described the situation, “there are personal security issues, with NGOs not being willing to go to certain areas.”21 Moreover, there was also the matter of competing agendas; some suggested that “the situation in Congo has been going on so long that the status quo is instability, and it’s in people’s interest to keep it [like this]. Peace is just not something that anybody wants because it will ruin business.”22 In stark contrast to the deteriorating circumstances, the hundreds of humanitarian NGOs existed as “the few patches of relative calm and luxury” (Lemarchand 2013, 420). In particular, the landscapes of Goma and Bukavu were characterized by the presence of a humanitarian sector that “has reinforced patterns of conflict and competition over the urban political and socioeconomic space.”23 The build-­up of these services supported by foreign donors continued to take on the role of the state. In light of persisting crises and weak governance, humanitarian relief was provided on an immense scale in this period. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) operated with a budget of nearly $1 billion and coordinated more than a hundred organizations, including UN agencies and dozens of international NGOs (Kabemba 2013, 152). Lemarchand sees the debate as revolving around the question “how might a functioning state be restored or how might civil society organizations serve as alternatives to such a state” (2013, 417). The direct causal relationship of the presence of humanitarian aid to compensate for the absence of a functioning state persists as a neoliberal feature of Eastern Congo. The humanitarian needs of the Congo in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide also brought several prominent Northern figures

Narrating the Congo  • 45

into contact with the country, some of whom would later cross paths with Affleck. Notably, Cindy McCain, the wife of then U.S. senator and one-­time U.S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain, began to visit the region with the charity she founded in 1988, American Voluntary Medical Team.24 Later, she would travel to the Congo with Affleck and serve as a link to Congress,25 lending credibility to the celebrity’s efforts.26 In chapter 6, we consider the views of local humanitarian and development workers in Kinshasa on the opportunities afforded to prominent Americans like Cindy McCain. A handful of local efforts also gained the support of international donors to fill the gaps. One humanitarian worker observed that the Catholic Church was “extremely effective” with local, regional, and national entities that were well connected, linking smaller civil society organizations to advocacy efforts in Kinshasa.27 Northern charitable relief was channeled to two institutions, HEAL Africa and the Panzi Hospital, which would become key sites for visiting Northern helpers from the media, NGOs, and the celebrity circuit. With the support of an NGO in the United States called Doctors on Call for Service (DOCS), a teaching hospital was built in Goma in 1996 and initially served the Eastern Congo region.28 The volcanic eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in 2002 drove 300,000 people from their homes and gave impetus to DOCS to expand its services.29 In 2006, the DOCS organization split in two, with DOCS focusing on medical training and a new organization, HEAL Africa, concentrating on Eastern Congo. This organization was supported by HEAL Africa USA, Aus-­Heal, and other associated organizations in Canada, the U.K., and Rwanda. The next six years saw major growth, with the founders given awards for their work.30 Another prominent local effort focused on the impact of the instability on the country’s women. Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, founded the Panzi Hospital in 1999 to cope with the effects of the war in Eastern Congo. The hospital offered treatment to women with fistula and other gynecological injuries.31 Two foundations support the work of the hospital, one based in the Congo and the other in the United States, and provided links for wider public engagement with the Congo. The Panzi Hospital and Dr. Mukwege were featured in Time, the Guardian, the New York Times, and Fortune

46  •  Narrating the Congo

as well as on CNN.32 The emphasis on addressing sexual violence during the early years of humanitarian relief from Northern sources would shape later dominant narratives on the Congo. The Panzi Hospital became an essential stop for journalists and NGO activists;33 as Seay recounts in the quotation at the start of this chapter, these visits usually involved meetings with survivors and collection of testimonies. There were extensive efforts to rebuild and sustain governing structures. In 2006 MONUC helped organize democratic elections,34 which were cited as the most expensive election process in African history.35 But despite the enormous outlays of money and the commitment of the international community, the gains in Eastern Congo were limited. Overall, a series of peace talks and the extensive international intervention failed to quell the violence, address the humanitarian crisis, and return the rule of law (Autesserre 2014). After this period of continued upheaval, the main approaches to addressing the crises in the country, based on the stabilization plan conceived by the Congolese government and the UN, included proposals to strengthen the security sector, restore state authority in the Congo, and support social and economic development.36 Debate continues on whether to emphasize local focused efforts or follow state-­centric approaches to address the persisting violence.37 The next section turns to the parallel discussion on saving the Congo in the U.S. landscape and the origins of simplified and misleading narratives. U.S. Advocacy Context: The Congo as the “Forgotten War” and the “Stealth Conflict” The United States was already concerned with the situation in the Congo; the country had long held geopolitical relevance.38 Following a couple of years of lower levels of funding, the year 2003 marked a turning point; the United States gave $1.3 billion to the Congo, though future levels would hover between $100 and $800 million.39 Still, because of the severity of the crisis, there would be the need to apply pressure to maintain this funding. UN bodies, advocacy organizations, and celebrities attempted to draw mass public attention to the Congo. In 2003, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum held a forum titled “Sequel to Genocide: The Crisis in Eastern Congo”

Narrating the Congo  • 47

at which George Rupp, the head of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), reported that 3.3 million people had died in Eastern Congo since 1998 and described the Congo as “the largest humanitarian disaster in terms of mortality ever, greater than the Biafran conflict which it has now overtaken. It is the single largest number of deaths in any conflict since World War II.”40 That same year, in a bid for public attention and funding, UNICEF dispatched Jessica Lange on fact-­finding trips to the country. In a film clip, Lange describes her role: “We are all citizens of a troubled world so it seems to me, again, what I can do is be some sort of emissary for them in a sphere that may perhaps be able to, if they decide to, make a difference in their lives.”41 In an article about her visit, Lange explained that the Congo was “at this time the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet, and the worst documented war in the history of Africa.”42 This refrain of undercoverage of the Congo, coupled with the hyperbolic characterization of the humanitarian situation, would be echoed in later advocacy and celebrity narratives. Lange was followed by Angelina Jolie, who had held the position of UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2001. Her writings from her travels in the Congo were included in an online interactive resource, Ripples of Genocide: Journey through Eastern Congo, published by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.43 Her journal entries report on meetings with locals and refugees and share bits of testimony on the persisting violence and humanitarian disasters. Reflecting on her status as a celebrity humanitarian, Jolie observed, “No one here knows what I do for a living, my name, or if I have money. They just know I came from a ‘more fortunate country.’ I am a foreigner who cares how they are and wants to hear what they have to say.”44 Alongside her observations is “expert commentary” from John Prendergast, senior adviser to the International Crisis Group, who accompanied her and would later become a key figure in the field of celebrity humanitarianism. Lange and Jolie would use these field trips to build authenticity for their work on the Congo, as a form of experiential authority that celebrity humanitarians employ to signal their commitment to a cause (Brockington 2014). There were also a handful of efforts to have Congolese people offer firsthand presentations of the situation facing their homeland.

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An advocacy organization, Friends of the Congo, established in 2004, organized the Congolese diaspora and had modest success in bringing the situation of the Congo to the attention of the American public.45 Its website has various downloadable fact sheets to deepen readers’ understanding of the country. Other organizations brought Congolese leaders to the United States for fundraising. For example, the Congo Initiative (CI), founded in 2007, is an advocacy and grant-­ making organization that describes itself as an “envisioned community of Christ-­centered Congolese leaders and global partners united for the transformation of lives and a flourishing Democratic Republic of Congo.”46 The organization is based in the Congo and is led by Dr. David Kasali; an office in Durham, North Carolina, coordinates fundraising efforts by fifteen directors across the United States. Dr. Kasali conducted annual speaking tours in the United States.47 He stands as one of the few examples of Congolese voices that have gained a national stage in the United States to describe conditions in the Congo while catalyzing a vision for how to help. As a faith-­ based organization, Congo Initiative was initially reluctant to partner directly with celebrities because of concerns of credibility with core religious supporters.48 Later, Congo Initiative would benefit from partnering with ECI. While offering the local view of challenges facing the Congo, Congo Initiative and similar organizations are small, with few resources at their disposal in their early years and no celebrity connections. They therefore lacked the capacity for effective U.S. advocacy. Despite the turbulent state of affairs and the persisting humanitarian crisis in the country, public attention to the Congo has remained circumscribed. Between 2000 and 2005, there were a mere seven congressional hearings related to the Congo; these were dominated by witnesses from the Department of State, the International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch, and humanitarian organizations, including the International Red Cross and Refugees International.49 The fact that the Congo wasn’t in the headlines itself made headlines;50 the country continued to possess a strange notoriety as the “stealth conflict” (Hawkins 2004) or the “forgotten crisis.”51 This notoriety was puzzling and unlike the status of Darfur, South Africa, and Uganda, which sparked new advocacy organizations and

Narrating the Congo  • 49

transnational movements around genocide (Hamilton 2011; Budabin 2012), access to AIDS medicines (Dionne 2017; Kapstein and Busby 2013), and child soldiers (Drumbl 2012). As Jonathan Coley has written, there was a “significant disparity in human rights advocacy” related to Darfur and the Congo during the earliest years of the twenty-­first century; more than a dozen organizations were formed to support Darfur, while the Congo was the focus of only a handful of campaigns (2013). Early visits to the Congo by celebrities connected to UNHCR and UNICEF did not amount to much, and the Congo-­led organizations were underresourced until the mid-­2000s, when celebritized engagement intensified.

Forgotten No Longer: Dominant Narratives on the Congo Simplification and amplification are vital for successful advocacy narratives. This section takes up the narratives that circulated to explain the Congo as it experienced a change in status and began to attract greater notice and intentional action in the United States and beyond. These narratives circulated in the public and elite spheres, partly as a result of the entry of an array of new actors including celebrities and, as we’ll see in chapter 4, businesses as part of celebrity strategic partnerships. A wide variety of fundraising initiatives and awareness-­ raising campaigns, often featuring celebrities, not only drew attention to the Congo but also outlined its challenges and formulated workable solutions. Meanwhile, as Congress increased the number of hearings on the Congo in the period 2007–­10, these came to feature filmmakers and theater professionals, along with representatives of NGOs. Visits to the Congo by activists and politicians surged in this period, drawing cameras while raising attention to what was repeatedly described as a complex situation. A UNHCR-­sponsored visit by a troupe of Spanish clowns to IDP camps in 2009 was meant to help children “forget their experiences of flight and violence” but mainly seemed to underscore the expansion of tactics that were beginning to border on the absurd.52 As the Congo gained in visibility, understandings became narrowed in the form of dominant narratives. Séverine Autesserre has

50  •  Narrating the Congo

identified a dominant narrative adopted by numerous actors that explains the Congo by concentrating on a “primary cause of the violence, the illegal exploitation of natural resources; a main consequence, sexual abuse against women and girls; and a central solution, reconstructing state authority” (2012, 204). To some extent, Congolese advocacy organizations reinforced this dominant narrative around conflict to promote humanitarian solutions in order to resonate with other work being done while at the same time others attempted to furnish alternatives that might relate to postconflict development challenges that impel different solutions. Thus, as advocacy needs dictated, the form of message as well as type of messenger (i.e., celebrity) resulted in both an amplification and a simplification of the challenges plaguing the Congo. The next section examines the origins of the dominant narrative focusing on the consequence (sexual violence) and cause (conflict minerals) along with another popular narrative related to saving the gorillas that has been promulgated by new actors, including celebrity humanitarians, activists, and advocacy NGOs. The “solution” of reconstructing state authority is touched upon only briefly here; in chapter 3, we will see in greater detail how Affleck contends with this dominant framing. Sexual Violence Since 1996, numerous cases of rape and sexual torture of women and girls in the Congo have been reported. Sexual violence in conflict has been an enduring problem in the Congo related to armed forces, both regular and irregular, as well as the culture of impunity (Berwouts 2017, 22–­23). This dimension of the instability in Eastern Congo began to attract wider attention in 2002 with the publication of a report by Human Rights Watch.53 Soon the sexual violence angle became the dominant angle; as Maria Eriksson Baaz and Maria Stern (2013, 5–­6) describe, “while other forms of violence have also been committed on a massive scale, it is sexual violence which has attracted the lion’s share of attention, especially among ‘outside’ observers.”54 A national stage in the United States for advocacy on sexual violence in the Congo presented itself in 2005, when Lisa Ling, a special correspondent for The Oprah Winfrey Show, did an investigative piece. In front of a TV audience of nine million viewers, Ling reported

Narrating the Congo  • 51

to Winfrey that “there’s another Holocaust going on. This time, in the Democratic Republic of Congo” (Shannon 2011, 36). The episode, with its twenty-­minute segment on the Congo, broke the previous viewing record for the Oprah show and raised $2.5 million for women in the Congo.55 Ling described Congo in stark terms: “I think it’s the worst place on earth . . . and the most ignored.”56 One person who could not ignore the report was Lisa Shannon, a small-­business owner who was living in Oregon. She organized a fundraising run that turned into the organization Run for Congo Women, with events taking place all over the country that generated hundreds of thousands of dollars. Seeking to engage in political advocacy to complement the fundraising, Shannon and others visited Washington, D.C., to press the issue of the Congo, but the situation in Darfur was dominant. Decrying the lack of reception, Shannon declared: “Congo needs a movement” (2011, 70). In 2006, a group of organizations came together as the Congo Global Action to generate a movement on par with those supporting Darfur and Uganda.57 The coalition was intended as a “global network of concerned organizations and individuals who care about the Democratic Republic of the Congo and are committed to working to help the Congolese.”58 But the group does not appear to have sustained a large grassroots mobilization and seems to have ceased activity after 2016.59 Just as Alice Seeley Harris’s photos served as evidence at the turn of the nineteenth century, as discussed in the introduction, visual material in the form of video footage would become a prominent means for Northern publics to absorb the atrocities occurring in the Congo, particularly narratives around sexual violence. Shannon’s grassroots efforts were eclipsed by a series of documentaries that notably included Lisa Jackson’s HBO film The Greatest Silence: Rape in Congo, which was screened for the U.S. Senate and other national governing bodies in the U.K. and Belgium.60 The film looks at the “war-­torn Congo” and describes how “rape is happening on a scale that is almost unimaginable.”61 The Panzi Hospital’s founder, Dr. Mukwege, describes the rape epidemic as the “monstrosity of the century.”62 Featured in films like The Greatest Silence, hospitals such as Panzi and HEAL Africa that treated victims of sexual

52  •  Narrating the Congo

violence became the site of numerous visits from Northerners, celebrity humanitarians such as the UN Messenger of Peace Charlize Theron, who visited the Congo in 2009 (see Figure 6),63 and other do-­gooders with cameras. The feminist playwright Eve Ensler visited Bukavu in 2007 as part of her organization V-­Day’s Congo Campaign, “Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource: Power to the Women and Girls of the DRC.”64 The campaign was linked to performances of The Vagina Monologues, which made heavy use of shock stories, with Ensler “as a proxy for the women of the DRC” whose witnessing motivated spectators to take action (Bystrom 2013, 235). Yet, as Chiwengo argues, Ensler’s play emphasizes difference rather than sameness because it “others the African female, homogenized and perpetually oppressed by genital mutilation” (2008, 91). Out of the campaign and Ensler’s visit to the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu came the idea for the City of Joy, a program for survivors of sexual violence. Campaigns led by V-­Day to support the City of Joy brought a variety of U.S. celebrities into the mix.65 The NGO OmniPeace enlisted Courteney Cox, Jennifer

Figure 6. Dr. Denis Mukwege greets Charlize Theron during her visit to the Panzi Hospital in 2009. UN photograph by Marie Frechon.

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Aniston, and Sheryl Crow in a campaign called “Stamp Out Violence against Women and Girls of Congo” in which T-­shirts were sold to raise money for the City of Joy, an early example of promoting consumerism over political participation.66 Baaz and Stern note that the campaign received coverage in celebrity magazines and websites such as Celebrity Gossip, Access Hollywood, and Nicole Richie Fashion (2013). The fundraising secured more than $2 million in grants for the construction and operation of the City of Joy.67 The advocacy and documentation of the situation related to sexual violence in the Congo led to policy responses at the national and international levels. In 2007, the UN Security Council adopted the first resolution related specifically to sexual violence in conflict; it would go on to pass four more. The UN then announced an Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative that involved country-­ level action along with transnational advocacy; it was clear that combined efforts from both traditional actors and the general public would be key to moving the issue forward (Hudson and Budabin 2019). With this attention to sexual violence, the Congo emerged as a site of “sexurity” (a concept capturing the ways in which sexual violence has been securitized, security has been sexualized, and there is an increased sense of urgency) (Mertens and Pardy 2017, 957). Sexurity explains how the Congo has become “a global emergency requiring urgent action, notably the rescue, saving and protection of women” (Mertens and Pardy 2017, 957, 963). In 2008, the UN Action appointed a senior adviser and coordinator on sexual violence in the Congo to develop a comprehensive strategy for addressing the issue within the framework of MONUC (which was replaced in 2010 by the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or MONUSCO); it should be noted that in 2005 there were a number of allegations against UN peacekeepers of gross sexual misconduct (Turner 2007, 161–­62). Margot Wallstrom, the first UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, called Eastern Congo in 2010 “the rape capital of the world.”68 The U.S. government during the Obama administration took up the issue. In 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a visit to Goma, where she announced a $17 million plan to combat sexual

54  •  Narrating the Congo

violence. She called the issue “evil in its basest form” that would be addressed by an international effort: “This problem is too big for one country to solve alone.”69 Clinton’s visit was still prominent in the memory of officials in Kinshasa years later. One respondent explained to us in an interview that “when Hillary came, she might as well have had bags of money on the plane” because her amplification of the crisis of sexual violence led to unprecedented amounts of special funding.70 A U.S. Senate hearing on rape as a weapon of war in 2009 showed the rising prominence of new voices on behalf of the Congo along with the singular focus on sexual violence. The hearing featured the HBO filmmaker Lisa Jackson alongside Dr. Mukwege of the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu. Eve Ensler would make a submission to the record. Resources committed by institutional players would be accompanied by mobilization and relief efforts by activists in the United States and elsewhere. The form that global engagement on sexual violence in the Congo took has been given a critical postcolonial interpretation by some scholars. Baaz and Stern argue that to explain violence in the Congo, observers and journalists deploy a colonial logic in seeing the chaos as “bizarre and inexplicable” (2013, 90). Northern women become the heroines of a story meant to inspire activists in which the white woman is the “savior of marginality” (Syed and Ali 2011, 357, cited in Baaz and Stern 2013, 93). By taking on sexual violence and daring to visit the Congo to hear the stories of victims and survivors, ordinary women themselves attain an “air of glamour and a chance to feel like and even be a celebrity” (Baaz and Stern 2013, 96); for example, Lisa Shannon found herself given the moniker “Ms. Congo” after she visited Capitol Hill to press the issue of sexual violence in the Congo with U.S. politicians (Shannon 2011, 53). Other programs such as Yoga for Congo Women with its slogan “One hour that will change her life forever” would also connect women in the North to this issue through what can be described as a channeling of cosmic rather than political energy.71 With greater commitment than a T-­shirt campaign or yoga class, Angelina Jolie would stand apart as her engagement with the Congo became sharply refracted through the lens of sexual violence. In 2013, now as a UNHCR Special Envoy, she paid a visit to Eastern Congo

Narrating the Congo  • 55

in the company of the British foreign secretary William Hague with journalists in tow to raise awareness of warzone rape (see Figure 7).72 One year later, the pair would launch the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative with the support of the U.K. government. Indeed, the “celebritization” of the sexual-­violence-­in-­conflict agenda was largely due to the efforts of Angelina Jolie, claims Bergman Rosamond (2016). The poster case for this agenda continues to be the Congo: an op-­ed on sexual violence published by Jolie in the Washington Post featured a single photograph, of women in North Kivu Province, Eastern Congo.73 The sum of these efforts, according to Sara Meger (2016), has produced a “fetishization of sexual violence” that has undermined effective action. This ineffectiveness has also led to distortions in how to go about “saving the Congo.” Autesserre (2014, 137) maintains that the hyperbolic statements and policy responses to Eastern Congo drastically limited the ways in which violence is discussed, handled, or prevented at different levels from the UN to local hospitals. Further, given the disproportionate attention to the consequence of sexual violence as part of the dominant narrative of the Congo, many

Figure 7. UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie and Foreign Secretary William Hague of the U.K. visit Nzolo IDP camp in March 2013. Picture Crown Copyright/MOD/LA. Photograph by Iggy Roberts.

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other aspects of the country’s instability were neglected: poverty, land conflict, hostile civil–­military relationships, disorganization within the army and police, a weak justice system, physical and economic insecurity, and enduring gender discrimination (Autesserre 2014, 142). Other consequences such as killings, forced labor, conscription of child soldiers, nonsexual torture, and sexual violence against men and boys were not given similar attention. The attention has brought services to Eastern Congo and propelled international action, though the services tend to be specialized, with a focus on conflict and postconflict sexual violence (Kelly et al. 2014, 99). Paul Kirby argues that the emphasis on rape-­as-­“weapon-­of-­war” narrative and the narrow focus on military perpetrators as promulgated through Jolie and Hague’s Preventing Sexual Violence initiative, for example, “has as its corollary the neglect of high levels of civilian and intimate partner violence in conflict settings” (2015, 462). For Eastern Congo, Kirby reports, this is an especially problematic framing as it has been shown that a third of all attacks are perpetrated by noncombatants (see Johnson et al. 2010). Conflict Minerals The term “conflict minerals” is a mobilizing frame for explaining why conflict ensued when valuable natural resources were extracted under adverse conditions. The book Blood Diamonds, published in 2002, brought the issue of contestation over resources to the attention of Northern publics, attention that spilled over into various conflict-­ mineral initiatives that characterized aid to the Congo. Autessere (2014) demonstrates how the illegal exploitation of mineral resources is understood to be the primary source of violence in the Congo: local and foreign-­armed groups monopolize access to minerals, thereby raising funds that enable them to commit further atrocities against local populations to retain power. Since the late 1990s, this narrative has dominated human rights circles and policy debates, drawing media, advocacy, and research interest; it has also been the subject of advocacy narratives and campaigns focused on the clear-­cut policy goal of ending the illegal exploitation and market consumption of these so-­called conflict minerals as a solution to the various ills in the Congo.74

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The simple story line about conflict minerals as the root cause neglected the on-­the-­ground reality of mining in the Congo. As Seay argues, “advocates pursued a strategy of finding evidence to support the narrative rather than allowing the narrative to be built by evidence” (2015, 116). First, popular attention to the “conflict mineral” coltan, which is used in electronic devices, failed to recognize that gold and tin account for more than 90 percent of exports (Eichstaedt 2011, 141). Second, think tanks, academics, and Congolese intellectuals underscored other explanations for the violence: the presence of foreign armed groups, Rwandan and Ugandan efforts to stamp out these groups, power struggles among Congolese leaders, land issues, grassroots power struggles, and other economic sources of conflict (including disputes over cattle, charcoal, timber, drugs, and taxation) (Autesserre 2014, 133–­37). As a result, the dominant narrative sidelined efforts to address border spillover, grassroots conflicts, corruption, and state administration reform. The unintended consequences of advocacy efforts, Seay argues, “have thus far made life more difficult for many Congolese while failing to stop the violence.”75 The main promoter of the simplified “conflict minerals” narrative was the Enough Project, an advocacy organization that was also simultaneously responsible for engaging numerous celebrities on behalf of the Congo.76 This prominent organization grew out of the substantial social movement and advocacy efforts around Darfur (Budabin and Pruce 2018). It was cofounded in 2007 as part of the New Venture Fund (ECI’s fiscal sponsor, as we describe in chapter 3) by Gayle Smith of the Center for American Progress and John Prendergast.77 Prendergast had served as director for African affairs on the National Security Council and as special adviser to Susan Rice at the U.S. Department of State; he had also worked for the International Crisis Group. Enough Project concentrated its efforts on mass atrocity in Africa with a focus on the Central African Republic, Sudan and South Sudan, Eastern Congo, Lord’s Resistance Army, and Somalia.78 Enough Project’s approach was to cover all aspects of advocacy, from ground-­level intelligence gathering to lobbying policymakers: “Enough conducts field research in conflict zones, develops and advocates for policy recommendations, supports social movements in affected countries, and mobilizes public campaigns.”79

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With its emphasis on mass and elite engagement, Enough Project elevated the role of celebrities, distinguishing their role on a special page dedicated to its “Celebrity Upstanders.”80 More than thirty-­six active and previously active celebrity figures are listed, drawn mainly from Hollywood and sports rosters. The reliance on celebrities as spokespersons and the focus on grassroots public engagement, particularly among university students, led Enough Project to simplify its approach to “solving the Congo.” Seay observes that the story line that “‘DRC has a series of crises involving multiple state and non-­state actors fighting over land rights, ethnicity, governance, and security’ does not fit on to a bumper sticker or a T-­shirt,” a reflection of the challenge faced by advocacy organizations in crafting a legible story that captures an issue’s or country’s complexity (2015, 118–­19). Linkages between sexual violence and the extraction industry began to percolate as a way to explain the Congo’s challenges through awareness campaigns promoted by NGOs, celebrities, and other prominent individuals. Jackson’s film The Greatest Silence underscored the role played by the Congo’s supplies of coltan, a mineral found in our laptops and cell phones. Another example of this dominant narrative is an appeal by Eve Ensler that appeared in the Huffington Post blog: Sexual terrorism has been sustained by these and other parties interested in the minerals, (coltan, gold, tin), that are serving you. Like a plague, this rape and sexual violence has spread infecting the Congolese Army and even the UN peacekeepers who are there to “protect” the women. Put pressure on the international community to remove all outside militias. They brought them there, they are responsible for getting them out.81

Here we see the laying out of the root cause and consequences as described by Autesserre (2014) that summarized the situation in the Congo for the U.S. public and policymakers. The solution promoted by Ensler is vague in its construction; how the public might begin to “put pressure on the international community” or the effectiveness of calling for a military operation is not clear.

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A main driver of this narrative, Enough Project released a report in 2009 called “Can You Hear Congo Now? Cell Phones, Conflict Minerals, and the Worst Sexual Violence in the World.”82 The report included a campaign strategy that followed the blood diamonds campaign by drawing attention to consumer electronics. The result of the pairing of these advocacy narratives was that “news coverage of the D.R. Congo increased dramatically, and donations poured in to organizations working on the region.”83 For its ten-­year anniversary, Enough Project issued a report that confirmed the deliberate linking: “we decided to focus much of Enough’s initial research and advocacy on highlighting the linkages between the epidemic of rape and sexual violence, the conflict overall, and the battle for control of Congolese mineral wealth.”84 The narrative painted a picture of “rebel groups as the controlling forces, lawlessness and lack of state engagement, women as helpless victims, and an implicit suggestion that putting a stop to mining entirely is the way to address abuses of women’s rights” (Kelly et al. 2014, 97). To promote this narrative, Enough Project joined a coalition with other advocacy organizations such as Global Witness, Amnesty International, Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, and corporations such as Hewlett Packard, Intel, and Motorola. The goal of the conflict minerals campaign was to pass a law requiring greater transparency and accountability (Seay 2015, 119–­21). Through a series of campaigns, Enough Project continued to emphasize the link between sexual violence and conflict minerals. In 2008, it launched the campaign Raise Hope for Congo to “build a permanent and diverse constituency of activists who will advocate for the human rights of all Congolese citizens and work towards ending the ongoing conflict in eastern Congo.”85 Here, activists were encouraged to educate themselves86 and their communities about “the conflict in eastern Congo, the role of conflict minerals funding the conflict, and the effects of sexual violence as a weapon of war used against Congolese women and girls.”87 Enough Project enlisted a number of celebrities for Raise Hope for Congo, including Emmanuelle Chriqui, Mia Farrow, Ryan Gosling, Carla Gugino, Iman, and the NFl players Andy Mulumba and Aaron Rodgers. Many of these celebrities appeared in a YouTube video, “Young Hollywood Speaks Up for

60  •  Narrating the Congo

Congo.”88 Ashley Judd, who had traveled to the Congo, submitted two written pieces to CNN, another example of a celebrity wielding experiential authority to become an authentic voice on a highly regarded platform (Brockington 2014).89 A political victory came when a major piece of legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in 2010 included a “conflict minerals” provision (Section 1502 of the Dodd-­Frank Act). In the process of deliberating over the legislation, many U.S. representatives and senators relied on Enough Project and other coalition partners to explain the Congo; many traveled to Goma to meet with rape victims, the “consequence” of not doing anything on the “cause” conflict minerals (Seay 2015, 212). But various mistakes based on misperceptions of the situation in the Congo would make the legislation inadequate as a solution and even harmful in some of its effects.90 U.S. companies and advocates were invited to participate in a roundtable on tension with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but no Congolese civil society actors were invited (Seay 2015, 125). In a demonstration of the dominant narrative’s influence as outlined by Autesserre (2012, 2014), the legislation pushed a top-­down solution, with the strengthening of state authority; the Congolese president banned all mining in certain provinces. A documentary film was made about the Dodd-­Frank Act from the perspective of diverse Congolese stakeholders, who reported on what they had lost as a result of “Obama’s Law,” as Dodd-­Frank was known in Eastern Congo.91 We discuss this film and Congolese engagement with it in chapter 6. The most prominent of Enough Project’s supporters on the Congo has been Robin Wright. As a celebrity humanitarian, Wright has appeared in various public events and hosted screenings of The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo. In 2011, she traveled to the Congo; following her field visit, Wright made the rounds of policymakers on Capitol Hill, at the State Department, and at the White House. She also wrote pieces for newspapers and news sites including the San Francisco Chronicle (January 2009), Time.com, and CNN.com. She conducted interviews with Congolese women that she recorded for video diaries.92 In her introduction to the video diaries, Wright reinforces Enough Project’s understanding of the conflict and the organization’s narrative on Congo:

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The link between conflict minerals and sexual violence is undeniable. What I saw shocked me. But I came away inspired by the hope of the Congolese people and the leverage Americans have to effect change. We can help end this war.93

Her discourses reflect an attempt to draw attention to the Congo as a compassionate witness, building authenticity on the basis of her trip experience and her sympathy (Brockington 2014). We see how a celebrity humanitarian backed by an influential advocacy organization gains access and through “affective visibility” contributes to the circulation and entrenchment of dominant narratives. Yet Wright had little credibility with our humanitarian worker informants in Kinshasa. One long-­term international humanitarian worker stated: “Robin Wright makes a big deal about something she knows nothing about. She’s just on the Prendergast bandwagon. I’ve known John [Prendergast] from when I was in Washington. He can be very convincing. . . . [Wright] would probably be stoned if she came here.”94 Yet local accountability was irrelevant as the Northern attention to sexual violence shifted from the boycott approach of the conflict minerals campaign into the “buycott” mode to support victims. Wright went on to found Pour les Femmes (For the Women), a sleepwear line (pajama sets cost $200), with the majority of the profits going to women in the Congo.95 Here we see a celebrity strategic partnership that markets the Congo (and its women) as a cause through the figure of a celebrity with ideas of empowerment that are directed toward both benefactors and beneficiaries (see Budabin and Hudson 2021). The solution promoted is that of a market-­based practice, involving the consumer public, to save the Congo by buying lingerie. The ways in which celebrities link ethical shopping to support for peace and development in the Congo in partnership with corporate actors is discussed in more detail in chapter 4, along with the full lineup of products for sale. Meanwhile, the myopia over the single story persists. In 2019, a Foreign Policy article with the title “Your Cell Phone Is Spreading Ebola” linked violence over conflict minerals to the ineffective responses to the Congo’s Ebola outbreak (Garrett 2019). The piece was a reminder that narratives based on “faulty assumptions” continued

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to circulate, with dangerous consequences for new crises (see Vogel et al. 2019). Saving the Gorillas and Virunga Park from Dysfunction in the Congo While women, children, and artisanal miners in the Congo have been heavily featured as victims and beneficiaries of various humanitarian campaigns, another vulnerable population has also captured its share of attention and headlines. Parallel to the neoliberalization of development lie trends of neoliberalizing conservation that, at times, have influenced and been influenced by celebrity narratives (see Igoe and Brockington 2007; Brockington 2009; Igoe 2010, 2017; Marijnen and Verweijen 2016). Brockington’s work on environmental efforts demonstrates a long history of linking celebrities to conservation. This has been a key part of North–­South relations, where “people need celebrities to get close to nature on their behalf when they themselves cannot” (2009, 3). Celebrity activism has strengthened a limited set of efforts: “the conservation of the wilderness, charismatic species and work involving indigenous people or heroes” (Brockington 2009, 3). Operating on a different modality, we see also the celebritization of “ordinary” figures involved in conservation fundraising, advocacy, and in-­country work. Primatologists working in the Congo such as Dian Fossey brought attention to the country’s mountain gorilla populations. Fossey’s book Gorillas in the Mist (1983), about her time in Rwanda and the Congo, was later made into a movie; after her murder, a foundation has continued to raise money to support her conservation efforts. The Virunga National Park has been a focal point of conservation efforts that intersect with celebrity narratives. Work by Esther Marijnen and Judith Verweijen (2016) has demonstrated how this park, the fate of its gorilla population, and the heroic efforts of park rangers have captured the public’s imagination and the financial support of philanthropic foundations and international institutions such as the European Commission. In recent years, the park area has seen armed mobilization that threatens its flagship species, the mountain gorilla; Marijnen and Verweijen (2016, 277) argue that “the ongoing crisis situation in the park continues to legitimize far-­reaching external

Narrating the Congo  • 63

involvement.” An incident in 2007 in which seven mountain gorillas were killed was reported in media stories worldwide.96 A year later, the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) entered into partnership with the Virunga Fund (based in Brooklyn, New York) to manage the park. Emmanuel de Merode took command of a unit of armed guards. Trained by former Belgian military personnel, de Merode, “a white person . . . who deploys and regulates force, thus assuring white audiences of its legitimacy” (Marijnen and Verweijen 2016, 278), became another “white savior,” imported to resolve and solve the dysfunction of the Congo, a country unable to protect its own wildlife and natural resources. In one of his few social media tweets related to the Congo, Affleck chimed in to note his own association to Virunga Park and his admiration for de Merode’s heroism.97 De Merode’s efforts also gained wider acclaim and endorsement from other celebrities. Leonardo DiCaprio established his own foundation in 1998 with a focus on environmental causes (see Partzsch 2018). He signed on as executive producer for the documentary Virunga, which was shot in 2011 and 2012 and would be nominated for an Oscar. He saw his role as a producer as being able to “bring more attention” to environmental stories.98 In an attempt to amplify local voices, DiCaprio tried to draw attention to the Congolese featured in the film: The real heroes in these stories are the local communities. . . . Virunga, to me, is one of the best examples of environmental heroism where you have grassroots people on the ground risking their lives for these last remaining places that are so vital and important on so many different levels around the world.99

The film aimed to move viewers to pressure a British oil company to end exploration in the park.100 Academics would condemn the film for perpetuating stereotypes and promoting a simplified narrative about the Congo’s politics and conflicts (Baaz et al. 2015). Meanwhile, in another example of a celebrity strategic partnership, DiCaprio’s foundation partnered with Represent to produce a line of apparel to support its protection projects.101 Overall, these conservation campaigns

64  •  Narrating the Congo

have met with cynicism because they direct attention to wildlife at the expense of the region’s human inhabitants while reinforcing the dangerous single story lines that characterize the Congo and Africa in general.

Alternative Narratives on the Congo Within the U.S. landscape, there were a number of smaller organizations that sought to raise awareness and funds for the Congo. Many of these organizations either were led by Congolese based in the United States or had strong links to the Congo. As the lenses of sexual violence and conflict minerals became ascendant, some organizations sought to represent the Congo on their own terms while also seeking to gain purchase for alternative narratives and discursive representations of the Congo. In contending with the conflict-­minerals narrative, Congolese organizations sought to acknowledge the challenges facing the mining section while deepening the discussion. Since 2008, Friends of the Congo has coordinated a Breaking the Silence: Congo Week, a global commemoration and celebration of the Congo.102 In media coverage, Maurice Carney of Friends of the Congo insisted: “Electronics companies are seven steps down the supply chain. . . . Focus on the mining companies. Impunity exists not only in Congo but all the way up the chain to the international level.”103 In this sense, Friends of the Congo is waging a (losing) battle to combat flawed understanding of and approaches to the Congo.104 To gain greater acceptance of its alternative narrative, Friends of the Congo produced its own film, Crisis in the Congo: Uncovering the Truth, in 2011. The film “locates the Congo crisis in a historical, social and political context,” taking pains to underscore the role of the United States and its “allies” Rwanda and Uganda in “triggering the greatest humanitarian crisis at the dawn of the twenty-­first century.”105 It draws on the credibility of other experts, often non-­Congolese. Along with Maurice Carney, the film features the author Adam Hochschild, genocide experts, human rights experts from Human Rights Watch and the DR Congo Forum, and journalists.106 Howard French of the New York Times intones in the film, “there’s something wrong

Narrating the Congo  • 65

with us in terms of the way we think about Africa.” The film cogently lays out the roots of dysfunction in governance in the Congo as well as stressing how the severity of the situation has gone unnoticed, perhaps because it is not taking place in Europe. Despite the credibility of the lineup of experts, the organization has no celebrity endorser, and has thus not reached a status equivalent to that of other organizations that write about and advocate for Africa. Some Congolese groups have been enthusiastic about the work of celebrities focused on the Congo. As stated in the quotation from the Florida-­based foundation Hear Congo that opens this chapter, Congolese have seen fit to draw on worldwide popularity and media attention of celebrities in elevating the situation in the Congo. Further, the organization has emphasized its critical role in engaging the public: “Not only are celebrities powerful role players in raising awareness, but they can also serve as good role models to motivate people to get involved in helping and making a difference themselves.”107 From the perspective of this part of the Congolese diaspora, any attention is useful. The campaigns and movements around Darfur and Uganda, however flawed they may have been, were still a source of social and political engagement that Congolese in the United States were missing. The dominance of the narrative of sexual violence did foster the conditions for one major exception to the Congo’s lack of visibility and difficulty in achieving a high profile. After gathering acclaim for his work at the Panzi Hospital, Dr. Denis Mukwege, the hospital’s founder, became an “aid celebrity” (Richey and Ponte 2011), circulating worldwide as both an expert on treating sexual violence and a dedicated activist against sexual violence in conflict.108 As part of his campaigns, he became an outspoken critic of the Congolese government and the international community, attempting to broaden the story line around sexual violence and connect it to other concomitant forces, particularly the efficacy of supporting state solutions. In a speech at the UN in 2012, he inveighed against his own government; moreover, he took aim at the gathering at the UN, saying that “the international community has shown its fear and lack of courage during these 16 years in the DRC.”109 For this courageous position, Dr. Mukwege was targeted for assassination and forced to leave his

66  •  Narrating the Congo

country.110 He returned under the permanent protection of UN peacekeepers. Dr. Mukwege’s work was recently elevated to new heights when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018. Without elite lobbying expertise, financial resources, and celebrity representation, these alternative narratives failed to gain traction and build visibility for a more complete understanding of the Congo. To demonstrate the distribution of financial resources, we present in Table 1 public support for Congo-­related organizations in the United States. A review of congressional hearings on the Congo shows that none of these organizations was ever invited to address Congress. Without gorillas, celebrities, or a focus on sexual violence, organizations fundraising or engaged in advocacy for Congo issues were unable to attract large amounts of funding. One exception is the Congo Initiative, which demonstrated extensive support and impressive fundraising; however, its work does not extend to engaging in advocacy to shape policy. This chapter explored recent international engagement by humanitarian relief efforts and advocacy that included numerous countries, NGOs, activists, and celebrity humanitarians in diverse efforts to “save the Congo” that also produced dominant and narrow understandings. We highlighted the paradox that while the Congo has historically been constructed as an exceptional case, it has not received the kind of global attention and support that might have been expected, given the scale and severity of the crises. In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, the Congo received attention from specialized quarters in the humanitarian fields; this changed in the mid-­ 2000s when sexual violence and conflict minerals became lenses for broader engagement from different types of actors. An earlier fixation on gorillas and wildlife produced a persistent narrative that necessitated outside intervention. As advocacy for the Congo continues to be dominated by Northern elites from both the policy and the corporate sectors, celebrities have become the unelected spokespeople of disaster, conflict, and humanitarian crises. Some exceptions, such as Dr. Mukwege’s recent global recognition, show that attention to the Congo has been refracted through some local figures who have become celebrities in their own right. Meanwhile, the steady march

Year Founded

Main Activities 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

Part II, Section A. Public Support (gifts, grants, contributions, and membership fees) according to available IRS Form 990s

Caledonia, 2005 Fundraising n/a Mich.

$1.2 $1.8 $1.6 million million million

$603,000

$266,000

n/a

$2.1 million

n/a

2011

Fundraising n/a

n/a

n/a

$313,000 $125,000 $152,000

Source: Guidestar, Charity Navigator, and Foundation Center websites. Note: Though the focus is on the Congo, some financial support from HEAL Africa is also given to organizations in Rwanda.

Panzi Los Angeles, Foundation Calif.

Eastern Congo Washington, 2010 Advocacy n/a n/a n/a n/a $1.9 $2.6 Initiative D.C. and grants million million

Advocacy n/a $89,000 $178,000 $242,000 $1.9 and grants million

n/a

Brooklyn, 2009 N.Y.

$50,000

Virunga Fund Inc.

n/a

n/a

Advocacy

Washington, D.C.

Congo Global Action Inc.

2009–10

$1 $1.9 $1.5 million million million

Not On Washington, 2007 Advocacy $640,000 $318,000 $586,000 Our Watch D.C.

Congo Germantown, 2007 Fundraising $133,000 $304,000 $570,000 $460,000 $893,000 $642,000 Initiative, USA Wis.

HEAL Africa

Friends of Washington, 2004 Advocacy $34,000 $60,000 $66,000 $74,000 $80,000 $45,000 the Congo D.C.

Dian Fossey Atlanta, Ga. 1978 Fundraising $4.5 $5.8 $4.8 $3.7 $4.5 $4.1 Gorilla Fund million million million million million million International



Organization Location

Table 1. Revenue Information for Major Congo-Related Organizations

68  •  Narrating the Congo

of external actors in the Congo accelerates—­the numerous interventions by peacekeepers, Northern politicians, and humanitarian and development actors—­with the effect of replacing the role of the state and complicating local efforts. The presence of corporate actors in this landscape of “saving” is becoming even more accentuated and made visible by celebrities, as we will see in later chapters. Affleck’s engagement with the Congo and the design of his organization must be considered against the institutional landscape and narrative productions. While local partnerships and field visits to the Congo remain a critical component of “saving,” many of the primary actors responsible for representing the Congo are based in the Global North. The extent to which the Congo has garnered transnational attention remains a matter of dispute, with many arguing there has not been enough attention considering the severity of the crises. We saw how advocacy around the Congo came to be led by elite actors like U.S.-­based NGOs and, to a lesser extent, by the Congolese diaspora. We have seen here how the fields of transnational advocacy and humanitarian relief involve not only transfers of funds and expertise from North to South but also transfers of narratives and ideas about how to respond to various crises. The other paradox that characterizes the Congo is that the increasing attention and intervention have often been met with ineffective action, a circumstance that has been partly linked to the faulty narratives that were often produced with good intentions by advocates (see Autesserre 2014) and then reinforced by celebrity humanitarians (see Budabin and Richey 2018) and other do-­gooders. When the Congo has been the subject of advocacy and celebrity attention, it has typically been based on narrow and simplified narratives and replete with hackneyed tropes. As a Southern cause, the Congo becomes known as a cause that demands “saving” through wider public engagement and governmental action, albeit in a limited way through keyhole impressions related to conflict minerals, sexual violence, and gorillas. This chapter showed that the Congo was no stranger to celebrity humanitarianism, though participation and effectiveness were uneven. While many paid visits and used their “experiential authority” to burnish authenticity for their celebrity humanitarianism (Brockington

Narrating the Congo  • 69

2014), no single celebrity exhibited broad expertise born of multiple site visits and consultations to signal a long-­term commitment. Jolie and Lange were focused on the topic of gender-­based sexual violence in the Congo, but both were also “global” ambassadors for UN agencies and thus had wider missions. Through Enough Project, various celebrities such as Wright and thirty other celebrities have promoted conflict minerals and sexual violence issues to both mass and elite audiences.111 A reconstruction of the narrative does reveal examples of celebrity strategic partnerships: Leonardo DiCaprio’s film with Netflix and his partnership with an apparel company and Robin Wright’s pajama company—­but none with the intended scope and impact of the strategic partnerships that Affleck convenes. Meanwhile, the coterie of do-­gooders, humanitarian relief workers, and human rights advocates who draw attention to the atrocities and indignities inflicted on the Congo’s inhabitants continues to expand its interventions, and Ben Affleck will seek to disrupt this field as a new kind of celebrity humanitarian. It is to his organization and his contention with dominant narratives that we turn in the next chapter.

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3 CHOOSING THE CONGO How a Celebrity Builds a Development Organization

. . .

I’d like to respond to Ben Affleck. —­Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, email to an aide, after receiving an email from the actor urging her to focus on security problems in the Congo We leverage our extensive network to forge partnerships and influence public policy and public awareness. The most effective strategy often depends on getting your message in front of key individuals who are in a position to act—­with their wallets, their voices or their votes. We have a keen understanding of how public policy is implemented throughout much of the world, and we are proud to engage our network in the name of real results. —­williamsworks, “Advocacy and Influence,” website

In late March 2010, on the tarmac of the Nairobi International Airport, the actor and director Ben Affleck spoke to a representative of the Associated Press about his new organization. Against this “African” backdrop, the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) was presented as “the first U.S. based advocacy and grant-­making initiative wholly focused on working with and for the people of eastern Congo.”1 Direct from a visit to the Congo, Affleck spoke about ECI’s mission to support community-­based organizations: “It was folks in these communities that were addressing the humanitarian crisis who were doing the most, in my view, to solve it, because they understood the   • 71

72  •  Choosing the Congo

community, because they understood the problem, they were the most dedicated and the most committed because it was their lives.”2 In making the decision to focus on local organizations, Affleck never doubted their efficacy: “Naturally [folks in these communities] were best equipped to solve [the humanitarian crisis]. Their impediment was they didn’t have the means, the funding.”3 This chapter provides background for how the “best way” to support Congolese communities committed to addressing the region’s crises became a strategic partnership between a Hollywood actor, American political elites, philanthropists, humanitarians, and advocacy experts. Celebrities who wish to participate in the complex terrain of advocacy and humanitarianism in the Congo as described in the previous chapter have opportunities for engaging elites in ways that traditional advocates lack. This critical difference gives celebrity humanitarians and their organizations more room for maneuver in choosing issues, crafting narratives, and trying out solutions than other participants might have. Overall, it allows the celebrity to attempt a “disruption” of aid rather than the amplification of conventional practices. We conclude with a brief summary of the ways that Affleck and ECI’s engagement in Eastern Congo acts as a disruption or amplification of existing narratives and aid practices. While championing a new approach to development on behalf of a neglected region, Affleck and his organization reflect trends of elite engagement. The launch of the Eastern Congo Initiative fashioned Affleck as a celebrity humanitarian who brought his star power into the world of advocacy and development on behalf of the Congolese. The cofounder of his organization, Whitney Williams, is the politically connected CEO of a management consultancy firm that had been recommended to Affleck by her client Bono.4 Leaning on funders like Howard G. Buffett, Affleck took charge of pitching his organization: “I kind of bored him for two hours and basically twisted his arm.”5 Using his celebrity capital to convene business elites and advocacy experts for funding and endorsements, Affleck created an organization that gained a foothold in political spheres and supported the presentation of a new vision for the Congo that would soon include strategic partnerships, as we will see in the next chapter. But how disruptive of development as usual was this organization?

Choosing the Congo  • 73

To learn how celebrity humanitarians select issues, build platforms, and contend with dominant narratives, we place this example within the context of other celebrity-­led development organizations and their elite foundations. We explore why and how Ben Affleck “chose” the Congo as his site of branded engagement, drawing on academic understandings of issue selection. The first phase of Affleck’s engagement is detailed, tracking his selection of the Congo as his cause on the basis of his initial encounters with the country (2007–­10). Next, we trace the formation of the Eastern Congo Initiative, which stood apart from other celebrity-­led development organizations as well as other organizations working on the Congo. Of particular importance in this case is the assistance of a strategic consulting firm, another “new” actor in the development field, which informed and directed Affleck’s decision-­making process. We use a political economy approach to track the financial and political capital that Affleck relied upon and courted as he settled on his “cause” and built his organization, which would support strategic partnerships. Following the launch of ECI in 2010, there came a second phase of engagement in which the celebrity founder gained access to high-­ level policymaking spheres and communicated his organization’s mission, policies, and programs. We use narrative analysis to explore Affleck’s celebrity capital through the circulation of new ideas as he and ECI contended with dominant narratives on the Congo in commissioned reports, media appearances, and visits to Congress. For more details on our methods, see Appendix A. We find that the secure base provided to a celebrity humanitarian as an elite actor supported by other elite actors gives the celebrity latitude in adopting unconventional approaches to development. We argue that Affleck’s ability to position himself as a “disruptor” with his organization reflects elite practices that bring in new actors, ideas, and funding to test different development solutions and strategies.

Celebrity-­Led Development Organizations Historically, celebrity participation in development was closely linked to international institutions, NGOs, and humanitarian agencies that negotiated access to celebrities via existing formalized networks of

74  •  Choosing the Congo

agents, managers, and publicists (see Brockington 2014). Celebrities were active in charity from inside their own industries; for example, the Creative Artists Agency based in Los Angeles, California, offers an in-­house consultancy for its clients.6 Previously, a common practice was to establish a personal foundation to channel funding to pet causes both domestic and international. But, as described in chapter 1, today’s celebrity humanitarians have expanded the ambit of their philanthropic activities. Besides signaling an even deeper commitment, an organization becomes an indelible link between the celebrity brand and a cause. Celebrity-­led organizations also have the possibility to bring in new ideas, funding sources, and other actors. In the past two decades, a small but conspicuous handful of A-­list celebrities based in the United States have created their own organizations (see Table 2). These organizations for the most part pursue three objectives on behalf of the Global South: grant making, advocacy, and program implementation. For example, Angelina Jolie and Rihanna created charitable foundations to support various causes without taking direct charge of their program implementation. Capitalizing on the traditional status of celebrities as spokespersons, George Clooney, Bono, and others focus on advocacy, which includes raising awareness through public campaigns and meeting with policymakers in the North. Meanwhile, Madonna, Sean Penn, Oprah Winfrey, and Matt Damon lead organizations that implement programs in the South. As we shall see, Ben Affleck’s organization executes grant-­making, program implementation, and advocacy, with salient linkages across the three objectives. While numerically few within the universe of development actors, celebrity-­led organizations are unique configurations. As new actors in development (see Richey and Ponte 2014), celebrity-­led organizations merit examination for how they operate and exert influence in development contexts. Table 2 shows that, for the most part, celebrity organizations claim to target countries “worldwide,” although in practice these organizations work mostly in African countries following patterns of engagement we discussed in chapter 2. Education and health appear to be popular areas, but some organizations also focus on sanitation and human trafficking. On behalf of distant “others,” celebrity humanitarians at the helm of their own organizations build

Worldwide Healthcare access

Grants and advocacy

$8–17 million (2011–17)

Grants and program implementation

Poverty, access to safe water and sanitation

Matt Damon water.org 2006 U.S. (originally H20 Africa)f

Africa, Central America, and South Asia

Humanitarian Grants crises

ONE Campaign 2002 U.S. Worldwide Poverty and Advocacy (merged with with focus preventable Debt AIDS Trade on Africa disease Africa in 2007)d

Angelina Jolie Jolie-Pitt 2003 U.S. Worldwide Foundatione

Bono

$9–30 million (2011–17)

$2–4 million (2014–17)

$14–58 million (2012–17)

Shakira Barefoot 1997/ U.S. Worldwide Education, Grants and Foundationc 2010 community support program $4,000 to $3 million implementation (2008–12)

Elton John Elton John AIDS 1992 U.S. Foundationb

$3–5 million (2012–17)

Richard Gere Gere Foundationa 1991 U.S. Tibet Health, Grants and humanitarian advocacy aid, aid for natural disasters

NGOs: Range of Public Support Amounts Per Year (Part II, Section A. Public Support) / Foundations: Contributions and Grants (Part I.8)

Celebrity Home Target Founder Organization Year country Countries Issue Areas Activities

Table 2. Celebrity-Led Development Organizations

Global human Advocacy rights, forgotten international crises

George Clooney, Not On Our 2007– U.S. Sudan, Burma, Matt Damon, Watchh 19 Zimbabwe Brad Pitt, and Don Cheadle

Grants, program implementation, advocacy

Ben Affleck Eastern Congo 2010 U.S. Initiative

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Economic and social development

$1.8–3.8 million (2012–16)

$5–8 million (2012–17)

Grants and program implementation

Sean Penn J/P Haitian Relief 2010 U.S. Haiti, U.S. Humanitarian Organizationk assistance



Legal intervention, $500,000 to $5 million program (2012–16) implementation, advocacy

Ashton Kutcher Thorn: Digital 2009 U.S. Worldwide Human trafficking and Demi Moore Defenders of Childrenj

$220 million (2014–17)

Grants and program implementation

Oprah Winfrey Oprah Winfrey 2007 U.S. South Africa Education Foundationi

$1–3 million (2012–16)

Health, poverty, Grants and $500,000–$9 million education, program (2012–16) community implementation support

NGOs: Range of Public Support Amounts Per Year (Part II, Section A. Public Support) / Foundations: Contributions and Grants (Part I.8)

Madonna Raising Malawig 2006 U.S. Malawi

Celebrity Home Target Founder Organization Year country Countries Issue Areas Activities

Table 2. Celebrity-Led Development Organizations (continued)

$75,000 (2015)

Sources: a Gere Foundation, http://www.gerefoundation.org/ b Elton John AIDS Foundation, http://newyork.ejaf.org/ c Barefoot Foundation, http://www.barefootfoundation.com/about-us/ d ONE Campaign, https://www.one.org/international/about/ e Maddox Jolie Program, https://mjp-foundation.org/ f water.org, http://water.org/about/ g Raising Malawi, http://www.raisingmalawi.org/about-us/#about-us-2 h Not on Our Watch, http://notonourwatchproject.org/what_we_do. As of February 2019, Not on Our Watch merged with The Sentry. http:// notonourwatchproject.org/ i Oprah Winfrey Foundation, http://www.owla.co.za/about-us.html j Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, https://www.wearethorn.org k J/P Haitian Relief Organization, http://jphro.org/about-jphro/ l Laughing Man Foundation, http://laughingmanfoundation.org/ m Clara Lionel Foundation, https://claralionelfoundation.org/

Grants, programs, $11,000 to $6 million advocacy (2012–17)

Community Advocacy, support, poverty, grants education, entrepreneurship

Rihanna Clara Lionel 2012 U.S. Worldwide Education Foundationm

Hugh Jackman Laughing Man 2011 U.S. Worldwide Foundationl

78  •  Choosing the Congo

elite networks in the North to make institutional connections to countries in the South. The expectation is that the celebrity’s “affective visibility” will draw the attention of fan bases and mainstream news, thereby attracting elite political and financial actors who will effect change for the celebrity’s chosen site of engagement. However, celebrity-­led development organizations stand apart from traditional actors in development in ways that challenge pretenses around legitimacy. We have found that such organizations are based on unstable claims to authenticity by celebrities, rely heavily on philanthropic, celebrity, and corporate networks, attract development expertise, and benefit from early elite endorsements (see Budabin et al. 2017). Such organizations seem to have little problem raising funds ranging from a few tens of thousands to $21 million in one year (in the case of Sean Penn’s J/P Haitian Relief)—­even on behalf of untested approaches to development. The most popular of celebrities such as Bono and Winfrey can amass large sums, although the amounts may not make sense in consideration of the scope of their mission: Bono has $50 million to tackle global poverty, while Winfrey has hundreds of millions of dollars to run a single private school in South Africa (see Table 2). With a few million dollars, Affleck’s organization’s funding may seem substantial, but it is in fact modest compared to other A-­listers’ organizations. Still, recall from chapter 2 that Congo-­related organizations not focused on wildlife or sexual violence or led by a celebrity never surpassed $1 million (see Table 1). The next section delves more deeply into the process by which Affleck styled himself as a celebrity humanitarian and assembled the elite networks necessary to establish his own celebrity-­led development organization and, later, to form celebrity strategic partnerships.

When a Hollywood Actor Decides to Help: The Road to Celebrity Humanitarianism Before founding ECI, Ben Affleck had engaged in fundraising and media campaigns for a variety of domestic and international charities and NGOs, mainly linked to domestic causes. Affleck’s first appearance before Congress in 2001 was an appeal to support stem-­cell research to find a cure for ataxia-­telangiectasia (A-­T), a cause he had supported since 1998. In the manner of celebrity witnesses who

Choosing the Congo  • 79

must adopt “emotional address” (Bull Christiansen and Frello 2016), Affleck’s friendship with a boy suffering from the disease gave him “direct experience” from which to offer his celebrity voice (see Darr and Strine 2009); his testimony was delivered alongside the boy who had introduced him to the disease.7 There was one issue in which Affleck claimed experiential authority that translated into authenticity for his advocacy: minimum wage. In 2004, Affleck visited lawmakers in Washington with Senator Ted Kennedy, a Democrat from Massachusetts, to push for an increase in the federal minimum wage. Citing his parents’ low-­wage work as janitors at Harvard, Affleck spoke to a standing-­room-­only audience at a press conference about his firsthand knowledge of job insecurity while also joking about his own career lows.8 His policy choices and activism were sometimes dismissed as those of a celebrity dilettante; one observer wrote, “after such flops as ‘Gigli’ and ‘Paycheck,’ perhaps Affleck should pay a little more attention to his own job and stop advocating policies that would destroy the jobs of those who need them the most.”9 Meanwhile, Affleck became a regular on the charity circuit, and his name became linked to more than twenty-­five charities and forty causes, including Feeding America, Robin Hood, and Vital Voices.10 Affleck appeared to favor local and national charities and those of fellow celebrities. Affleck stumped for Democratic candidates and endorsed various political campaigns as well. In this period, Affleck sought to exert his celebrity capital on behalf of U.S. causes with which he had personal experience or connections. In 2007, as reported by the media, Affleck took steps to deepen his philanthropic activities in light of reputational concerns and a possible political career.11 Affleck performed an act of celebrity witnessing that exhibited personal growth (Bull Christiansen and Frello 2016) when he appeared as an ambassador for the Canadian charity OneXOne, an organization that raised money for impoverished children worldwide and was supported by Affleck’s buddy Matt Damon.12 In a speech to a hall where 325 guests paid $25,000 per table of ten, Affleck recounted a recent trip to Africa that had taken him through seven countries, a trip that had forced him to reckon with “how little I had done in my life” and “how shallow I’ve been in my own pursuits.”13 He drew contrasts to the “vain consumption” exhibited in the West as he described meeting child soldiers, street kids with polio,

80  •  Choosing the Congo

and a woman who had sold her daughter into sex slavery. Then Affleck began to make public statements expressing doubt that fundraising for issues was sufficient, even going so far as to criticize the charity work of NGOs for contributing to what has become well documented as “compassion fatigue” (see Cameron 2015; Yanacopoulus 2015) along with the dominant narratives and single story lines on Africa (see chapter 2). He opined: I think sometimes that gets out the message disproportionately that [Africa] is a place just full of misery and awfulness and suffering and it does a disservice in a way to 800 million people on a continent. . . . I meet them all the time and they go, “Why is it that all of you in North America think we’re lying around with flies in our eyes and dying on the floor?”14

He seemed to refer to other celebrity humanitarians and the industrial giving complex surrounding them when he next said, “And you feel a little bit ashamed because, you’re right, I don’t want to perpetuate that.”15 Though Affleck appeared blunt and sincere, this speech reflected a process of deepening engagement with Africa and is a prime example of the style of communication that characterizes celebrity humanitarians. In his speech, Affleck reckoned with his own role, and presumably that of other celebrity humanitarians, in sustaining misrepresentations of suffering and the value of charitable donations. He alluded to faulty fundraising practices (such as the lavish dinner at which he was speaking). We will see how elite networks had made it possible in the first place for Affleck to visit seven countries in Africa and make that critical speech. These activities behind the scenes would eventually form the basis for the organization that Affleck presented as a “disruption” to the status quo.

Professionalizing Celebrity Humanitarianism: The Consultants behind the Scenes Affleck’s reckoning with his celebrity capital reflects the uneven results of celebrity humanitarianism as it took ascent in the first decade of

Choosing the Congo  • 81

the twenty-­first century (see Richey 2016). In the media glare that defines and channels their public personae, celebrity humanitarians have come to be disparaged by the public, the media, and development experts for their superficial engagement. Media coverage, most cuttingly by Marina Hyde in her “Lost in Showbiz” column for The Guardian, has been merciless in publicizing the good intentions of Western celebrities gone awry. In addition to some historic examples of troublesome celebrity ambassadors at the United Nations (Cooper 2008), a series of high-­profile gaffes has led various humanitarian organizations to distance themselves from controversial figures.16 Although the practice of maintaining celebrity ambassadors has endured, it has become clear that celebrities need to use due diligence when choosing a cause and aligning themselves with an organization. Organizations, in turn, learned to be more assiduous in selecting and preparing a celebrity to speak on behalf of a cause (Brockington 2014). The stakes are even higher for celebrities who wish to create their own organizations. There is the example of Madonna, whose organization Raising Malawi was chided in the Northern mainstream media while also becoming contentious locally (see Budabin et al. 2017; Rasmussen 2016). Louise Mubanda Rasmussen (2016) showed how Madonna was unaware of local politics in the areas where her organization worked, and her reliance on friends instead of development experts for advice and management proved devastating to her humanitarian intentions. As celebrities became more intentional and ambitious about their charitable giving, an industry of consultancy firms with philanthropic managers and advisers emerged.17 Other firms positioned themselves to consult for entertainment and sports figures who wanted to start foundations or increase their visibility in charity circuits.18 The most high-­profile of these consulting firms is likely the Global Philanthropy Group (GPG), run by Trevor Neilson, who has experience across political, business, and philanthropic spheres. His firm charges $150,000 to $200,000 a year for consulting work, and his clients have included Angelina Jolie, Shakira, Howard Buffett, Bono, and Madonna (who turned to GPG to save her organization; see Budabin et al. 2017). Another organization, The Endeavor Group, has also provided strategic, legal, and communications advice

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to celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Indeed, some celebrities have moved their allegiances back and forth between the firms in what has become a veritable market of services for celebrities.19 For example, the filmmaker for ECI has also made short films for Ashton Kutcher, Elton John, and Charlize Theron to support their humanitarian and advocacy efforts.20 For the development field at large, traditional players have welcomed these new consultative actors, as we describe in chapter 6. They are credited with helping “groom” celebrities to speak on issues, reflecting the continuing need for celebrity humanitarianism and spokesmanship. Robert C. Orr, the assistant secretary general for policy coordination and strategic planning at the United Nations, referred to the Global Philanthropy Group and observed: “Trevor’s clients are better prepared as advocates. He is not just taking their quirky view of the world and giving them a platform.”21 These relationships reinforce neoliberal practices around the growing role for elite private actors. To achieve his philanthropic objectives, Affleck took the advice of his friend Bono, who had already created his own organization, ONE, a few years earlier.22 He advised Affleck to work with Whitney Williams and her strategic consulting firm, williamsworks. williamsworks: “Problem Solvers. Optimists” The firm williamsworks is deliberately written with lower-­case lettering, implying a humility that belies its elite connections and well-­ paying clients. The masthead of its website reads: “We Are Problem Solvers. Optimists.”23 It was founded in Seattle in 2003 by Whitney Williams, who is known for adopting a low profile despite her dynastic origins.24 Her mother was the majority and minority leader of the Montana Senate while her father served as the state’s house representative; her parents are listed as senior advisers to the firm. Williams herself entered politics as an intern in the Clinton White House. This led to working for First Lady Hillary Clinton on her book tour and then as the first lady’s trip director, arranging more than two hundred visits to forty-­three countries.25 One of these visits was the Clintons’ trip to Africa in 1998, which introduced Williams to the continent.26 Williams’s bio touts “her innate expertise in drawing together smart

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people with powerful ideas, partners and initiatives to create lasting positive impact.”27 She remains on a first-­name basis with Hillary Clinton (who became a client),28 and even her own mother describes her network as a “Golden Rolodex.”29 Williams’s comfort and experience in the company of political and philanthropic elites is the secret to williamsworks’ successful entry into the marketplace of philanthropic consulting firms. Described as a social-­impact consulting firm, williamsworks specializes in public policy, advocacy, and philanthropy on behalf of a client list of high-­ net worth individuals such as Howard Schultz (Starbucks’ CEO) and Bobby Shriver, foundations (Bill and Melinda Gates were her second clients), humanitarian NGOs such as CARE, and corporations such as Google.org and TOMS Shoes.30 Other clients include the Nike Foundation and the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Contracts might run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year—­one leaked document listed fees of $15,000 per month.31 In turn, williamsworks is also a donor.32 Williams has advised other celebrity-­led organizations, including Bono’s ONE and (RED) along with Matt Damon’s water.org. This client list of elites makes up an exclusive network that operates as a key source of capital—­economic, political, and social—­for williamsworks. Williams herself has publicly expressed interest in a political career.33 Before the 2016 U.S. elections, we were told by a confidential informant that she had hoped for an ambassadorial position in a Clinton administration. Williams advances a theory of politics that is born of family connections and her own experience where strategically placed people of prominence can have an outsize effect. She stated: There were all these philanthropists, high net-­worth individuals, some of whom had foundations and who were able to influence policy in a variety of ways, but they weren’t doing it. That was a little distressing to me since I’ve been around public policy my whole life.34

She created williamsworks to connect the nodes of these elite networks, as described in the firm website’s Practice Area “Advocacy and Influence,” quoted at the opening of this chapter. The mission statement encapsulates Williams’s personal perspective on politics as

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a process where “key individuals”—­including celebrities—­are able to play an outsized role. In this view, public policy does not appear to demand much of a “public” but instead relies on the impact of the lobbying and reception of those who flex financial or political power with their wallets (the donors or corporations), their voices (the celebrities or other public figures), or their votes (the politicians). As the website proudly proclaims: “williamsworks was founded on the belief that we can improve countless lives by partnering with extraordinary people.”35 Celebrities, who make the ordinary extraordinary (see Driessens 2013), make ideal clients for this type of business strategy in a postdemocratic landscape. The firm williamsworks itself has been a key node of the elite network that supports Affleck’s philanthropic ambitions, the nerve center that enables him to act with greater flexibility on behalf of his selected issue of the Congo, to contend with dominant narratives in unexpected ways, and to use his convening power to form strategic partnerships for advancing his organizational vision.

Choosing Issues for a Celebrity Humanitarian Eastern Congo became the site of Affleck’s efforts as the result of a deliberate process in issue selection. In the previous chapter we showed that while there is an extensive history of humanitarian relief centered on the Congo, the country’s crises never captured the attention of U.S. advocates, the media, or the public to the degree that the situations in Darfur, South Africa, and Uganda did. Affleck’s path toward selecting the Congo as an issue was based on calculations that took into account the country’s status as both forgotten and forlorn. Not all nor even the most grievous violations and crises are prioritized in transnational advocacy and, by extension, foreign aid. Scholars have conducted extensive research to understand why certain issues get chosen while others remain overlooked in advocacy. For example, in their seminal text on transnational advocacy, Keck and Sikkink found that an issue must possess a causal chain that is “sufficiently short and clear to make the case convincing” to be worthy of a network and coordinated campaigns (1998, 27). They found that certain types of human rights violations resonate more than others;

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effective representations tend to involve “issues involving bodily harm to vulnerable individuals, and legal equality of opportunity” (1998, 104). This work has been extended by Carpenter, who has found that greater attention is given to victim groups composed of women and children than to those composed primarily of men (2007), and Miriam Ticktin (2017), who argues that there is a hierarchy of victimhood based on innocence. Thus, there is a relationship between narrative resonance and coherence; certain issues lend themselves more easily to simplified presentations because the category of “victim” is more widely accepted as vulnerable and needing of “saving.” To better understand the decision-­making process of issue selection, Carpenter looked inside advocacy networks to distinguish relevant factors: broad political or institutional context, issue attributes (the nature of the victims, harm, perpetrators), entrepreneur attributes (the person who pushes for new ideas), adopter attributes (the organizational mandate or funding availability), and intranetwork relations are characterized by power dynamics across actors (2014). In the case of the Human Security Network, for example, Carpenter found that the intranetwork relations mattered for issue selection in authoritatively shaping perceptions of issues and actors in making decisions. Throughout, Carpenter underscores the role of global advocacy elites, the “gatekeepers,” who not only set the agenda but also “vet” issues (2014, 19). What we know in broad terms is that the content and context of who suffers from an issue and who can intervene in it are as important as the severity of the harm caused. For advocacy, understanding the networks formed around particular interventions is important whether or not they hinge on celebrities. For understanding why the Congo failed to attract attention from advocacy organizations to the degree that Darfur did, Coley (2013) built on Carpenter’s work. Blending insights from social movement literature, he focused on political opportunities, issue framing, and organizational resources. Coley argued that the Congo failed to get on the agenda due to issue attributes, organizations’ perceptions of the framing valence of genocide, a more favorable political context stemming from the status of Sudan in the “war on terror,” and the organizational resources already committed to Sudan as part of earlier campaigns. These investigations show that despite differences in the

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severity of the human rights violations, issue selection reflects internal and external forces that are mediated by advocacy elites and reflect their preferences. Analyzing how Affleck chose the Congo expands the issue selection work by situating a celebrity as one of the elite “gatekeepers” operating with certain privileges amid supportive political, philanthropic, and corporate networks. So How Did Batman Select the Congo? As early as 2007, williamsworks began the background research toward developing an organization for Affleck.36 It appeared Africa was the target continent, and the next step involved reaching out to human rights experts. While it has been trendy for celebrities to focus on Africa, there may have been other exigencies. Affleck studied Middle Eastern affairs at Occidental College and had even learned Arabic.37 We were told by an expert who advised Affleck that he was dissuaded from taking up the region, as he was not comfortable engaging in political conflicts with Arabs as the bad guys.38 Affleck and Williams met with a Congo expert who had a decade of experience; the expert recalled the point of the meeting: They were looking for an issue for him. And they were looking for a country. . . . It’s as though they’re casting around for “what would be a good issue for Ben to pick up on that interests Ben and an issue in which Ben can make a difference, which there aren’t many other people working on?”39

The notion of “casting around for an issue” speaks to a unique type of selection process, one on behalf of a celebrity humanitarian who is looking to stamp a particular issue with his brand. The Congo expert describes Affleck as “at that stage ill-­informed but very open to learn. They were sucking up information.” The expert observed that they were reaching out to “a lot of the right people”; we have confirmation of meetings with other academics and experts on advocacy and Africa.40 The expert also referenced rumors that Affleck was preparing for a political career and was selecting an issue to support a future bid.41 This political angle offers another perspective on why Whitney Williams, with her extensive political connections,

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was selected, as well as a cynical take on choosing causes that are self-­ serving (Kapoor 2013). The next step was a tour of conflict-­affected countries in Africa, including Rwanda, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, and the Congo. After this trip, Affleck and Williams settled on the Congo. One advantage was that the country had not yet been “claimed” by another celebrity. At this time, there were strong associations between celebrities and certain countries: George Clooney and Sudan, Winfrey and South Africa, Madonna and Malawi.42 Engagement in the Congo from Jessica Lange and Angelina Jolie had not created indelible links; Robin Wright would visit the country in 2011 as the start of her own campaigning. The political economy of celebrities in development dictates a distribution that avoids competition, thus spreading out celebrity interventions with little overlap across issues and countries, as is well illustrated in the map of “celebrity recolonialization” of Africa published in Mother Jones and discussed in chapter 2.43 In his own words, Affleck confirmed that his selection of the Congo was motivated by saturation of celebrity engagement on other issues: “I thought a lot of people are advocating on Darfur. I’d just be a very small log on a big fire.”44 Such candor reinforces our assertion that Affleck sought to distinguish himself from other celebrity humanitarians and to carve out a specific territory. In addition to being without a conspicuous celebrity ambassador, the Congo was barely on the public radar despite the severity and duration of its problems. Reflecting on this state of affairs, Affleck described the situation in ways that echoed the hyperbole of aid workers and other advocates: What is unfolding in DRC is one of the worst situations I have ever encountered. In their own homes, people are raped, tortured, mutilated and abducted. All ordinary ways of life have been disrupted. People can’t farm, don’t have access to their land, there is no way to get food, children can’t go to school for fear of being raped or abducted. It’s a dire situation.45

Affleck professed to being struck by the continuing dearth of attention to violence in the Great Lakes: “It was still happening. And I didn’t

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know about it, and almost nobody in America knew about it.”46 As shown in chapter 2, there were, in fact, a handful of Congolese-­ led organizations advocating for the Congo. Without resources—­ including funding, access, and elite endorsement—­their impact on the political landscape was minimal. The landscape was dominated by Enough Project with its conflict-­minerals narrative. Affleck linked his selection of the Congo to the expectation that this was the place where his star power would have the most value: “I couldn’t imagine a place where one’s efforts could go to more good—­or where help was more urgently needed.”47 The decision to get involved stemmed from a personal desire to make a deeper impact, as Affleck explained, to be able to say “I gave back; here are the footprints I left in the sand.”48 This same personal commitment narrative was reiterated across various media and also was later made into a short, animated documentary film for ECI that we discuss in more detail in chapter 4. With the help of williamsworks, Affleck began to make a series of trips to the Congo. He visited refugee and internally displaced people (IDP) camps, hospitals, and gold mines while meeting with grassroots organizations and UN officials. It was an auspicious moment: 2006 had seen historic elections in the Congo following a series of civil wars and conflict, as described in chapter 2. These elections signaled “the apotheosis of the Western partners’ engagement in the peace and democratization process” (Berwouts 2017, 59). Yet, according to analysts, the main priority was to “put an end to the repeated cycles of violence in the East.”49 When Affleck visited Kinshasa in 2008, he observed a meeting of leaders from around the Kivus organized “to give him a feel for the harshness of the tone of politics in the Eastern Congo.”50 This professional behind-­the-­scenes help was accompanied by steps Affleck took to educate himself, reading widely and speaking with experts and locals during trips to the Congo. Affleck was clearly setting himself up for a public role in speaking about the Congo with greater authenticity born of extensive preparation through field experience and learning. One Congo expert recalls meeting with Affleck a couple more times and Williams many more times.51 The Congo expert emphasized that for Affleck and Williams, it was “very clear they want him to say intelligent things.

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And they turn to [my organization] for advice, for help, for occasionally vetting what he might say.”52 Besides vetting, on other occasions speeches were prepared for Affleck by organizational hosts.53 With the help and time extended by experts, Affleck’s move into the public eye was made with assiduous attention to fashioning Affleck as someone who knew what he was talking about. On the basis of this experience in the field coupled with his guidance from Williams and other experts, Affleck began to write and speak about the Congo. To begin his engagement with elite and public audiences, Affleck was connected with various media outlets, which both covered his trips to the Congo and gave space for him to lay out his vision in his own words. In a description of celebrity capital, he acknowledged that his celebrity status would be useful since he knew the cameras would follow him wherever he went. On his fourth trip to the Congo in 2008 alone, he spoke with the Associated Press and said: It’s fairly clear that in the modern age that there is a currency to celebrity, or celebrity is a currency, really. . . . I want to try to bring people along to learn and if they might not tune into this unless there was some celebrity involved in it, either because they’re interested in the celebrity or because they want to see the celebrity kind of make a fool of himself, then so be it.54

In an essay written in 2008 for ABC News, he describes his decision to raise awareness with “the hope being that a spotlight’s glare might help in a place where too much suffering has happened in the dark and also help those who are already hard at work trying to help themselves and their country.”55 Affleck elucidates the role of a celebrity humanitarian in bridging Northern publics and Southern causes. His job is to channel what he has witnessed through his “affective visibility,” to bring his experiences to wider audiences, and to spur action: “the suffering and loss we’ve all seen first-­hand is staggering—­ it is beyond belief.”56 He even attempts to renounce the status as expert: “I’m not an expert in international affairs or diplomacy, but it doesn’t take that to see the tremendous suffering here. It’s not something that we as human beings can, in good conscience, ignore.”57

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Here, Affleck puts the magnitude of the crisis in perspective without seeking to connect his personal story, offering references to himself as a father or to his family in the mode of authenticity based on affinity (Brockington 2014). Instead, this modest approach builds an authenticity based on experiential authority, with frequent references to his visits. But it is not enough for a celebrity humanitarian to express sympathy and gain expertise in a pressing issue if there are larger ambitions behind these displays. Affleck’s organization also gained legitimacy through the assemblage of elite actors from the philanthropic, political, and development sectors who lent credibility, through financial support, endorsement, or other highly visible gestures. These gestures might include hosting Affleck to speak, featuring his work on a website, or joining ECI as a partner organization for a development project. The main route by which Affleck and ECI earned their legitimacy rapidly was to a large extent achieved by leveraging Williams and williamsworks’ client base. That process is re-­created here; Williams herself calls this type of strategy “power mapping.” First, to create an organization, a stable cadre of funders must be identified. While some celebrities have combined elite fundraising with public donations, as Madonna did for her organization Raising Malawi (Budabin et al. 2017; Rasmussen 2016), ECI concentrated on securing financial support from foundations and prominent individuals. With the help of Williams’s Rolodex, the following donors (many of them williamsworks’ clients) became early “investors”: the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Humanity United, Cindy Hensley McCain, Google, Laurene Powell Jobs of Emerson Collective, and williamsworks (see Figure 8). This group later grew to include the Bridgeway Foundation and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.58 Affleck often took the lead in reaching out to these figures; Cindy McCain thought Affleck was making a “prank call” when he asked her to help him. She expressed skepticism about working with a celebrity: “My past experiences with other folks in the same, perhaps, arena have not been good. It hadn’t been heartfelt.”59 But she was won over by the time Affleck spent in the region and by his vision. Because of Affleck’s charisma, Howard Buffett was also moved to support ECI as a board member and provide funding:

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I joined Ben in this effort because I believe strongly in investing in sustainable solutions to humanitarian challenges. My experience is that when you support locally initiated efforts, you lay a foundation for change that lasts long after relief agencies have left. I’m confident in Ben’s ability to bring a coalition of partners together who will influence a broader diplomatic strategy, increase philanthropic investment and foster coordination among the many organizations already doing great work in the region.60

Buffett’s confidence in Affleck’s convening power was prescient, as we shall see in chapter 5; that power led various partners and allies, including the Buffett Foundation, to deepen their engagement with ECI as part of the coffee project. A healthy combination of contributions and grants permitted ECI to operate in its first years with more than $1.8 million dollars at its disposal, as reported in the organization’s 2012 tax returns.61 As we saw in chapter 2, most Congolese-­ led organizations operate with funding that ranges from the tens of

Figure 8. Network graphic of williamsworks clients that assisted ECI.

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thousands to half a million dollars (see Table 1). Affleck uncovered new sources of money through elite connections while channeling these funds toward his own organization. But money is not enough to allow a celebrity humanitarian to create a stable platform to promote a vision of development. Figure 8 presents williamsworks’ clients whose capital—­social and political— came to be directed toward ECI’s strategic objectives. Over the course of its existence, ECI’s board and advisory committee included figures from the Nike Foundation, Starbucks, and Google.org. Clients such as the Clinton Foundation and the Starkey Hearing Foundation provided forums for Affleck to discuss his work in front of elite audiences. Media clients like Glamour and Vanity Fair magazines offered friendly coverage of Affleck’s and ECI’s work to the wider public. And finally, corporate clients joined with ECI in strategic partnerships (discussed in the following chapters). Besides marshaling crucial resources, the networking done by williamsworks gave Affleck and ECI the necessary credibility within development circles not only to fundraise and implement programs but also to attempt to become a “disruptor” in the field of development.

ECI Launches as a Disruptive Celebrity-­Led Development Organization ECI was launched in March 2010 on the tarmac of the Nairobi airport by its celebrity founder, who was transiting between the Congo and the United States, a literal and figurative embodiment of the role Ben Affleck intended to play in mediating North–­South relations. The multimandate organization was presented as a “disruptor” that would change how development is “done” in Washington, D.C. There are specific ways in which ECI distinguishes itself from other celebrity-­led organizations and other Congo-­focused efforts. Compared to eponymous celebrity-­led organizations like Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy for Girls (see Table 2), ECI adopted a measured approach to associating itself with Ben Affleck and his stardom. For starters, Affleck’s name was not part of the title, though the title was uncomfortably close to that of the Congolese-­led Congo Initiative. In the first iteration, the home page of the website opened

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with photos of Congolese people; Affleck’s name could be found only in a video message on the bottom.62 Still, the short description that circulates on various development websites gives prominence to the celebrity connection: Founded by Ben Affleck, the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) is the first U.S. based advocacy and grant-­making initiative wholly focused on working with and for the people of eastern Congo.63

Whitney Williams is the cofounder, but that goes unmentioned here. The tagline firmly situates ECI as an innovator in the field of Congo-­ related organizations (see Table 1) with its focus on Eastern Congo, suggesting a nuanced appreciation of the country’s political and humanitarian landscape. Here, ECI falls in line with other observers and experts who regard the eastern provinces as distinct from the rest of the country because of its endemic violence. Identifying “Eastern Congo” as a political space for intervention has implications for the contemporary politics of the state, whose capital is not Goma but Kinshasa. Finally, the notion of “working with” sets ECI apart as an advocacy organization that would ostensibly draw from local knowledge, while the act of “working for” underscores its grant support for local initiatives rather than a focus on implementing its own programs. The degree of ECI’s disruption is more of a mixed story than the hype suggests (see Table 3). Experts and observers in the field have regarded ECI as innovative in its structure and approach. The organization takes a two-­pronged approach as both an advocacy organization and a grantor that straddles political and humanitarian objectives. Moreover, these activities take place across two sites of activity, the United States and Eastern Congo, including offices and staffing. By setting up its office in Washington, D.C., ECI signaled the organization’s aspirations for positioning Affleck and the organization to influence U.S. policymaking on the Congo. There is also the strategic advantage of setting Affleck up for a future in politics; indeed, questions about running for office would continue to be met with polite but vague protestations by Affleck.64 Still, in many ways, Affleck and ECI represented a new frontier in advocacy

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for the Congo with access to extensive resources and a celebrity spokesperson. There were high expectations that his organization would raise awareness about the Congo in meaningful ways. At its launch, Ambassador Faida Mitifu, the ambassador of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the United States and a member of ECI’s advisory committee, said, “The Eastern Congo Initiative will help to bring much-­needed attention to a region that has suffered for too long. An approach that focuses on community-­based solutions and highlights the vision of local organizations that serve those affected by conflict is essential.”65 To support its advocacy efforts, Affleck’s organization distinguished itself from other celebrity organizations with its focus on data collection, expert consultation, and local engagement. ECI commissioned reports and a white paper on the political and security situation in the Congo. For this white paper on how to strengthen U.S. foreign policy in the Congo, ECI turned to Spyros Demetriou, who had served as team leader of MONUC for the coordination of the International Security and Stabilization Support Strategy in Eastern DRC, and Salamah Magnuson, who had served as chief of party of a civil society and peace-­building program in Sudan and then as a conflict adviser to the Government of Southern Sudan Land Commission.66 This white paper formed the basis of the testimony Affleck would deliver to Congress. Another report on security reform was written in partnership with international organizations such as the Enough Project, Open Society, and Refugees International, along with five Congolese organizations.67 None of these had longer-­term uptake in the field of development and humanitarianism in Kinshasa, as we discuss in chapter 6. ECI also chose to open an office in Goma and to hire local staff. The Congo expert Séverine Autesserre explains that the inclusion of local counterparts in ECI management positions in the Congo was a “rare exception” to the preference for expatriate leadership (2014, 84). One American who did take a leadership role in Goma as, first, program director and, later, country director was Harper McConnell, who had worked for three years at HEAL Africa hospital and who spoke Swahili. She was a minor celebrity herself, having been profiled

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in Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.68 McConnell would later play a pivotal role in working with coffee farmers in formulating ECI’s strategic partnerships and in articulating their strategy of “working aid out of business,” as we will see in chapter 5. The organization participated in gathering evidence from the field in partnerships with other research and development institutions. In collaboration with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, ECI produced a report on former child combatants in the Congo and the impact of the UN-­led Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programming.69 Efforts to collate evidence from the field stand in contrast to the narrative-­first approach of other organizations and celebrity interventions, particularly in the Congo, argues Seay (2015). Although Affleck chose to focus on a neglected issue, his stature as an A-­list Hollywood star might have been enough to secure him early traction in Washington, D.C. Still, to facilitate Affleck’s political access, williamsworks contracted with an international law firm to lobby policymaking circles to promote ECI’s mission objectives and its report findings. Payments to this firm were funneled through a fiscal sponsor, the New Venture Fund, a public charity that runs projects for philanthropists; this is the same organization that has run Enough Project since 2016.70 In 2016, according to its tax filings, the New Venture Fund managed more than $300 million “to support innovative and effective public interest projects.”71 The New Venture Fund in turn hired K&L Gates, an international law firm based in Washington, D.C., to lobby on behalf of its clients. Since the New Venture Fund hired K&L Gates to work for ECI and other clients, it is difficult to see exactly how much ECI spent on lobbying. But in the quarterly reports filed by the firm, we find direct references to “work with Eastern Congo Initiative,” while in other reports there are references to lobbying on State Department activities, development assistance, USAID, and agricultural activities that might be related to ECI objectives (see Appendix C). It must be stressed that these data are suggestive but also reinforce the difficulty of tracking the activities of celebrity humanitarians and their organizations (Budabin et al. 2017), raising concerns around transparency and legitimacy, as discussed in

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Appendix A. These activities are taking place, presumably, on behalf of the Congolese who have little say in how (or by whom) they are represented in the United States. Though we cannot calculate the exact sums spent, we can reasonably deduce that hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent lobbying various institutions of government on issues related to the Congo and development. While these amounts are not large for the D.C. lobbying scene, they would be an inconceivable expense for other Congo advocacy organizations with less revenue (see Table 1). Meanwhile, according to its tax forms, New Venture Fund paid williamsworks nearly $700,000 (in 2011) and $400,000 (in 2010) for strategic consulting and project management; thus, it appears impossible to untangle the direction of client relationships when money is going back and forth between two NGOs and a corporate entity. The fruits of this cultivation were reaped when Affleck began to receive the first of what would come to be four invitations in five years to testify before Congress on the issue of the Congo (see Appendix B).72 One year after the launch of ECI, Affleck was invited as the founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative to testify before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights of the U.S. House of Representatives (see Figure 9) alongside officials from the Department of State and USAID, a representative from Catholic Relief Services, John Prendergast from Enough Project, and Cindy McCain. Representative Adam Smith (D-­WA) opened the session with special accolades for Affleck and ECI: Mr. Affleck and his organization are making a major contribution in focusing political will on resolving the crises in the [Congo] and bringing constructive recommendations to the table. But just as importantly, he is setting an example for all of us as to the need to direct whatever resources and influence we may have to help those who are less fortunate and without a voice to help themselves. And for his presence, perspective and example, the subcommittee is most appreciative.73

This zealous shout-­out by a congressman to Affleck confirms his credibility in providing “constructive recommendations,” building

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influence, and speaking on behalf of the Congolese to the august institutions of Congress. The comments of the representative from Washington State, where williamsworks is based, were among the first evidence of the Seattle and state links that came to play an increasingly large role in the operations of ECI. At the outset, Affleck’s advocacy was centered on security-­ sector reform and the elections. In his testimony, Affleck gave a summary of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) that included all the drama of a local gangster tale. Afterward, one of the committee members, Donald M. Payne, a Democratic representative from New Jersey, commented on the expertise on display: “You are pretty up on this stuff. You are very impressive.” This compliment was then reinforced by another witness, John Prendergast: Mr. PRENDERGAST. That was indeed a great answer. Mr. AFFLECK. Thank you. I paid him to say that.74

In this playful banter, we see the shift from celebrity to expert, validated by the gatekeepers of formal expertise on the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights. We also see the ironic distance that maintains celebrity value as distinct from other expert discourses. The use of irony is common in celebrity performances, either to openly acknowledge the roots of celebrities’ social privilege and/or to endear themselves to the public (Kapoor 2013, 25; Littler 2008; Brassett 2009; Cameron 2015). Apart from the validations of Affleck’s expertise, various bits of testimony from Prendergast signaled the high expectations that celebrities could influence policymaking. Prendergast himself had worked with a variety of celebrities on Darfur, South Sudan, and the Congo, as described in chapter 2. During the congressional hearing, Prendergast referred numerous times to the effectiveness of Affleck’s celebrity in bringing the Congo into the media and onto the congressional agenda, gaining access to promote policy solutions. Prendergast concluded with a call for the appointment of a special envoy “of stature commensurate with the urgency of the issue.”75 Prendergast stated: “We know President Obama moved on the special envoy in Sudan

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Figure 9. Ben Affleck testifying to Congress on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Amanda Bossard/ Medill News Service.

because of George Clooney. Maybe he will move on it in Congo because of Ben.”76 Affleck’s first appearance on Capitol Hill before a Congo-­related panel raised the stakes not just that his discourses would be disseminated widely but also that they had already influenced policy. Indeed, two years after these discussions, a new U.S. special envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa was appointed.77 Affleck’s first congressional appearance was followed by invitations to address other high-­level policy fora. These included the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Clinton Global Initiative, TED, and a UNICEF conference.78 As the founder and leading spokesperson for ECI, Affleck operated as a consummate celebrity humanitarian: speaking on behalf of the Congo for both elite and mass audiences through op-­eds, media appearances, and speeches and connecting Northern publics to a cause in the Global South. His emails reached the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and garnered a rapid response, as the quotation that begins this chapter demonstrates.79 Yet, Affleck’s arrival signaled not only the possibility for

Choosing the Congo  • 99

alternative presentations but also the potential for gaining traction because of his political access. On later visits to Congress (see Appendix B), Affleck would promulgate ideas related to strategic partnerships.

Contending with Dominant Narratives on the Congo We have seen how a celebrity humanitarian can marshal the political and economic capital to pick an issue, create an organization, and secure an invitation to address policymakers. Besides ECI’s unique two-­pronged approach and its interest in security-­sector reform and the impending elections, Affleck gained access to the discursive debates and sought to shape the narrative on the Congo. As we saw in chapter 2, many U.S.-­based organizations and campaigns had, for the most part, coalesced around a dominant Congo narrative that focused on conflict minerals, sexual violence, and state solutions; lesser-­known narratives included environmental concerns, with a focus on the Virunga Park. Referring to misguided interventions in Congo history, Dunn notes that “alternative and competing images of Congo have frequently been produced, only to be closed off and/or stamped out” (2003, 6). Here, we briefly explore how Affleck contended with the dominant narratives on the Congo, in a departure from traditional advocacy narratives that embody the “disruption” intended by Affleck and ECI. While the Congo may not have been a major focus of the advocacy landscape in Washington, D.C., various prominent celebrity-­led campaigns had connected the country to the issue of conflict minerals. It would have been easy for ECI to join with the NGO Enough Project in its high-­profile campaign to raise awareness and lobby Congress on the situation around conflict minerals in the Congo. But in this event, Affleck would have been one of many celebrities working on the issue. Through conversations with advocacy experts, we have discovered that Affleck’s decision to not focus on conflict minerals was made as a way to avoid overlapping with the advocacy and policy ambit of Enough Project.80 This suggests a new reading of issue selection in which deals are cut between organizations to prevent turf wars.

100  •  Choosing the Congo

The careful marking of territory is apparent in Affleck’s and ECI’s texts. References to conflict minerals are not entirely absent but are kept to a minimum. In a review of U.S. congressional legislation, ECI’s white paper on strengthening U.S.–­Congo policy notes that while there is attention to various aspects of the crisis in the Congo, including the “destabilizing effect of the conflict minerals originating in the Congo,” the legislation fails to “address the overall needs of the Congo in a unified fashion.”81 Indeed, the white paper urges political elites to move beyond the narrow debate around conflict minerals. Affleck also reinforced this line in a Washington Post op-­ed.82 Meanwhile, Affleck and ECI took care to present alternative interpretations for the Congo’s dysfunction. Rather than embrace the dominant narrative around conflict minerals, an ECI report on security sector reform, written in partnership with a dozen other organizations, described “the central cause of suffering [as] continued insecurity.”83 This insecurity was linked to the lack of good governance, which was impeded by “personal insecurity, poor health conditions and minimal economic opportunity.”84 This explanation for the dysfunction in the Congo was reinforced by other observers (see Berwouts 2017, 161). Overall, Affleck and ECI placed greater emphasis on drawing attention to other sources of violence and instability in the Congo, including those that linked the humanitarian crisis to conditions of endemic poverty and inequality. This line of thinking reflected ECI’s brand as an organization with a bottom-­up approach, with local knowledge gathering and country expertise. Often linked explicitly to conflict minerals, the issue of sexual and gender-­based violence in the Congo was becoming ascendant in the period when ECI launched. As we saw in chapter 2, celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Robin Wright had applied the frame of sexual violence to the Congo with the organizational backing of the U.K.’s Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative and Enough Project’s Raise Hope for Congo. ECI approached the sensitive subject in a more muted way, listing rape and sexual violence as key issues on its website but not including it as one of its main advocacy objectives. Besides listing community-­based organizations and NGOs that address sexual violence, ECI did not detail its approach to the issue.85 In the ECI white paper, sexual violence is cited a handful of times, but usually in the

Choosing the Congo  • 101

context of other human rights violations. Statistics are provided on rapes and “how sexual violence is increasingly being used as a weapon of war”;86 the white paper also calls for U.S. support for the “strengthening of local government capacities to address abuses against civilians, including sexual violence.”87 ECI’s white paper reflects the major proposals sought by the international community that seek to restore state authority in the Eastern region by rehabilitating administrative structures, supporting economic development, and re-­establishing the rule of law. However, in his congressional appearances, Affleck stressed sexual violence as a fundamental problem in the Congo that was in need of greater international attention. In his testimony to Congress in 2011, Affleck offered statistics about displacement and rape in the Congo in his very first paragraph, describing the work of ECI as helping to “protect the most vulnerable people within the Congo, including child soldiers and survivors of sexual violence.”88 Since the hearing coincided with International Women’s Day, he highlighted the “particular suffering of women and girls in eastern Congo as well as the undeniable strength they exhibit in the face of ongoing atrocities.”89 He then went on to share the story of a young woman who had been captured and held as a sex slave by rebel soldiers for two years. He extolled the efforts of a Congolese organization that gave the young woman counseling and job training. Hers was the only personal story that Affleck related, demonstrating another common trope of relying on witness testimony as evidence (Schaffer and Smith 2004). This narrative echoes common metaphors of “saving” with ECI acting as the savior to the women and children who were victims of rebel soldiers, the perpetrators (Mutua 2001). Meanwhile, Affleck’s written pieces regularly cite the rape statistics when describing the violence in the Congo, although he encourages support of local solutions. In referring to sexual violence as the prominent harm in the Congo, Affleck and ECI walk a nuanced line: ECI’s website and reports do not speak extensively about sexual violence as a program objective, but when cameras are rolling, Affleck’s remarks about the horrors taking place tend to include references to statistics on sexual violence and personal stories. He does attempt to temper any graphic depictions of victimhood with inspiring tales of

102  •  Choosing the Congo

survivors and the work of community-­based organizations that are addressing the issue. With this topic, ECI and Affleck play to different audiences to mobilize attention to the Congo. But Affleck’s adoption of an alternative narrative avoids emphasizing the link between sexual violence and conflict minerals. On the matter of solutions, Affleck and ECI adopt a position that justifies the continual NGO presence and support of local organizations in contrast to the state-­building emphasis of policymakers and international organizations. We see this nuance clearly presented across ECI’s two-­pronged objective: instead of building state capacity, ECI offers grant support to local organizations as “essential to creating a sustainable and successful society in eastern DRC.”90 With the support of USAID, ECI conducted a Community-­Based Organization Landscape Analysis.91 This report collected data on the many community-­based organizations operating in Eastern Congo and relayed this information to potential funders. This ability to research and directly fund at the local level was considered innovative; one observer wrote that Affleck’s organization “links up donors with Congolese nonprofits that are effective on the ground, as opposed to funneling money through large, international nongovernmental organizations beset by bureaucracy.”92 This buttressing of local organizations, albeit with external funding, reinforces Milli Lake’s (2018) findings that strong NGOs are able to make strides in implementation even in a weak state like the Congo. Indeed, this stance justifies the interventions ECI itself is making as a foreign NGO. Meanwhile, the grant-­making arm of the ECI centers on funding local solutions. In a promotional video, Affleck explains, “what’s different about us is who we make grants to.”93 Community-­based organizations are crucial to development, as ECI explains, “in a country with historically weak state institutions and virtually nonexistent public services.”94 Locals are used to getting assistance from international rather than from Congolese NGOs, which are less well supported.95 This focus on financing local efforts reflects ECI’s bottom-­up approach and development implementation and stands in sharp relief to the dominant top-­down narrative of state reconstruction. In 2016, one Congo advocate and researcher observed, “I actually think ECI is a phenomenal organization that is committed

Choosing the Congo  • 103

to local communities. And I think they are trying to fill the gaps in programming they see almost created by [the dominant] narrative.”96 The limits on outsiders’ ability to track the money given and to discern exactly to whom it has gone reflect ECI’s status as a celebrity development organization. To support grassroots solutions, ECI recounts in its financial reporting and annual reports that it has allocated millions of dollars to Congolese organizations and programs; a few of these “Partner Success Stories” are featured on the website.97 Tax reports show the provision of small grants (usually between $10,000 and $25,000) to projects that are listed by their purpose, not necessarily by the name of the grantee organization. Meanwhile, the use of a fiscal sponsor, the New Venture Fund, means that the funding is hard to trace. Tax reports do show that larger grants have been made to donor favorites like HEAL Africa, which received $50,000 in 2012; these are reported in full since the grantees are U.S. based.98 The limited information reflects the upward accountability where legalistic tax reporting provides only a partial confirmation of how ECI distributes its funds and the “sharing” of partner success stories is done at ECI’s discretion when it suits the organization’s strategic interests. Other development actors, the public, and local stakeholders are not privy to any “downward” accountability. However, as part of ECI’s framing of the Congo’s problems, the lack of good governance is still cited as one of the main obstacles to a peaceful flourishing society. Thus, there is an embrace of the reconstruction of state authority. In its early years, ECI’s primary advocacy objective was the “comprehensive reform of the Congolese security sector.”99 This included a push for the establishment of a well-­organized police force and military and judicial systems, an approach underscored in ECI’s report on security-­sector reform as well as in the white paper. The issue of security sector reform had been raised in 2006 by observers and by the Congo’s Western partners; during and following the historic parliamentary and presidential elections that year, a clear priority was the maintenance of peace.100 As the first objective for U.S. engagement and support, the white paper outlines a path for renewed top-­down political engagement, whereby “the US must provide strong support to the [DRC government] to catalyze greater political will.”101 These policy-­driven papers

104  •  Choosing the Congo

reflect ECI’s intentions to strengthen the Congolese state as part of the solution.102 When Affleck speaks to a wider audience, made up of potential funders, NGO officials, and the general public, his discourses walk a careful line between state-­centered and local-­centered approaches. At times, he intensifies the alternative narrative by referring to community-­ based organizations (CBOs) and the local efforts of the Congolese people. At a high-­level event sponsored by the U.S. government and UNICEF at which Secretary of State Clinton introduced Affleck, he remarked: Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve seen extraordinary efforts by the Congolese to usher in a brighter future for their country. The Congolese must lead in this effort. We firmly believe that. We believe that our role is there to support the Congolese and support community-­based organizations.103

At that event, Affleck amplified local voices, touting the work of CBOs and calling them out by name. This alternative narrative presents Congolese-­led initiatives as demonstrations of local empowerment that would benefit from further external support from both the U.S. government and private donors. But when Affleck speaks to political elites, pressuring the U.S. government during his appearances before Congress and state institutions, he relates community-­based efforts while promoting a state solution. This may be influenced by the contours of state diplomacy in which advocacy necessarily focuses on top-­down state-­centric solutions. However, it may be a strategically ambiguous strategy to open up possibilities for intervention in both civil society and state-­oriented directions.104 For example, in his remarks to the conference Child Survival Call to Action, after painting an inspiring picture of local efforts, Affleck insisted: “We hope the U.S. will assert leadership and encourage a stronger security sector, resulting in a safer society for Congolese families.”105 Likewise, Affleck urges the United States to follow a path toward building state capacity in the Congo: assigning a special adviser, providing technical assistance for future elections, and supporting the government’s efforts in implementing administration and judicial reforms. This focus on building political capacity addresses

Choosing the Congo  • 105

the main failure of state authority: the weak security sector. By increasing U.S. pressure on the Congolese government to implement reform, Affleck reinforces the focus on state capacity but acknowledges that state authority has had perverse results (Autesserre 2012). There is little engagement with the other leading narrative on the Congo, that related to wildlife and environmental concerns. However, ECI gave money to the Virunga Fund Inc., an NGO based in Brooklyn that received $270,000 in 2012.106 No mention of this grant is made in the annual reports for 2012 or 2013; the two major funders for the Virunga National Park were the EU and the Howard Buffett Foundation.107 Nor is there mention of Virunga National Park as a partner on the website. Affleck mentioned the partnership in 2015 only in relation to the movie Virunga. He did make a trip to the park in 2017 and tweeted out his support for the staff. Despite the large grant, ECI in its early years made no attempt to fit this partnership into its major objectives or to contend with narratives related to the environment.108 This chapter explored how celebrities engage as elite players with the potential to disrupt the typical workings of advocacy and development. Celebrities are often disregarded because they are typically performers who bring short-­term attention to long-­term problems. But with the advent of celebrity-­led organizations, we see how Affleck is part of a select group of celebrities able to use their convening power, marshaling financial and political capital through elite networks, to establish platforms in order to brand their efforts and achieve greater influence. The case of Ben Affleck aka “Batman” in the Congo presents compelling evidence of the celebrity capital that comes into play when an A-­list celebrity arrives. The performance of an “ordinary” human being with a conscience conceals the extraordinary work and resources that went into bringing Batman to the Congo. Chapter 2 demonstrated how the political context was favorable for advocacy around the Congo from a new player such as a celebrity with access to new money and political connections. Here we have traced the road taken by Affleck the actor to become a successful celebrity humanitarian with his own organization with credibility built through carefully curated and cultivated elite networks, and unique opportunities of access. This chapter demonstrates how

106  •  Choosing the Congo

Affleck’s choice of an issue and implementation of strategic consultations brought high-­caliber expertise from the world of business into policy advocacy in the United States and local implementation in Eastern Congo. Affleck’s path to becoming a celebrity humanitarian was reliant upon a strategic partnership of professional consultants, political elites, and billionaires. These “problem solvers” and “optimists” were critical to the success of Affleck’s work in advocacy and grant-­making and will continue to finance his attempt to disrupt development as usual in the Congo. The role of a strategic consulting firm is underscored here. Staging a celebrity humanitarian to deliver messages and build policy influence is an operation that involves the strategic cultivation of alliances across politicians, philanthropists, and corporate actors. The working relationship between a celebrity and a strategic consulting firm is only one of the many relationships that both reflect and facilitate the neoliberal politics that are becoming entrenched in development and humanitarian work. The public and private sectors become increasingly friendly arenas to celebrities (Brockington 2014; Richey and Ponte 2011). These linkages will culminate in the promotion of celebrity strategic partnerships. In this chapter, we have also demonstrated how celebrity humanitarians do not operate under the same constraints as other advocates and organizations. A novice humanitarian focusing on a neglected region might have faced challenges in amassing resources and support for a new venture. Critically, Affleck aimed to create a new organization, rather than direct the attention of an existing advocacy network toward his issue. Yet, compared to other Congo-­related organizations operating with small budgets, as shown in chapter 2, Affleck’s organization, directed by williamsworks, found early sources of funding amounting to millions of dollars in multiyear commitments, along with high-­level endorsements.109 Nor would ECI need to wait to gain popular support, since the organization does not depend on a donating public to fund its mission. These ample resources eased Affleck’s access to political elites, with funds spent on lobbying that earned early and repeated invitations to address Congress as a witness speaking on behalf of the Congo. Diverging from traditional understandings of issue selection (Carpenter 2014; Coley 2013), factors such as entrepreneur attributes,

Choosing the Congo  • 107

intranetwork relations, and organizational resources played a lesser role in launching ECI. A close look at the decision-­making process behind Affleck’s adoption of the Congo in this context shows how the celebrity himself acted as the “adopter” and “entrepreneur” (Carpenter 2014). Reflecting elite practices, Affleck selected his own issue with the help of expert advice, chose to ignore established organizations, and created an organization focused on a region of a country that had long been at the margins of advocacy efforts. First, while most causes are “pushed” onto the advocacy stage by interest groups that believe they are important, Affleck did not respond to “issue entrepreneurs”—­no one seemed to have “sold” the Congo as the cause for him. Meanwhile, the Congo’s issue attributes in terms of the severity of the crisis were important, but Affleck did not choose the Congo to reinforce prior attention or serve a network priority. His choice met with approval from those who saw his decision as embodying a sense of integrity rather than following trends; one newspaper intoned, “Celeb do-­goodism often is faddish—­ever hear of a star taking up a cause that’s not already popular?”110 Moreover, he chose to focus on the eastern section of the Congo, a region that was suffering from a precarious political and security situation exacerbated by a thin government presence and dozens of armed groups that were never fully demobilized (see Quick 2015). As one longtime humanitarian worker observed, “Because of the way the world is, we tend to focus on certain areas and Congo was pushed to the background. Now [it’s] at the forefront. The situation is still awful so the fact that he’s actually working here is keeping it in the public eye. And at the government level, which is good.”111 The combination of the organizational platform of ECI married to political and financial capital enabled Affleck to innovate thinking on the Congo achieving a degree of disruption that stands in contrast to the amplification of traditional practices. ECI’s organizational design strikes a more nuanced orientation toward the Congo, with its grant-­making and advocacy strategies mutually reinforcing ways to affect both local and U.S. approaches to development. Through narrative analysis, we showed that, rather than reinforce the dominant narratives on the Congo, Affleck adopted alternative frames, to some degree. Relying on prevailing framings of the Congo’s conflicts,

108  •  Choosing the Congo Table 3. Disruption or Amplification Disruption Amplification Chose Eastern Congo

Picked a cause in Africa

Combines advocacy with grant-making

Limited traceability of local grant-making

Did not name the organization after himself

Celebrity founder receives top billing

Contends with the dominant narrative on Congo

Degree of contention based on audience

Focuses on security-sector reform and Some reference to social and economic elections development Has no strategic partnerships for selling merchandise

Reliance on elite funders

Set up a local staff and offices

Use of a strategic management firm

outlined earlier in this chapter and in chapter 2, as well as customary practices for celebrity humanitarianism (Brockington 2014; Richey 2016), Affleck might have been expected to simply adopt commonly held narratives. Instead, a close reading reveals more contention than expected, depending in part on which audience his performance is intended to persuade. While ECI has adopted some alternate understandings and proposals for the Congo in its reports and publications, Affleck’s public engagement as spokesperson forces him to search out and sustain attention from diverse audiences, and, indeed, his discourses through media appearances and testimonials tend to reinforce dominant Congo narratives. In its first years of operation, Affleck and his organization aimed to lay the bedrock for a new approach to the Congo, one that did not visibly involve dominant story lines or injunctions to engage in compassionate commerce. Compared to other organizations focused on the Congo discussed in chapter 2, Affleck gained a firmer footing to become a leading voice on the Congo. In the next chapter, we will see how Affleck went on to establish new relationships across the state, the market, and the public. At the same time, his engagement with alternative narratives reached its limits in light of shifting conditions on the ground. This would lead to a a course correction, moving from a focus on security-­sector reform to highlighting economic development, and the need to produce a different solution, namely celebrity strategic partnerships.

4 MARKETING THE CONGO Products That Sell Development

. . .

It wasn’t so much about the presumption of merely stepping into the Eastern Congo, adding an American perspective to “re-­building” the damages to the Eastern Congolese spirit, but rather, funding the character of these marvelous people in their ability and focus in helping themselves. —­Tim Girvin, Girvin Marketing Company website It’s neither charity nor aid, it’s good business for the Congolese and it’s paying off for this American company [Theo Chocolate]. —­Testimony by Ben Affleck, founder, Eastern Congo Initiative, at 2014 hearing, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee

“Of all places, why Congo?” asks the narrator of the four-­minute CBS News video introducing the Theo Chocolate Bar made from 100 percent Congo-­sourced fair trade cocoa.1 Joe Whinney, founder and CEO of Theo Chocolate,2 responds with a smile, saying, “Well, it was really Ben Affleck’s fault.” The narrator voice-over says, “Yes, that Ben Affleck” as the film shows Whinney educating Affleck as they handle a harvest of raw cocoa beans, an image of the Argo-­look Affleck, reproduced as part of the chocolate maker’s media kit.3 We hear the unseen voice of a narrator: “In 2009 Affleck started a charity called Eastern Congo Initiative to spur economic development in this wartorn region. Five million people have died here due to decades of conflict.”4 The scene of the video shifts to Affleck, interviewed in front of a propeller plane: “As I was reading, and I just sort of stumbled   • 109

110  •  Marketing the Congo

onto some of these statistics and I was struck, not only by the numbers, but by the fact that, you know, I hadn’t heard about it.” The video moves to a low-­tech meeting room in the Congo full of Congolese listening to a white, female presenter. The narrator explains: “So Affleck decided to use his celebrity as a sort of currency to attract investment”; the camera shows Affleck listening intently, seated next to two middle-­aged, very casually dressed white men. The camera then shows this group of Americans and Congolese guides walking down a footpath, past a Congolese soldier with a rifle in hand, to a group of cocoa trees. “[Affleck] led a small group of philanthropists protected by armed guards through a jungle where cacao trees thrive and farmers struggle.” The short film continues with a brief explanation of how to remove cocoa beans from the pods—­a prelude to the final message by Affleck. In a casual T-­shirt with windblown hair and with the rural Congo in the background, Affleck explains neoliberal development and the workings of his convening power: “We have brought these people together. They’re selling to a chocolate company in the United States . . . uhh . . . those markets have been completely closed off to them in the past. It’s not just aid, it’s investment.” Affleck slaps his hand to emphasize the point. Esco Kivu, the source of cocoa for this chocolate-­based development vision, is a private company responsible for the extension and support of 1,400 small farmers in Watalinga and has been operating in Eastern Congo since 1970.5 However, the reason U.S. markets have been “closed off” to Congolese suppliers is not part of the discussion. Privatized development in which security is paramount and engagement with global markets is the mechanism for success is at the core of Affleck’s celebrity narratives. The video scene shifts to show camouflaged soldiers, and the politics of military conflict are reintroduced with the narration, “Investment in an area not far from where rebels recently took over a regional capital. But cacao is known as a militia resistant crop. The beans are not usually stolen by rebels because they are worthless without all the processing to turn them into chocolate.”6 This narrative allows viewers to remove their chocolate bars from the politics of poverty and violent conflict that their purchase is meant to help. It is important that cacao is “militia resistant” so as to deflect any possible questions

Marketing the Congo  • 111

over whether contributing capital to people in conflict risks supporting the conflict itself. Similar claims around “traceability” are made around “conflict-­free” diamonds and minerals.7 Away from the violent masculinity of an unexplained “Africa,” American consumers can be alone with Ben Affleck, “good” business, and deserving Congolese women farmers, for whom chocolate is a main source of income. After a comment on how difficult but worthy business is in the Congo, two rural Congolese women are shown from a side view as Whinney hands them a small piece (of what we assume is the five-­ dollar “Congo Bar” brought over from Seattle). “You’ve never tasted chocolate?” he says in a tone that implies confirmation of facts already known. “What do you think?” “It’s OK,” says one of the women, laughing. “Just OK?” laughs Whinney, and the film ends. On the Theo Congo Bars website, there is a similar photographic image with the caption: “Joe sharing cacao with Congolese farmers.” The photo shows five women and three small children smiling behind the image of the CEO in a relaxed stance and casual clothing, an electronic device clipped to his back pocket; he appears to be about to hand something out. Critical viewers may question whose cacao they are actually sharing. How can Joe, on a Congolese cacao farm, be “sharing” cacao that, we are led to believe, is farmed on small plots for exporting to the United States, the profit from which will remain with the women? Is it not the Congolese farmers’ cacao to begin with, so these women should in fact be “sharing” with Joe? However, in this visual utopia, everyone is relaxed and sharing the fruits of successful trade relations: men and women, Americans and Congolese, rich and poor, farmers and CEOs. There are notably no Congolese men to disrupt the imaginary of a single well-­intentioned actor with technology and know-­how who can train and trade away the repercussions of a complex history in three steps simple enough to fit on a chocolate label: act, heal, rebuild. Susan Sontag reminds us of the complicity involved in such representations: “The imaginary proximity to the suffering inflicted on others that is granted by images suggests a link between the far-­away sufferers—­seen close-­ up on the television screen—­and the privileged viewer that is simply untrue, that is yet one more mystification of our real relations to power” (2003, 102).

112  •  Marketing the Congo

Celebrity strategic partnerships require adaptability and acceleration toward development outcomes that can be measured as profit. Even though ECI positioned itself initially as an innovative organization with two mission objectives, advocacy and granting, it rapidly adapted to market demands. In the language used by Affleck in his presentations to the U.S. Congress and other elite audiences, the word “partnership” originally referred to ECI’s funding for local community-­based organizations in Eastern Congo. But these “partnerships” soon gave way, adapting to a different type of celebrity strategic partnership that linked ECI to U.S.-­based companies. Two years after its founding, ECI promoted its first product as part of a strategic partnership, a chocolate bar from Theo Chocolate sold to generate funds for ECI and to raise awareness of development problems in the Congo. This step would be followed by partnerships with TOMS and, more spectacularly, Starbucks. At the same time, Affleck would subtly modify his advocacy narratives to promote investment from the United States as a solution for promoting Congolese development. This move toward the buying and selling of goods signaled a shift in ECI’s organizational objectives and in Affleck’s role. Rather than promoting a vision for the Congo based on increasing U.S. political engagement and small-­scale organizational support, Affleck would open up the Congo for American business. Celebrity strategic partnerships have symbolic effects through their narratives, deployed to explain the world of helping for consumer publics and elites. In chapter 2, we discussed the ways celebrity humanitarians contend with narratives about causes as ambassadors and spokespersons for humanitarian agencies and NGOs. While NGOs have long been studied for how they impart ideas about human rights, development, and humanitarianism through campaigns, charitable appeals, and advocacy messages (see Smith and Yanacopulos 2004; McLagan and McKee 2012), the sources of these narratives are being expanded. We now must consider how companies—­in cooperation with marketing firms—­communicate “helping” through the “affective visibility” of celebrity humanitarians. Celebrity strategic partnerships are situated within a universe of popular culture, entertainment, and social media that plays a role in shaping public perceptions around charitable donations, support for international NGOs,

Marketing the Congo  • 113

public policy, overseas development aid, and global solidarity (Lewis et al. 2014). NGO and corporate campaigns combined encourage consumers to get involved in “helping” through the marketplace—­ by making a purchase, learning more about the brand, or volunteering. These public perceptions are further curated and reinforced with the presence of a celebrity humanitarian and the added legitimacy of his/her organization. Numerous NGOs led by celebrities (see Budabin et al. 2017) have entered into strategic partnerships, and today’s marketplace is inundated with products like Affleck’s chocolate “Congo Bars.” Linked to celebrities, products are sold with promises to give aid to worthy beneficiaries and provide “good feelings” to consumers, all while promoting the brands of corporations and NGOs alike (Richey and Ponte 2011). As we discussed in the introduction and in chapter 1, celebrity strategic partnerships are neoliberalism’s solution to international development challenges that expand the Brand Aid model by seeking to address humanitarian crises through the linking of privatized politics of consumption to global change (see Richey and Ponte 2011; Ponte and Richey 2014; Budabin 2020). Here, we look at ECI’s work with Theo Chocolate and TOMS, which elevated Affleck as the main spokesperson for this neoliberal intervention. Chapter 4 uses the Brand Aid conceptual model (see Richey and Ponte 2011) to explore how celebrities and their organizations convene strategic partnerships, represent causes to both elites and the mass public through marketing, and, in the process, endorse business solutions to development. We suggest that celebrity convening power is instrumental in marshaling the financial capital of corporate partners, gaining access to mainstream media and political spheres to promote the business solution to popular and elite audiences. We demonstrate how Affleck and the Eastern Congo Initiative slowly came to rely on the “transformative” potential of a business model as a more workable and scalable approach to development after it became clear from events taking place in the Congo that the security sector was not amenable to swift policy changes and that the small grants were not going to be used effectively. Using a narrative analysis, we track Affleck’s promotional efforts wherein a celebrity co-­ opts the language of humanitarianism (“militia-­proof chocolate”)

114  •  Marketing the Congo

and the market to advance development. We then look at Affleck’s discourses in elite spheres to reinforce strategic partnerships as an effective approach for saving the Congo. See Appendix A for more details on the method.

Celebrity-­Led Organizations and Strategic Partnerships The original Brand Aid conceptual model drew attention to the convening power of celebrity figures in making strategic partnerships happen (Richey and Ponte 2011). But the relationship gets more complicated when A-­list celebrities with access to policymaking spheres and their own organizations get involved in long-­term development partnerships. As we argued in chapter 3, celebrity-­led organizations must be taken seriously as new actors, ones that operate from positions of greater legitimacy (Budabin et al. 2017). While many celebrities have used their organizations to participate in policymaking spheres, social movements, and granting, it has become quite common for these organizations to promote selling stuff. For celebrities with advocacy goals and organizations to back their lobbying, the “selling of stuff to help” becomes a narrative of market-­based solutions that is heard in policy spheres (Budabin 2020). Thus, there is greater potential for narratives in support of celebrity strategic partnerships to circulate and gain traction. Table 4 shows the popularity of celebrity strategic partnerships, modeled on Brand Aid initiatives that support either the celebrity’s organization or the grantee organizations that are, in turn, supported by celebrity foundations. The celebrity strategic partnership is often included under the “Get Involved” section or in its own “Shop to Support” section. In some cases, the items are linked to the cause (as with mothering products for Christy Turlington Burns’s Every Mother Counts) or the site of helping (as with Affleck and Hugh Jackman’s sale of coffee beans). Other shopping lists offer items with no connection to the cause or site; Bono, Matt Damon, Elton John, and Akon offer luxury name-­branded products such as computers, umbrellas, clothing, and jewelry. Some celebrities direct us to their official sites to make purchases in support of their organizations; Madonna appears in lingerie and garters above her humble “Raising

Home country Organization

Target Countries Issue Areas Marketing Slogan

Akon 2007 U.S./ Konfidence Senegal and Health, Senegal Foundationi the U.S. education

Partnership with H&M’s Fashion Against AIDS Global Ad Campaign; jewelry line

Exclusive Raising Malawi T-shirts for sale on the official store of Madonna

Madonna 2006 U.S. Raising Malawig Malawi

“Fashion against AIDS!”j

T-shirt with front/back slogans “I am raising Malawi / We are raising Malawi.”h

“Shop. Give water. Change Lives.”f

Shop to Support: computers, concert tickets, online games, carpet cleaning

Matt 2006 U.S. water.org Africa, Central Poverty, access Damon (originally H20 America, to safe water Africa)e South Asia and sanitation Health, poverty, education, community support

“Eat. Drink. Shop. Live (RED). Save Lives.”d

Partnerships with Each gift purchased helps us well-known brands, create an AIDS-free future.b designers, and artists to sell “exclusive gifts”; also in collaboration with RED

Celebrity Strategic Partnership

Bono 2002 Ireland ONE Campaignc Worldwide Poverty and (RED)Campaign with focus on preventable Africa disease

Elton John 1992 U.S./U.K. Elton John Worldwide Healthcare AIDS access Foundationa

Celebrity Founder Year

Table 4. Celebrity Strategic Partnerships

Home country Organization

Target Countries Issue Areas

Hugh 2011 U.S. Laughing Man Worldwide Jackman Foundations

Community Sells Ethiopian support, poverty, coffee and teat education, entrepreneurship

“Make every cup count.” “Every purchase helps coffee farmers.”—Hugh Jackman

Purchase a product to help provide life-saving resources to mothers in need.r

Get Involved: Shop with extensive list of “Orange Rose” partners who offer branded items ranging from bags to baby wraps and robes.q

Christy 2010 U.S. Every Mother Worldwide Health, education, Turlington Countsp social development Burns (project of New Venture Fund)

“For every TOMS + CTAOP product purchased, TOMS will donate $5.00 to CTAOP in support of programs working to help African youth keep themselves safe from HIV/AIDS.”m

Marketing Slogan

Theo: “You can help support our efforts and improve more lives by choosing Theo Congo bars as your chocolate fix.”o

Cash donations; TOMS x Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (2016)l footwear and bag collaboration

Celebrity Strategic Partnership

Ben Affleck 2010 U.S. Eastern Congo Democratic Economic Theo Chocolate, Initiativen Republic of and social TOMS, Lush, the Congo development Starbucks

Charlize 2008 U.S. Charlize Theron Countries Entrepreneurship, Theron Africa Outreach throughout healthcare k Program Africa (project of New Venture Fund)

Celebrity Founder Year

Table 4. Celebrity Strategic Partnerships (continued)

“Help support the Clara Lionel Foundation and their education, health, and emergency programs worldwide. Donate or shop the merchandise below.”w

Sources: a http://newyork.ejaf.org/ b https://london.ejaf.org/shop/ c https://www.one.org/international/about/ d https://www.red.org/ e http://water.org/about/ f https://water.org/about-us/ways-donate/shop-support/ g http://www.raisingmalawi.org/about-us/#about-us-2 h https://madonna.fanfire.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/Store.woa/wa/artist?sourceCode=MDNWEBWWUSD&categoryName=Raising+Malawi&artist Name=Madonna i http://konfidence.org/ j http://konfidence.org/pdf%20files/FAA_Press_Rel_us.pdf k http://charlizeafricaoutreach.org/our-story/ l https://footwearnews.com/2016/influencers/collaborations/charlize-theron-toms-collaboration-charity-work-interview-226625/ m http://www.shoeography.com/2016/07/toms-charlize-theron-africa-outreach.html n http://www.easterncongo.org/about o http://americanwater.blogspot.com/2013/04/lately-snacking-onchocolate.html p https://www.everymothercounts.org/pages/learn q https://www.everymothercounts.org/pages/shop r https://www.everymothercounts.org/pages/get-involved s http://laughingmanfoundation.org/phone/our-mission.html t https://www.worldvision.com.au/global-issues/work-we-do/poverty/hugh-jackman-laughing-man-and-dukales-dream u https://claralionelfoundation.org/ v http://www.rihannanow.com/clf-store/?ref=https%3A//claralionelfoundation.org/join/ w http://www.rihannanow.com/clf-store/

Rihanna 2012 Barbados Clara Lionel Worldwide Education, health, Clara Lionel Foundationu arts and culture Foundation Storev

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Malawi” shirts. The visual presentation and the objects themselves offer a familiar picture: a celebrity hawking her/himself along with endorsed wares. These celebrity strategic partnerships are based on the cause-­ related marketing model. As discussed in chapter 1, the promotional material must empower us as consumers—­now also political agents—­ to take action with our wallets. We are urged by Elton John’s organization to “create an AIDS-­free future,” by Matt Damon’s organization to “change lives,” and by Bono to “save lives.” These exhortations make our purchase a life-­or-­death matter. Here the commodification of needy causes and distant others is linked to the figure of the celebrity, backed by an organization, whose helping goes unquestioned and whose organization’s impact is assumed. We are invited to “get involved” and to “shop to support” through this market for helping. Some organizations do include opportunities to volunteer, take political action, learn more about the issue, and read stories about the recipients. The widespread reliance on “merch” for sale signals the deep entwining of celebrity material culture and the development landscape where the consumer public becomes a new source of funding and legitimizing force for the celebrity’s organization and vision. As with many Brand Aid initiatives, data on the proportion of the purchase cost that goes to the cause or the eventual distribution of donations are unclear (Richey and Ponte 2011).8 Are our dollars really going to the most effective interventions? Or the ones with the coolest celebrity founders? Looking to celebrity organizations to “shop to support” development causes through these Brand Aid initiatives touches on many of the critiques of cause-­related marketing. There is an implicit expectation that the purchase will “do good” and reward our actions as “heroic” with low costs to us. The individual-­centered nature of the endeavor is heightened; while celebrity supporters may be drawn from an existing “fan base,” actions are taken singly and without coordination. Consumer apparel such as footwear and T-­shirts is a superficial way of linking the purchaser to the celebrity’s or the cause’s “fan base” through the purchaser’s outer appearance (Budabin 2017). Finally, the fan-­consumer-­activist is following the directive of a celebrity figure without listening to those affected, though stories are sometimes

Marketing the Congo  • 119

included to give metaphor to the Brand Aid products. The empowering language embedded in celebrity-­assisted marketing emphasizes consumer heroism that absolves the mass public of any further responsibility in either causing or benefiting from the situation afflicting the distant “others” at the receiving end of the public’s largesse.9 Except that these celebrity strategic partnerships are invested with the power to save lives. We can see how the marketing slogans are insistent on narrating the urgent connection between shopping and change. Wilson argues in her work on neoliberal culture that “today marketers and communication specialists are indispensable political operatives” (2018, 187). Behind ECI lie communications firms like Girvin, specializing in strategic branding and design, that market the vision of the organization linking, in their words, “brand, story, authenticity and truth in cause-­related marketing.”10 Girvin was responsible for developing ECI’s logo and offering strategic branding guidance; the firm sees its role as taking a humanitarian cause and transforming it into a “humanitarian brand” where the “branded story” is “one visualization that distinctly imparts the highly charged emotional appeal of any passionate story.”11 Wilson observes that, rather than providing information, communications are meant to be “strategic, instrumental, and persuasive . . . to market different platforms of social action” (2018, 187–­88). In the following analysis, we show examples from ECI’s work in which consumerism becomes the path to social action for helping save the Congo. The products are themselves delinked from the helping initiative (TOMS Shoes) as well as from the recipients helped by the purchase (Theo Chocolate). These celebrity strategic partnerships demonstrate how celebrities are bringing in not only new sources of funds and new actors to development but also consumer-­publics. Further, celebrities with organizations are able to use their platforms to promote the effectiveness of market-­based solutions to elite audiences.

Buying into Ben Affleck’s Congo: Theo Chocolate In 2011, ECI partnered with Theo Chocolate “to give cocoa farmers in Eastern Congo access to the international market and to increase the quality of life for their families and communities.”12 According to

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the ECI website, this partnership has sourced enough cacao to make fifteen million chocolate bars.13 Two “Congo Bars” named “Pili Pili Chili” and “Vanilla Nib” are made in Seattle with 100 percent of their cocoa sourced from the Congo; they are wrapped in warm orange and yellow labels under the heading “Act, Heal, Rebuild” and the ECI logo. Another flavor, “coffee & cream,” came out in 2015 and included the following text on the back: “The sun is rising in the Democratic Republic of Congo after years of conflict and violence” (see Figure 10).14 There is also a message from Affleck telling us to “Be part of the solution—­get involved” with the website of ECI. The Congo Bars are sold online via the Theo website and in Whole Foods stores in the United States for $4.99 (a dollar more than the other ethical Theo bars). According to the “fact sheet,” “A portion of proceeds will be donated to ECI to help improve livelihoods in Eastern Congo.”15 Here we see how the actual details on how much funding is generated by these products is vague and typically relates to a donation determined after profit is made. A section of the website titled “Why Congo, Why Cocoa, Why Now” explains how decades of political violence and exploitation, global and local, in the Congo can be converted into prospects for “partnership” and caring: “Theo and ECI recognized an opportunity to help Eastern Congo emerge from violence, poverty, and disease by joining forces with local farmers to cultivate cocoa.”16 The notion of “partnership” reflects neoliberal discourses inflected with the language of business (Lynch 2013). In this vision of development, Eastern Congo is “emerging” from its imagined depths of inexplicable oppression (thus there is no need to explain it). Notably, the country is also moving toward expanding market cooperation with the United States (and not toward Asia, where much of Africa is now expanding its markets). This transformation away from “violence, poverty and disease” is done without radically restructuring the economy: “local farmers” remain both “local” and “farmers”; they do not migrate to urban spaces or diversify into nonfarm activity. In short, the neoliberal development vision is one that keeps conflict, “underdevelopment,” and, ultimately, the Congo, in its “place” in the hierarchy of transnational relations (Ferguson 2006).

Figure 10. Theo Congo Chocolate Bar coffee & cream. Photograph by Alexandra Cosima Budabin.

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During his television promotions for his Academy Award–­winning film Argo, Affleck used a little media time to promote the Congo Bars. The brief sound bites he gave are similar to this one from ABC News. The clip begins with an image of the two bars and Affleck saying: I’ve started this organization called the Eastern Congo Initiative; we fund grassroots organizations in the Eastern Congo which is as you know is a terribly, [host interjects, “So much violence”] wartorn place and we work with these folks at Greenhouse to bring their choco . . . , uh, their cocoa up to the level of international standards and we hook them up with Theo Chocolates and we have a Congo chocolate bar that’s goin’ on sale. You can get it on the Internet, it’ll be at Whole Foods and uh, and so, uh, you can have a beautiful chocolate meal and also help make the world a better place. [“Fantastic,” says the host, shifting the conversation to Affleck’s wife and his desire for a fourth child].17

Here we reproduce the dialogue in its entirety because, simply, nothing more is said about the Congo. In the mainstream U.S. media attention given to Affleck, the Congo is consistently contextualized as the place where a young rebel celebrity, spurred toward repentance through the experience of fatherhood, found his redemption. The Congo takes a stereotypical place in “Africa” as analyzed by Kathryn Mathers, a continent that is originally defined by its poverty but then becomes exemplary as a story of the resilience of human spirit, and particularly an emptied landscape where Americans can find ways to do good (Mathers 2010). The complexity of the Congo’s history is thus “solved” by the neoliberal intervention of a celebrity strategic partnership around chocolate. For example, in an episode from September 2012 of the U.S. show Nightline on ABC, the television host Bill Weir asks Affleck about his efforts on behalf of the Congo: “How goes that fight? Are you still engaged there?” and Affleck, reaching down to pull the candy on screen, replies, “It goes great. In fact, I wanted to give you guys some of our Congo Bars.”18 Affleck repeats the short summary of ECI’s work given in the ABC News interview, but interestingly, in this segment, the next scene shows Hillary Clinton at a podium labeled “Child Survival Call to Action,”

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announcing “Ben Affleck” and walking over to hug him on stage.19 The narrator explains: “While he still lobbies the U.S. government to put diplomatic pressure on Congo to help their people, the Democrat is not campaigning as he did in elections years past.” Affleck explains: Yeah, I got less interested in [traditional politics], the more I was around it, the more I saw, like, it was about money, how much is about raising money, and if you’re a surrogate, you’re there to help raise money and if you’re not, you watch what the campaigns are doing to raise money and I’ve been part of it. I’ve participated in it, but it just depresses me . . . it’s not interesting and it doesn’t reflect well on our democracy.20

The implied message of the shift in images and texts from Hillary Clinton to Affleck’s assessment that campaigning is both “uninteresting” and “doesn’t reflect well on our democracy” may reflect the media outlet’s political partisanship in opposition to the Democratic Party in general or to Hillary Clinton in particular, or both. This is surprising in light of the close ties linking Clinton to both Affleck and Whitney Williams, his ECI cofounder, as described in chapter 3. However, it also skillfully shifts the location of politics from the formal politics, diplomacy, and campaigns that characterized Affleck and ECI’s early work and mission to the personal politics of feelings and consumption (Richey and Budabin 2016). In this mainstream American news clip, Ben Affleck is featured as an embodiment of a neoliberal politics in which “action” is taken by individuals (not states, lobbying groups, or parties) who enact their political values for issues like supporting the Congo through the marketplace. Buying a chocolate bar becomes the mechanism for good politics, while politics is explicitly articulated by Affleck as being “just about money.”

If the Shoe Fits: Affleck and TOMS Join up to Save the Congo The next celebrity strategic partnership for ECI was a Brand Aid initiative with TOMS. TOMS stands for “Tomorrow’s Shoes” and

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refers to the matching pair of shoes that is given away in dozens of countries, including Argentina, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Rwanda, South Africa, and the United States. Regarded as an innovation in corporate helping, TOMS was founded on a social entrepreneurship model in which the cause itself is inextricably linked to the objective of the business, represented by its “Buy One, Give One” (BOGO) marketing strategy. The company was created in May 2006 by Blake Mycoskie (himself a “celebrity”), who became famous for his participation in the American TV show The Amazing Race. The genesis story of the brand is that Mycoskie was in Argentina playing polo when he joined a group of foreigners donating used shoes in a village. This was a life-­changing experience that moved him to start a company that sells an alpargata shoe, which became “the branded product” that was inspired by similar shoes worn by Argentinian farmers and which were priced at twice the product value. Shoes sold in the North at retail cost from $40 to more than $100. The sale of the shoes enables the company to produce, transport, and donate a pair of shoes “to a child in need”21 for every pair purchased by consumers. The shoes are intended to address the lack of resources for children’s health. TOMS’s version of Brand Aid entails the delivery of a commodity to address a development “cause” (see Ponte and Richey 2014). This BOGO marketing strategy links the purchase-­ donation directly with TOMS’s product and brand. It is advertised as “With every product you purchase, TOMS Shoes will help a person in need. One for One®.”22 The company has since expanded its product line to include TOMS Bags and Coffee;23 a line of TOMS glasses is sold in partnership with the Seva Foundation.24 As the first BOGO company, TOMS showed that it was possible to be a sustainable business while having a social impact. In 2014, TOMS was valued at $625 million; a 50 percent stake in the company was sold to Bain Capital LLC.25 The BOGO model has been adopted by more than a dozen companies and continues to grow in popularity (Marquis and Park 2014). TOMS also operated on a partnership model, working with NGOs, foundations, and community-­based organizations in its distribution of shoes. The marriage of this socially minded corporation

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and ECI, a business-­minded nonprofit, came about through brokering from williamsworks, which counted TOMS Shoes as a client. The consulting firm was helping TOMS Shoes coordinate an initiative to address a foot condition called podoconiosis.26 TOMS Shoes also had “product partnerships” with other celebrity organizations such as Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project and Charity: Water (Matt Damon’s organization and another williamsworks client).27 Before the shoe partnership with ECI was launched, Affleck had made a video for TOMS as part of its “One for One” series. He appears in a home setting, surrounded by photographs of what may be the Congo, with the TOMS logo prominently featured. He describes the importance of the awareness-­raising aspect of the strategic partnership: My hope for a better tomorrow is that people hear about these issues and learn to care about them and that all of us in the United States think more broadly and more deeply about our neighbors in the world and see ourselves as not as a place with borders and walls, but as a place where our fates our intertwined and interconnected.28

The message of solidarity put forth here is done under a clever marketing feint. As Phil Hopkins describes them, the One for One videos are “the attempt to ‘brand’ the very act of caring about something under the TOMS aegis” where “caring is proprietary” (2015, 183–­84). In 2012, ECI partnered with TOMS to have shoes distributed to children in the Congo through ECI’s grantees, a set of community-­ based organizations. The shoes were handed out along with an illustrated pamphlet describing the “importance of school and the consequences of belonging to armed groups.”29 This was the message aimed at children in the Congo who were probably already quite familiar with the situation. The narrative directed toward audiences in the North, however, was carried by a set of TOMS special-­ edition shoes in a different tenor. In the classic TOMS alpargata style, the shoes were made with Congolese textiles; each fifty-nine-dollar purchase contributed five dollars to ECI as well as resulted in the donation of a pair of shoes to a child in need.30 An advertisement for the shoe shows the product line photographed against a textile with

126  •  Marketing the Congo

a rough texture, almost a burlap bag; the three types of shoes are illuminated by a spotlight, while the top of the frame shows the logos of TOMS and ECI, linked by an X. The men’s ankle boots have the Congolese textile paired with black cloth. The women’s shoe is draped in blue, yellow, and red stripes, mimicking the colors of the Congolese flag. As the symbol of a celebrity strategic partnership, the shoes “represent a shared commitment to inspiring change for and by the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”31  In the marketing campaign for the shoes, TOMS and ECI championed the benefits of partnering with the private sector, enlisting and endorsing corporations as new actors in development (Richey and Ponte 2014). TOMS’s website described the ECI collaboration as “helping bring shoes and a better future to the region.”32 The company marketed the shoe as “a limited-­edition with a wide appeal.”33 The advertisements show the shoes only and not the intended consumers or the intended recipients. This muted approach contrasts with TOMS’s imagery, which includes “Giving Trips,” where children are featured prominently. The main figure in all the marketing material is Ben Affleck, whose convening power (with the support of williamsworks) made these partnerships happen. The linchpin and story-­telling role of a celebrity humanitarian is on display in the short video that accompanied the strategic partnership materials. Affleck is seen sitting comfortably in a chair in a library while the limited edition shoes are featured on a travel chest next to him and on a bookshelf behind him. After describing ECI and its work, Affleck spins a story of finding TOMS: the company “has always been on my radar” as the “perfect kind of private sector company for us to partner with.”34 This “discovery” fails to disclose the fact that both ECI and TOMS were clients of williamsworks (see Figure 8). The video shows children in the Congo holding up their new pairs of TOMS shoes, black and practical, but not the same as the pairs of shoes for sale in the United States. Affleck describes the “special resonance of the shoes” and how he himself has witnessed the difference the shoes were making in the lives of the children he had met.35 Affleck lauds the “smart business model” used by TOMS (the BOGO model) and describes the two institutions as “kindred spirits.”36 He pronounces TOMS a “perfect partner for

Marketing the Congo  • 127

ECI” and speaks excitedly about the TOMS approach: “All the work we’re doing we think is smart and we think is long-­term investment, but this short-­term impact of getting a shoe right away makes a big difference.”37 The mainstream media were quick to congratulate Affleck (“Do-­ gooder Ben Affleck is at it again!”) and to push the “charitably chic shoes.”38 The headlines link Affleck’s cause and TOMS’s brand (“Product with a Purpose”) and give a prominent place to the celebrity’s endorsement, which tells potential consumers that presumably buying a pair is an act of “getting involved in something, helping others, improving the fabric of the universe.”39 In some outlets, Affleck even gets credit for designing the shoes.40 This particular strategic partnership reinforces the neoliberal approach to development and ignores a vast amount of research on the negative effects of Buy One, Give One models (see Ponte and Richey 2014; Hawkins 2012). The ECI and TOMS celebrity strategic partnership was limited to a collaboration that continued into 2013 and did not reach (or was not pushed to) a high level of visibility.41 There is no information on why the collaboration lasted for only a short time, and we can find no public reckoning of the success or failure of this initiative. This lack of transparency on funds raised and the project’s impact are common features of Brand Aid–­style humanitarian fundraising. We have detected no erosion of Affleck’s credibility in championing strategic partnerships, nor are there any challenges to ECI’s legitimacy. However, what is significant about this particular strategic partnership is how it departs from not only the approach of ECI in its goals to be disruptive but also the theme areas on which the organization had been previously focused. Such a partnership fits into neither the advocacy nor the grant-­making model. The in-­kind donation of shoes and fundraising through product placement are not part of capacity-­building support for community-­based organizations. The short-­term donation of shoes is hardly the long-­term investment that ECI endorses. As a theme area, education is not a focus for ECI advocacy, which was centered on security-­sector reform, maternal newborn and child health, and economic investment. Meanwhile, TOMS did not have the shoes manufactured in the Congo, a missed opportunity to actually invest in the country.

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The celebrity strategic partnership between ECI and TOMS offered the possibility to build each partner’s brands and to leverage fan and consumer bases by promoting a cause through a business solution represented by a celebrity and his organization. Though the collaboration with TOMS failed and fell from public view, the strategic partnership model was still considered viable, and ECI would later expand its “product” line to include Lush Cosmetics42 and Starbucks coffee, as we will see in the next chapter.

Shifting Narratives from Security to Neoliberal Development This section discusses ECI’s marked transition from tackling security-­ sector reform in the Congo to promoting business solutions. In the first years, the use of celebrity strategic partnership convened by Affleck and ECI as an approach to saving the Congo seemed to be merely a side project to ECI’s policy-­oriented efforts and its push for high-­level diplomatic engagement. The policy sector remained important, as we shall see, but Affleck and ECI adopted a new tack in their advocacy, switching to narratives suffused with neoliberal discourses. The promotion of market-­based solutions reflects not only a widening of approaches but also a shift in the mission of ECI from humanitarianism to development that is partly related to changes in both the North and the South. In the North, Affleck had created a two-­pronged organization that let him leverage local partnerships for advocacy in policy-­making spheres. As we discussed in chapter 3, with the creation of his organization, Affleck was quickly vaulted to celebrity expert, offering testimony before Congress, writing op-­eds, and appearing in various media. In his lobbying and media appearances, Affleck presented his vision for “solving” the crisis, contending with hegemonic frames on the Congo. For the most part, in the first years of the organization, ECI and Affleck’s priority areas for “solving” the Congo focused on advocacy around the security sector and elections, along with grant support to community-­based organizations. In some ways, this mission straddled various levels of governance. The first white paper, titled “Strengthening United States Foreign Policy in the Democratic

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Republic of the Congo,” reflected a state-­focused approach.43 Other reports focused on the Congo’s national elections and security-­sector reform.44 A 2013 Report Card rated the efforts of the Congolese authorities and the international community in working toward the recommendations made by ECI. Through 2013, when Affleck or ECI staff testified at hearings related to security and foreign aid, the substantive focus was on security-­sector reform (see Appendix B).45 Later, the emphasis on the security sector seemed to weaken. It is likely that the weakening of the security reform narrative reflected two crises in the Congo that revealed the limits of ECI’s approach. First, the 2011 elections in the Congo were contested but accepted, somewhat begrudgingly, by Northern countries that had been insistent on holding the elections. Berwouts noted that rather than “consolidate democracy,” the elections had been held “to consolidate power” in President Kabila (2017, 103), and concluded that “international partners had not been able to bring positive change” (Berwouts 2017, 104). The outcome was a Congolese state that had managed to pull off elections but that remained fragile and insecure. In response to the insecurity in the wake of the 2011 elections, armed groups in Eastern Congo felt the need to remobilize and prepare themselves (Berwouts 2017, 105). Defecting soldiers mutinied against the Congolese national army and named themselves M23, which referred to the date of a peace agreement signed in 2009; the rebels saw a lack of political will in the government’s implementation of the agreement (Berwouts 2017, 113). Human rights groups reported that the M23 were committing crimes against humanity and war crimes, prompting many people to take flight as international displaced persons.46 Then, in November 2012, M23 violently took Goma, the capital city of North Kivu. Negotiations with MONUSCO had failed, revealing the peacekeeping mission as ineffective; the region was now under threat of “new escalation and a possible war” (Berwouts 2017, 123). It is possible that this second crisis signaled that ECI’s efforts and Affleck’s advocacy were no match for the problems related to resolving the security issue in Eastern Congo. ECI’s original humanitarian objectives around peace and security were then shifted to economic development.47

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Hints of this course correction were seen first in the discourses of ECI’s elite supporters. As part of its lobbying, ECI had organized junkets to the Congo for U.S. politicians, USAID officials, philanthropists, and journalists, some of which were personally led by Affleck (Budabin 2016). The overall picture gained from the U.S. officials’ experience in Eastern Congo was circumscribed—­the trips offered a quick survey of the country led by ECI. These visits did not involve diplomatic meetings with state officials; rather, they were characterized by a focus on the Congo civil-­society sector. There were some meetings with political officials, but the emphasis, drawn from ECI’s own work, was on community-­based organizations. While political elites in the United States are regarded as powerful actors, ECI feels otherwise about those in the political sphere in the Congo. These visits from the North were without reciprocation—­there is no report of Congolese officials traveling to the United States to meet with their counterparts or to lobby for themselves. Media coverage of these trips was also limited to controlled interactions that allowed little opportunity for pushback from Congress, let alone the Congolese. For example, following the trip, U.S. representative Adam Smith chose to submit his own post for the Huffington Post blog rather than meet with a journalist and face challenges to his positions.48 What is notable in Representative Smith’s blog post was his adoption of ECI’s approach and its shift toward economic development. Representative Smith emphasized the hopeful efforts of the Congolese people and how “it’s their promise in which the United States must invest.”49 Then he turned to the agriculture sector, highlighting cocoa and coffee production and the need to “provide access to international markets.” Smith returned to the U.S. position, saying: It is in our financial interest to create and grow opportunities for investment. With the U.S. private sector leading the way, USAID should do its part to support and encourage sustainable economic investment, particularly in the east.50

These trips and the subsequent reinforcement by junket members demonstrate the convening power displayed by Affleck among elites in

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the United States as ECI began to refocus U.S. foreign policy toward the Congo on economic investment. This new narrative on the Congo was on display when Affleck testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (his third appearance before Congress; see Appendix B) in 2014 and invoked the strategic partnership with Theo Chocolate. He reported on improvements in the situation in Eastern Congo, urged strong U.S. leadership, and made five recommendations. The first four recommendations spoke to diplomatic engagement: support for Special Envoy Feingold, assistance for MONUSCO, White House engagement with President Kabila, and U.S. support for free elections. The final recommendation was directed at USAID and called for the agency “to scale up its economic development initiatives in eastern Congo.”51 He then went on to describe how ECI had trained cocoa farmers to grow a quality product suited for export in the global market. This promotion and belief in foreign investment was unequivocal, Affleck emphasized: USAID should be encouraged to invest in more programs like these. Targeted investment in promising Congolese-­driven solutions can and will drive economic growth and create jobs.52

Not content to leave this as a recommendation, Affleck concluded his testimony by describing the “extraordinary opportunity that exists in the Congo” and recounting the story of Theo Chocolate, the example that began this chapter. Affleck highlighted Theo’s sourcing of 50 percent of its cocoa from the Congo and its subsequent status as “the fastest growing organic, fair-­trade chocolate company in the U.S.” In Affleck’s summary lines, he argued that this type of partnership is “neither charity nor aid, it’s good business for the Congolese and it’s paying off for this American company.”53 The dual-­payoff language of “win-­win-­ism” presented by Affleck—­of economic development for Eastern Congo and ample returns on U.S. investment—­is proof positive of the value of the business model for development (Giridharadas 2018). The development narrative put forth is steeped in neoliberal discourses that justify private actors and market-­based approaches. What is lacking here is the input of the Congolese, but Affleck’s firsthand testimony and witnessing are

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meant to lead audiences to believe that he speaks “for” the people of the Congo in their absence. Affleck’s testimony before the Senate promotes his vision for the Congo and offers a celebrity representation of business solutions, with its emphasis on supporting U.S. corporations. ECI’s shift to development was also reflected in a collaboration established with USAID in 2013. As mentioned in chapter 3, ECI conducted a Landscape Analysis of community-­based organizations. The report is available as an online, searchable database that “gives policy leaders, investors, and analysts much-­needed insight into the workings and nature of work being done to create a sustainable and successful society in eastern Congo.”54 The USAID press release of the landscape analysis emphasized its abilities to link donors and philanthropists to local Congo organizations “stuck at the bottom of the funding chain.”55 The collaboration between ECI and USAID is another useful example of the new landscape for development, in which celebrity humanitarians provide legitimacy to the work of traditional actors by marketing their approaches. The presentation of the landscape analysis thus provided strategic communications by an award-­winning film star on behalf of a perennially unpopular U.S. government organization. On its website, USAID had video links to Affleck introducing ECI, the landscape analysis, and prominent Congolese NGOs with their directors. These legitimized the work of the celebrity humanitarian and emphasized collaborations with ECI. Together, the two organizations aimed to build a robust development alliance that would channel the support of public entities, philanthropists, private-­sector companies, and foundations to community-­based organizations working on the ground in Eastern Congo. In time, the shift to development became institutionalized as the third pillar of ECI’s advocacy objectives under the title “Economic Investment.” The aim here was “to increase the investment from the American corporate sector in eastern Congo through partnerships, education and outreach.”56 ECI’s turn away from security reform and toward Brand Aid was also reflected in the mining of contacts and networks provided by williamsworks. Seattle, the location of the firm, would be revealed as especially strategic, with locals such as

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Representative Adam Smith, Theo Chocolate, the Gates Foundation, and Starbucks Coffee (among others) becoming partners and allies of ECI (see Figure 8). Other ECI board members would be drawn from clients such as Google.org, the Nike Foundation, and Starbucks.57 Within the U.S. context, Affleck’s convening power would enable elite networks across the political, financial, and philanthropic sectors to overlap and reinforce one another, bringing new actors, funding, and ideas to the Congo. In this chapter, we have analyzed the early celebrity strategic partnerships of Ben Affleck and his organization. The new approaches with their representation of business solutions along with the endorsement of private funding had important symbolic effects, in ways that intertwined with ideas for saving the Congo. Marking a shift from humanitarianism to development objectives, ECI’s celebrity strategic partnerships would soon turn from selling militia-­resistant “Congo Bars” and donating shoes to engaging with coffee farmers. Meanwhile, Affleck offered a supporting narrative in appearances before the U.S. Congress and through bipartisan political lobbying. As we described in chapter 2, international interventions in the areas of security and development had real effects on the ground in the Congo, and these interventions were shaped by the discursive constructions of the problem and the solution, even by celebrity humanitarians. Our exploration here suggests that Affleck’s affective representations of the Congo may have implications for these local materialities and for the neoliberalization of development. With the help of marketing firms, celebrity strategic partnerships are bringing entire product lines to the public, raising the profile of ECI’s work and its approach through amplification by celebrity spokespersons. As discussed in chapters 1 and 3, in contrast to other development NGOs, ECI had only minimally involved the public in its fundraising efforts, reflecting the “post-­democratic” politics of celebrity humanitarianism (Budabin 2016; Brockington 2014; Richey and Brockington 2020). But now, visitors to ECI’s website are told “How YOU can support the Congolese people.” And the answer is: “Eat chocolate, drink coffee, support Congolese farmers!” As a second option, visitors are encouraged to support community-­based

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organizations by donating to ECI or exploring the USAID landscape analysis. We are brought to a secure site for donation, where we are encouraged to “Make the Best Investment on Earth.” After being offered a description of dollar values and items (five coffee trees for $25, for example), the new motto is featured: “This is more than charity—­this is good business.” The effects of these celebrity strategic partnerships are thus understood both materially and symbolically—­ with a celebrity promoting such an approach as “smart” to both elite and mass audiences, this idea has the chance to gain greater traction. Overall, the turn to selling stuff to support the Congo is an embrace of neoliberal development, where the U.S. public is brought into contact with a needy other through the market. As an approach to global governance, the motto of “good business rather than charity” champions the role of the private sector in development. By promoting celebrity strategic partnerships, celebrity humanitarians like Ben Affleck are claiming to “disrupt” traditional development thinking and practices. Yet, as our book has shown, business has already been brought in by international organizations as a legitimate actor; meanwhile, market-­based solutions are not especially innovative considering the legacy of fair trade. The vision promoted by Affleck through these celebrity strategic partnerships advances the neoliberalization of development by underscoring the importance of private actors, drawn from philanthropic and corporate worlds to work with traditional aid actors such as USAID and community-­based organizations in the Congo. Still, the figure of the celebrity humanitarian, with his or her convening power to assemble strategic partnerships and the ability to gain a high-­status platform from which to promote advocacy narratives, will propel this “disruptive” solution to development to new heights. With the visibility offered by a celebrity humanitarian like Affleck and the platform of ECI, these narratives will constitute the presentation of a “disruptive” vision, a simplified narrative for “solving the Congo” that valorizes business solutions to development problems as an “everybody wins” proposition. To argue for and to gain purchase for this approach, Affleck moved his advocacy from the political stage to the marketplace. He continues to rely on elite networks and support, but, now, popular engagement from consumers

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is needed. Before they started sipping Starbucks coffee sourced in the Congo, ethical shoppers had already begun to follow Affleck’s encouragement of neoliberal interventions by buying a “Congo Bar” to support Congolese farmers or by donning a pair of TOMS shoes to automatically donate a pair of shoes to “a child in need.” Endorsed by appearances in mainstream media and high-­level policy arenas, these partnerships set the stage for the larger, more ambitious collaboration with Starbucks and other development actors, as we shall see in the next chapter.

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5 SAVING CONGOLESE COFFEE Celebrities and the Business Model for Development

. . .

Involvement by the world’s largest coffee company is a clear testament to what’s possible for Congo. This is not charity or aid in the traditional sense, it’s good business. —­Testimony by Ben Affleck at 2015 hearing, U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Click this link to help Congolese farmers win 25K from Starbucks!  —­Eastern Congo Initiative electronic newsletter

In May 2016, Town and Country magazine featured a story called “The Advisors Guiding the World’s Top Philanthropists,” which included a large photograph of Whitney Williams looking on attentively behind a suit-­and tie-­clad Ben Affleck. The full extent of the brief yet controversial summary of Williams’s prowess as a philanthropic advisor is quoted here: Grand Plan: The williamsworks founder helps the high-­profile (Bill Gates, Hillary Clinton) put their money and influence to seriously good use. Making Headlines: With Ben Affleck, she co-­founded the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), which oversees millions in grants and lobbies Washington (leading President Obama to commit $271   • 137

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million to the region). With Starbucks, ECI has revitalized the Congolese coffee market, allowing 4,500 farmers to triple their income.1

In just three sentences, the essence of celebrity strategic partnerships is distilled—­high-­ranking political elites (the Clintons, Obama) and philanthropists (Gates) work with big business (Starbucks) to produce successful farmers in the Congo. And this magic is facilitated by an NGO (ECI) founded by a celebrity that oversees the allocations of good money and lobbies Washington to do the right thing. This article was released on the ECI website during a research trip to Kinshasa, and one of the authors shared the Town and Country article with the director of a major aid organization. He emailed a response to her to clarify: “In the article you sent it says ECI and Starbucks revitalized coffee and tripled the income of 4,500 farmers. That was really USAID and Buffett money through CRS to ECI. . . . Stories get twisted all the time. In fact, that’s part of why when I started at [organization name] we didn’t have communication people and now we do.”2 “The dark superhero” Batman helps rescue “the dark continent” while Starbucks ensures strategic sourcing for top-­quality coffee for its new business model and (some) Congolese farmers get washing stations to improve the quality of their coffee (see also Richey and Ponte 2020). In addition to securing the extraordinary opportunities for business outlined in the previous chapter, Affleck claims a heroic revitalization of the Congolese coffee sector on behalf of his organization, ECI. However, the story of Congo coffee is a complex web of traditional aid, community organizations, corporate interests, international NGOs, ECI, and more than one celebrity. In this chapter, we analyze the relationship between a celebrity-­led organization (ECI), the Howard Buffett Foundation, its development partners (USAID, Caritas Bukavu, Catholic Relief Services), a multinational corporation (Starbucks), and their relevant stakeholders (in the Congo, the United States, and Europe). For details on the methods we used in collecting data for this chapter, see Appendix A. As we have traced thus far in the book, Affleck’s work has taken on various forms over time, from televised witnessing to

Saving Congolese Coffee  • 139

appearing before the U.S. Congress, from bipartisan political lobbying (see Budabin and Richey 2018) to the promotion of Brand Aid “Congo Bars” (see Richey and Budabin 2016), and from spearheading his own organization to benefit the Congo (see Budabin et al. 2017) to allying with diverse public and corporate actors in celebrity strategic partnerships. In spring 2016, Starbucks launched its first single-­origin specialty coffee from South Kivu in 1,500 stores across North America and online. The most expensive coffee in Starbucks’s line is funded by a four-­year project from USAID and the Howard G. Buffett foundation. Known as Kahawa Bora, Kiswahili for “Better Coffee,” the project was implemented by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), World Coffee Research (WCR), and Ben Affleck’s ECI. The celebrity-­fueled marketing hype that accompanies the ECI coffee initiative portrays it as “restoring” the former glory of coffee production in the Congo—­after the many years of devastation due to conflict.3 Yet, the initiative was marred by serious internal conflict, almost closed down, and reached only a relatively small group of farmers. Also, it is not clear whether Starbucks will remain engaged in buying the initiative’s coffee beyond the first five-­year commitment. In the meanwhile, other quality-­improvement programs, far larger and less visible, are having a much more widespread—­although not entirely unproblematic—­impact. In this chapter we present a critical case study of ECI’s collaboration with Kahawa Bora to understand the workings of celebrity strategic partnerships and to examine what this case study tells us about the implications of “disruptive” development interventions in the coffee sector. In Affleck’s intervention, celebrity embodies Western consumers’ desire to do good and assumes the consent of a “responsibilized” citizenry of Congolese whose continued “partnership” in Western-­led initiatives endorses the utility of good intentions. The vision promoted by Affleck relies on private–­ public partnerships with a variety of actors, including traditional donors, businesses, and philanthropists, in support of community-­ based organizations working with the Congolese. Yet, Kahawa Bora eventually ends up serving the corporate strategy of Starbucks instead of the Congolese farmers.

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Expanding the Business Solution as ECI’s Alternative Narrative As we demonstrated in chapter 4, for the first few years ECI’s strategic partnerships with Theo Chocolate and TOMS Shoes operated like quaint side projects that were modest in scale. While ECI was launched with a number of objectives around security and maternal and child health, the focus became trained on the area of economic development. ECI’s early partnerships were soon to be dwarfed by its coffee initiative known as “Kahawa Bora,” a project that ran from 2014 to 2017 and involved multiple partners and higher stakes. The project received financing from USAID ($4.19 million) and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation ($1.98 million), with some private contributions from Eastern Congo Initiative and Catholic Relief Services (CRS). The project aimed to elevate smallholder coffee farmers by expanding high-­value market opportunities while also protecting farmers from hunger and environmental degradation. A priority was placed on assisting women farmers. By the end of 2014, ECI had coalesced around an alternative narrative on the Congo that reinforced this new approach. The sound bites from the elite actors within the ECI network began circulating in the media: cofounder Whitney Williams spoke to a reporter about bringing philanthropists and corporations to the Congo to “increase investments in the region” as part of the promotion of the Congo as “a place of massive opportunity.”4 Opportunity is presented as being opportune for Western supporters. Meanwhile, in an interview Affleck gave on Marketplace, he described the effects of traditional aid as “a mixed bag” due to reliance on Western development workers who ran only short-­term projects.5 ECI’s support of the cocoa and coffee industries soon became part of the organization’s mission statement, as featured in media coverage. To disrupt the dominant narrative, ECI’s take was that poverty in the Congo persists because traditional aid models had failed and that the solution was to bring foreign investment to revitalize the coffee and cocoa sectors in ways that would bring returns both locally in terms of economic development and globally in terms of strong business profits.

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The message of ECI’s business approach was diffused by a new set of actors, convened by Affleck and williamsworks. For example, a senior advisor at Starbucks (and ECI board member), Dave Olsen, weighed in with his own essay published in February 2015 in the Seattle Times. He describes his recent visit: “I’ve just returned from a trip to the region, with Eastern Congo Initiative, where I saw the incredible potential for sustainable agricultural production.”6 He described the initiative and the role that Starbucks was playing in importing the coffee for sale in the United States. He ended on an optimistic note: “And as we enjoy Congolese coffee, we help the Congolese people write a new, hopeful chapter in their country’s history. Through this seemingly simple act, we will make an incredible difference in the lives of farmers and their communities.”7 The simple act of enjoying coffee links the imagined consumer with virtual farming livelihoods in a compelling narrative. Affleck reinforced the approach and further legitimized Starbucks as a new actor in development during his fourth round of testimony at the U.S. Capitol, this time before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs hearing on “Diplomacy, Development, and National Security” (see Appendix B). Sitting alongside Bill Gates, a reigning tech and development disruptor, Affleck presented the achievements of the Kivu project as: a case study of the difference our nation’s foreign assistance and diplomacy is making where smart, targeted public and private investments are transforming communities in need, advancing our nation’s interests and creating opportunities, both in the countries we assist and here at home.8

Affleck went on to describe the project and USAID’s role in creating the strategic partnership with ECI, the Buffett Foundation, and Catholic Relief Services. ECI was responsible for bringing in “experts,” such as Westrock, an Arkansas-­based capital asset management firm, to help the coffee cooperatives in Eastern Congo scale up their businesses. The final piece was “getting this coffee into American homes.” Affleck emphasized that the cornerstone of the project was Starbucks,

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saying: “Involvement by the world’s largest coffee company is a clear testament to what’s possible for Congo. This is not charity or aid in the traditional sense, it’s good business.”9 Here Affleck touts his organizational vision: that such a partnership builds in returns for all, the “win-­win-­ism” of market-­based solutions (Giridharadas 2018). Local economies have been invigorated, social development advanced, “and as a result, the world has a new source of high-­quality coffee.”10 The disruption to the normal practice of aid demands the intervention of business. As a “disruptor,” Affleck stressed the replicability and scalability of this project. He noted that “this public–­private partnership has transformed the lives of thousands of families in the eastern part of Congo, all made possible because USAID agreed it could be done. But we think this is just the beginning of what is possible.”11 He also noted that a new economic development fund would be launched to solidify gains made in the cocoa and coffee sectors. But the project was not just a model for doing development in the Congo. With “smart and effective financial and diplomatic investments,” U.S. foreign policy and future projects would make the Congo “stand as a model for the region and the continent.”12 ECI’s alternate narrative promoting a business solution to development in the Congo also began circulating in elite circles beyond the U.S. Capitol. In 2016, Affleck attended the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting, presumably to promote his vision. And later Affleck wrote an op-­ed essay for the New York Times emphasizing that “the Congolese need our attention and support. In the private sector, Congolese coffee and cocoa farmers need greater access to financial assistance and help with organizing and advocacy efforts.”13 From coverage in the Times to articles in popular American magazines such as Glamour, US Weekly, and People, Affleck’s and ECI’s business solution was disseminated to elite and mass publics as the way to respond to a conflict-­scarred country with ongoing humanitarian crises and development needs. ECI’s founding director in Goma, Harper McConnell, gave a Tedx talk titled “Can Aid Work Itself Out of Business,” posted on December 2, 2015.14 In this lecture, she described the origin story of ECI’s involvement in the Congo’s coffee:

Saving Congolese Coffee  • 143

I’m a huge coffee drinker. Despite growing some of the best Arabica coffee beans in Congo, I couldn’t find good Congolese coffee in Congo and I couldn’t find it on the international specialty market. So we got to thinking, what would it take to take this Congolese coffee bean into your cup here in America and in the process, could we increase the income of Congolese farmers? So we went to talk [to] farmers about revitalizing the markets. And they all had lucid memories of their parents and grandparents being able to renovate their house and pay for health care due to the cash flow from coffee. They pointed to farmers in Brazil and Colombia and they said we want to make money like those farmers.15

Note that in this story the specialty-­coffee consumer is the primary driver of the process of consultation and, later, funding for an intervention aimed at “driving aid out of business” through business. McConnell also discussed how market-­based approaches and private-­sector actors were welcome disruptors to the field of development. She stated, “As an NGO, you should be working yourself out of a business of development aid. You should be approaching a social issue with a business model.”16 The justification for the business model was based on a narrow reading of development. Further, she said, “Because the whole idea of development aid is to address the core of an issue, then why does this community not have economic opportunity?” This message propounded by McConnell to the elite audiences for Tedx talks was also packaged as ECI’s crowning achievement. ECI’s early advocacy work was in the realm of security-sector reform, and while it can claim at least a role in the 2013 appointment of a U.S. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa, it had little tangible impact that could be parsed into “success story” sound bites. In this context, Congo cocoa and coffee provided apt entry points for ECI’s subsequent shift to economic-­development interventions that linked U.S. philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and Congolese elites. As we described in the previous chapter, ECI had created celebrity strategic partnerships with TOMS Shoes and Theo Chocolate before turning to sourcing coffee from Eastern Congo. The coffee campaign was particularly interesting because it provided a perfect meld of aid

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privatization: donors, philanthropists, NGOs, and businesses were all interested in synergistic results from a strategic partnership to revitalize the coffee market in the Congo. To understand how this synergy came about, we need to delve into the context of the high-­ end coffee industry.

A “Coffee Revival” in the Congo? Behind the Hype The “specialty” coffee industry has been growing healthily for the past few decades, spurring a process that Ponte (2002b) termed “the latte revolution.”17 This emerged with the multiplication and increasing market value of single-­origin, “direct-­trade,” high-­quality, “unique” coffees and of coffees bearing various kinds of “sustainability” standards and certifications (Fairtrade, Utz, Rainforest Alliance, organic, “bird-­friendly,” “shade-­grown,” 4C) (Manning et al. 2012; Levy et al. 2016; MacGregor et al. 2017).18 Both coffee bar chains and independent microroasters have spread dramatically in traditional coffee-­consuming countries, although the amount of coffee in the final product of the consumer “experience” in these outlets is decreasing (Ponte 2002b; Daviron and Ponte 2005). Coffee consumers can now choose from (and pay dearly for) hundreds of combinations of coffee variety, origin, roasting, brewing and grinding methods, flavoring, packaging, sustainability “content,” and ambience—­while the value added to these consumption experiences is largely captured close to the point of consumption in the Global North, not by farmers. Part of this “latte revolution” involves constantly “discovering” and bringing formerly unknown coffee origins to the consumer and/or selling the physical property of these coffees by invoking a “just cause,” preferably with the mediation of a celebrity (Richey and Ponte 2011; Ponte and Richey 2014). Starbucks, for example, has been part of Bono’s (PRODUCT)RED Brand Aid (Richey and Ponte 2011). Sales of (STARBUCKS)RED coffee during RED campaign periods have led to donations of more than $14 million to the Global Fund to help finance HIV/AIDS prevention, education, and treatment programs in Africa. Starbucks, on its website, specifically emphasizes the impact that RED has had on orphans in Rwanda.19

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In the past few years, Congo coffee has been one of the most sought-­after “new origin” coffees, a coffee that was “rediscovered” after a period of limited availability resulting from the level of political violence in the country. The possibility of pairing strategic sourcing for coffee roasters with a “good story” of recovery from conflict followed by development, and poverty alleviation was not lost on the coffee business world. But because of the limited availability of high-­quality coffee in the country, new initiatives were needed to improve farming and processing methods. ECI is involved in one of these, but there have been several others. Before moving to the details of the ECI coffee marketing initiative, we briefly map the terrain of coffee in the Congo. Most Arabica coffee produced in the Congo comes from Eastern Congo—­the highlands of Kivu and the eastern part of Oriental province. Other areas produce lower-­quality Robusta coffee, and at a smaller volume. While 70 percent of total coffee production was carried out by estates at independence, by the mid-­1980s this proportion had decreased to 14 percent, and by the late 1990s it was at 2 percent, with the rest grown by smallholder farmers.20 Coffee production reached historical highs in the mid-­1980s, when it amounted to 130,000 tons. In the first part of the 1990s, coffee exports accounted for 75 percent of all agricultural export value.21 With conflict ravaging the country from 1994 to 2003, coffee production experienced a major decline. By the early 2000s, figures suggest that production plummeted to just over 20,000 tons, and it has remained fairly constant ever since, at 15 percent of its former highs. Only approximately one-­third of production is exported officially from the Congo. With very little coffee consumed domestically, the rest is smuggled to neighboring countries, especially Rwanda and Uganda.22 After that, Congolese coffee, labeled as Rwandan or Ugandan coffee, is exported around the world. The Congo is a difficult environment in which to operate. The domestic coffee authority, the Office National du Café (ONC), has little regulatory power (the coffee market was liberalized back in the early 1980s) and limited resources, although it does have the power to levy a very high export tax on coffee.23 A reduction has been negotiated but is not yet enforced at the local level.24 ONC plays little or no role in research, quality improvement and monitoring, input

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distribution, credit provision, and provision of extension services. Exports are undertaken by private companies, although ONC used to export small quantities in the late 1990s on behalf of some exporters. The functions that ONC does carry out (export documentation) are marred by cumbersome procedures. Export procedures are slow and complicated. While taxes for Congolese exports are set officially at only 0.25 percent, they amount to around 11 percent in practice according to the Association of Coffee and Exporters of Cocoa and Coffee, as reported in the New York Times.25 An NGO officer involved in the sector told us that “by the time you pay everybody, you drop 10–­12 percent of the FOB [free-­on-­board] value in taxes and other payments. . . . In Uganda, the equivalent figure is 1 percent.”26 No wonder there are still thousands of tons of coffee being smuggled across all borders, especially across Lake Kivu. According to the same source, actual coffee production in Eastern Congo is closer to 60,000 tons, three times what the official figures suggest.27 The Congo is a member of the African Fine Coffees Association (AFCA), which works to improve the quality of coffee produced by member states and to promote their fine coffees globally.28 Activities include national coffee cupping competitions and an annual “African Taste of Harvest Competition,” held during the “African Fine Coffee Conference & Exhibition.” Sixteen Congo companies are registered as individual members of AFCA, including ECI.29 AFCA provides an institutional framework for the international promotion and marketing of Congo coffee. This is especially important given ONC’s limited functionality. A specialty coffee cupping competition called Saveur du Kivu began in 2014 as a way to draw attention to the coffee industry in Eastern Congo. The competition follows the global standards of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA).30 The Kahawa Bora project has made use of this competition to introduce its coffee and gained high marks for its quality during the early phases of the project, although it seems to have lost momentum as time went on (see Richey and Ponte 2020).

The ECI Coffee Initiative In general, individual projects have been the main channel of action in the attempted revival of coffee-­sector production and marketing

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in the Congo that has taken place during the time when ECI got involved with coffee. The Kahawa Bora project was developed within the framework of the Global Development Alliance (GDA), a USAID model for public–­private partnerships that sought “to engage corporations, local businesses, financial institutions, investment firms, private foundations and others as core partners.”31 For more than a dozen years, USAID has supported more than 1,800 of these alliances around the world.32 The mission is outlined thus: “The GDA Annual Program Statement (APS) is a solicitation aimed at fostering extensive collaboration with the private sector to achieve greater development impact. While the value of the expertise, capabilities, assets and resources contributed to an alliance by the private sector must equal or exceed the value of resources requested from USAID, this is NOT a matching grants program.”33 The GDA was an opportunity to expand sources of funding and potential partners while bringing new ideas to the field of development (see Figure 11). The GDA with ECI started in Washington, D.C., and it did not involve the same requirements as other USAID grants. ECI was in

Figure 11. Main partners in the Kahawa Bora project.

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the process of expanding its partnerships with the U.S. government, corporations, and foundations to maintain revenue.34 Corporate buyers such as Starbucks, Westrock Coffee Company, and Falcon Coffee were necessary because ECI needed access to markets and capital. There was risk involved because the first batch of coffee would not be high quality. While Starbucks would be the highest-­profile partner, there was no exclusive relationship. The decision to enter the partnership was made by Craig Russell, senior vice president for Global Coffee at Starbucks. At an event between ECI and Clinton Global Initiative held in New York City in 2015, Russell spoke about the partnership; he also made a “high-­level visit to Congo” as reported in ECI’s annual report. In addition to marketing, the adoption of the Congo as a source was partly related to its ethics and compliance profile.35 However, Seattle connections may have played a role: Howard Schultz, Starbuck’s CEO, and his wife were also clients of williamsworks.36 ECI brought funding from Howard Buffett to USAID as an offer for an equivalent grant. Through his foundation, Buffett has been active in agricultural resource development and management for smallholder farmers in the developing world since 1999.37 As we saw in chapter 3, Buffett was an early donor to ECI and was slowly increasing his presence in the Congo. In the United States, Buffett used his background in farming to work with Feeding America; as a writer for the magazine Parade wrote, “If Warren Buffett is the Oracle of Omaha, then his 57-­year-­old son, Howard—­a farmer who works 1,400 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat in central Illinois—­might just be the Donator of Decatur.”38 In the Congo, he was known for his work around Virunga National Park and with coffee production in South Kivu but was quickly deepening his foundation’s engagement in Eastern Congo as part of its $140 million Africa Great Lakes Peace Initiative.39 In 2015, when his foundation financed a major hydroelectric project in Matebe, President Kabila presided over the inauguration. As one local Congolese journalist reported, “It is difficult to go anywhere in the east of the country without touching one of Howard Buffett’s projects.”40 But because ECI was inexperienced in the coffee sector and in rural development projects more generally, USAID required that Catholic Relief Services (CRS) act as the lead organization or “prime”

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before it would commit aid funds. CRS is a humanitarian organization in operation since World War II with projects in more than one hundred countries around the world. It has had a presence in the Congo since 1993, with offices in Goma and Bukavu.41 One informant in Kinshasa shared that ECI needed to partner with a traditional NGO. . . . I heard they [ECI] were disastrous . . . it was initiated out of Washington . . . hard to manage a project from so far away . . . so USAID was tasked with fixing it, to take a more active role. . . . ECI and CRS were forced into a collaboration and they turned it around in the past two years.42

However, neither ECI nor CRS for that matter had much experience in the coffee sector. Thus, World Coffee Research (WCR), a private research institute funded by the U.S. coffee industry, was also asked to become involved and to provide technical support. WCR was called into the partnership by the Center on Conflict and Development, an academic research institute at Texas A&M, where Edwin Price holds the Howard G. Buffett Foundation Chair on Conflict and Development.43 ECI had already been involved in a cocoa project with Theo Chocolate in Eastern Congo, as we described in chapter 4, but it was Howard Buffett who expressed interest in ECI having a coffee project and who asked World Coffee Research to provide intelligence on what was going on at the local level. The ECI project worked with three cooperatives in South Kivu and was characterized by internal tension from the beginning. According to the coffee experts, ECI had a great network and smart marketers but had no expertise in coffee production and very little in rural development. One of the biggest challenges, according to our sources, was working with ONC, which levies a high export tax and insists that farmers not use any fertilizer to grow their coffee.44 Apparently, the project did not please the Congolese government because the government was expecting to receive funding from USAID for extension work, but this function was allocated directly to CRS instead. ONC has only a handful of agronomists and no means of transportation, and thus the experts are mainly confined to the Bukavu area;

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therefore, it maintained that expert advice had to come from elsewhere. One informant in Kinshasa told us that “USAID brought CRS in, and it was not a consortium that was formed independently, but it was imposed.”45 CRS was mandated with training the cooperatives in good agricultural practices and processing, while ECI was to take care of the marketing side. USAID in Kinshasa saw ECI as a “small organization trying to play a strategic role, but not a traditional NGO.” The month before fieldwork, the heads of ECI Washington and ECI Goma gave an official briefing at USAID, which was rare as “usually ECI skips Kinshasa entirely when they visit.” One thing they did was to ask USAID if they needed more money.46

Kahawa Bora: Better Coffee or Just Better Connections? Not much happened on the ground in the first two years of Kahawa Bora’s operation, according to one source.47 According to another source, USAID wanted to close the project down but was determined

Figure 12. CPCK washing station in Kabare. Photograph by Andy Carlton.

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to give it another try because, despite the small budget, it was “politically very sensitive.”48 A different source from South Kivu reported a similar situation, noting that USAID wanted to close the project but Buffett himself refused, so USAID gave it a “last chance.”49 According to interviews, the washing stations had been only partially built by then, and they were of substandard material (see Figures 12 and 13). One informant told our researcher in South Kivu: “We had to rebuild the washing stations. They were made of mud bricks. They were sliding down the slope into the lake.”50 This is a quintessential example of what can happen when celebrity strategic partnerships are given special treatment and held to lower accountability standards, even by U.S. agencies, than other traditional development interventions. The project had a top-­down structure, lacked a proper management plan, and was characterized by high levels of tension among ECI, CRS, and a local partner, Caritas Bukavu.51 One informant called it a “war,” noting that in the early days the project was “full of corruption” and “anti-­farmer” sentiments and that the presidents of the cooperatives were not involved because “everything was done by the NGOs.”52 After at least five different chief-­of-­party leaders left the job in the first years of operation, it was actually ONC, the government authority, that facilitated the recruitment of another one in 2015, and this person stayed on to the end of the project. The project then proceeded to completely rebuild the washing stations, and in the same year it managed to get some buyers for its coffee at the Saveur du Kivu competition (discussed later).53 Another version of this story is that the director of ECI, Harper McConnell, singlehandedly took over the sourcing of the coffee washing station equipment and arranged credit for it through the Rwandan Trading Company, an outfit with strong links to Westrock Coffee Company.54 According to one source, “This is what made it work for the first year: Westrock already had a nod from Starbucks to protect these investments. Yes, there’s personal connections there.”55 Westrock arranged a preharvesting financing loan of $300,000 to the cooperatives (now fully repaid), backed by Starbucks’s commitment to buy up to fifty containers of this coffee over a three-­year period, at the set price of about $5/kg. Any excess production could

152  •  Saving Congolese Coffee

be sold by the cooperative to other buyers. Exports were arranged locally through Great Lakes, a coffee exporter with headquarters in Uganda but owned by Falcon Coffees, a specialty trader based in the U.K., which provided the working capital for cooperatives to purchase coffee from farmers. According to one informant, however, the letter of commitment from Starbucks was followed by a contract between only Starbucks and Great Lakes, the exporting company, not between Great Lakes and the three cooperatives.56 This led to constant negotiations on price between the exporter and at least one of the cooperatives, which is led by a young group of dynamic entrepreneurs who also demanded that their name be shown on the Starbucks retail coffee package (this did not happen). To one source, it was clear that “Starbucks became involved in Kahawa Bora because it is always looking for new origins.”57 When its executive vice president for global coffee, Craig Russell, visited the Eastern Congo, he “was just enamored and blown over by the

Figure 13. Men in the hand-­sorting shed in Kabare. Photograph by Andy Carlton.

Saving Congolese Coffee  • 153

people there.”58 Once things got rolling, our source was amazed at “how quickly the Congolese managed to put things together and produce almost three containers from each cooperative in the first year—­almost a miracle in that situation.”59 In 2016, the first crop, amounting to nine containers (189 tons of green coffee), was exported to Starbucks. However, in 2017, only six containers (126 tons) were sold by the cooperatives because they faced greater competition in procuring coffee cherries at the farm level from other buyers. The project’s yearly exports constitute less than 1 percent of total Congo exports, according to official export figures, and probably one-­third of that figure if we include smuggled coffee in the country’s total exports. Yet, the celebrity-­and corporate-­fueled media and marketing visibility of Kahawa Bora pulls far more than its actual weight. That ECI is “saving DRC coffee” is an absurd claim, according to other coffee-­industry players and stakeholders in the region.60 It is not surprising that Starbucks and ECI paired up for the Kahawa Bora project, as there are revolving-­door dynamics between the two. Dave Olsen, a member of the original team that set up Starbucks in 1987 and a longtime but now retired operation and sourcing manager in the company, sits on the board of ECI. In April 2016, Harper McConnell left her position as senior director at ECI for a position as senior manager of global coffee and tea with Starbucks. In June 2017, she was promoted to director of Starbucks Global Coffee and Tea.61 Coffee sourcing plays a central role in the branding of Starbucks as supporting socially responsible and sustainable production.62 Starbucks is also investing in washing stations, and the Starbucks Global Farmer Fund provides loans to farmers in thirteen countries, including the Congo.63 Moreover, the Starbucks Foundation partnered with ECI to make donations to the community-­based organizations supported by ECI.64 The combination of the strategic partnership and donations enables Starbucks to expand its CSR profile as both an investor and a philanthropic organization. According to one USAID informant, traditional development actors are being asked to “innovate new partnerships, but there are tensions between these needs. There is no loosening of the strategic requirements; at the same time, they must be more entrepreneurial

154  •  Saving Congolese Coffee

and scale, scale scale!”65 These conflicting needs, we were informed, are “not just the celebrities—­it’s Washington!” The relationship between ECI, the new actor in the development landscape, and CRS, the experienced traditional implementer, was tense. One of the diplomatic-­ level informants pointed out the potential benefits: “Celebritization—­ this may be another cash cow. If you can put on a good show, you may accomplish some good if you are able to partner with the U.S. government, with a good track record . . . partner on Congo Coffee.”66

Mostly Star Power: Effects of Celebrity Marketing on Strategic Partnerships In March 2016, a limited supply of Starbucks Reserve Eastern D.R. Congo Lake Kivu coffee was available in the United States, Canada, and online. ECI took on a role with the marketing campaign even while acknowledging its awkward position as an NGO promoting a corporate product.67 The rationale was the ultimate benefit made to the people of the Congo. There was also the need to sustain Starbucks’s interest in the Congo coffee supply. As our informant reported, “We’re not pro-­Starbucks, in totality.”68 In the marketing materials, the source of the coffee, the Congo, is front and center. The label describes Lake Kivu as “an ecosystem ideally suited to the cultivation of heirloom Bourbon coffee trees” and discusses how “determined smallholder farmers have banded into co-­ops to build the trade.”69 Set against the elegant packaging of the Starbucks Reserve line, the superior quality of the coffee beans is emphasized. At the moment of presentation in a Reserve store, Starbucks employees were trained to make a short pitch that linked the coffee to its on-­the-­ground beneficiaries in the Congo.70 This included the statistic on the tripling of income among Congo farmers. The talking points were prepared by ECI. There are a variety of narrative possibilities in coffee packaging, particularly in the expression of a larger mission. Benoit Daviron and Stefano Ponte (2005) describe how the label and packaging offer “symbolic quality attributes” that might use geographical indications to facilitate the “consumption of a place” or sustainability labels

Saving Congolese Coffee  • 155

to offer the idea of “consuming ethics.” The final product of the KB project was distributed with muted packaging and no reference to the partnerships or the “causes” behind the sourcing from the Congo. The business partner, Starbucks, is the only visible “ally” listed on the branded product. While the Kahawa Bora project can clearly be ascribed to what we introduced as Brand Aid (Richey and Ponte 2011; Richey and Ponte 2020) in chapter 1, when the issue of co-­branding on the coffee label came up, it was agreed that none of the development partners would have it. A USAID informant explained how the loss here was one for branding of USAID’s work inside the Congo: “They think we are a factory that produces peanut oil because of the humanitarian aid . . . we are investing over $300 million per year

Figure 14. Starbucks tweet announcing arrival of Starbucks Reserve® Eastern D.R.Congo Lake Kivu. Screen grab by Lisa Ann Richey.

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and they are not aware of it . . . all of our partner NGOs are better known than we are.”71 Donor branding in international development is seen as a key part of the public relations agenda for development agencies, because they need “to project the appearance of doing good in the world, justifying their work and their funding” (Wilkins 2018). Instead, promoting the geographical indications, the Starbucks packaging includes a bold graphic print and references to the Eastern D.R. origin of Lake Kivu (see Figure 14). It is not labeled as fair trade, nor is there reference to the derivation of the beans as coming from conflict-­afflicted areas. The opening line of the blurb does suggest the precariousness of the source: “Stability is growing in an area of the world that has been so fragile—­and coffee farmers are playing a significant role.”72 On Twitter and in the Starbucks press release, the coffee was marketed as “A Cup of Hope” and linked to ECI, giving some room for further story-­telling possibilities.73 Overall, the statements made by Affleck appear to be the main source of the narratives of hope combined with the business-­instead-­of-­aid solution. It is interesting to note that coffees sourced from conflict-­affected areas are marketed as being of higher quality (i.e., reserve or premier collections), perhaps aiming at the gourmet coffee drinker. This suggests that the message of promoting a celebrity strategic partnership was mainly directed at elite audiences and not at more mainstream popular consumers, as we might expect from collaborating with a celebrity. For other implementers in the Congo, celebrity strategic partnerships such as Kahawa Bora make a difference through the “affective visibility” brought by stars like Affleck. Various informants from the aid sector thought that Ben Affleck was known for his movies in the bigger cities like Goma. However, they also noted that perhaps it was not the allure of Affleck in particular—­“anytime an American walks into those communities, it’s a spectacle. . . . ‘Finally, the real USAID is here!’ . . . we don’t go often because of issues of security and the roads.”74 Here our interlocutor emphasized that a celebrity humanitarian is important for putting a human face on the implementation of aid, which is itself a spectacle.

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The spectacular heroism of a celebrity strategic partnership affects the implementation and strategies on the ground. For example, ECI’s investment in coffee was linked to changing the overall advocacy goals for the organization. One informant explained that ECI was blinded by the “heroism of the story” and that Affleck himself reads and compares the Congo to Sudan on issues of security-­sector reform, conflict integration, and child soldiers. ECI’s previous focus on humanitarianism shifted to development, and its emphasis on peace and security shifted to economic development. The financial and political capital wielded to build earlier partnerships to promote economic development—­tested with Theo Chocolate and TOMS Shoes—­was applied and scaled up to anchor the Kahawa Bora initiative. An NGO informant told us candidly that ECI’s involvement in the coffee sector was based on “young people with a lot of money” whose ability to move quickly was linked to the resources and connections around the organization, typical of celebrity strategic partnerships. She characterized ECI’s discourse as “heroic,” saying: We can bring this industry back! . . . with seed money from Buffett, Starbucks and young people who didn’t know how to farm coffee, or run a business, or run a coffee business . . . [she pauses and self-­ corrects] I’m not saying this.75

The reflective aid worker’s response suggests an insider awareness of the assumption that combining fast money with limited expertise would bring about sustainable local development in the Congolese coffee sector and also that by “saying this” she would invalidate the celebrity strategic partnership’s win-­win allure (see Figure 15). With these celebrity strategic partnerships, more risks can be taken as NGOs bank on the celebrity’s effectiveness in drawing attention to a cause. In its Media Center, Catholic Relief Services acknowledged celebrity capital in its post “Actor Ben Affleck Highlights Partnership with CRS in DRC Coffee Project,” which also included the C-­SPAN footage of Affleck’s opening statement.76 One of the senior players in the Kahawa Bora project reflected on the importance of Affleck’s convening power in the project’s success:

158  •  Saving Congolese Coffee

I think that some of the success was more upfront—­the star power of getting Howard Buffett and Starbucks and other people to get around that this was a good idea in general, and yes, we can do it.77

From the coffee industry side, however, an informant suggested that Affleck’s significance was less pronounced in the coffee project than it had been in ECI’s earlier project on cocoa.78 When the celebrity will appear and which other players he will amplify is a critical part of celebrity strategic partnerships. When Affleck testified before the U.S. Congress, CRS explicitly asked that he credit the donors and collaborators. Another donor informant told us that Affleck himself was willing to give credit to USAID when he testified but that “it was the ECI staff who want to hog all the credit.”79 Affleck’s successful testimony before the U.S. Congress was followed by an appearance by Kelly Goodejohn, the Starbucks director of ethical sourcing and global social impact and

Figure 15. Photograph featuring a new laboratory facility for coffee tastings, from USAID series called “Congolese Coffee Rises Again.” The taster is wearing a shirt from the Kahawa Bora Ya Kivu alliance. Photograph by Patrick Smith/USAID.

Saving Congolese Coffee  • 159

public policy. Testifying before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations for a hearing on “International Development: Value Added through Private Sector Engagement” (see Appendix B), Goodejohn cited the work done with the Lake Kivu supply chain in the Congo as part of Starbucks’s commitment to achieving 100 percent ethically sourced coffee: Our work with Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) and its Congolese partners, including USAID, aims to make Eastern Congo a reliable source of high quality Arabica coffee, and to link Congolese farmers to the international marketplace. The Starbucks Foundation has also partnered with ECI to support college scholarships for young women studying agriculture and has invested in local Congolese organizations creating jobs for disadvantaged young adults and former child soldiers in coffee-­growing communities.80

She also discussed the Starbucks Foundation granting scheme that aims to “create a sustained impact in a local community.” ECI was cited as one of the grant recipients; it received money to focus on “co-­op management, coffee washing stations, at risk youth.” The testimony’s “ask” came at the end: Goodejohn asserted that it was in the interest of the United States to maintain “poverty-­focused foreign assistance” that puts the United States in a good light and “helps create global stability by empowering people with economic opportunity.”81 She cited the partnership formed by Starbucks, USAID, and ECI to “help reinvigorate the coffee market in [the Congo].” She concluded by saying that “we have witnessed first-­hand how public-­private partnerships, like those between Starbucks and USAID, help empower small farmers with economic opportunities they might not otherwise see.”82 ECI’s role here was that of recipient of the philanthropy of Starbucks, implementing the “development” visions of Starbucks and USAID. Hence, Affleck’s celebrity strategic partnership may be seen as having been successful as a disruptor of development by shifting the starring role away from the NGO implementer and toward the corporate partner. Ironically, perhaps instead of working aid out of business, they are succeeding in working celebrity humanitarianism out of business.

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One clear conclusion is that they are not working business out of business. The celebrity strategic partnership outlined in this chapter’s case study of Kahawa Bora shows how business opportunities, when seized by a celebrity-­led development organization like ECI, can open up new kinds of collaborations and become disruptive for aid as usual. A top former ECI official explained: “ECI had started out recognizing that it would never be a massive NGO: the intent was never to be a massive NGO. It would never have the budget that larger NGOs have, so its role is that of start-­up catalytic investor that would then lead to bigger projects, which has happened with coffee.”83 Yet, ECI did put in a bid for the USAID project that would be the successor to Kahawa Bora, and it lost out. One way of interpreting this turn of events is that mainstream development practices are far more invested in long-­term patterns than “catalytic investor” NGOs think. Thus, the problems encountered when turning business logic into development outcomes were noticed and taken seriously by the big development players in the Eastern Congo’s agricultural field. Another interpretation is more in line with the spin given by an ECI representative after the project had ended: that ECI acted differently as a “catalytic investor” and, in fact, embodied a completely different logic from other aid NGOs. In this logic, “success is that you are not needed anymore,” and the needed inputs from development organizations are to open up production for the “development” of business. “We [ECI] just set up all the business structures and systems in place and secured buyers.”84 In other words, it is the success of the business partner, Starbucks, that is critical for bringing development to Eastern Congo. Starbucks uses celebrity humanitarianism to achieve a business strategy. And this celebrity strategic partnership is, ironically, marketed by development NGOs as a way of “working aid out of business.” As Harper McConnell intoned: Businesses should be able to heavily rely on and support NGOs to improve their social and environmental responsibility strategies. And NGOs should stop chasing the dollar and ask ourselves instead, what

Saving Congolese Coffee  • 161

are our core competencies, and then market those services to those who need them to improve their sustainability strategies.85

Yet, as we saw in the introductory quotation—­“Click this link to help Congolese farmers win 25K from Starbucks!”86—­ECI has been engaging in cause branding for Starbucks and clicktivism, with little evidence of social and environmental responsibility strategies.87 It is important to note that there were numerous other projects operating in Eastern Congo to revitalize the coffee sector by working with coffee cooperatives (see Kolk and Lenfant 2018; Richey and Ponte 2020). Yet, these projects were not part of celebrity strategic partnership. The celebrity convening power made connections possible across elite sectors, and the business model for development was promoted as a disruption needed to “save” coffee in Eastern Congo, but this sector was already being targeted by long-­term development partners (see Richey and Ponte 2020). However, our analysis of Kahawa Bora has shown how the business model of competent NGOs and sustainable business relied heavily on support from both traditional aid donors (USAID) and implementers (CRS). While this relationship has been extremely complicated as a development intervention, it has so far been quite successful as a new business model. Batman helps Starbucks after all, with Congolese farmers as sidekicks in the show. The extent to which the local level will see these celebrity strategic partnerships as beneficial disruptions is the subject of the next chapter.

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6 CELEBRITIES AND THE LOCAL POLITICS OF DEVELOPMENT As Seen from Kinshasa

. . .

The DRC is both at a crossroad and under the spotlight. —­USAID, Country Development Cooperation Strategy Democratic Republic of the Congo 2015–­2019 Ben, I saw him in 2009. He hasn’t changed anything on the ground. —­Informant, Comment after research dissemination presentation for humanitarian and aid workers in Kinshasa, June 16, 2016 We all know him because of being Affleck! He brings influence, even if he brings little money. —­Informant, Kinshasa, Congo

This chapter offers a uniquely grounded perspective on Ben Affleck and ECI’s celebrity strategic partnership activities in the Congo. Drawing on field interviews and participant observation, we explore how local actors see the donor landscape and the interventions of the U.S. government, humanitarian agencies, and celebrity humanitarians. Here we argue that celebrity engagement in disrupting aid and development has both opportunities and costs, involving funding and expenditures, authority and accountability, that are more related to the Northern than to the Southern sphere. Crucially, celebrity humanitarians remain important for promoting the work of the traditional   • 163

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actors in development, who remain under duress from funding cuts and lack of public support. We introduce the critical question of what it means to be a beneficiary of development, noting that it is not just the end recipient that should be considered but also a long chain of values and resources that are unequally distributed among actors in development. In our contextualized analysis of the humanitarians in Kinshasa and of the employees in ECI and other Congolese advocacy organizations, we aim to document this inequality. As explained by an informant from the aid sector in the quotation that began this book’s introduction, development aid is not what it used to be but is, instead, a series of collaborations involving the private sector, businesses, and philanthropists. As our informant explained, some actors believe that these collaborations are good because they afford exceptional possibilities to existing players in aid and diplomacy. However, they face fundamental accountability problems—­celebrity humanitarians are not yet held accountable through processes of transparency and monitoring in the same way as other donors or implementers. This has proved complicated to manage on the ground. From the standpoint of development, critics of celebrity humanitarianism tend to cluster around the following arguments: (1) that celebrities are providing photogenic distraction from the real causes of underdevelopment—­poverty and global inequality; (2) that they provide symbolic ways for everyday citizens to feel that they are engaging in humanitarian issues, while doing little of substance “on the ground”; and (3) that by the nature of their very celebrity, they are reinforcing global inequalities of rich over poor, North over South, white people over people of color, English speakers over non-­English speakers, and so on. Yet, there is a significant gap in our understanding of how actors working in the field of humanitarianism who are not celebrities experience the work of celebrity humanitarians. A widespread assumption is that celebrity humanitarians have either only a negligible effect on the field or negative impacts on understandings of operations and the promotion of stereotypes. To close this gap in the scholarship and our case study of Ben Affleck’s work in the Congo, we went to Kinshasa, the capital, and asked a number of knowledgeable people. One author conducted a total of seventeen interviews in

Celebrities and the Local Politics of Development  • 165

Kinshasa and five by Skype with humanitarian workers involved in or working in Eastern Congo.1 Interviews were conducted in person or via video link, and the nature of the research project was explained. Notes were used to document quotations, but the majority of the interviews were not audio recorded, and most respondents asked that the interview remain under “Chatham House Rule,” so the respondents remain anonymous.2 See Appendix A for further information on the methodology.

Celebrity Humanitarianism or Development “Business as Usual” Upon hearing the topic of our research as “celebrity humanitarianism,” one diplomat laughed and replied, “Sure. Because humanitarianism and diplomacy aren’t real fields so even celebrities can just come in and do it—­they wouldn’t bring in a celebrity to run a military mission!”3 Affleck has entered into old debates over the nature of what “development” aid should do and who should be responsible for doing it. In these debates there is considerable disagreement over the extent to which aid should be aimed primarily at helping the poorest of the poor (which is a stance taken by some donors, notably the U.K.’s Department for International Development [DFID] and the Scandinavian countries) or should work to develop the private sector (supported by the Americans). The “value chain” approach for linking local producers to global markets is typically associated ideologically with the latter. In the Congo, as in other aid-­recipient countries, various development and humanitarian interventions are underway at the same time to promote pro-­ poor and/or pro-­business strategies, to differing degrees across the country. The distribution of these interventions is not uniform, nor is it proportional to the scale and location of the particular problems to be solved. Instead, in ways that parallel the issue selection process of ECI described in chapter 3, intervention selection reflects a combination of interests, including donor areas of specialization and expertise, logistical ease, safety and security, and strategic importance. The complex history of the Congo’s extraversion (see Bayart and Ellis 2000) brings a large array of international

Net ODA Receipts (USD million)

GNI/CAP

Population

Current GNI

450

81.34

36,500

Source: OECD, Statistics on resource flows to developing countries, updated December 21, 2018, “Table 25. ODA Receipts and Selected Indicators for Developing Countries and Territories.”

Democratic Republic 5,526 2,846 2,584 2,400 2,599 2,102 2,280 of the Congo

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2017 USD 2017 million 2017 USD million



Table 5. OECD Data on ODA Receipts and Selected Indicators for Developing Countries and Territories

Celebrities and the Local Politics of Development  • 167 Table 6. OECD Data on Net Disbursements of ODA to Sub-Saharan Africa by Recipient, Top Five Recipients in 2017

USD million at 2016 prices and exchange rates



2001–2002 2006–2007 average average 2014

DRC

2015

2016

2017

989

1,807 2,159

2,588

2,102 2,243

Ethiopia 1,680

2,290 3,232

3,189

4,074 4,054

Kenya

593

1,141 2,445

2,464

2,188 2,437

Nigeria

315

6,554 2,253

2,401

2,498 3,309

1,737

2,319 2,407

2,559

2,318 2,543

Tanzania

Source: OECD, Statistics on resource flows to developing countries, updated December 21, 2018, “Table 30. Net Disbursements of ODA to Sub-Saharan Africa by Recipient.”

donors, humanitarian workers, and global “helpers” like Affleck into the country. So many “helpers” have become involved that, in fact, according to the International Crisis Group, the Congo is run through “government by substitution” in which multilateral and bilateral actors are taking on increasing levels of responsibility for the country’s governance.4 As we argued in chapter 2, the Congo’s weak state environment enabled nonstate actors, including NGOs and donors, to justify their interventions as not usurping state power in places where the Congo state was absent (see Lake 2018). The amount of official overseas development aid (ODA) received by the country is among the highest in the world (see Tables 5 and 6). Even though the Congo experienced a significant drop in ODA between 2011 and 2012, it remains one of the most aid-­dependent countries in sub-­Saharan Africa. Even at the 2015 levels, the GNI (Gross National Income) divided by ODA is 8.01 percent, significantly higher than the average of 2.85 percent for sub-­Saharan African countries.5 These illustrative statistics give a snapshot of a country where development aid makes up a disproportionate amount of the official economy. The most significant international donors working in Eastern Congo are USAID, the U.K.’s DFID, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, and the European Union (EU). In the Congolese aid context,

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the U.S. government is the largest bilateral donor;6 the Congo receives nearly $500 million per year for development and humanitarian programming (see Figure 16).7 As described by the U.S. State Department, ODA from the United States “supports a more stable, democratic nation through improving the capacity and governance of core national-­level institutions, creating economic opportunities, responding to urgent humanitarian needs, and addressing the root causes of conflict.”8 The Congo is of high strategic importance to the United States. This is reflected in the amount of ODA accorded to the Congo, which exceeds that granted to other recipients: the Congo was one of the top ten recipient countries of U.S. ODA for the period 2015–­17.9 Donors have their own modalities of operating in countries, and their strategies and operations may differ considerably from those of other donors and over time (aid is often contingent on support from their own administrations back home). Coordination of donor efforts in this “government by substitution” is critical but difficult to manage in practice. There are formal coordination efforts led by the government of the Congo in fifteen sectorial groups, known as the Groupes Sectoriels et Thématiques (GT). At this level, ministries, civil society, and the private sector meet to coordinate activities. Additionally, there are UN-­led clusters that coordinate humanitarian

Figure 16. The Top Ten Recipients of U.S. ODA, average 2015–­2017, excluding debt relief; U.S.$ millions. Donor Tracker.

Celebrities and the Local Politics of Development  • 169

efforts for all stakeholders involved in the Congo’s humanitarian operations. The success of these groups in coordinating development and humanitarian activities varied, according to our informants. Some sectors operated more successfully through informal donor coordination. The government of the Congo issued a National Development Strategic Plan in 2016 that it distributed to donors, suggesting that it was taking at least symbolic responsibility for contemporary governance, but then the resumption of violence in the fall of 2016, when President Kabila continued to refuse calls to hold elections, signified that the technical and political sides of governance remained divided.10 USAID: America and Its Special Relationship to the Congo While this chapter is about the humanitarian and development context for Affleck’s work in the Congo, the most significant direct link for ECI to traditional actors in this area is with USAID. According to the agency, “USAID’s 20-­year vision is of a country where the Congolese take charge of their future to manage and sustain growth with their own human, natural, and financial resources.”11 To bring about this vision, USAID has organized its interventions under three objectives: Development Objective (DO) 1: Selected national level institutions more effectively implement their mandates. Development Objective (DO) 2: Lives improved through coordinated development approaches in select regions. Transition Objective (TO) 3: Foundation for durable peace strengthened in eastern DRC.12

Unlike other donors, USAID focuses its interventions geographically in the Congo, with Eastern Congo receiving a considerable amount of attention as it is targeted in both DO2 and TO3 (see Figure 17). This is justified by the fact that “seventeen years of conflict in eastern DRC continues to drain resources and divert attention from development priorities for the country as a whole.”13 However, the level of absolute need is not the only factor that distorts the geographical distribution of U.S. aid to Eastern Congo. As we argued in chapter 2, the

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discourses around the Congo’s “problems” are shaped by advocacy in the United States, and USAID funding is allocated accordingly, even if by U.S. documentation there are other provinces in the country where social indicators are as bad as or worse than those in the Kivus.14 The impact of advocacy in support of particular issues and the primacy of pleasing elite constituencies in the United States instead of focusing on accountability for aid to the recipient countries mean that resources go to pet projects of Americans such as Affleck, Buffett, and Cindy McCain and not to the priorities of the U.S. government, let alone the Congolese. This support for pet projects comes at the expense of the U.S. government’s strategic priorities as listed earlier. According to USAID, “only about 10 percent of USAID/DRC’s budget is available to address the highest-­level USG priorities in the country, including democracy and governance work to address conflict.”15 An additional factor leading to the disproportionate interest in Eastern Congo is USAID’s “potential to leverage additional funding through public private partnerships” such as those we discussed in the previous chapters with

Figure 17. USAID provides timely and effective humanitarian response, bringing disaster relief and lifesaving assistance amid complex crises. North Kivu, 2017. USAID photograph.

Celebrities and the Local Politics of Development  • 171

Starbucks, TOMS, and Theo Chocolate.16 USAID and ECI also partnered in creating a Landscape Analysis to channel U.S. donor support to local initiatives, as discussed in chapters 3 and 4. The political instability in the East, with its deep historical roots, must be part of the planning conceptualization for all of USAID’s work there. The relationship between humanitarianism and development becomes clearer when we consider that the “objective” to which all interventions in Eastern Congo must contribute is a “transition,” not “development.” USAID is explicit in its recognition that the shifting political climate could lead to more stability or to increased conflict, and its strategic plan allows for both possibilities. If there is more peace, then the funding will increase for development; if not, then addressing conflict will continue to be a priority. The characterization of the relationship between the Congo and USAID was poetically articulated in the quotation that begins this chapter: “The DRC is both at a crossroad and under the spotlight with a U.S. and United Nations Special Envoy focusing on bringing peace and security in the region.”17 The crossroad that dominated U.S. interests during our fieldwork was the possibility that then president Joseph Kabila would relinquish power and hold the long-­ promised multiparty elections. This was the critical indicator of the country’s ability to maintain the fragile peace that had been negotiated with the Sun City Accords in 2002, which sought to end the political conflicts. The spotlight was provided by a U.S. Special Envoy for the Africa Great Lakes Region, a position that had been created in 1993, to protect U.S. interests in the Congo and neighboring countries.18

The View from Beside: Opportunities and Costs of Affleck’s Engagement In an informal conversation with a high-­ranking donor official whom I had not yet interviewed, I mentioned that I was working on a project on celebrity humanitarianism. Quickly, she explained to me that “development aid is not what it used to be with agencies like [donor agency] doing most of the work—­it’s now all about collaborations between the private sector, businesses and philanthropists.”19 “You

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Figure 18. Affleck meets with Special Envoy Russ Feingold at the U.S. Department of State in 2014. State Department photograph.

should be writing my book,” I told her. She replied, “These collaborations are good.” I asked, “Why?” She responded, “Because they can do things that regular agencies cannot, and that is a good thing!” The opportunities provided by celebrity capital (Driessens 2013) and the convening power of celebrity, as described in theories of celebrity humanitarianism in our chapter 1, were reiterated time and time again by our local informants (see Figure 18). There are significant differences between humanitarian workers’ general perceptions of celebrity participation in a humanitarian emergency response and their longer-­term engagement in a “forgotten crisis” or protracted development needs. In short, when celebrities come into an emergency response situation, no one typically finds them helpful. However, as one informant described, “if a celebrity visits perhaps one or two times per year, or perhaps are dedicated as a UN ambassador, then there is a much higher return on the investment.”20 As private citizens and valuable commodities, the celebrity humanitarian is not bound by the rules that apply to diplomats or other

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government employees from donor countries. Whereas celebrity diplomats are famous for gaining access to high-­level political talks (Cooper 2008; Wheeler 2013), the celebrity humanitarian is able to gain access to restricted humanitarian spaces. For example, one diplomat explained the situation in 2013 when the M23, army defectors from Eastern Congo, had started bombing Goma with mortars, so the diplomatic corps had to stay overnight in Rwanda and there were tight directives on where official foreigners could go in the Congo. A U.S. congressional delegation had arrived for a mission, and with them were ECI cofounder Whitney Williams and ECI board member Cindy McCain. They managed to convince the then under secretary of state to allow them to go into the MONUSCO compound and out again in one and a half hours. Williams briefed the delegation on behalf of ECI as a representative of an international NGO working in the field in Goma. The delegation then went on to Kigali to talk to President Kagame. The diplomat concluded, “They can do things that we can’t—­we can’t go to the border, but they can . . . they’re able to attract legislators and staff to this area and to these issues.” The attribute that allowed extended agency in these circumstances was the fact of being private citizens with high-­ranking political connections: “As private Americans, Whitney and Cindy could do what they wanted. Star power does help, especially when they know what’s going on, especially Affleck, he knew the stuff himself.”21 The fact that Ben Affleck was consistently evaluated as a competent celebrity humanitarian by other workers in the field likely helped him overcome some bureaucratic hurdles in gaining access. This is also testament to the consulting work done by consulting firms like williamsworks in “grooming” celebrities to enter policymaking spheres and development contexts, as discussed in chapter 3. But there are also challenges according to the humanitarian workers who must manage celebrities. As explained by a diplomat, “We can help to craft a story where they align with us . . . but if you have someone who’s telling a story that’s different than a story that we want to tell . . . [such as when] Whitney briefed on sexual mishaps with MONUSCO. We would have stopped her, but she’s not under us.”22 The importance of keeping all humanitarian spokespeople on script was a theme to which respondents returned, and the particular

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concern around the narrative of sexual violence as one of the dominant ways of explaining the problems of Eastern Congo as we describe in chapter 2 was particularly salient. Other costs that were described to me were summed up by one respondent who insisted on being interviewed by phone as he was unable to meet in Kinshasa but had spent years working with celebrities in humanitarianism on the ground and had developed strong opinions based on this experience: “Celebrities bring attention, good for fundraising and advocacy, but what people don’t see is the backstage of the humanitarian response and the pressure they put on the organizations.”23 He described the monetary costs for security and logistics involved in a celebrity visit to a field site and how the UN could not really refuse these visits. A bigger problem than the celebrity himself is often the entourage that travels with him, which is often composed of “nightclubbers looking for adventures” who are “arrogant, so they don’t listen to us [field staff].”24 Yet, while their entourages are being critiqued for their lack of professionalism, celebrity humanitarians themselves are sometimes seen as usurping the professional ground of career humanitarians and diplomats, often with insufficient impact. For example, one diplomat reflected on Affleck’s work, noting: Affleck was meeting Kabila, back in the day; that hasn’t changed anything. What do they know about rules of conflict in the places where they’ve visited . . . in general, there’s not a lot of political value for shaping policy . . . in the field . . . [we work to] tame corruption, conditions of work. We don’t control these visits, we just have to put up with it. If we don’t make them happy, they have the power to mess things up in New York.25

My informant then went on to illustrate this trend with examples of other “aid celebrities” (Richey and Ponte 2011), such as Paul Collier and Jeffrey Sachs, whose success at “getting the ear” of the UN secretary general was attributed to their celebrity capital; Affleck’s work was put into the same category. One of the biggest complaints among local humanitarian actors is the acceleration factor that accompanies celebrity engagement. This

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reflects the limitations of the “fly-­in visits” conducted by celebrities, who we expect are between other projects, professional and personal. “Celebrities race from one meeting to another, and their entourage just want to run from one thing to another,” I was told. “The only reason they [official hosts] can use as an excuse not to take them around is security. Nobody wants to go home in a body bag.”26 Eastern Congo is more easily accessed via a neighboring country such as Rwanda than from the country’s capital city, Kinshasa. This, together with the politics of an eastern bias we discussed in chapter 1, limits the number of organizations across the country with strong linkages to the major international organizations. This effective separation of the east from the rest of the country has a mixed effect on humanitarians’ perceptions of Affleck’s work with ECI: “Fortunately, Eastern Congo is so far away that nobody comes.”27 When I asked about Affleck’s visits between 2008 and 2012, an informant pondered, “Do people really know what Affleck is doing? On stabilization and humanitarian action, there’s not the big voice on the ground, except that Affleck is coming. You see the difference on the ground is in the links to an organization.”28 This resonates with our interpretation of the importance of Affleck’s starting his own organization for distinguishing his brand of celebrity humanitarianism from that of other stars with less traction, as we detail in chapter 3. Even if Affleck’s own field visits are brief, ECI’s permanent staff in the country form a stable link between the United States and Eastern Congo. One informant from a different aid organization characterized ECI’s local leadership as “the ideal head of an NGO in Goma who comes from a powerful family in Goma and can talk to outsiders.”29 Yet, ECI’s leadership has seen considerable turnover, linked to perceptions of insufficient feedback loops between ECI offices in Goma and Washington. Feedback Loops and Accountability for Celebrity Humanitarians One potential feedback loop between the activities of ECI and the situation on the ground in the Congo could have involved the policy prescriptions of the organization through its white paper. As we have discussed in chapter 3, ECI produced a white paper in 2010 titled “Strengthening United States Foreign Policy in the Democratic

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Republic of the Congo,” reflecting a state-­focused approach, and other reports focusing on the Congo’s national elections and security-­ sector reform.30 A white paper has different contextual meanings but typically is expected to produce a grounded introduction to a complex issue and to clearly articulate the position of the organization responsible for producing the paper. It is a way of demonstrating expertise in a particular field and has traditionally been used to inform government decision-making, although the form has been taken up by business as a tool for marketing. Produced in the first year of its operation, ECI’s white paper also signaled the group’s aspirations to be a policy-­ relevant organization. ECI’s white paper may be considered to both provide policy information and serve as a tool by which to market its celebrity brand. When I asked two relevant Kinshasa interlocutors separately about ECI’s white paper, they said that they had never heard of it. “Anyone can write a white paper, and Congress may read it.”31 “It’s like my research,” I replied jokingly. “Maybe I should write a white paper on democratization and good governance.” “It could help,” my informant concluded. Overall, what we can understand from this banter and from the consistency of my respondents’ lack of awareness about ECI’s white paper is that it was not particularly well disseminated in the Congolese capital, nor did it hold any place in the construction of how humanitarians framed their work. I asked about whether these sorts of inputs were ever given consideration by those working on the ground. I was told that they do indeed consult expert documents. “When we reference these [kinds of papers] in our documents, it tends to come from Human Rights Watch,” another informant told me.32 The lack of feedback loops between ECI and local humanitarians and diplomats appear to have failed to provide a strong basis for trust and accountability. In the perceptions of my informants in Kinshasa, new actors like ECI were not experienced enough to be trusted, and so accountability was one of the advantages available to a celebrity-­led organization when it worked with traditional organizations. Specifically, one informant mentioned that the advantage of partnering with an organization like USAID was to obtain “buy-­in transparency and accountability as a benefit to celebrities.”33 As a government agency,

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USAID is accountable to taxpayers and to the U.S. government (but not to the Congolese) and thus releases reports on expenditures and program evaluations.34 This transparency is in contrast to the limited institutional accountability expected of an NGO. One way to track this accountability is in the public tax reporting submitted by ECI on an annual basis.35 However, the information provided here raises as many questions as it answers (see Appendix A). Some of these constraints reflect the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reporting needs: NGOs do not need to disclose the source of their donations.36 For example, one 990 tax return form lists twenty-­one individual contributors of $5,000 or more to ECI, but no information is given about who the contributors are, and the list includes three contributions of approximately a half-­million dollars each and one of approximately a million dollars.37 Thus, it is clear that the organization has benefactors with deep pockets but not at all clear who these supporters are. I asked a respondent in a high-­ranking position at one of ECI’s collaborators about the possible reputational risk in development partnerships like these. She reflected and explained that while in theory due diligence would be required, and collaborators would be expected at least to read ECI’s annual reports, they rarely have the time or resources for that sort of work, so in general none of their collaborators actually know where ECI’s money is coming from.38 These agencies are putting up their own funding to complement ECI’s; thus, a certain degree of trust in continued streams of funding must be implied with the establishment of partnerships. In concluding our thinking on feedback loops and accountability, the perceptions of local informants on the accountability of Affleck and ECI confirms what the literature we outlined in our chapter 1 suggests: that celebrity-­led development organizations are at best upwardly accountable and typically lack accountability or feedback loops with their peers, much less with aid recipients. Influence through Advocacy One high-­ranking diplomat explained how useful the documentary Kony 2012, produced by the organization Invisible Children as part of a major campaign, had been for advocating a more activist U.S.

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foreign policy in Africa (see chapter 2).39 He thought that the criticism of the film and movement was unfair, as “there is no problem with the use of the story to mobilize people, using political motivations to act in the world . . . but since then individual celebrities have to be very careful and very specific and to be careful not to attract too much attention.”40 He linked the backlash against Kony 2012 to a more multilateral policy for dealing with African conflict—­“now we fear raising alarm bells on issues so we’ve fallen back on funding large peacekeeping missions and not directly implicating ourselves [bilaterally] in the political situation.”41 From the perspective of this diplomat, who had decades of experience with postings in African conflict zones, the important job of celebrity humanitarianism was to keep Africa on the minds of American voters whose support was important for congressional allocations of funding for various types of missions for aid and humanitarianism on the continent. His opinion of Affleck was quite positive, suggesting that the celebrity was working at the local level through his organization and was providing the tools for long-­term change. He lamented that things could have been different, “if Kony 2012 hadn’t brought about such a backlash which turned people off to activism on Africa . . . [we] have a tough enough time convincing Americans that Africa exists to them . . . ask Prendergast how his work has changed since Kony 2012,” he concluded.42 It is now to the links between John Prendergast’s work on conflict minerals for Enough Project and American advocacy that we described in chapter 2 that we return. An unanticipated opportunity to participate in the experience of Congolese responding to American representations of the Congo and the role of celebrity advocacy for them is the topic of the next section.

Debates on Humanitarian Advocacy, Celebrities, and Western Do-­Gooding In 2015, a documentary film titled We Will Win Peace was released that explored the paradoxical relationship between good intentions from afar—­personified by American college students, international humanitarian organizations, and celebrities—­and their local impact,

Celebrities and the Local Politics of Development  • 179

personified by Apocalypse and Chang, two artisanal miners in Eastern Congo.43 Using the case of the Dodd-­Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Section 1502, which came to be known in the Congo as “Obama’s Law,” the film engages in three levels of critique: first, it documents the work of the Enough Project led by John Prendergast (see chapter 2); second, it shows the shift in activism since 2009 now that most advocacy is online (illustrated by the narrator’s exploration of more than 530,000 advocacy videos on conflict minerals); third, it highlights the unintended consequences of attempts to “break the link between rape, violence and greedy warlords,” the dominant narrative on the Congo (Autesserre 2012).44 In doing so, the film illustrates in a compelling story what has come to be colloquially characterized as the “White-­savior syndrome,”45 where even young students with minimal knowledge about the complexities of U.S. policymaking, the value chains that link the so-­called conflict minerals and beloved technologies like their smartphones, or Congolese livelihoods join up in a “movement” to influence foreign policy directives on the one hand and individual consumption patterns on the other. This “badvocacy” relationship, a term coined by Amanda Taub (2012), relies on stereotypes and limited points of view and exploits the do-­gooding imperative to push for simple solutions to simplified problems. During my stay in Kinshasa, I met with the film’s coproducer and head of research, Ben Radley. Radley is a researcher with years of experience in the Congo and was interested in our project on Affleck’s work. One of Affleck’s visits to give testimony for the U.S. Congress provides the image for the opening webpage for the film and epitomizes the celebrity do-­gooder in Eastern Congo. Despite the film’s critical stance toward helping from afar, there was an acknowledgment that not all celebrities were considered on the same plane; Radley pointed out to me that “people have the idea that Affleck is a serious celebrity.”46 The film had its Congolese launch in Kinshasa on June 14, 2016; a Congolese and expatriate audience of approximately sixty people sat at the Centre Wallonie-­Bruxelles to view the film and engage in debate afterward with Ben Radley. Audience members targeted the links between local livelihoods and the global economy and also

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asked a wide range of questions about representations of Africa and larger North–­South relations.47 Technical questions revolved around the process of certifying minerals as actually being “conflict-­free” and the systems that had been put in place as the result of Dodd-­Frank that had clear short-­term costs for local mining communities in Eastern Congo but potential medium-­term benefits that were seen after the filming had stopped. Even the technical debates tended to hinge on questions of who could evaluate fairly the costs and benefits of humanitarian interventions that have consequences at so many different levels and how these stories could be told and by whom. Essentially, these are the same criticisms that are leveled against celebrity humanitarianism. During the discussion, a young Congolese woman asked the white producer quite bluntly, “Why are there so many white people in the film?” and also, “How will the people in the communities in this film see it?” An older Congolese man in a business suit gave an extended commentary on the theme of why the film showed only the negative side of things and what this film was trying to do for the Congo. Radley responded to these critiques, saying, “The film is targeting a Western audience, and we hope to communicate that Western advocacy should be better prepared to have local collaborations and take responsibility for its consequences . . . they should also understand the context better.” An American woman who appeared to be around thirty years old and who was perhaps working in the humanitarian sector critiqued the film for simplifying the issue of conflict minerals, as if before Dodd-­Frank, the mines were controlled in more accountable ways, and asked if no agriculture existed in the East. “You’ve fallen victim to the same thing you are criticizing,” she concluded, referring to lack of evidence-­based research. Radley thought about this critique, clearly not for the first time. He had told me in a previous interview that the film’s creators had been inspired to make the film, in part, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s talk on “the dangers of the single story” (see chapter 2).48 He responded to the film discussion critique by explaining that as the filmmakers were editing the film, they experienced more and more sympathy for Enough Project’s need to simplify, following the exigencies of mass advocacy that have been documented by others (see Budabin and

Celebrities and the Local Politics of Development  • 181

Pruce 2018; Pruce and Budabin 2016); both advocates and documentary filmmakers rely on pithy messaging to multiple audiences. At the screening, Radley elaborated that the story of the militia group Raïa Mutomboki was a good example to present at the end of the film to represent the different economic and ethnicity issues that were driving the issues locally.49 Just like the critics, the filmmakers were trying to simplify in order to be able to target the general public that had been moved by Enough; they were not targeting Congo specialists such as those assembled in the theater in Kinshasa. The discussions went on for another hour or so and toward the end, a Congolese man stood up and said, “Congratulations for your courageous film. The decisions made in the U.S. impact us.” He pointed to a scene in the film that features “Senator Durbin, who said that he had been in Congo for nine months and now thinks he’s an expert and can do whatever he wants.50 People have to see that Congo is not just Gombe [an elite neighborhood in Kinshasa where many expats live]!” From the experiences of noncelebrity humanitarian and development workers to those of a self-­selected group in Kinshasa interested in the representations and relationships between Congolese and Americans both on film and in “real life,” we can conclude that the history of extraversion, of linking the Congo with other nations both nearby and far away, continues to shape both the politics of aid and humanitarianism and the expectations of what should be done and by whom. In this context, celebrity humanitarians like Ben Affleck are important for bringing attention to issues for intervention and gaining overall support for foreign aid and Africa in the minds of Americans. Unruly Actors and Alliances Form an Insider Policy Lobby The high-­profile interventions of celebrities into on-­the-­ground humanitarian work can have disruptive effects. These can be best understood by considering the ways that advocacy works on the ground through what de Waal sees as a new model wherein NGOs engage strategies and tactics that “accord with the practicalities of [the] lobbying process” with the effect of neglecting or distorting Southern voices, issues, and framings (2015b, 37). As described in chapter 1, de Waal argues that new top-­down alliances in humanitarian advocacy

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call for replacing the classical Keck and Sikkink (1998) boomerang model of influence with various practices related to an “insider policy lobby model” (2015b, 38). This model is useful in order to explain the kinds of advocacy Affleck does, similar to how other advocacy organizations have come to operate by combining insider and outsider strategies (Budabin and Pruce 2018). In chapter 3, we analyzed Affleck’s engagement in the self-­ enclosed elite phenomenon that thrives on a set of broadly financial relationships. Here we will see the effects of insider policy lobbying on the other insiders who view the alliances from their own perspective. One of the high-­ranking humanitarian workers I interviewed had briefed Ben Affleck before his testimony in front of the U.S. Congress in August 2013. When I visited his office, he showed me a photograph of Affleck, Whitney Williams, and a crowd in the blue room where speakers wait before entering Congress. He joked about how the professionals who worked there continued to come into the room just to get a look at Affleck. He explained to me how Williams was “fascinating” and “so well organized.” Further, he said of the Affleck and Williams collaboration: They are able to attract legislators and staff to this area [DRC] and to these issues . . . if we end up with an office in Goma, then the celebrities will have been helpful. Especially for Africa, we follow what the Congress wants . . . celebrities are able to bring attention. In the blue room, people lined up to watch in the gallery . . . if it had been Jendayi [Fraser, an African policy expert] and Cindy [McCain] the room would have been only half filled.51

According to this diplomat, Affleck was an asset because he was able to both stay on script and answer tough questions: “He can think on his feet within an analytical framework to respond to the questions [asked by Congress]; I couldn’t face it that well,” he commented.52 It is interesting that on the ground, celebrity humanitarians like Affleck are viewed like other new actors and alliances working in development and humanitarianism. For example, one informant confidentially confided that it was a “nightmare to deal with the Clinton Foundation whose staff are still under U.S. security protection by U.S.

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Secret Service, yet the foundation is staffed by kids who are twenty-­ one years old, fresh from college, and not even shaving in the morning, yet telling high-­ranking UN staff what to do.”53 The frustrations of coordinating these unruly actors were recounted across interviews because the visits from U.S. figures and organizations—­official or unofficial—­matter. Another informant shared the uncertainty about what will happen whenever Howard Buffett is in the Congo: “Buffett, sometimes he checks in. Sometimes he doesn’t. He meets the president . . . it would be helpful for us to know how these meetings go, to understand what influential Americans and heavy investors are doing . . . we can be helpful.”54 Here we can understand the boundaries of collaboration, even when they are cloaked in the language of celebrity strategic partnerships. The relationship between the celebrity humanitarian Ben Affleck and other humanitarian and development workers in Kinshasa is clearly one in which he is seen as an “influential American” who is deemed “helpful” for some things but not for others. Affleck and ECI’s input in areas of economic development in Eastern Congo, particularly in the celebrity strategic partnerships discussed in the previous two chapters, was noted. However, the projects’ limited scope was a source of exasperation when compared to more traditional development partners like CRS, as described in chapter 5. One diplomat mentioned what was perceived as the rather narrow scope of celebrity humanitarians’ and their strategic partnerships’ possible influence, noting, “I talk to ECI within my department, but they are still focusing on economic development, not politics. Where has Affleck been on the elections issue?”55 In concluding this chapter, we focus specifically on the issues raised by interlocutors in Kinshasa with regard to politics as exemplified in the quotation from the diplomat just presented. Indeed as suggested, the assiduous attention to political issues that was part of ECI’s earliest work fell to the wayside after strategic partnerships with businesses became more successful, a shift that was noted by local humanitarians. After one interview had ended and my notebook was put away, a career American diplomat shared with me his perspective that the Congo is a particularly difficult placement. This statement was not

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easy for me to understand because my respondent had been posted in far more serious active conflict situations over the decades, and the Congo seemed relatively stable in comparison to some of his other assignments. However, the “difficulty” here was about what feminist theorists would describe as the politics of recognition (see Fraser 1997). Lack of recognition grows out of a cultural injustice based on social patterns of representation, interpretation, and communication. This may include “cultural domination (being subjected to patterns of interpretation and communication that are associated with another culture and are alien and/or hostile to one’s own); nonrecognition (being rendered invisible by means of the authoritative representational, communicative, and interpretative practices of one’s culture); and disrespect (being routinely maligned or disparaged in stereotypic public cultural representations and/or in everyday life interactions)” (Fraser 1997, 14). The American diplomat said: We don’t get respect . . . there is no gratitude for what the U.S. does [he then listed the humanitarian, development and UNESCO contributions numerically and historically, which were meant to sound like a lot] . . . yet Kabila does whatever he wants . . . he threatens to just replace us with the Chinese.56

The view from Kinshasa was indeed that humanitarian workers were not adequately recognized for the work that they did. The battle to be considered professional, serious, and relevant was performed not just for the American or international public but also for the Congolese leadership. In such a high-­stakes battle, the promises of a celebrity strategic partnership were idealized as raising the popularity of humanitarian and development work overall in the eyes of American activists, Congolese leadership, and professional humanitarian and development workers themselves. Thus, while celebrity strategic partnerships bring a new array of powerful “helpers” into an already crowded field in Eastern Congo, their advocacy is important to other humanitarian workers and their ability to remain outside the confines of government and international organizations allows them the flexibility to cross borders, meet presidents, and develop relationships between diverse new actors. On the

Celebrities and the Local Politics of Development  • 185

other hand, this work results in a distortion of both U.S. government priorities and those of the Congolese by amplifying U.S. elite priorities and pet projects. The pace of intervention is also understood as being accelerated by celebrity humanitarians, and coordination and accountability problems abound. However, coordination challenges within the “government by substitution” existed long before the entry of a charismatic celebrity, his organization, and its partners.57 This chapter, based on the view of Affleck and his organization among humanitarian and development workers in Kinshasa, articulates important findings on strategic partnerships from below. As we return to the questions of who benefits from celebrity humanitarianism, we refocus what it means to be a “beneficiary” to include other humanitarian actors who themselves may find both positive spinoffs and benefits by association and negative effects when a celebrity enters the scene. It is important to point out that these costs and benefits are understood by the other actors in the humanitarian space in which Affleck engages, even if they do not always understand the exact details of what Affleck and his organization and partners are doing in or for the Congo. Specifically, the previous discussions have pointed to opportunities provided by celebrity humanitarians, constraints based on acceleration, professionalism that gains access but also causes frustration, and an understanding of the limited understandings that professionals have of what ECI, Affleck, Buffett, and other “partners” are actually doing and whether it conflicts with or complements U.S. priorities. Affleck and his work with ECI disrupt the public discourse on aid as we outlined in the introduction to this book (see Yanguas 2018) but not the actual way that aid works, as we have seen in this chapter. Celebrities, for-­profit businesses, private development actors, and philanthropic organizations all provide additional resources and attention from the outside and thus manifest the historical complexities of the Congo’s externalization. The celebrity humanitarian is just another unruly actor to be managed and to manage within the existing context of “traditional” humanitarianism and development.

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7 CONCLUSIONS ON CELEBRITY AND DEVELOPMENT Disruption, Advocacy, and Commodification

. . .

As a region of the world, Africa is virtually alone in being consigned to people with thin expertise and little policy background or clout to shape and guide American diplomacy. . . . Celebrities like Bono, George Clooney, and Ben Affleck are looked to help set priorities and galvanize public interest. That this should be necessary must be seen as a failure of the policy establishment itself to think more creatively and with more ambition about such a large part of the world. —­Howard W. French, “From Quarantine to Appeasement,” 2015 There are few models of power and dignity available in Eastern Congo that are equally legible in Congo, Hollywood and the U.S. Congress, and “customer” is one of them. —­NGO informant, May 1, 2020 I don’t think that Batman’s going to save Congo. —­NGO informant, June 5, 2019

Following the release of the Starbucks Reserve coffee in spring 2016 and the accompanying media fanfare, appearances by and mentions of Ben Affleck and his strategic partnership slowly receded from public   • 187

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view. So it was a surprise in June 2019 when Affleck’s byline appeared in the Los Angeles Times attached to an op-­ed on saving the Congo. Affleck’s coauthor was Adam Hochschild, whose 1998 book, King Leopold’s Ghost, had brought to light the atrocities committed in the Belgian Congo at the turn of the nineteenth century when “heroes” like E. D. Morel became famous as early celebrity humanitarians. The essay by Affleck and Hochschild, titled “In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Foreign Aid Matters,” drew a historical arc between the riches acquired in the colonial era’s plundering of forced laborers and rubber and today’s profit-­making by corporate plundering of raw materials.1 The United States was fingered as a key player in the post-­1960s demise of the Congo’s political stability and economic status despite the country’s wealth of resources. On this redemptive note, the essay turned to the “constructive engagement” of the United States today—­through helping coffee farmers and providing water—­ from NGOs, private American companies like Starbucks, and government agencies like USAID. Affleck and Hochschild highlighted cause for hope in the country’s “civil society activism,” citing in particular the work of a movement of young people called LUCHA (Lutte pour le Changement, or Fight for Change), which is advocating for fair elections and social justice. The essay insisted that “our” support as Americans, through either USAID or private companies, must be sustained as a form of reparation. Affleck and Hochschild conclude: “Our country owes a debt to both Congo and the entire continent, and we need to keep paying it.”2 The essay confirms many of our book’s arguments concerning the formation and promotion of celebrity strategic partnerships and offers a useful way to reflect on how these partnerships contribute to increasing privatization of development with both prospects and pitfalls. We find that these politics are ways of solidifying Northern and elite power through the investment of celebrity capital by means that may or may not benefit local recipients in Africa—­typically assisting the helpers more than the end-­level recipients of aid. We contend that understanding how “the dark superhero” Batman saves “the dark continent” in Eastern Congo helps us to explain the power of celebritized business solutions and the development contexts they create. Our research has highlighted how the attention that is won

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through celebrity humanitarianism is predicated upon complicity with the biases of history. While Affleck has brought popular attention to the Congo through his connections and partnerships, his promotion of celebrity strategic partnerships imparts ideals and (mis)understandings of the capacities and responsibilities of business actors in development and peace, celebrities, the public, development actors, and the state in Africa. Thus, what is made visible and what remains invisible about the politics of development are key elements for understanding the impact sustained by Affleck and his organization, Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI). We refracted this case study through the lens of celebrity strategic partnerships to distinguish them from traditional development partnerships. We underscored how celebrities work differently, by bringing in new funding actors from philanthropic and corporate worlds that previously had little experience in development, to implement disruptive practices. Celebrities are able to attract attention from both mainstream news and elite circles, drawing welcome public notice to the work of development and humanitarian agencies. And we showed how celebrities not only shift the political economy of the funding and attention landscapes but also elevate ideas, valorizing the business model for development. In this conclusion, we discuss how celebrity strategic partnerships signal the continuing neoliberalization of development with consequences for democratic politics, across spheres in both North and South.

Elite Foundations of Celebrity Humanitarianism At the fulcrum of the celebrity strategic partnership we have the celebrity figure who dons the mantle of savior not only to draw attention to neglected causes but also to put forth innovative solutions. And it has become clear that celebrity humanitarians are able to do things differently from other would-­be development actors. We argue that this has less to do with the personal charisma of the celebrity in question and more to do with a shifting landscape that welcomes intermediary figures who are able to tack from elite to mainstream audiences. The development context has given a cautious welcome to celebrities, but expectations have been raised for preparation and lateral

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endorsement. We saw how Affleck carefully built credibility for his development intervention under the watchful guidance of a Washington insider and her strategic consulting firm. That his most recent op-­ed piece was placed in the prominent Los Angeles Times should not amaze us, and it confirms the ways in which celebrity humanitarians operate in the public domain from an elite perch. Moreover, by collaborating with a best-­selling author, Affleck demonstrates the celebrity capital he has acquired by diffusing ideas about foreign aid and development alongside other experts. Celebrity humanitarians thus become indicators of growing private authority in global governance, “market winners” in the mediascape, as individual actors who can stake their claim to personalized visions for advancing causes. Affleck’s choice of Eastern Congo and his decision to create a dedicated organization to disrupt development certainly raised the profile of a neglected cause and a needy region. But rather than linking to established NGOs, Affleck needed his own platform. While usurping space (and the name) of the Congo Initiative, ECI was able to source new money from philanthropists and foundations friendly to Affleck. They also sourced new actors such as business partners and the consumer public in innovative configurations. And most important, Affleck and ECI aimed to disrupt institutional engagement with development as usual by amplifying market-­based solutions. This message and the achievement of the celebrity strategic partnership was that projects like Theo Chocolate Congo bars and Kahawa Bora rode on Affleck’s celebrity and were mentioned in mainstream magazines and newspapers as well as on talk shows and other “soft news” outlets. Meanwhile, elite networks behind Affleck and ECI propelled strategic partnerships as the way to “save the Congo” before the U.S. Congress, paving the way for an increasing number of business actors to enter the field as partners in development. Despite raising the profile of Eastern Congo as a needy case, Affleck as the highly visible and recognizable celebrity humanitarian destabilized advocacy and grant-­making by pitting publicity against accountability. This stands in contrast to democratic politics where positive feedback loops are created between exposure and public input for elite performances. Affleck’s celebrity is based on his relationship

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to the public as an actor, director, and producer with a large fan base and the ability to occupy headlines. A celebrity exploits this public in different ways to support funding and awareness-­raising for humanitarian ventures. In the case of Affleck, his public engagement was minimal at first; the financial foundation for ECI was ensured through connections and outreach of williamsworks, as we saw in chapter 3. But this changed with the advent of strategic partnerships and the need for consumer publics, bringing new demands on the visibility of the celebrity figure. One of the expectations of celebrities is that they bring their popular appeal to the elite corridors of power where public interest and trust may be waning. But this expectation was always based on a shaky foundation that entwined the celebrity’s private and public lives to serve the interests of both the celebrity and others. Our book, supporting the arguments of Brockington (2014), continues to lay bare the political economy that explains celebrity access and influence as serving elite interests rather than the mass public. The notion that the popular appeal of the celebrity might bring a fan base as the audience to a development intervention was not realized. Indeed, there is evidence that Affleck’s celebrity at times led to less transparency because of public relations considerations; turbulence in his personal life and tabloid scrutiny collided with the needs of his organization.3 This research has emphasized the invisibility of public engagement despite the need for consumer publics to support these ventures. In the North, the celebrity humanitarian champions the power of consumption rather than the exercise of political or social mobilization, with citizens remade as market actors (Brown 2016): only when Affleck began marketing the Congo through branded products was the public necessary, as consumers. This led to a shift in the setting of his appearances—­from CBS News to the Ellen show, as we saw in chapters 3 and 4. And then the consumers themselves were reduced to coffee drinkers in search of higher-­quality brews; this was exemplified when Starbucks brought to market the Kahawa Bora coffee, but only in its Reserve shops that mixed innovation and the search for new origins. With celebrities operating as public figures, their prospects for democratizing the field of development results in delimiting

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public engagement to the market and to wealthy Northern publics, not to mobilization in collaboration with local actors to pressure policymaking spheres.

The Troubled Life of a Celebrity-­Led Development Organization There remains the question of the sustainability of organizations created by celebrities. To some degree, Affleck’s celebrity humanitarian reputation has suffered in the wake of his separation in June 2015 from his wife, Jennifer Garner.4 Articles featuring Affleck spoke about a different kind of predicament—­not one that would make him reevaluate his fortune and establish an NGO for Africa but one that would lead him to get a “midlife-­crisis tattoo.”5 Then he became implicated in the #MeToo movement, suffered mixed reviews for his performance as Batman, and was photographed on the way to rehab for alcoholism.6 “Sad Affleck” even became a meme that jumped from parody videos to a variety of entertainment and social media news outlets.7 For a time, it appeared that ECI was able to weather Affleck’s changing fortunes, but soon the notoriety shook the already unstable foundation of the celebrity-­led development organization. Five years after launching ECI, Affleck receded into the background, and the organization began to contract. Affleck made his final appearance before Congress in 2015, the same year he announced his separation from his wife. The simultaneous release of Affleck’s Batman film and the Kahawa Bora Ya Kivu coffee in 2016 should be considered a high-­water mark for the actor and the organization. An ECI newsletter was launched that month but ceased distribution at the end of 2017.8 An opinion piece penned by Affleck in the New York Times’ Turning Points, a magazine that “explores what critical moments from this year might mean for the year ahead,” was as wistful in its tone as in its title: “Ben Affleck: Why I’m Hopeful about Congo.”9 Besides some coverage of visits to the Congo by Affleck in 2017 and 2019,10 press activity has been limited, with no updates after 2017.11 A newsletter issued in 2018, authored by the then managing director Dane Erickson and country director Baraka Kasali,

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announced ECI’s latest round of strategic partnerships, the Lake Kivu Coffee Alliance with the Polus Center, Higher Grounds Coffee, and the U.S. State Department to assist survivors of landmine-­related violence in the Virunga National Park; there is no mention of Ben Affleck in the partnership materials.12 As for its celebrity strategic partnerships, the products discussed in chapters 4 and 5 (Theo Chocolate Congo Bars, TOMS x Eastern Congo Initiative shoes, and Starbucks Reserve® Eastern D.R. Congo Lake Kivu) are no longer available.13 Apart from his op-­ed with Adam Hochschild and a visit in January 2019, Affleck received no coverage for any activities conducted on behalf of ECI.14 ECI has closed its DC office and lists no phone number,15 and we received reports in 2020 that ECI projects had been halted altogether, though there was still an office and an ECI sign in Goma. One informant said: “They are probably pretending to still exist, but they don’t.”16 Following two years of relative inactivity, the organization announced a new director in 2020. ECI has been absorbed by a Minnesota-­based NGO called Alight, a forty-­year-­old umbrella organization formerly known as the American Refugee Committee (ARC); after a considerable organizational shakeup at ECI, “the Board decided to be acquired by Alight from 1 October 2019.”17 Alight operates in more than a dozen countries; the connection to ECI adds the Congo to its portfolio. The organization appears to broadly support development—­health, education, refugees—­but the details of how it works are vague. There appears to be an effort to “co-­design solutions” with marginalized groups;18 this includes collaborations and “co-­ creations” with “companies, groups, and corporations.”19 According to the ECI blog, the new leadership in the Congo convened a meeting of local partners, conducted an external audit of ECI finances, and reported on visits to the Congo by ECI Board members.20 ECI is now a “combined” organization with Asili, a community-­owned, for-­profit business that seeks to “support health and improved livelihoods.”21 According to an informant, “ECI still does what it always did: grantmaking, advocacy and market-­building work, but now social enterprise is the fourth piece.”22 As a result of this merger, ECI gained the rights to Asili, so while Alight now owns ECI, ECI owns Asili, the social enterprise pilot of

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Alight in the Congo. ARC, USAID, and Ideo.org have developed Asili, an “innovative, scalable” solution to reduce poverty and improve child survival in South Kivu province.23 Asili takes an approach of long-­term sustainable development using business principles. Both on the website and in the words of interviewees, Asili is described as “a strip mall” with a cluster of businesses in one location, tackling both supply-­of and demand-­for services.24 There is also a new coffee partnership with funding from Nespresso and USAID in the works.25 Whether and how the waning fortunes of Affleck and ECI will remain entwined is unclear. One of our informants did raise the challenge of trying to imagine an ECI that could move on without Affleck’s spokesmanship,26 while another assured us that Affleck and Williams were still very much an active part of ECI.27 The newly configured organization continues to use photos of Ben Affleck in its blog and Instagram posts (see Figure 19); Whitney Williams is also listed as a board member of Alight. Affleck has not abandoned his interest in the Congo; in late 2019, it was announced that he would direct a new film version of Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost.28 His return to his expertise as a film

Figure 19. Photograph of Affleck and Williams featured as a part of an ECI blog post on COVID-­19 from April 2020. Screen grab by Lisa Ann Richey.

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director perhaps speaks more to his greater comfort behind the camera than playing a celebrity humanitarian in front of one. This brings us to the ways in which celebrity-­led development organizations benefit others, mainly the helpers. There is a perception of being involved with celebrities that leads to careerist sensibilities, building on the benefits of celebrity (Brockington 2014). Meanwhile, the celebrity-­led organization may amass funds and endorsements quickly but is still very much an amateur operation. Staff members are brought on who may not possess the seriousness and expertise to match the large-­scale vision of the celebrity founder, especially one keen on “disruption.” As one informant describes, “Many people were concerned with their own professional development and personal brand resulting in an emphasis on appearing to solve the problem rather than actually solving the problem.”29 This emphasis on “affective visibility” captures the celebrity’s performance of promoting solutions without a long-­term commitment and technical expertise. And many with field experience move on: as part of ECI’s denouement, Harper McConnell moved from ECI to a position at Starbucks as director of global coffee strategy and development.30 For others, the legitimacy born of a company’s CSR profile appears to offer a path to the political sector: in 2019, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz explored a run for U.S. president.31 In October 2019, Whitney Williams announced her candidacy for governor of Montana, which may partly explain the transitions ECI underwent; she lost in the democratic primary in June 2020.32 Without the strategic management consultant at the helm and the celebrity raising capital, the organization fails to thrive. Yet, somehow, celebrity-­led organizations like ECI tend to survive. A quick review of celebrity-­led organizations (Table 2) shows that they are resilient: indeed, Rihanna was able to mobilize quickly during the COVID-­19 pandemic through her Clara Lionel Foundation and contribute to funding multimillion-­dollar joint grants to help New York City, New Orleans, and Puerto Rico along with some international communities.33 This durability extends to celebrity strategic partnerships (Table 4). Campaigns like Bono’s (RED) and Christy Turlington Burns’s “Every Mother Counts” are moving into their second decade; this is likely a result of the parade of new products and

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brands made available seamlessly through the celebrity-­led organization’s website.34 Hugh Jackman continues to market the coffee supported by his Laughing Man Foundation. Some strategic partnerships appear short term: Charlize Theron has enjoyed three partnerships with TOMS for limited edition shoes (the last in 2016)35 while Akon’s partnership with H&M in 2011 appears to have been a one-­off.36 The conclusion to be drawn is that while Affleck, Williams, and ECI may have operated at a higher level of visibility with their prestigious partners than other development organizations, they were ineffectual in setting a proper foundation for sustaining such an enterprise. Hence, after their successful strategic partnerships had turned a profit, not enough was invested in ECI as a workable development organization. This casts doubt on the ambitious agendas of celebrities and their supporters for turning the logics of business into durable outcomes for sustainable development.

When Consultants Aid Disruption This book situated celebrity strategic partnerships within larger trends around privatized responses to development and humanitarian needs. Efforts to create organizations and to circulate narratives by celebrity humanitarians have the effect of remaking relationships across various actors within and across the Northern and Southern spheres (Fadlalla 2019). This work showed how celebrity humanitarians with their shaky legitimacy are able to anchor an unruly bunch of new actors that include global corporations, strategic consultants, and philanthropists who gain the credibility to work with traditional development actors. In concert, these actors gain visibility and prominence; the logo soup of a network graphic (Figure 11) links this otherwise disparate set of actors into a celebrity strategic partnership that banks on the political and financial capital of the celebrity but with benefits that accrue to all. The co-­branding effects of popular brands such as Starbucks with the popularity of Ben Affleck bring on board capital, established NGOs, and government-­funded agencies. Meanwhile, one actor that might normally have stayed behind the curtain took center stage.

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What set apart ECI was not only its celebrity founder but also the fact that it was conceived by a strategic consultant on behalf of a client, which was not Eastern Congo. Williamsworks put its own brand on the origins of ECI and the celebrity strategic partnerships it helped create from its list of clients as part of its objective to “improve countless lives by partnering with extraordinary people.”37 The well-­connected Whitney Williams proved successful in assisting Affleck to amass the financial and political capital needed to propel ECI to a high level of visibility, also benefiting her own firm. Famously reticent in interviews, Williams does claim that her organization has done more than $5 million in pro bono work for ECI, a claim that speaks to the vast resources devoted to a single celebrity-­led NGO as well as the high daily rate for her consulting advice (see chapter 3).38 But it is also plausible that the use of a strategic consultant as a director hampered the day-­to-­day work of ECI; Williams ran the organization as her “second full-­time job” until a managing director was hired in 2016. We have argued that celebrities operate differently and the use of a strategic consultant did enable ECI to engage in some disruptive practices. More than other celebrity-­led organizations, ECI moved with careful deliberation; Williams and Affleck conducted multiple field visits to the Congo in preparation for launching ECI. They were committed to hiring Congolese staff, engaging with stakeholders, and conducting a consultation process. One observer credited them with “thinking before acting.”39 There was a stress on cultivating local connections out of recognition that “Affleck does not mean anything to people in Congo.”40 But as disruptive as ECI’s practices may have been to the field of development—­as a foreign NGO operating in a fragile context—­the organization was nonetheless advancing untested approaches without appropriate checks in ways that reflect the pitfalls of neoliberalization. The political and financial capital amassed for Affleck’s disruption to development was substantial. In addition to the $5 million in pro bono work from williamsworks, the funding expended on behalf of Affleck, ECI, and its strategic partnerships can be estimated to exceed $10 million. This includes spending by philanthropists who

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were brought on board as “investors” to fund ECI with an annual budget that fluctuated between $1 million and $4 million, the donations and capital pledged to bring the Kahawa Bora coffee to market, the matching grants made by USAID, and the marketing muscle flexed by Starbucks. This is not to neglect the use of political capital—­the congressional representatives who invited Affleck to provide witness testimony and who traveled to the Congo at ECI’s behest and then joined Affleck for media and fundraising appearances, along with the support given through op-­eds and endorsements. Taken together, this outpouring of resources in the name of supporting “innovative thinking” for an organization that appears to have been submerged into the umbrella of Alight demonstrates the extreme risk-­taking that exists in the development field. Though the language of business permeated the organization—­from its consultant founder to its strategic partnerships to its investors—­the fact was that the appropriate mechanisms for accountability that might have laid the ground for an enduring disruption were lacking. Despite appearing to adopt business practices, ECI was neither an accountable business nor a sustainable development organization.

Commodifying Development Causes The force of this celebrity strategic partnership has the effect of disrupting development contexts in various ways. The partnership model has already been adopted by the field of development with an emphasis on innovation and outside-­the-­box thinking. The risk-­ taking impulse of the corporate and entrepreneurial sectors is brought to bear to “fix” the ineffectiveness of aid. As part of this process, the vehicle of the business partner becomes remade as a responsible development player, able to make a positive impact that further dissociates it from more deleterious effects (Richey 2019). To what extent are development actors enthused to hear that aid can “work itself out of business”? The welcome given to celebrities and their partnership models has been split, as shown in chapter 6, with careful appreciation of the awareness-­raising possibility but exasperation at the usurping of traditional actors’ dominance and operations. The power of celebrity is

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understood from the point of view of elites—­decision and policymakers as well as agencies—­ as resting in the ability to sustain, increase, or potentially endanger support for foreign aid. The ascendancy of market-­based approaches is intended to benefit the social and economic development of a conflict-­affected country. But such a solution makes no attempt to ameliorate the effects of late-­stage capitalism, where Eastern Congo proves to have fared more poorly than others in the global economic structure. Celebrity humanitarians are responsible for constructing and disseminating narratives to justify interventions on behalf of development causes. With their access and credibility, celebrities like Affleck are able to give celebrity strategic partnerships further purchase as a way of “doing development” when invited to political arenas. In front of these audiences, celebrity humanitarians both represent and solidify elite endorsement for neoliberal intervention. Through these narratives, disruptive practices such as market-­based solutions obfuscate root causes, disempower beneficiaries, and peddle an expensive approach to development that may not even be sustainable. Whereas we argued that Affleck’s status as a celebrity humanitarian enabled him to adopt a different approach to “solving” the Congo, the marketing materials for celebrity strategic partnerships continued to traffic in faulty representations (see chapters 4 and 5). This included narrating the challenges facing the Congo without paying heed to the colonial histories, U.S. responsibility, and regional dynamics behind these challenges faced by the country. Then, as we saw in chapter 5, ECI circulated exaggerated claims about the revival of Congolese coffee that were misleading and that neglected the extensive network of allies, particularly the long-­term work conducted by humanitarian agencies. The narratives focused on the elixir of empowering coffee farmers, especially women, depicted a system of dependency on outsider “saviors” to provide the necessary capital and markets for export. For example, to justify his focus on women and the necessity of his work, Affleck told Glamour magazine, “These women are such badasses. With a little help, there will be no stopping them.”41 Upon hearing this narrative, one humanitarian worker observed, “I am not sure if ‘badass’ would be the way they would want to be described themselves. But, I doubt that they subscribe

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to Glamour magazine either, so they might never find out.”42 And there in essence is the control exerted by the Northern sphere over the Southern narrative along with the lack of accountability for any misrepresentations. The Los Angeles Times op-­ed should give us pause, however, in the interminable march of neoliberal discourses that champion partnerships and the market while decontextualizing and depoliticizing their subjects and circumstances. Affleck’s op-­ed underscores the postindependence period as a time when U.S. interference, including the misuse of foreign aid, laid down the roots of the Congo’s current challenges. While not questioning current U.S. interventions—­both private and public—­the op-­ed takes pains to situate the country’s development agenda within the longer history of humanitarianism and colonialism. This adoption of an alternate narrative harkens back to Affleck’s early years as a celebrity humanitarian on behalf of the Congo, as we discussed in chapter 3. This alternate narrative is likely drawn from Hochschild’s work on the history of the Congo under colonial and postcolonial rule. Despite the fact that ECI appears to have downsized, the appearance of this op-­ed, with both its embrace of neoliberal approaches to development and its acknowledgment of past faulty interventions by the United States, shows that celebrity humanitarians do at times use their platforms to shake up conventional thinking. But without a fully operational ECI, it is hard to see how Affleck can sustain this line of thinking or implement it in policy or programs.

Amplifying Congolese Voices Affleck’s celebrity power is born of his Northern fan base and elite connections. Meanwhile, there’s another public, in the Congo, that has much less knowledge about and say over what is done on their behalf. No one in the Congo chose to be “represented by” Affleck. While ECI’s footprint as an NGO is arguably small in the landscape of development work in the Congo, it is one of a handful of organizations that has had its founder appear before Congress four times (see Appendix B). When ECI shifted course, as we saw in chapter 4, because its original approach had failed to get traction,

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there was no public reckoning with the missteps and misaligned strategic objectives. The possibilities for Affleck to work not just for but with the people of the Congo was part of the disruption of development that he hoped to achieve with ECI. Celebrities are valued for their ability to bridge populations—­North and South—­but these connections have always been constructed on shaky foundations replete with unsettling power relations. The ability to extend the celebrity’s capital to other publics, beneficiaries of U.S. foreign aid, and strategic partnerships that are based elsewhere is even more attenuated. Affleck became the spokesperson on behalf of Eastern Congo, people who were not previously part of his fan base. And this “distant public” is certainly unable to weigh in on Affleck’s work. There is, however, evidence that Affleck was able to elevate and amplify the voices of some Congolese, but this was limited to the U.S. context. Five years before the launch of ECI, Congo Initiative (CI) had been fundraising and raising awareness of the Congo’s issues, but with fewer resources and less access as a small Christian NGO, as we discussed in chapter 2.43 Rather than compete, CI has become a key partner: ECI granted funds to the Christian Bilingual University of Congo, the main beneficiary of CI, and hired the son of CI’s founders as ECI’s country manager (he then moved on to become director of strategic development and partnerships at Nuru, an energy company).44 The high-­visibility celebrity capital of Affleck and ECI became a point of leverage for the Congo Initiative, which was able to announce that “we have ECI on our team.”45 Furthermore, ECI was responsible for getting CI’s founder, Dr. David Kasali, invited to high-­profile meetings with potential donors. At the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting, Affleck graciously introduced Dr. Kasali: There are very few of us here today who would wake up one morning and say, “I am going to start a university in a war torn area.” [Yet], this is what Dr. Kasali did. It is the audacity and fearlessness of Congolese men and women like Dr. Kasali that inspired the genesis of ECI (Eastern Congo Initiative). In my travels to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I have been simply astounded at the level

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of tragedy, with more than 5 million people killed as a result of the conflict since 1996. But I was even more inspired by the local community leaders that we met who were trying to rebuild their communities. UCBC is one of our strongest partners and we are absolutely delighted that Dr. Kasali can be here today to join us.46 

This support does not reverse the power dynamics of the relationship between Northern savior and Southern beneficiary, but it does illustrate that a celebrity humanitarian can be a vehicle to amplify some Congolese voices seeking to gain support. In a similar ambassadorship, David Kasali’s son Baracka became a crucial spokesperson for ECI’s coffee work in the Congo. In blog posts and other media appearances, Kasali discussed the favorable farming conditions, the revitalization of the coffee sector, and domestic lobbying efforts to reduce coffee export taxes.47 This type of local perspective coming from a Congolese leader gives the impression of ownership over the process. A disruption in the Congo would mean having to upset historical configurations of North–­South relations. Affleck’s work has taken some small steps to redress some of the power dynamics between benefactors and beneficiaries. For example, ECI remade its grantees into “partners” that have been deemed worthy of not grants but “investments.”48 In its attempts to amplify the local groups, ECI claims that it “invests in Congolese-­led solutions to help solve the problems facing the #DRC.”49 But instead of reckoning with the persisting structures of unequal power relations, the discursive “partnerfication” of development becomes synonymous with neoliberalization and no more. We learned that the coffee co-­ops came to view ECI as an unwanted middleman between them and Starbucks; the dependency on ECI led some to suggest that they were made less viable as businesses.50 This leads us to ask what the “returns” on these investments are purported to be, with benefits accruing to whom?

Celebrities Play Politics from Global to Local As we have shown in this book, Affleck’s work in the Congo stands as an outlier in the larger field of celebrity interventions for offering

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a level of grass-­roots, though ultimately fragile, engagement and long-­term commitment. Yet, money brought in through the convening power of a celebrity does not fall neutrally on the scales of power but supports particular sides in political struggles related to aid (see Yanguas 2018). At the level of Congolese–­American politics, Affleck’s work is generally supported by those at the State Department level and questioned, if not resented, by those doing long-­term development work through USAID. This is not peculiar to his intervention but speaks of the modality of big-­spectacle–­big-­money interventions. As explained by one U.S. diplomat in support of Howard Buffett’s work in the Congo, these “huge-­scale projects like building the customs and border control between DRC and Rwanda leads to increasing trade between them to reduce conflict . . . this is different than USAID, which is more dispersed, mostly health and focused on building up systems.”51 The ongoing battles between the Department of State and USAID are well known to those inside the humanitarian and aid community and have a considerable history (see Yanguas 2018). However, the impact that celebrities like Affleck or Buffett have as disruptors of aid as usual has not yet been taken into consideration. The growing dependence on private funding for development leads NGOs to turn to businesses and philanthropists in addition to humanitarian agencies in conceiving celebrity strategic partnerships. The benefits of partnering with private sources for an NGO and a celebrity figure are many. As the example of ECI shows, start-­up funds are gathered before the organization has even launched and proved itself. Rather than being accountable to funding sources through evaluations and reports, the celebrity humanitarian wields his or her capital to sustain support. Humanitarian agencies can be unwieldy bureaucracies; business partners can move faster, on the basis of a handshake. Finally, our case demonstrates that with the public sector’s emphasis on business engagement along with the normative agenda of Sustainable Development Goals, finding a business partner and philanthropic funding may now be a necessary step before gaining agency support and grants.52 On the development side, such sequencing ensures the sourcing of new partners and funding while avoiding the risks of aligning with an untested organization. We see ECI’s

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example as demonstrating the further embedding of the “partnership model for development” where corporate and philanthropic funds are playing an ever larger role. This case raises questions for the future of the politics of development that hinge on the legitimacy of celebrity strategic partnerships. The Los Angeles Times op-­ed continues to reinforce the privatization of development by underscoring the role played by NGOs and corporations, with USAID support for this third-­sector engagement. Unmentioned in the description of the support to coffee farmers are the myriad actors assembled by Affleck and ECI to fill in the many gaps in capital investment, technical expertise, and background research. Painting a straight line from the coffee farms of Lake Kivu to the neighborhood Starbucks offers a development imaginary of a clean supply value chain. However, this narrative does a disservice to the intricate circumstances and hefty resources that characterize the celebrity strategic partnership in operation here. Meanwhile, capacity building receives its proper due here, but the possibilities for sustaining such advances, with or without Affleck, ECI, Starbucks, or USAID, are unclear.

Reconfiguring Eastern Congo This book aimed to consider the effects of celebrity humanitarianism within Northern spheres of influence but also on politics in the South. When Affleck chose to bring his celebrity to Eastern Congo, his distinguishing of the region was a blatantly political act. The choice underscored the ways the region is characterized by neglect and conflict, with the government in Kinshasa partly responsible for this center–­periphery dynamic. But many past interventions in this region have failed to take into account specific history, economics, and social contexts, particularly in relation to Rwanda. The persistence of Eastern Congo’s instability and underdevelopment has been met with externalized solutions, with the influx of foreign NGOs and humanitarian agencies taking over public-­sector functions and abnegating the need for strong governance (Lake 2018). References to the failed or fragile state weaken the authority of supporting NGO actors by calling into question their neoliberal posture in relation to the state—­

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either supplanting or substituting for it. The more “failed” the state, the more celebrities and NGOs (and the money and partners they bring in) matter. When Dr. Denis Mukwege of Panzi Hospital won the Nobel Peace Prize, Affleck Instagrammed an older photo of the two of them, honoring his friend and ECI partner.53 But this friendly championing fails to mention the fact that Dr. Mukwege has been critical of not only armed groups and the international community for failing to deal with sexual violence in conflict but also the Congolese government. Dr. Mukwege escaped an assassination attempt that followed his criticism of Kabila’s government in 2012.54 ECI and Affleck’s neglect of Dr. Mukwege and his work as contentious practices in the context of Congolese politics is one example of how celebrity strategic partnerships are inherently political. Returning to where we began this chapter, it is noteworthy that the Los Angeles Times op-­ed written by Affleck and Hochschild actually references a local movement. Here, we see Affleck recognizing local dynamics in a way that differs from earlier narratives of the Congo that failed to recognize U.S. responsibility for the challenges facing the Congo (see chapters 2, 3, and 4). The movement goes by the name of LUCHA (Lutte pour le Changement) and has been gathering support for social justice and accountability in Eastern Congo since its establishment in 2011.55 Charges are directed at the Congolese government as well as the United States. A blurb on the LUCHA website reads: US–­Africa Leaders Summit?? we don’t expect a washington-­made revolution. we believe in ourselves to shape the congo and africa’s future.56

It is important to see how LUCHA’s appeals for access to water and infrastructure development in Goma reflect the reality that “there are numerous Congolese who would like to see a strengthened public sector rather than private investment in services.”57 Thus, the private investment in Eastern Congo by philanthropists like Howard Buffett as encouraged by strategic consultants like Whitney Williams and

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celebrated by Affleck challenges the strengthening of democratic governance in Eastern Congo and the Congo as a whole. Mentioning a local movement that is resisting historical North–­ South configurations along with a country’s governance is one thing. Supporting one is another—­what de Waal would see as “the anti-­ neocolonial solidarity model” in which Southern movements maintain the initiative while enlisting the support of Northern advocates (2015b, 24–­27). Affleck and Hochschild recognize and elevate the work of LUCHA, as an example of the “hotbed of civil society activism” that confronts the Congo’s “weak and sometimes dysfunctional government.”58 However, the only concrete “ask” in the op-­ed is that readers stop by Starbucks and purchase the Lake Kivu coffee “while supplies last.”59 Nor is there any evidence that ECI has supported LUCHA with a grant, which in any case wouldn’t square with its mission of supporting social and economic development.60 To truly disrupt the politics of the Congo would mean, first, having to contend with political forces and, second, not pretending that supporting business investment in the Congo does not have domestic ramifications.

Disruptions to the Politics of Development? Our book has looked at celebrity strategic partnerships that claim to disrupt the politics of development. What kind of politics are the politics of “development”? From the history of the Marshall Plan for Europe after World War II, they are the politics of the victors helping the victims to rebuild after humiliating defeat. More fundamentally, decolonial theorists have analyzed how “development” is possible only from inside a Eurocentric understanding of what the world actually “is,” and this has developed through the expansion of capitalism from 1492 on (Mignolo 2001). Transferred to the history of empire and colonialism, they are the politics of distinguishing the world from “us” and “them” on the crude basis of race or geography (Quijano 2000). The trajectory from “underdeveloped” to “developed” is a dangerous single story that we Westerners (white, nonpoor, heteronormative) use to tell about ourselves. It is perhaps helpful to consider “development” as an aspirational brand.

Conclusions on Celebrity and Development  • 207

A better, clearer, less troubled version of ourselves as individuals, cultures, and nations required constant policing to remain coherent. Clearly, this is a politics in need of disruption. But our study of celebrity strategic partnerships shows how, instead of seeing a disruption of the usual “business of development,” we see the perpetuation of the usual “development of business.” “Development” in the long term or “humanitarianism” in response to an immediate crisis is a highly crafted script to tell the story of what we are giving. This branded giving obscures the question of what we are taking. The problem with celebrity strategic partnerships does not lie in the performance of the politics of development or humanitarianism—­when Ben Affleck reads his lines from five-by-seven-inch index cards in sixteen-­point font, he is playing exactly the role we want of him. Affleck’s performance is powerful not because it is unique or innovative but because it is so common. In the words of Mathers, writing about Nicholas Kristof, this “is the story of the lone, often white, often American traveler who stumbles onto a scene of devastating and disturbing poverty somewhere in the underdeveloped/ third/poverty-­stricken world and returns home to try and do something to help” (2012, 26). These critiques are not new for Affleck. As stated by one informant: “Affleck appears deeply uncomfortable with that dynamic. I am deeply impressed with the depth of his knowledge and commitment to helping the people of Congo. Don’t think for a second that he’s not aware of the deeply pernicious narratives that he’s perpetuating. There is a constant desire to center the experiences of the Congolese people.”61 Our in-­depth research has produced no reason to question Affleck’s personal commitment toward helping the Congo. So, let us end our book as academics do, with a story and a few questions. In early 1939, prompted by the success of Superman, the editors of National Publications requested more superheroes for their comics (Rhoades 2007, 76). Batman the fictional superhero was created for this market as the superhero form of Bruce Wayne, a wealthy philanthropist whose childhood trauma leads him to avenge his parents’ murder by fighting against criminals in Gotham City and beyond. There is considerable debate over whether Batman is really a superhero since he actually lacks any superpower: “Bruce Wayne was a

208  •  Conclusions on Celebrity and Development

rich dude with a cool belt, a costume, a sweet car and a butler. And some sort of a servant boy” (77). In Forbes magazine’s estimation, Bruce Wayne was the seventh-richest fictional character, with a personal fortune of $6.3 billion: Rhoades writes that “although Wayne is a successful industrialist, most of his wealth comes from Gotham City real estate holdings that he inherited from his parents” (77). Batman’s quest to stop evil over time sometimes leads him to vigilantism and hyperindividualism. But the superhero has also been depicted as an honorary member of the Gotham police department, using his skills and tenacity in orchestration with a public institution. So why is Batman in the Congo coming to save development, modernity, humanitarianism, capitalism, and white saviorism? These don’t need support from more wealthy philanthropists or superheroes. If we can agree with Ben Affleck’s own assertion that “in the modern age . . . there is a currency to celebrity . . . [and] you can spend it in a lot of ways, or you can squander it,”62 then why not invest it in democratic politics, social protection, and global justice movements work on local material alliances? Why not use your wealth and charisma to convene visionary voices and then quietly hold the audience in the room while they speak—­not as product spokespersons but about their agenda, not yours? Why not celebrate paying your taxes, working for labor unions, and voting on issues that matter most to you? Why not use public attention to rally calls for greater accountability by governments and responsible business practices by corporations? Why not remind Americans that Africa is not our battleground, classroom, or stage (see, for example, Magubane 2008; Mathers 2010; Martin 2016) and instead turn our political conflicts, moral lessons, and creative performances into better reflections and actions in agency?

#CongoCoffee #MakeCoffeeMatter #MakeCoffeeBetter #RDC #DRC This book concludes that the longest-­lasting effect of Ben Affleck’s celebrity strategic partnership in the Congo was to disrupt the relationship between donor and recipient and replace it with one of benevolent partnerships designed to sell products to customers.63 Elites

Conclusions on Celebrity and Development  • 209

extract benefit from helping the poor through means over which they have little control to achieve predetermined ends. What is missing is democratic agenda setting, accountability, and the possibility that development could become a contentious politics of distribution where interests are constantly battling for their rightful share (Ferguson 2015). One of ECI’s visions in its work on social enterprise with Asili was to imagine the Congolese as “customers who can take their money elsewhere,” explained one informant. “But can they?” we asked. “I don’t know. I’ve never been there.”64 How benevolent is a partnership based on gross inequality where one side has Batman, billionaires, and their businesses and the other side becomes “customers” who can’t afford five dollars for critical healthcare or eight cents for water instead of “citizens” who are entitled to them? In this book we have used the case study of Affleck and the Eastern Congo Initiative to discuss the emergence and problematic influence of celebrity strategic partnerships. These arrangements reflect the neoliberalization of development by emphasizing market relations, recasting the role of the state, and stressing individual responsibility. By selling coffee to save the Congo state in the absence of local governance, Affleck serves up a “cup of hope” to millions of Northern consumers. Neoliberal configurations resonate with sociopolitical imaginaries that see a greater role to be played by corporate and philanthropic actors in solving pressing issues. The normative assumption is that the services should be privatized and the market should replace the state. Political and financial capital wielded by celebrities have led to new configurations of neoliberal “helping” that eclipses the space of other stakeholders. Affleck himself recognized that though his celebrity was a currency, “You can be taxed, as well. I really started thinking long and hard about how to use that currency as long as I had it.”65 The ability to establish an organization, secure ample funding, and gain access demonstrated the credibility Affleck burnished, but we have argued that these are based less on appeal to mainstream audiences than the result of elite networks. Affleck may be correct that celebrity is a currency to spend, yet he is incorrect in saying that he can be taxed. Whatever reputations

210  •  Conclusions on Celebrity and Development

celebrities may enjoy as Hollywood actors do not change the fact that when they create organizations, testify before Congress, gather funds for causes, and claim to speak on behalf of others, they are unelected political actors. And the past decades have shown an increase in the scope and scale of celebrity engagement that raises the stakes. As celebrity humanitarians wade deeper into debates, they open themselves to more vociferous criticism. We have shown how the use of celebrity strategic partnerships creates mixed results for accountability. Ineffectiveness, misrepresentations of development, and the disadvantages of working with corporate partners go unmentioned and unsanctioned. Funding remained steady for the duration of ECI’s independent existence. Though claims to have revitalized the coffee industry were hyperbolic and misleading, the opportunities for the sector have been expanded. The Congolese group that wrote the set of hashtags that open this section will continue to mobilize to #MakeCoffeeMatter. Those interested in rebuilding the industry stress that “partnership is key to improvement.”66 Affleck’s celebrity strategic partnership attention and investments, from both state and private actors, can still be appreciated but not at the expense of ignoring the excessive resources—­both financial and political—­that were pledged in the name of a celebrity’s attempts at a Batman-­style disruption. Despite efforts to realize “Congolese-­led solutions,” a celebrity humanitarian like Affleck was not able to devolve authority to his organization or its strategic partnerships. Doing so would have led to its failure because celebrity humanitarianism depends on “affective visibility”— ­it is not profitable to partner with unknowns. At the beginning of our book, a high-­ ranking donor official explained that “development aid is not what it used to be.”67 The chapters that followed analyzed the celebrity strategic partnerships around Ben Affleck’s celebrity humanitarianism in the Congo to understand what development aid has become. The “partnerships” on which aid depends are funded by profit and operate through the logics of business, not public-­service provision. Congolese “partners” are no longer the suffering strangers worthy of charity; they are the providers of resources and labor for industries that profit from including them as a sign of corporate social responsibility. Yet,

Conclusions on Celebrity and Development  • 211

elite networks across corporate and political spheres in the North drive the agenda and set the terms of engagement for celebrity strategic partnerships. While Batman and his friends claim to disrupt the usual politics of development and humanitarianism, they instead amplify their practices of elite networking, visibility, and profitable helping.

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EPILOGUE COVID-­19 and Making ECI Relevant Again

. . .

As we finished putting the last touches on this manuscript in spring 2020, the world was two to four months into what is likely to become a protracted global pandemic—­COVID-­19. The effects of the virus on our analysis metaphorically reflect its effects on us and all of our friends and family around the globe: like celebrity power, COVID-­19 amplifies power relationships at all levels and brings the stark inequalities of international relations, health systems, community support, and individual bodies into focus. The relationship at the center of our book, celebrity strategic partnerships, created by Ben Affleck, Whitney Williams, and their wealthy and powerful allies returned to our attention. During the early days of the COVID-­19 pandemic, ECI became newly invigorated online. Following a period of relative dormancy, ECI posted a half-­dozen articles on its blog written by the new executive director from his home in Virginia,1 linking Eastern Congo to the disaster in the United States and offering “Lessons from Eastern Congo.”2 One of our informants explained the context to us, noting: “In 2020, COVID-­19 interrupted our big merger announcement plans where Ben was going to do a big thing—­all big and splashy—­but then COVID . . . so we told the board that we still have things to say in this crisis.”3 From this update, it seems that ECI and the celebrity strategic partnerships, now including Alight and Asili, as discussed in the conclusion of chapter 7, were continuing into COVID times with the engagements we have described in our book. In finding their   • 213

214  • Epilogue

feet with the fourth pillar of their engagement in Eastern Congo—­ social enterprise—­ECI began looking around for possible ways to remain useful in relation to COVID-­19. It stumbled upon two. First, upon discovering that “our friends in the USAID office in Kinshasa don’t have anyone on the ground in Eastern Congo, and we have our medical director in Bukavu, CFO in Kigali and General Manager in Goma,” ECI began writing a series of weekly briefs on COVID-­19.4 Remarkably, these briefs were available in their entirety within a Google Drive folder linked to the blog of ECI/Asili’s executive director.5 ECI’s interpretation of the situation “on the ground” in Eastern Congo for its colleagues in the Kinshasa aid community consisted of six “technical briefings” and one collection of “Asili stories for USAID” (a sort of press release containing short illustrated stories on “How USAID Support Is Helping People in Eastern Congo Fight the COVID-­19 Pandemic”).6 None of these vignettes had been taken up by USAID on its website or in social media profiles that also included COVID-­19 stories but continued to highlight the range of USAID’s work from agriculture to literacy and from small business development to democratization. In spite of what a reader might ascertain from ECI’s blogs and its “technical briefings,” ECI is not working directly with USAID except insofar as it is a USAID grantee. As with the white paper we discussed earlier in our book, the production of these technical inputs is more important for ECI’s performance for its American supporters than to the actual policy decision makers in the Congo itself. This is not to imply that ECI would not like to be more relevant on the ground, which we must assume it would. Lack of good intentions has never been a problem identified in this book; however, the real problem with celebrity strategic partnerships comes from their outcomes in favor of elites, appearances, and profits. Second, as part of its work on “social enterprise,” ECI’s executive director wrote: “Working with the Asili medical and community engagement teams, ECI has created community education materials about COVID-­19 prevention in French and Swahili, and we’re sharing them throughout South and North [Kivu].”7 Yet, it remained unclear where the documents written by ECI consultants and Asili health staff are legally allowed to be distributed, as the permission of the

Epilogue  • 215

Congolese government is required. The text for the brochure was publicly available in a Google file linked to by the blog. Here we could see the French, Kiswahili, and English versions online, although only the French version had tracking comments, indicating the collaboration among the authoring American consultant, the Asili medical director, and Alight ITC.8 The “COVID 19 Guidance” on ECI’s new merged letterhead with the ECI name and Asili’s multicolored logo consisted of these six points: 1. The Coronavirus is a new infectious virus. 2. Everyone is at risk from the virus. 3. The Coronavirus is as serious as Ebola. 4. You can infect others without having symptoms. 5. Protect yourself to protect others. 6. Asili protects our health, our health protects Asili.9

The problem here is that fundamental public health information is being provided to a subsection of the Congolese population (those in the areas surrounding the Asili social enterprise clinics) together with product marketing information and ECI’s logo. This exacerbates confusion over responsible public information during a time of crisis where misinformation has been rampant globally. To be fair, this text was a draft, and the final version was not online when our book went to press. However, the pamphlet and the inclusion of the photograph of the Asili medical director on the pamphlet were publicly praised by ECI’s director. Given the history of attacks on international health workers during the 2018 Ebola outbreak in Eastern Congo, the ECI director noted: “it took real courage for our medical director, Dr. Johny Muhindo, to put his own picture on a brochure we developed about the COVID-­19 epidemic.”10 The picture of Dr. Muhindo that accompanies the ECI blog is the same one used for his profile as the recipient of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.11 As a U.S. Department of State–­sponsored fellow,12 Dr. Muhindo was in the public management track and his profile was noted for his commitment to public health in the Congo: “He aspires to join health decision-­making bodies at the national level to build an accessible health system.”13 Yet, his picture is on a brochure that

216  • Epilogue

appears to provide public health information under a social enterprise logo with one-­sixth of its information devoted to advertising. Instead of being part of the combined effort of donors, implementers, and entrepreneurs under the coordination of a governing authority, the “new” ECI merging celebrity humanitarianism with social enterprise was already misappropriating public responsibility for its own branded benefit. Unlike some of its neighboring governments, the Congo’s leadership was quick to take measures to manage the spread of COVID­19, including closing the country’s borders, prohibiting travel in and out of Kinshasa, and publicizing the World Health Organization guidelines on prevention from March 20, 2020.14 It also had an active official government website—­“Stop Coronavirus COVID-­19 RDC”—­ where updates on COVID-­19 national statistics, containment policies, and prevention could be found. The website was funded by a number of international donors, including the European Union, USAID, Swedish Cooperation, the King Baudouin Foundation (Belgium), and the National Lottery.15 Thus, it could not be argued that ECI/Alight was acting on COVID-­19 in response to a national public health policy vacuum, nor could it be assumed that the only way that international actors could support Congolese efforts was to act outside the government realm. At the same time, Affleck, together with Alight’s lobbyists, was working with ECI’s new director and communications team to write a letter to ECI’s allies in the U.S. Senate to use their experiences with COVID-­19 in the Congo to enhance the transitions of USAID.16 After ECI’s quiet hiatus while it underwent its management crisis, Affleck is back to work in elite policy advocacy targeting the American government in the hopes of disrupting the politics of development. Lisa Ann Richey and Alexandra Cosima Budabin socially distanced in Bornholm and Bolzano, May 11, 2020

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We are grateful to Jason Weidemann, our editor, and Zenyse Miller at the University of Minnesota Press, who saw the potential in our book project. Invaluable was the sage advice of our anonymous manuscript reviewers. We appreciate the careful attention given to the manuscript by the production team and indexer Beatrice Burton. This project was germinated by an invitation extended by Amal Fadlalla to participate in the panel “Humanitarianism and Human Rights: Conceptualizing Development, Security, and Justice in Africa” at the African Studies Association in autumn 2012. Early papers and chapter drafts received debate, feedback, and constructive criticism in numerous workshops and conferences. This includes those of the International Studies Association, the European International Studies Association, and the American Association of Geographers. This work was also presented at the University of Copenhagen; the Barcelona Workshop on Global Governance; the Center for Civil Society at the London School of Economics; the Conference on Global Humanitarianism and Media Culture, University of Sussex; “Humanitarianism beyond the State: Everyday Actors in Global Do-­Gooding,” University of Trento; the Carolina Seminar in African Ecology and Social Processes; Jama Series, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; University of Stockholm Department of Media Studies Public Seminar Series; and “When Development Meets Business and Celebrity” at Copenhagen Business School.   • 217

218  • Acknowledgments

We are grateful for the work of our research assistants, including Sofie Elbæk Henriksen, Emilie Cronje Kronhjem, and a researcher in the Congo who would prefer to be thanked anonymously. With this book, we seek to inspire scholars to take celebrities and their organizations seriously in human rights, humanitarian, and development spaces. Moving the study of celebrities from the basement rooms of conventions to mainstream spaces has been accomplished with the steady camaraderie and excellent research of many of our colleagues. We are grateful for support from the core researchers of the Research Network on Celebrity and North–­South Relations: Dan Brockington, Annika Bergman Rosamond, Lene Bull Christiansen, Louise Mubanda Rasmussen, Johanna Hood, Anne Vestergaard, and Mette Fog Olwig. We also appreciated the inspiration and work of the researchers affiliated with the Network: Lilie Chouliaraki, Mike Goodman, Ilan Kapoor, Anne Jerslev, Kate Wright, Uma Kothari, Jo Littler, Mette Mortensen, Mary Mostafanezhad, Danai Mupotsa, Tanja Müller, Stefano Ponte, Joel R. Pruce, Martin Scott, Robert van Krieken, and Mark Wheeler.

Alexandra My first thanks go to Lisa Ann Richey, whom I met as a Ph.D. guest researcher at Roskilde University in 2009. It was Lisa who wrote in 2016 with the notion of pulling together our work on Ben Affleck and Eastern Congo Initiative into a book. Her indefatigable drive, her tenacity in securing interviews in Kinshasa, and her implacable faith in our work made the project happen. The extended writing time was sustained by a deep fondness for each other and a shared love of whiteboards, chatty walks, and Italian markets. Lisa and I weathered too many crises to count in the course of writing this book. For her steady companionship as a friend, mentor, and coauthor, I am beyond grateful. My intellectual life and research agenda have been sustained in many many ways by the research network created by Lisa on celebrities and North–­South relations. During frequent trips to Denmark and encounters in workshops and conferences all over the world, I gained the collegiality and friendship of a lively circle of provocative

Acknowledgments  • 219

thinkers. My intellectual journey continues with the Commodifying Compassion project, also led by Lisa, where I have gained from rich conversations with Mie Vestergaard and Maha Rafi Atal. I am indebted to the University of Dayton’s Human Rights Center for its support for my research. This includes the visionary creativity of Jason Pierce and Mark Ensalaco in devising my external position. I grew as a researcher of human rights advocacy with the support of HRC executive directors Camilo Perez Bustillo, Anthony Talbott, and Shelly Inglis. A Peter McGrath human rights fellowship afforded me the opportunity to conduct initial research on the case of Eastern Congo Initiative and included the excellent assistance of McGrath undergraduate research fellow Daniel Dashewich. I relied on the administrative help of Jeanette Anderson and Monti Moyer. My colleagues and BFFs Natalie F. Hudson and Joel R. Pruce offered intellectual conversation and boisterous cheerleading throughout. My thanks as well go to my inestimable peers Grant Neeley, Rick Ghere, Michelle Pautz, Jaro Bilocerkowycz, Youssef Farhat, and Paul Morrow. From my current perch as a Research Fellow in the Faculty of Design and Art at the Free University of Bolzano, I owe grazie mille to my PI Waltraud Kofler Engl and former PI Roberto Farneti for their support. I have greatly appreciated Dorothy Zinn, Lucie Courteau, Sara Longo, Alessio Tomelleri, and Gaia Piccarolo for their warmth, good humor, and willingness to take coffee breaks. To my colleagues across the river—­Kerstin Wonisch and Sergiu Constantin—­the next round is on me. My deepest gratitude to the Martinez-­ Bohlen family, Maggie Rosenbloom, the de Menil-­Kumar family, the Haggiag family, and the Hudson family for hosting me during my field research. I recognize Sam Majic, who helped me sharpen my arguments around celebrity politics and graciously supported me in personal ways as a fellow New Yorker. And to my “first” readers—­inveterate supporters, encouraging mentors, and walking partners—­Andrea Carlà, Angelica Budabin, David Plotke, Peggy Karns, Roberta Medda-­Windischer, Nina Hall, Georgina Turner, and Kit Hodge, I give my sincerest thanks. To my children, Marlon and Azzurra, thank you for your frequent dinner-time interrogations as to the book’s progress and its relevance.

220  • Acknowledgments

And heartfelt thanks to those who curate my children’s development, especially during the COVID lockdown.

Lisa During the gestation of these ideas, I have been welcomed into research communities and have benefited from engagement with my colleagues as a visiting professor at the Department of Sociology and Social Research at the University of Trento and at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. I am grateful to my old colleagues at the Department of Social Sciences and Business at Roskilde University and to my new ones at the Department of Management, Society and Communication at Copenhagen Business School. I thank Lene Bull Christiansen, who led the Roskilde University–­based cluster group, and all the scholar friends who joined us at various times in the activities of the Research Network on Celebrity and North–­South Relations, including Annika Bergmann-­Rosamond, Nathan Farrell, Mike Goodman, Mette Fog Olwig, Johanna Hood, Anne Jerslev, Mette Mortensen, Hanne Marlene Dahl, Danai Mupotsa, Tobias Denskus, Koen Panis, Louise Mubanda Rasmussen, Lene Myong, Stefano Ponte, Tobias Raun, Anke Schwittay, Hilde Van den Bulck, Robert van Krieken, Mie Vestergaard, and Anne Vestergaard. Many thanks to the Breslar-­Smith family for hosting my stay in Kinshasa and for providing a rich cuisine of food and idea—­and a dog-­friend. Dan Brockington is owed a huge debt on behalf of this book and its authors. He has shared sharp and always constructive criticism while maintaining a sense of humor and a jovial spirit. Much of the intellectual foundation of this work rests on my ongoing collaborations with Stefano Ponte. We appreciate his insights and contributions particularly with regard to the Kahawa Bora case, where his expertise on global value chains and coffee is unsurpassed. Additionally, I acknowledge that this book would have never been written had our lives not maintained the complicated dance that enables dual-­career couples to engage in projects that involve sustained concentration over time. A shout-­out of gratitude to my son, Zeno William, for titling this book, and to him and his sisters, Sasha and Arianna, for distracting me enough, but not too much. Predictably, my biggest debt in this

Acknowledgments  • 221

book is to my intrepid coauthor, Alexandra Cosima Budabin, who has enriched my life and hence this book in many ways. I am particularly thankful to her for sending me New Yorker cartoons on Instagram and for organizing the process and the products of our work in ways that include sufficient coffee, cookies, and pennichelle. Alex and I undertook international moves, managed the joys and tribulations of a total of five children, experienced the bodily disruptions that are typical to live authors, and worked on this book. Oh, and then there was the global pandemic of COVID-­19 that began just as we were concluding. . . . I am grateful to have had my coauthor on this journey.

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APPENDIX A Methodology and Data Collection

Studies of celebrities and studies of everyday politics in the Congo have in common a reliance on information that is limited, uneven, and often untraceable. This is a book about celebrity strategic partnerships written by two political scientists; yet it spans diverse research fields of celebrity humanitarianism, international aid, and the global politics of helping the Congo. While the spectacular performances of Batman and the bespoke branding of Starbucks demand attention, the book’s focus is on how celebrity strategic partnerships affect the politics of development and, most important, the prospects of the people who are supposed to benefit from it. To the best of our ability, we have triangulated what are often “imperfect” data in order to nuance the configurations we are tracking and interpreting. Our project has relied on diverse data, and, as constructivists, we produce findings that can and should spark academic debate over interpretations of this data. This methodology appendix is intended to lay out the foundations of our research methods as transparently as possible, without risking the confidentiality of our informants. The methods used in our book’s bricolage approach (Kincheloe 2001) are detailed in the following sections, organized broadly as (1) ethnography (interviews and participant observation with humanitarian and development actors in Washington, D.C.; New York; London; Kinshasa; and Eastern Congo); (2) political economy (analysis of the partners, power relations, and funding involved in the strategic   • 223

224  •  Appendix A

alliances); and (3) narrative analysis (texts and visuals comprising celebrity humanitarian communications).

Ethnography Ethnography for our study reflects the inclusion of both qualitative methods of original data collection and a contextually based interpretation of this data. While we claim neither to conduct deep ethnography in the form traditional to the discipline of anthropology nor to be able to completely adopt an emic perspective on any of these “cultures” (including the North American one where we were educated but have not resided for decades), we use and prioritize ethnographic methods when appropriate. Both authors conducted interviews with informants who work in both the North and the South. These included Congolese working in the Congo and the United States, North Americans working in the Congo and the United States, and internationals working on all sides. Between 2014 and 2020, the authors conducted thirty-eight interviews with representatives from across the main institutions—­academic, NGO, corporate, government, diplomatic, and donors—­that are featured in the book. Nearly all of the interview subjects have worked as experts specifically on the Congo in the areas of development and humanitarianism or were supposed beneficiaries of “helping practices.” One author made a brief field trip to Kinshasa, DRC, in June 2016. Semistructured elite interviews were conducted in person with ECI, USAID, Starbucks, and other Congo-­advocacy groups in Baltimore, Boston, Durham, Kinshasa, London, Toronto, and Washington, D.C., with additional interviews held by phone and via Skype from Bolzano, Bornholm, Chapel Hill, Copenhagen, Kinshasa, and New York. Many informants were interviewed multiple times or made themselves available for follow-­up questions, and some were well known to us long before. For reasons of confidentiality and the need for added protection because of the situation in the Congo and in the humanitarian sector, interviews are cited in the chapters by number only. Fieldwork in South Kivu was carried out in December 2017 by a research collaborator with decades of experience with African

Appendix A  • 225

farmers, coffee production, and cooperatives. This research collaborator has an ongoing career in the area and asked to be thanked anonymously. This local-­level impact field study concentrated on the southern part of Lake Kivu, including the mainland northwest of Bukavu as far as Kalehe and Idjwi Islands in the lake, both north and south. It was a comparative study that included the three cooperatives (CPCK, KACCO, and CCKA) from the Kahawa Bora ECI project. The data collected included nine key informant interviews with personnel that are or were involved in these projects and with the management teams of selected cooperatives; separate focus groups with men and women coffee farmers in each location, for a total of ten focus groups; and participant observation at six coffee-­washing stations. Analysis of this data was done in collaboration with Stefano Ponte, a political economist from Copenhagen Business School. Both authors conducted participant observation of Congo-­related fundraising and awareness-­raising events, movie screenings, lectures, and workshops held by NGOs, academic institutions, and government bodies. During these events, authors identified themselves as academic researchers. All efforts have been taken to maintain the confidentiality of participants from these events. Material from a previous research project on coffee value chains originating from East Africa and ending in the United States and Europe (see Ponte 2002a, 2002b; Daviron and Ponte 2005) also informs chapter 5, together with Skype and phone interviews with actors involved in the ECI project and other initiatives in Eastern Congo conducted together with Stefano Ponte as indicated in Table 7.

Political Economy Analysis We have also engaged in methods to enable us to conduct an analysis of the partners and funds involved in the celebrity strategic partnership: whenever possible, we tried to identify and follow the money and to understand the relationships of power that linked the main actors in these alliances. To do this, we have made use of publicly available databases with information reported by U.S. Congress and lobbyists to track organizations and interactions with the U.S. legislative branch. Testimonies delivered and filed during hearings can be

Table 7. Interviews Code Interviewer Type

Place

Date

1

LAR

Donor

Kinshasa

June 8, 2016

2

LAR

Donor

Kinshasa

June 8, 2016

3

LAR

Government

Kinshasa

June 8, 2016

4

LAR

Donor

Kinshasa

June 8, 2016

5

LAR

NGO

Kinshasa

June 9, 2016

6

LAR

Donor

Kinshasa

June 9, 2016

7

LAR

NGO

Kinshasa

June 10, 2016

8

LAR

Government

Kinshasa

June 10, 2016

9

LAR

Expert

Kinshasa

June 13, 2016

10

LAR

Donor

Kinshasa

June 14, 2016

11

LAR

NGO

Kinshasa

June 14, 2016

12

LAR

Donor

Kinshasa

June 15, 2016

13

LAR

Donor

Kinshasa

June 15, 2016

14

LAR

Government

Kinshasa

June 16, 2016

15 LAR

International organization

Kinshasa

June 16, 2016

16 LAR

International organization

Kinshasa

June 16, 2016

17

LAR

Government

Kinshasa

18

LAR/SP

Private sector

Skype

October 16, 2017

19

LAR/SP

Private sector

Skype

October 17, 2017

20

ACB/LAR

Expert

Baltimore, Md.

June 16, 2016

February 23, 2017

21 LAR/ACB Expert

San Francisco, Calif. Boston, Mass.

March 31, 2016 October 17, 2016

22

London, U.K.

February 3, 2015

ACB

NGO

23 ACB/LAR NGO Washington, D.C. Skype

March 14, 2016 April 4, 2016 January 26, 2017

24

ACB

NGO

Washington, D.C.

March 7, 2016

25

ACB

NGO

Washington, D.C.

26

ACB

NGO

Boston, Mass.

March 14, 2016

27

ACB

Donor

Washington, D.C.

March 11, 2016

28

ACB

NGO

London, U.K.

February 5, 2015

29

ACB

NGO

London, U.K.

April 14, 2016

30

ACB

NGO

London, U.K.

April 12, 2016

March 8, 2016

Appendix A  • 227 Code Interviewer Type

Place

Date

31

ACB

NGO

London, U.K.

April 12, 2016

32

ACB

NGO

London, U.K.

April 12, 2016

33

LAR

NGO

Durham, N.C.

34

LAR/SP

Private sector

Skype

February 2, 2018

35

LAR/SP

Private sector

Skype

November 9, 2017

36

LAR/ACB

Expert

Toronto, Canada

37

ACB

NGO

Email

April 26, 2020

38

LAR

NGO

Skype

May 1, 2020

June 5, 2018

March 17, 2014

found on Proquest and in the U.S. National Archives; quarterly reports filed by lobbyists are available through the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. Nonprofits registered as 501(c)(3) organizations are required to annually file Form 990 with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Form 990 provides information on revenues, salaries, boards of directors, and highest-paid contractors. These forms for ECI and its fiscal sponsor the New Venture Fund and other partner NGOs were acquired from organization websites as well as from charity evaluation sites including Guidestar, Charity Navigator, and the Foundation Center. The availability of forms is uneven: organizations are required to make publicly available only the three most recently filed returns. Other information on funding, expenditures, and activities was gleaned from annual reports and media coverage. Studying corporations, we were limited to information that is often produced for marketing or shareholder purposes rather than to meet transparency requirements. Information on cause-­related marketing partnerships and organizational relationships with businesses was collected from organization and company websites, the Engage for Good Forum, and mainstream news coverage. We have conducted an internet search for all items related to the Kahawa Bora Project, coffee and Eastern Congo/Kivu, and contemporary references to Affleck’s work in the Congo on Google News and Lexis Nexis (now Nexis Uni). We also reviewed coverage of the project on ECI’s website, newsletters, and social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter).

228  •  Appendix A

Narrative Analysis To capture the nature and broader impact of the communicative practices that accompany and justify celebrity strategic partnerships, we draw on narrative analysis from the fields of politics and communications. We adopt an interpretive research design, deriving insights from observed data, expanding work by Majic (2017) on celebrities as communicators of ideas and policies and by Dunn (2009) on studying the production of discourses with specific socio-­historic contexts. From literature theory about story-­telling, narratives are a discursive strategy deployed to “interpret and understand the political realities around us” in ways that shape action (Patterson and Monroe 1998, 316). The Narrative Policy Framework shows how “meaningful parts of policy reality are socially constructed” especially in terms of the populating characters—­hero, villain, beneficiary, allies, and opponents (Shanahan et al. 2018, 333). Narrative analysis has been instrumental in detecting dominant/ hegemonic and alternative/counter narratives within contentious discursive spheres as a way of understanding shifts in political dispositions and ideological agendas. Though celebrities have been studied for how they communicate and on behalf of and to whom they communicate (Scott 2015; Brysk 2013; Cooper 2008), there is still the need to unravel the influence of celebrities in the discursive realm of ideas. Scholars have used the concept of “norm entrepreneurs” from the constructivist school of international relations to explore the ability of celebrities to promote “norms” or “sell ideas” that gain wide acceptance for issues such as human trafficking and genocide (Majic 2017; Budabin 2015b). While it might be expected that celebrities would adopt dominant narratives that follow traditional thinking, we have argued elsewhere that narratives presented by celebrities in mainstream news and policy circles reflect political and economic capital that may yield the possibility of promoting alternative narratives (Budabin and Richey 2018). We use narrative analysis to detect celebrity contention with development and humanitarianism, the case of the Congo, and market solutions related to the neoliberalization of development. The observed data are taken from a systematic Lexis Nexis search of all references to Affleck and the Congo from January 2008 through

Appendix A  • 229

January 2020; this search was supplemented by Google News, ECI’s press page and social media, Affleck’s social media, and more contemporary references to Affleck’s work in the Congo. We were primarily concerned with Affleck’s public writing and speaking—­op-­eds, speeches, videos, and press appearances, as well as quotes cited in the media. We also considered expert and observer reflections on Affleck’s work. We investigated the connections among these texts and performances to the social context of celebrity humanitarianism. For the Congo, narrative analysis has been especially useful for tracking simplified solutions and obfuscations, as well as misrepresentations of development and humanitarianism, as we detail in chapter 2. As Dunn has shown, fictional and nonfictional accounts have framed the Congo through colonialist and imperialist “imaginings” that have downplayed Western responsibility, sustained myths about the Congo’s “new barbarism,” and privileged “Western definitions of state, sovereignty, and security” (2003, 5). Following the crises of the 1990s, circumstances in the Congo that challenged Western conceptions of war and conflict led to the coalescing of a hegemonic understanding that has led to ineffective solutions (Autesserre 2014). As we demonstrate throughout the book, Affleck and ECI contended with these dominant narratives on the Congo in expected and unexpected ways. We recognize that each of these methods entails its own limitations and are cognizant that combining them does not allow us to fully overcome the limited perspective of any particular academic vantage point. However, we maintain that the bricolage approach to this topic has allowed us to understand more about the power of celebrity strategic partnerships than a single approach could have provided.

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APPENDIX B Affleck, ECI, and ECI Partner Interactions with Congress, 2011–­2017

Table 8. Affleck, ECI, and ECI Partner Interactions with Congress, 2011–2017 Date

Congressional Appearance Committee Hearing

Focus Areas

March Ben Affleck, House “The Democratic Elections and 2011 actor, writer, Subcommittee Republic of the presentation of white director, on Africa, Congo: Securing paper “Strengthening advocate Global Health Peace in the United States Foreign and Human Midst of Policy in the Rights Tragedy” Democratic Republic of the Congo (11/30/2010) December Anthony W. Senate Improving Gambino submitted 2011 Gambino, Committee governance ECI paper “Technical fellow, on Foreign in the Issues Threaten Free, Eastern Congo Relations: Democratic Fair and Transparent Initiative Subcommittee Republic of the Elections in the on African Congo Democratic Republic African Affairs of the Congo: Urgent Steps Required” December Ben Affleck, House Armed 2012 founder, Services Eastern Congo Committee Initiative

“Update on the Evolving Security Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Implications for U.S. National Security”

Security-sector reform, peacekeeping, MONUSCO

  • 231

Table 8. Affleck, ECI, and ECI Partner Interactions with Congress, 2011–2017 (continued) Date

Congressional Appearance Committee Hearing

April 2013

Mvemba Dizolele, strategy and advocacy fellow, Eastern Congo Initiative

Focus Areas

Senate “Examining Instability and Subcommittee Ongoing Conflict conflict in the Congo on African in Eastern Affairs of the Congo” Committee on Foreign Relations

August Eastern Congo Delegation led 2013 Initiative hosts by Senator Lindsey a delegation of Graham, the U.S. senators (the ranking Republican largest ever) to visit on the Appropriations the Democratic Subcommittee for Republic of the State and Foreign Congo Operationsa December Representative 2013 Adam Smith visits the Congo with ECI February Ben Affleck, Senate Foreign 2014 founder, Relations Eastern Congo Committee Initiative March Ben Affleck, 2015 founder, Eastern Congo Initiative May 2017

“Prospects for Pushes for USAID to Peace in the scale up and discusses Democratic Theo partnership Republic of Congo and Great Lakes Region”

Senate “Diplomacy, Appropriations Development, Subcommittee and National on State, Foreign Security” Operations, and Related Programs

Kelly Goodejohn, U.S. Senate director, ethical Committee sourcing, global on Foreign social impact and Relations public policy, Starbucks

Writes op-ed “Fragile Progress in the Congo” for the Huffington Post blogb

Alongside Bill Gates and Scott Ford (Westrock); introduces coffee and partnership with Starbucks

“International Describes work with Development: ECI and USAID to Value Added link Congolese through farmers to the Private Sector international Engagement” marketplace

Notes: a ECI, “ECI Hosts U.S. Senate Delegation in Goma,” August 25, 2013, http://www .easterncongo.org/blog/detail/2013-08-eci-hosts-us-senate-delegation-in-goma (accessed November 6, 2019). b Rep. Adam Smith, “Fragile Progress in the Congo,” Huffpost Blog, February 4, 2014, huffpost.com/entry/fragile-progress-in-the-congo_b_4726319 (accessed November 6, 2019).

APPENDIX C K&L Gates Lobbying on Behalf of the Eastern Congo Initiative

Table 9. K&L Gates Lobbying on Behalf of the Eastern Congo Initiative Client Lobbying Year Name Income

Sites of Lobbying Activity

A Selection of Specific Lobbying Issues

2011 New $120,000 Venture Fund

U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

Work with Eastern Congo Initiative project to raise awareness regarding U.S. programmatic and funding policy related to Democratic Republic of the Congo (no specific bill).

2012 New $240,000 U.S. House of Venture (possibly Representatives, Fund aggregated U.S. Senate, USAID, with other White House Office, lobbying Dept. of State clients)

Work with Eastern Congo Initiative project to raise awareness regarding U.S. programmatic and funding policy related to Democratic Republic of the Congo. P.L. 112–81, Defense Authorization Act, FY 2012 (programmatic support for the Democratic Republic of the Congo); H.R. 5857, S. 3241, State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill FY2013 (funding for development assistance).

2013 New $270,000 U.S. House of Venture (possibly Representatives, Fund aggregated U.S. Senate, USAID with other clients)

Unnumbered bill, State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations FY2014 (development assistance, global health programs, and USAID operating

  • 233

234  •  Appendix C Table 9. K&L Gates Lobbying on Behalf of the Eastern Congo Initiative (continued) Client Lobbying Year Name Income

Sites of Lobbying Activity

A Selection of Specific Lobbying Issues



expenses accounts including water funding across all accounts); H.R. 152, Disaster Relief Appropriations Act (defense against amendments cutting poverty-focused development assistance [none filed]).

2014 New $180,000 U.S. Senate, U.S. Venture (aggregated House of Fund with other Representatives, clients) USAID

H.R. 5013, S. 2499, State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations FY2015 (development assistance, global health programs, and USAID operating expenses accounts including water funding across all accounts).

2015 New $220,000 U.S. Senate, U.S. Venture (possibly House of Fund aggregated Representatives with other clients)

H.R. 2772, S. 1725, Foreign Operations Appropriations, FY2016 (development assistance and global health programs); H.R. 5013, S. 2499, State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations FY2015 (development assistance, global health and economic support fund programs and USAID operating expenses accounts including water funding across all accounts).

2016 New Venture Fund

S. 3117, H.R. 5912, State and Foreign Operations Appropriations, FY2017 (Economic Support Fund).

$80,000 (possibly aggregated with other clients)

U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, USAID

2017 Eastern $80,000 U.S. Senate, U.S. Congo House of Initiative Representatives, Dept. of State

FY2018 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations (funding for small agricultural initiatives and DRC economic support funding); H.R. 3362 & S. 1780, Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act,

Appendix C  • 235 Client Lobbying Year Name Income

Sites of Lobbying Activity

A Selection of Specific Lobbying Issues



2018 (funding for small agricultural initiatives and DRC economic support funding).

2018 Eastern $80,000 U.S. Senate, U.S. Congo House of Initiative Representatives, Dept. of State

H.R. 3362 & S. 1780, Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2018 (funding for small agricultural initiatives and DRC economic support funding); H.R. 1625—Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (funding for small agricultural initiatives and DRC economic support funding); S. 3108 and Unnumbered House Bill—State & Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill for 2019 (funding for small agriculture initiatives and DRC economic support funding).

Source: K&L Gates Quarterly Lobbying Report for clients New Venture Fund and Eastern Congo Initiative. Available at Office of the Clerk, https://lobbyingdisclosure.house.gov/.

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NOTES

Introduction 1. Arlett Saenz, “Ben Affleck Talks ‘Batman’ during Senate Hearing (and Yes There’s a Spoiler),” ABC News, March 26, 2015. 2. U.S. Senate Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, 2015, Hearing “State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2016,” March 26. Full text available at https://archive .org/stream/gov.gpo.fdsys.CHRG-114shrg59104631/CHRG-114shrg5910 4631_djvu.txt (accessed November 6, 2019). 3. U.S. Senate Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations. 4. U.S. Senate Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations. 5. U.S. Senate Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations. 6. See United Nations, “Sustainable Development Goals,” https://www .un.org/sustainabledevelopment/globalpartnerships/ (accessed November 20, 2020). 7. Harper McConnell, “Can Aid Work Itself Out of Business? | Harper McConnell | TEDxNewBedford,” YouTube, December 2, 2015, https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayuyledgnJw (accessed November 6, 2019). 8. Look to the Stars, “Ben Affleck, Causes Supported,” https://www .looktothestars.org/celebrity/ben-affleck#causes (accessed November 6, 2019). 9. Mickey Rapkin, “When Ben Affleck Wants to Change the World, He Calls This Woman,” ELLE, November 11, 2013. 10. See Séverine Autesserre, “Decreasing Violence through Knowledge,” http://www.severineautesserre.com/ (accessed May 11, 2020). 11. Donors to ECI are called investors and include the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Humanity United, the Bridgeway Foundation, Cindy Hensley   • 237

238  •  Notes to Introduction

McCain, Google, Laurene Powell Jobs of Emerson Collective, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, williamsworks, and others. See Global Philanthropy Forum, “Ben Affleck,” https://philanthropyforum.org/people/ben -affleck/ (accessed November 6, 2019). 12. War Is Boring, “Can Batman Save Congo?,” Medium (blog), February 25, 2014, https://medium.com/war-is-boring/can-batman-save-congo-cf 2afe24e5ca (accessed November 6, 2019). 13. “Seven Celebrities Who Founded Nonprofits and Changed Lives,” Borgen Magazine, October 15, 2018, https://www.borgenmagazine.com/ celebrities-who-founded-nonprofits/ (accessed November 6, 2019). 14. Caroline Preston, “Behind a Celebrity’s Bid to Help Eastern Congo,” Chronicle of Philanthropy, April 20, 2011, https://www.philanthropy.com/ article/Behind-a-Celebritys-Bid-to/191387 (accessed November 6, 2019). 15. Global Philanthropy Forum, “Ben Affleck.” 16. Look to the Stars, “Ben Affleck Honored at Save the Children Illumination Gala,” November 21, 2014, https://www.looktothestars.org/news /12928-ben-affleck-honored-at-save-the-children-illumination-gala (accessed November 6, 2019). 17. Bryanna Cappadona, “WATCH: Ben Affleck Receives Honorary Doctorate Degree from Brown University,” Boston Magazine, May 27, 2013. 18. ECI, “ECI in the Press,” http://www.easterncongo.org/gallery/eci -press (accessed November 6, 2019). 19. War Is Boring, “Can Batman Save Congo?” 20. War Is Boring, “Can Batman Save Congo?” 21. Global Philanthropy Forum, “Ben Affleck.” 22. Rapkin, “When Ben Affleck Wants to Change the World.” 23. Rapkin, “When Ben Affleck Wants to Change the World.” 24. Interview 12. 25. Rajiv Shah, “Ending Extreme Poverty with a New Model of Development,” USAID, April 14, 2014, https://blog.usaid.gov/2014/04/ending -extreme-poverty-with-a-new-model-of-development/ (accessed November 6, 2019). 26. Interview 6. 27. United Nations Development Program, “Human Development Index 2019: Congo (Democratic Republic of the),” http://hdr.undp.org/en/coun tries/profiles/COD (accessed May 8, 2020). 28. See Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, States of Fragility 2018, 85–­90. 29. E. D. Morel, Red Rubber (Manchester: National Labour Press, 1919), xvi, https://archive.org/stream/redrubberstoryof00more/redrubberstoryof00 more_djvu.txt.

Notes to Chapter 1  • 239

30. For a selection of Harris’s photos, see “Campaigning with a Camera,” https://library.panos.co.uk/features/stories/campaigning-with-a-camera .html#0_00027008 (accessed May 8, 2020).

1. Celebrity, Disruption, and Neoliberal Development 1. See, for example, Kiasha Naidoo, “How COVID 19 Reveals the Paradoxes of Neoliberal Logic,” Africa Is a Country, April 7, 2020, https:// africasacountry.com/2020/04/how-covid-19-reveals-the-paradoxes-of-neo liberal-logic (accessed May 10, 2020). 2. See Congressional Hearings Digital Collection: Famous (Celebrity) Witnesses, https://proquest.libguides.com/hearings/famouscelebs (accessed November 6, 2019). 3. Conference notes from African Studies Association Annual Meeting, November 30, 2012. 4. For example, think of Bono and Dr. Paul Farmer; Angelina Jolie and Professor Jeffrey Sachs; George Clooney and John Prendergast. 5. Joseph L. Bower and Clayton M. Christensen, “Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave,” Harvard Business Review, January–­February 1995. 6. Clayton M. Christensen, Michael E. Raynor, and Rory McDonald, “What Is Disruptive Innovation?,” Harvard Business Review, December 2015. 7. Carole Wadwalladr, “Tech Is Disrupting All before It—­Even Democracy Is in Its Sights,” Guardian, November 6, 2016. 8. For example, the word “disruption” is being applied to Eva Moskowitz’s work as the founder of Success Academy, which is promoting a market-­based approach to education through the use of charter schools. Alia Wong, “The Most Polarizing Education Reformer in New York City,” Atlantic, September 22, 2017. 9. M. S. Swaminathan, “How to End Hunger: Lessons from the Father of India’s Green Revolution,” Guardian, April 30, 2015. 10. Homi Kharas and Andrew Rogerson, Horizon 2025: Creative Destruction in the Aid Industry, Overseas Development Institute, July 2012, 3. 11. Kharas and Rogerson, Horizon 2025, 5. 12. Kharas and Rogerson, Horizon 2025, 10. 13. Kharas and Rogerson, Horizon 2025, 11. 14. AP Archive, “Ben Affleck Talks about His Advocacy in Congo at Clinton Global Initiative,” YouTube, November 16, 2016, https://www.you tube.com/watch?v=_mPO1n262Qs (accessed November 6, 2019). 15. FORA.tv, “Ben Affleck—­Grassroots Change in Africa,” YouTube, September 26, 2008, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEZLryvPcrQ (accessed November 6, 2019).

240  •  Notes to Chapter 1

16. Talk Radio News Service, “Ben Affleck Raises Awareness on Crisis in Congo,” YouTube, December 6, 2010, https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=jEflzjrJs4o (accessed November 6, 2019). 17. TED Archive, “Hope for the Congo | Ben Affleck and the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste,” YouTube, August 25, 2017, https://www.you tube.com/watch?v=X9E5Qhd0ihM (accessed November 6, 2019). 18. Kharas and Rogerson, Horizon 2025, 12. 19. UNIDO, “What Is CSR?,” https://www.unido.org/our-focus/advanc ing-economic-competitiveness/competitive-trade-capacities-and-corporate -responsibility/corporate-social-responsibility-market-integration/what-csr (accessed November 6, 2019). 20. Engage for Good, “Research,” https://engageforgood.com/7887-2/ (accessed May 11, 2020). 21. Olivier van Beemen, “Heineken Claims Its Business Helps Africa. Is That Too Good to Be True?,” Guardian, February 12, 2019. 22. Mats Utas, “‘Blood Beer’ or Brewing Benefits? The Paradox of Heineken in the Congo, a Guest Post by Jason Miklian and Peer Schouten,” November 8, 2013, https://matsutas.wordpress.com/2013/11/08/blood-beer -or-brewing-benefits-the-paradox-of-heineken-in-the-congo-a-guest-post -by-jason-miklian-and-peer-schouten/ (accessed November 6, 2019) 23. Hudson Institute, 2016 Annual Report, 5–­6, https://www.hudson .org/research/13395-2016-annual-report (accessed November 6, 2019). 24. Hudson Institute, 2016 Annual Report, 9. 25. Hudson Institute, 2016 Annual Report, 9. 26. Lindsay notes that this convening power of political leaders is also sustained after they have left office, as seen in President Clinton’s assembly of high-­level participants for the Clinton Global Initiative (2008, 75). 27. Field notes by author, August 22, 2016. 28. For more comprehensive accounts, see Nzongola-­ Ntalaja 2002; Prunier 2009; Trefon and Kabuyaya 2018. 29. Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, Assessing the Effectiveness of the United Nations Mission in the DRC/MONUC-­MONUSCO, 2019, 45.

2. Narrating the Congo 1. Associated Press, “Affleck Launches ‘Gimme Shelter’ Aid Project,” December 17, 2008. 2. “VIDEO: Watch Ben Affleck’s New Documentary,” People.com, December 17, 2008.

Notes to Chapter 2  • 241

3. “VIDEO: Watch Ben Affleck’s New Documentary.” 4. See Joel R. Pruce, “Review of Prakash, Aseem; Gugerty, Mary Kay, Eds., Advocacy Organizations and Collective Action,” H-­Human Rights, H-­Net Reviews (blog), 2011. 5. Senator Simon is quoted as saying, “If every member of the [U.S.] House of Representatives and [U.S.] Senate had received 100 letters from people back home saying we have to do something about Rwanda, when the crisis was first developing then I think the response would have been different” (Power 2002, 277). 6. Dave Gilson, “Dr. Clooney, I Presume?,” Mother Jones, March/ April 2010. 7. Dave Gilson, “Cause Celeb,” Mother Jones, March/April 2010. 8. Gilson, “Dr. Clooney, I Presume?” 9. Binyavanga Wainaina, “How to Write about Africa,” Granta 92, “The View from Africa,” January 19, 2006. 10. Chimamanda Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story,” TedGlobal 2009, July 2009. 11. See Karen Büscher and Koen Vlassenroot, “The Humanitarian Industry and Urban Change in Goma,” OpenDemocracy, March 21, 2013, http:// www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/karen-b%C3%BCscher-koen-vlas senroot/humanitarian-industry-and-urban-change-in-goma (accessed October 18, 2019). 12. Human Rights Watch, “Congo: The Kabila Legacy,” January 19, 2001. 13. United Nations, MONUC: United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, https://peacekeeping.un.org/mission/ past/monuc/mandate.shtml (accessed February 20, 2019). 14. Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, “Assessing the Effectiveness of the United Nations Mission in the DRC/MONUC-­MONUSCO,” 2019. 15. Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, “Democratic Republic of the Congo: Worsening Humanitarian Crisis as Internal Displacement Escalates in the East,” November 29, 2007. 16. IRIN, Bulletin no. 983, August 7, 2000. 17. Citing an International Red Cross report from 2006. See Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, “Democratic Republic of the Congo,” 108. 18. See Büscher and Vlassenroot, “The Humanitarian Industry.” 19. See Charlotte Vaillant, Ann Condy, Pierre Robert, and Georges Tschionza, “Country Programme Evaluation: Democratic Republic of Congo 2003–­2009,” DFiD Evaluation report EV704, February 2010, 7.

242  •  Notes to Chapter 2

20. See UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, “DRC 2006 Elections: MONUC and the Elections,” July 2006. 21. Interview 22. 22. Interview 22. 23. See Büscher and Vlassenroot, “The Humanitarian Industry.” 24. Wikipedia, “Cindy McCain,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cindy_ McCain (accessed February 20, 2019). 25. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “Remarks by Cindy McCain,” July 26, 2011. 26. Bradley Blackburn, “Actor Ben Affleck, Republican Cindy McCain Team Up to Help Congo,” ABC News, March 7, 2019. 27. Interview 22. 28. Heal Africa, “Our Story,” https://healafrica.org/our-story/ (accessed February 20, 2019). 29. “Congo Volcano ‘Kills Dozens,’” BBC News, January 18, 2002. 30. Georgetown University, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, “A Discussion with Lyn Lusi, HEAL Africa,” November 2, 2011, https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/interviews/a-discussion-with-lyn-lusi -heal-africa (accessed May 8, 2019). 31. Panzi Foundation, “What We Do,” http://www.panzifoundation .org/what-we-do/ (accessed February 20, 2019) 32. Panzi Foundation, “News & Editorial,” http://www.panzifounda tion.org/media/#editorial (accessed February 20, 2019). 33. Panzi Hospital has a process for scheduling visit requests; see https:// www.panzifoundation.org/scheduling-and-appearance-requests/ (accessed February 17, 2021). 34. See UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, “DRC 2006 Elections: MONUC and the Elections,” July 2006. 35. Stephanie Hanson, “Postscript: Congo Elections,” Council on Foreign Relations, August 21, 2006. 36. UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Report: The United Nations Is Supporting the Stabilization Plan for Eastern DRC, November 10, 2009. 37. See exchange in Foreign Affairs on work by Séverine Autesserre (2017) with a response by Stearns et al. (2017). 38. Congressional Research Service, Democratic Republic of Congo: Background and U.S. Relations, August 23, 2018. 39. Charlotte Vaillant, Ann Condy, Pierre Robert, and Georges Tschionza, “Country Programme Evaluation: Democratic Republic of Congo 2003–­2009,” DFID Evaluation report EV704, February 2010, 7.

Notes to Chapter 2  • 243

40. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “Sequel to Genocide: The Crisis in Eastern Congo,” June 6, 2003. Event transcript is available at https://www.ushmm.org/confront-genocide/speakers-and-events/all-speak ers-and-events/sequel-to-genocide-the-crisis-in-eastern-congo. 41. UNICEF, “JESSICA LANGE in DRC—­B-­roll 2003,” https://www .unicef.org/videoaudio/PDFs/broadcast_lange2003.pdf (accessed February 20, 2019). 42. “Fighting in Eastern Congo ‘Worst Humanitarian Crisis on Planet,’” USA TODAY, September 10, 2003. 43. Committee on Conscience, Ripples of Genocide: Journey through Eastern Congo, https://www.ushmm.org/exhibition/congo-journal/download/ transcript.pdf (accessed February 20, 2019). 44. Committee on Conscience, Ripples of Genocide. 45. Friends of the Congo, “Homepage,” http://www.friendsofthecongo .org/ (accessed February 20, 2019). 46. Congo Initiative, “Who We Are,” https://congoinitiative.org/who -we-are/ (accessed February 20, 2019). 47. Interview 33. 48. Interview 33. 49. Proquest Research review of Congressional Hearings on Congo, 2000–­2016. 50. Andrew Stroehlein, “In Congo, 1,000 Die per Day: Why Isn’t It a Media Story?,” Christian Science Monitor, June 14, 2005. 51. Ruth Gidley, “Congo War Tops AlertNet Poll of ‘Forgotten’ Crises,” AlertNet, March 10, 2005. 52. Georgianne Nienaber, “Congo: Time to Send in the Clowns?,” Huffington Post, November 18, 2009. 53. Human Rights Watch, The War within the War: Sexual Violence against Women and Girls in Eastern Congo, June 2002. 54. The focus on sexual violence likely reflects the trend in international politics toward greater attention toward women and children in war, following the passing of the UNSC Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security in 2000 (see Hudson 2009). 55. Angela Case, “Lisa Ling Speaks about International Journalism,” Maneater, September 18, 2009. 56. Enough Team, “Lisa Shannon: A Simple Run,” Enough Blog, July 5, 2011, https://enoughproject.org/blog/lisa-shannon-simple-run (accessed February 19, 2019) 57. Congo Global Action, “Members of Congo Global Action,” http:// drccoalition.blogspot.it/search/label/About%20Congo%20Global%20 Action (accessed February 20, 2019).

244  •  Notes to Chapter 2

58. Original members included Lisa Shannon, Friends of the Congo, representatives of the International Rescue Committee, Coalition Pluraliste de Patriotes Congolais, and the Africa Faith and Justice Network. 59. The website was discontinued as of October 2016. Website accessed using Internet Archive Wayback Machine, https://web.archive.org/web/20 080128143809/http://www.congoglobalaction.org (accessed February 20, 2019). 60. “Should Rape Be Considered a Weapon?,” NPR, June 19, 2008. 61. “The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo,” https://archive.org/ details/HBO.The.Greates.tSilence.Rape.In.The.Congo-Docmasters.tv (accessed February 20, 2019). 62. “The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo.” 63. UN News and Media, “Charlize Theron Visits Hospital in DR Congo,” March 30, 2009. 64. City of Joy, “Turning Pain to Power,” https://www.cityofjoycongo .org/splash/ (accessed June 12, 2019). 65. V-­Day, “Our Work,” https://www.vday.org/our-work.html (accessed February 20, 2019). 66. OmniPeace Foundation, “Congo,” http://www.omnipeace.com/im pact.html#congo (accessed February 20, 2019). 67. V-­Day & One Billion Rising (VDay), Annual Report 2010, https:// www.dropbox.com/s/m52om7aidtx7naq/ar2010.pdf?dl=0 (accessed August 16, 2019). 68. “UN Official Calls DR Congo ‘Rape Capital of the World,’” BBC News, April 28, 2010. 69. Jeffrey Gettleman, “Clinton Presents Plan to Fight Sexual Violence in Congo,” New York Times, August 11, 2009. 70. Interview 4. 71. Yoga for Congo Women, http://yogaforcongowomen.org/ (accessed June 12, 2019). 72. Cathy Newman, “William Hague and Angelina Jolie’s Mission Impossible: Warzone Rape Is Truly Rife in the Congo,” Telegraph (UK), March 28, 2013. 73. Heiko Maas and Angelina Jolie, “ Sexual Violence Is Rife in War Zones. We Must Take Action,” Washington Post, April 22, 2019. 74. See Enough Project, “Conflict Minerals,” http://www.enoughpro ject.org/category/topic/conflict-minerals (accessed February 20, 2019); see also Global Witness, “Conflict Minerals,” https://www.globalwitness.org/ en/campaigns/conflict-minerals/ (accessed February 20, 2019).

Notes to Chapter 2  • 245

75. Laura Seay, What’s Wrong with Dodd-­Frank 1502? Conflict Minerals, Civilian Livelihoods, and the Unintended Consequences of Western Advocacy—­Working Paper 284 (Washington, D.C.: Center for Global Development, 2012), 6. 76. Not every organization adopted the dominant narrative for conflict mineral and instead focused on the corruption related to mining in the Congo and global supply chains. In the U.K., a Congolese-­led organization called Save the Congo was created in 2008 to deal with the 4I’s: Impunity, Insecurity, Illicit trade of minerals, and Institutional failure. See https:// savethecongo.org.uk/. For more than fifteen years, Eastern Congo has been a key site of attention for Global Witness, a British watchdog organization (see https://www.globalwitness.org/en/all-countries-and-regions/democratic -republic-congo/). 77. See the New Venture Fund’s website, https://newventurefund.org. 78. Enough Project, “Conflicts,” http://www.enoughproject.org/conflicts (accessed February 20, 2019). 79. Enough Project, “About,” http://www.enoughproject.org/about (accessed February 20, 2019). 80. Enough Project, “Celebrity Upstanders,” http://enoughproject.org/ upstanders/celebrity. 81. Eve Ensler, “Ten Radical Acts for Congo in the New Year,” HuffPost, March 18, 2010. 82. John Prendergast, “Can You Hear Congo Now? Cell Phones, Conflict Minerals, and the Worst Sexual Violence in the World,” April 2009. 83. Seay, What’s Wrong with Dodd-­Frank?, 9. 84. Enough Project, Crisis and Hope in Africa: The Enough Project at Ten Years, May 2017, 7. 85. Enough Project, “Conflict Minerals Reports,” http://www.enough project.org/conflicts/eastern_congo/conflict-minerals#Our_Initiatives (accessed February 20, 2019). 86. Targeting a youth audience, Enough’s “Conflict-­Free Campus Initiative” was described as an international campaign to raise awareness among consumers, presumably on U.S. university campuses, to support “conflict-­ free electronics” that would undermine the conflict minerals fueling conflict in Eastern Congo. The objective of this campaign was “to support peace, accountability, and prosperity in Congo.” See Enough Project, Conflict-­Free Campus Initiative, https://enoughproject.org/about/conflict-free-campus-ini tiative (accessed October 11, 2019). 87. Enough Project, “Past Campaigns,” https://enoughproject.org/about/ past-campaigns/rhfc (accessed February 20, 2019).

246  •  Notes to Chapter 2

88. Enough Project, “Young Hollywood Speaks Up for Congo,” YouTube, November 17, 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9mV99g C37Q (accessed February 20, 2019). 89. Enough Project, “Celebrity Upstanders.” 90. Seay, What’s Wrong with Dodd-­Frank? 91. Seth Chase, “We Will Win Peace,” https://www.kanopy.com/prod uct/we-will-win-peace (accessed August 16, 2019). 92. Enough Project, “Robin Wright in Congo,” YouTube, October 5, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4o2lElFzM0 (accessed February 20, 2019). 93. Enough Project, “Robin Wright in Congo.” 94. Interview 8. 95. Pour les Femmes, “About Us,” https://plfdreams.com/about-us/ (accessed May 8, 2019). 96. Paulin Ngobobo, “Massacre of Congo’s Gorillas,” Guardian, September 1, 2007. 97. Ben Affleck, “Emmanuel de Merode is a fearless & passionate defender of wildlife in #Congo. Proud to support his work w/ @gorillacd #Virunga @EasternCongo,” Twitter, June 15, 2017, https://twitter.com/ benaffleck/status/875200086288019457?lang=en (accessed February 20, 2019). 98. Save Virunga, “DEC 2014: DiCaprio Brings Local Voice for Virunga’s Survival to Worldwide Audience–­Netflix,” November 12, 2014. 99. Save Virunga, “DEC 2014.” 100. John Vidal, “Virunga Film-­makers Ask Viewers to Join Campaign against Oil Company Soco,” Guardian, November 5, 2014. 101. Represent, “Leonard DiCaprio Foundation,” https://represent.com/ ldf/leonardo-dicaprio-foundation-dont-let-them-disappear-limited-edition -apparel (accessed February 20, 2019). 102. Congo Week, “Why Congo Week?,” http://congoweek.org/en/why -congo-week.html (accessed February 20, 2019). 103. Dana Goldstein, “Battling Congo’s Rape Crisis: The Slow Pace of Progress,” Daily Beast, June 28, 2010. 104. Ali M. Malau, Friends of the Congo, “Congo-­Kinshasa,” All Africa, May 5, 2009. 105. Crisis in the Congo: Uncovering the Truth, “About the Film,” http://congojustice.org/about-the-film/ (accessed February 20, 2019) 106. Crisis in the Congo: Uncovering the Truth, “About the Film.” 107. Hear Congo, “Home,” https://web.archive.org/web/20110715133 307/http://www.hearcongo.org/ (accessed February 20, 2019).

Notes to Chapter 3  • 247

108. Mukwege Foundation, “Who Is Dr. Denis Mukwege?,” https:// www.mukwegefoundation.org/story/dr-denis-mukwege/ (accessed May 8, 2019). 109. DDA, “Dr. Dr. Denis Mukwege Addresses UN on Sexual Violence in DRC,” Donor Direct Action, September 25, 2012. 110. “Nobel Peace Prize Winner: Denis Mukwege from DR Congo,” BBC News, October 5, 2018. 111. Look to the Stars, “Charities: ENOUGH Project Celebrity Supporters and Events,” https://www.looktothestars.org/charity/enough-proj ect (accessed April 3, 2019).

3. Choosing the Congo 1. Devex, “Eastern Congo Initiative,” https://www.devex.com/orga nizations/eastern-congo-initiative-eci-33348 (accessed February 22, 2018). 2. Associated Press, “Ben Affleck Launches Foundation to Aid Victimized Women and Children in Eastern Congo,” Daily News, March 22, 2010. 3. Associated Press, “Ben Affleck Launches Foundation.” 4. See Paige Parker, “Just Ask Whitney,” Montanan Magazine, Fall 2015, https://montanan.umt.edu/issues/fall-2015/just-ask-whitney/default .php (accessed November 11, 2019); Mickey Rapkin, “When Ben Affleck Wants to Change the World, He Calls This Woman,” ELLE, November 11, 2013. 5. Tirdad Derakhshani, “Sideshow: Affleck Assists Congolese,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 23, 2010. 6. See Harriet Ryan, “Stars Seek Experts for Philanthropy Advice,” Washington Post, January 9, 2011; John Colapinto, “Looking Good,” New Yorker, March 19, 2012. 7. Thomas Fields-­Meyer, “A Friend in Need,” People.com, July 30, 2001. 8. Associated Press, “Affleck Working for Minimum Wage?,” Today .com, April 30, 2004; Kent Hoover, “Small Business vs. Movie Star on Minimum Wage,” Puget Sound Business Journal, May 9, 2004. 9. Craig Garthwaite, “Affleck Is ‘Dazed and Confused’ over Kennedy’s Minimum-­Wage Bill,” The Hill, May 2004. 10. Look to the Stars, “Ben Affleck Charity Work, Events and Causes,” https://www.looktothestars.org/celebrity/ben-affleck (accessed February 21, 2019). 11. Rapkin, “When Ben Affleck Wants to Change the World.”

248  •  Notes to Chapter 3

12. See OneXOne, “Messages from Frank McKenna and Matt Damon,” http://www.onexone.org/who-we-are-messages (accessed February 21, 2019). 13. Dawn Walton, “Affleck’s Star Lights Up Calgary Event,” Globe and Mail, June 16, 2008. This quote would later be said by the Affleck character in an animated ECI promotional video, titled “Ben Affleck on the Meaning of Life,” YouTube, April 21, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iclo AVusC9Y (accessed August 14, 2019). 14. Walton, “Affleck’s Star Lights Up Calgary Event.” 15. Walton, “Affleck’s Star Lights Up Calgary Event.” 16. UNICEF had to distance itself from Harry Belafonte, who, while on a trip to Venezuela, called President George W. Bush a “tyrant” and “terrorist.” See “Tally His Bananas: Harry Belafonte: He Sings Great, but Talks Nonsense,” Houston Chronicle, January 12, 2006. 17. An early figure was Margery Tabankin, who had led the AmeriCorps VISTA program during the Carter Administration and created a consulting firm in 1994 with clients including Barbra Streisand and Steven Spielberg. 18. See Harriet Ryan, “Celebrities Hire Philanthropy Consultants to Guide Their Giving,” Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2012. 19. John Colapinto, “When Celebrities Become Philanthropists,” Guardian, July 28, 2012. 20. Randall Ward, “Eastern Congo Initiative,” http://www.randallward .info/#/eastern-congo-initiative-with-ben-affleck/ (accessed August 14, 2019). 21. Laura M. Holson, “Stars’ Adviser on Giving Big Bucks,” New York Times, December 3, 2010. 22. Rapkin, “When Ben Affleck Wants to Change the World.” 23. williamsworks, “Home Page,” http://williamsworks.com/ (accessed October 14, 2019). 24. Washington Corporations and Charities Filing System, “Business Search: WILLIAMSWORKS, LLC,” https://ccfs.sos.wa.gov/#/BusinessSearch (accessed February 18, 2018). 25. Rapkin, “When Ben Affleck Wants to Change the World.” 26. Renata Birkenbuel, “Carrying on Family Legacy: Whitney Williams Goes Global,” Montana Standard, September 21, 2014. 27. The Athena Pack, “Whitney Williams,” https://www.theathenapack .com/whitney-williams (accessed October 14, 2019). 28. “The Advisors Guiding the World’s Top Philanthropists,” Town & Country, May 11, 2016. 29. Parker, “Just Ask Whitney.”

Notes to Chapter 3  • 249

30. Parker, “Just Ask Whitney.” 31. See Nanette Asimov, “UC Berkeley Invested in Consultants to Boost Chancellor’s Image,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 17, 2016. 32. In 2015, williamsworks gave between $50,000 and $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation; in leaked emails from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Williams was described as a “Seattle bundler.” See “Re: Evening ROUNDUP & Travel MEMO: Tuesday, April 28—­ WikiLeaks,” Wikileaks, https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/5375 (accessed February 22, 2018). 33. Birkenbuel, “Carrying on Family Legacy: Whitney Williams Goes Global.” 34. Birkenbuel, “Carrying on Family Legacy: Whitney Williams Goes Global.” 35. williamsworks, “Williamsworks Turns Ten,” January 9, 2014. 36. Genevieve Roth, “How Ben Affleck Is Fighting for Women in the Congo,” Glamour, April 11, 2016. 37. Stephen Dalton, “Once Considered a Flash in the Pan, Ben Affleck Is on the Comeback Trail,” National, September 7, 2012. 38. Interview 21. 39. Interview 29. 40. Interview 21. 41. Affleck’s political aspirations received coverage in mainstream press. 42. Dan Glaiser, “Not on Our Watch—­How Hollywood Made American Care about Darfur,” Guardian, May 19, 2007. 43. Dave Gilson, “Dr. Clooney, I Presume?,” Mother Jones, March/ April 2010. 44. Associated Press, “Affleck Tours Refugee Camps in War-­Torn Congo,” Today, November 20, 2008. 45. UN News, “Actor Ben Affleck and Rolling Stone Mick Jagger Join Forces to Help UN Refugee Agency,” December 17, 2008. 46. Roth, “How Ben Affleck Is Fighting for Women in the Congo.” 47. Rapkin, “When Ben Affleck Wants to Change the World.” 48. Roth, “How Ben Affleck Is Fighting for Women in the Congo.” 49. Dylan Hendrickson and Missak Kasongo—­African Security Sector Network (ASSN), Security Sector Reform in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Strategic Issues, Issue Paper No. 4: Security Sector Reform, Center on International Cooperation, 2010, 5. 50. Personal interview with one of Affleck’s official hosts, Interview 7. 51. Interview 29.

250  •  Notes to Chapter 3

52. Interview 29. 53. Interview 26. 54. Associated Press, “Ben Affleck Takes ‘Nightline’ to the Congo,” Fox News, June 25, 2008. 55. Ben Affleck, “Turning World’s Eyes and Ears to Congo,” ABC News, June 26, 2008. 56. Claudia Parsons, “Affleck, Jagger Release Film for Congo Appeal,” Reuters, December 17, 2008. 57. Associated Press, “Ben Affleck Visits Refugee Camps in Congo,” Today.com, November 20, 2008. 58. Global Philanthropy Forum, “Ben Affleck,” https://philanthropy forum.org/people/ben-affleck/ (accessed August 14, 2019). 59. Bradley Blackburn, “Actor Ben Affleck, Republican Cindy McCain Team Up to Help Congo,” ABC News, March 7, 2011. 60. CISION PR Newswire, “Ben Affleck Launches Initiative to Support Local Solutions in Eastern Congo” (news release provided by ECI), March 22, 2010. 61. Eastern Congo Initiative, IRS Form 990, 2012. 62. Eastern Congo Initiative, “Homepage,” March 26, 2010, https:// web.archive.org/web/20100326134207/http://easterncongo.org:80/ (accessed February 15, 2019). 63. DCAF, “Eastern Congo Initiative,” https://issat.dcaf.ch/Share/Peo ple-Organisations/Organisations/Eastern-Congo-Initiative (accessed August 14, 2019). 64. See FastTheLatestNews, “Ben Affleck for Senate?,” YouTube, July 13, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nemM9Hn536Q (accessed February 15, 2019). 65. CISION PR Newswire, “Ben Affleck Launches Initiative to Support Local Solutions in Eastern Congo.” 66. Spyros Demetriou and Salamah Magnuson, “Strengthening United States Foreign Policy in the Democratic Republic of Congo” (Eastern Congo Initiative, 2010). 67. Eastern Congo Initiative, Taking a Stand on Security Sector Reform, April 16, 2012. See page 2. 68. Irshad Manhi, “Changing Lives,” New York Times, September 17, 2009. 69. Eastern Congo Initiative and Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, We Came Back with Empty Hands, 2013. 70. See New Venture Fund, http://www.newventurefund.org/about-nvf/; and Enough Team, “Enough Project Heads into 2016 at New Venture Fund,”

Notes to Chapter 3  • 251

December 17, 2015, https://enoughproject.org/press-releases/enough-proj ect-heads-2016-new-venture-fund (both accessed October 14, 2019). 71. New Venture Fund, IRS Form 990, 2016, http://www.newventure fund.org/wp-content/uploads/2016-990-Small.pdf (accessed February 21, 2019). 72. It should be noted that Affleck’s offers to testify were sometimes rebuffed, particularly by Republicans. See Tom McCarthy, “Star-­studded Senate Hearings: Actors Ben Affleck and Seth Rogen to Testify,” Guardian, February 26, 2014. 73. Subcommittee on Africa, The Democratic Republic of the Congo: Securing Peace in the Midst of Tragedy: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, United States House of Representatives, Serial Number 112–­130, 2011, 79. 74. Subcommittee on Africa, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, 79. 75. Subcommittee on Africa, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, 81. 76. Subcommittee on Africa, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, 91. 77. “US Names New Envoy to Africa’s Great Lakes,” VOA News, June 18, 2013. 78. Eastern Congo Initiative, “Press,” http://www.easterncongo.org/ gallery/eci-press (accessed August 14, 2019). 79. Associated Press, “Ben Affleck, Lady Gaga among Celebrities in Hillary Clinton Emails,” Hollywood Report, October 31, 2015. 80. Interview 20. 81. Demetriou and Magnuson, “Strengthening United States Foreign Policy,” 42. 82. Ben Affleck, “How the United States Can Help Secure Congo,” Washington Post, November 29, 2012. 83. Eastern Congo Initiative, Taking a Stand on Security Sector Reform (2012), 3. 84. Eastern Congo Initiative, “Advocacy,” http://www.easterncongo .org/about/advocacy (accessed February 21, 2019) 85. Eastern Congo Initiative, “About DRC,” http://www.easterncongo .org/about-drc (accessed February 21, 2019). 86. Demetriou and Magnuson, “Strengthening United States Foreign Policy,” 22–­23. 87. Demetriou and Magnuson, “Strengthening United States Foreign Policy,” 74. Though the priorities reinforce dominant narratives around

252  •  Notes to Chapter 3

sexual violence, the White Paper outlines other provisions beyond posttraumatic care and justice redress, calling for the United States to “increase capacities within the Congolese National Police to prevent and respond to incidences of sexual and other forms of violence by strengthening dedicated and specialized capacities at the provincial level, notably, deployment of specialized sexual violence cells within police units being deployed in eastern Congo within the STAREC/I-­SSSS framework.” 88. Subcommittee on Africa, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, 55. 89. Subcommittee on Africa, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, 51. 90. Subcommittee on Africa, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, 51. 91. Eastern Congo Initiative, CBO Landscape Analysis, 2011, http:// www.easterncongo.org/about/publications/landscape-analysis (accessed February 21, 2019). 92. Alexis Okeowo, “Celebrity and Charity in Africa,” New Yorker, December 18, 2013. 93. Eastern Congo Initiative, “An Animated History of Eastern Congo Initiative,” YouTube, January 11, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v =uVpiD-wbXmE (accessed August 14, 2019). 94. Eastern Congo Initiative, “Grantmaking,” http://www.easterncon go.org/about/grantmaking (accessed February 21, 2019). 95. See report by Tasneem Mowjee, Humanitarian Agenda 2015 Democratic Republic of Congo Case Study, Feinstein International Center, October 2007. 96. Interview 25. 97. See ECI Annual Reports 2012, 2013, and 2015, http://www.east erncongo.org/about/financials (accessed October 14, 2019). 98. See Eastern Congo Initiative, IRS Form 990, 2012. In its grants for organizations outside the United States, ECI lists the region and the purpose of the grant but not the receiving organization. For grants made to foreign entities with U.S. offices, the name of the organization is given. 99. Eastern Congo Initiative, “Advocacy.” 100. See International Crisis Group, Security Sector Reform in the Congo, Report Number 104 Africa, February 13, 2006. 101. Demetriou and Magnuson, “Strengthening United States Foreign Policy,” 47. 102. Berwouts finds that neglect of conflict at the grassroots level “has never been fully understood by the international partners and the donor

Notes to Chapter 4  • 253

community, and even by Congo’s political elite in Kinshasa, so that programmes were designed and solutions proposed that took a top-­ down approach, which ultimately meant they were condemned to lack impact” (2017, 46). 103. Ben Affleck, Conference: Child Survival Call to Action, 2012, https://www.who.int/pmnch/media/news/2012/20120614_childsurvival_ call/en (accessed February 21, 2019). 104. See World Bank, Guidance Note on Bank Multi-­stakeholder Engagement, 2012. 105. USAID, Global Health, Call to Action: Ben Affleck and Dr. Felix Kabange Numbi Mukwampa, YouTube, July 11, 2012, https://www.you tube.com/watch?v=-dllvT2hQO8 (accessed October 14, 2019). Transcript available at https://web.archive.org/web/20121004082314/ http://5thbday .usaid.gov/pages/ResponseSub/Event.aspx. 106. In 2012, ECI donated $270,258 (its largest single grant that year) to Howard Buffett’s pet project, Virunga Fund, “to support investment in the development” of the park. Eastern Congo Initiative, IRS Form 990, 2012, 29. 107. “DR Congo: Why Tourists Go to Virunga National Park,” BBC News, May 14, 2018. 108. There is an ECI video, “ECI CBO Success Stories: ICCN—­Virunga National Park” (2012), on YouTube with narration by Ben Affleck but no mention of partnerships with the Virunga park on the ECI website: https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsMWMce8Hac. 109. williamsworks, “Our Clients: Eastern Congo Initiative,” https:// web.archive.org/web/20160716142638/http://williamsworks.com/our-cli ents/eastern-congo-initiative/ (accessed February 21, 2019). 110. Derakhshani, “Sideshow: Affleck Assists Congolese.” 111. Interview 22.

4. Marketing the Congo 1. “Chocolate That Makes a Difference,” CBS News, 2012, http:// www.dailymotion.com/video/x15p4hj (accessed August 14, 2019). 2. Theo Chocolate, “BIOS: Executive Team,” March 2013. 3. Theo Chocolate, “FACT SHEET: Theo ECI Bars,” January 2013, https://web.archive.org/web/20150906122040/https://www.theochoco late.com/sites/default/files/images/1303_Theo_ECI_FactSheet.PDF (accessed October 16, 2019). 4. Attentive readers will notice that this date is a year earlier than that given in all of our other sources. In some of the early material, 2009

254  •  Notes to Chapter 4

was listed as the launch year. The official website states: “Founded by Ben Affleck in 2010, Eastern Congo Initiative is a 501(c)(3) organization registered in the United States.” “About ECI,” http://www.easterncongo.org/about (accessed August 14, 2019). 5. Theo Chocolate, “Sourcing,” March 3, 2016, https://web.archive .org/web/20160303155220/https://theochocolate.com/sourcing (accessed August 14, 2019). 6. “Militia-­proof” is part of the branding of Theo ECI bars. See Theo Chocolate, “FACT SHEET: Theo ECI Bars.” 7. See Laura Seay, What’s Wrong with Dodd-­Frank 1502? Conflict Minerals, Civilian Livelihoods, and the Unintended Consequences of Western Advocacy—­Working Paper 284 (Washington, D.C.: Center for Global Development, 2012). 8. Christy Turlington Burns’s organization, Every Mother Counts, is an exception, with expressed commitments to transparency; amounts and destinations are listed on its website. See “Accountability,” https://everymother counts.org/our-story/transparency/ (accessed October 16, 2019). 9. Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, “A Conversation on Effective Altruism with Jennifer Rubenstein,” November 29, 2016, https://www.carnegiecouncil.org/studio/multimedia/20161129b-a-con versation-on-effective-altruism-with-jennifer-rubenstein (accessed May 13, 2019). 10. Girvin, “An Optimistic Beauty: Ben Affleck’s Eastern Congo Initiative,” March 22, 2010, https://girvin.com/blog/an-optimistic-beauty-ben -afflecks-eastern-congo-initiative/ (accessed August 14, 2019). 11. Girvin, “An Optimistic Beauty.” 12. Eastern Congo Initiative, “Growing Congo’s Cocoa,” http://www .easterncongo.org/success-stories/growing-congos-coco (accessed March 6, 2018). 13. Eastern Congo Initiative, “Growing Congo’s Cocoa.” 14. “Food Spotlight: Theo Chocolate Congo Coffee & Cream Bar,” https://trndmonitor.com/food-spotlight-theo-chocolate-congo-coffee-cream -bar/# (accessed May 14, 2020). 15. Theo Chocolate, “FACT SHEET: Theo ECI Bars.” 16. Theo Chocolate, “FACT SHEET: Theo ECI Bars.” 17. Ben Affleck, “Ben Affleck on Directing, Starring in ‘Argo,’” ABC News, October 8, 2012, http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/ben-affleck -argo-actor-discusses-starring-directingthriller-17422277 (accessed August 14, 2019).

Notes to Chapter 4  • 255

18. “Ben Affleck’s New Film, ‘Argo,’” ABC News, September 28, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Om9w9vGjIU4 (accessed August 14, 2019). 19. The event took place June 14–­15, 2012. The conference Child Survival Call to Action was hosted by the governments of the United States, India, and Ethiopia in collaboration with UNICEF. See The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, “Child Survival Call to Action,” https://www.who.int/pmnch/media/news/2012/20120614_childsurvival_ call/en/ (accessed August 14, 2019). 20. “Ben Affleck’s New Film, ‘Argo,’” ABC News. 21. Save the Children, “TOMS and Save the Children,” https://www .savethechildren.org/us/about-us/become-a-partner/corporations/toms (accessed August 14, 2019). 22. TOMS, “One for Ones,” https://www.toms.com/one-for-one-en/ (accessed October 16, 2019). 23. TOMS, “Improving Lives,” http://www.toms.com/improving-lives (accessed August 14, 2019). 24. Giving Partners include AmeriCares, Africare, Anera, Kenya Red Cross, Norwegian Refugee Council, Partners in Health, Save the Children, and USA for UNHCR. See TOMS, “Shoe Giving Partners,” http://www .toms.com/shoe-partners. 25. Clare O’Connor, “Bain Deal Makes TOMS Shoes Founder Blake Mycoskie a $300 Million Man,” Forbes, August 20, 2014. 26. Mickey Rapkin, “When Ben Affleck Wants to Change the World, He Calls This Woman,” ELLE, November 11, 2013. 27. TOMS, “Investments | TOMS® Giving,” http://www.toms.com/ investments (accessed August 14, 2019). 28. TOMS, “TOMS: Next Chapter—­Ben Affleck’s One for One,” June 2, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeS4S5ufi6o (accessed August 14, 2019). 29. Eastern Congo Initiative, “Partnerships: TOMS,” http://www.east erncongo.org/about/partners/toms (accessed August 14, 2019). 30. Rose Curiel, “Ben Affleck Collaborates with Toms Shoes,” E! Online, May 14, 2013. 31. Eastern Congo Initiative, “Partnerships: TOMS.” 32. TOMS, “TOMS x Eastern Congo Initiative,” August 11, 2011, https://web.archive.org/web/20140811100126/http://www.toms.com/east ernCongo (accessed August 14, 2019). 33. Bryanna Cappadona, “Ben Affleck Collaborates with TOMS on Charitable Shoe Line to Support the Eastern Congo Initiative,” Boston Magazine, May 15, 2013.

256  •  Notes to Chapter 4

34. TOMS, “TOMS x Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) Video,” YouTube, May 23, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6afe3D7XWug (accessed October 16, 2019). 35. TOMS, “TOMS x Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) Video.” 36. TOMS, “TOMS x Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) Video.” 37. TOMS, “TOMS x Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) Video.” 38. Curiel, “Ben Affleck Collaborates with Toms Shoes.” 39. Jennifer Davis, “Product with a Purpose: Ben Affleck for TOMS Shoes,” InStyle, May 15, 2013. 40. Jasmin Malik Chua, “Ben Affleck Designs TOMS Shoes to Benefit Eastern Congo Initiative,” Ecouterre, May 17, 2013. 41. A review of Google News finds no mentions after 2013. 42. Lush, “Growing Peace through Cocoa in Congo,” https://www .lushusa.com/article_cocoa-in-congo.html (accessed October 16, 2019). 43. Spyros Demetriou and Salamah Magnuson, “Strengthening United States Foreign Policy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo” (Eastern Congo Initiative, 2010). 44. Demetriou and Magnuson, “Strengthening United States Foreign Policy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” 45. See Andrea Sevetson, “LibGuides: Congressional Hearings Digital Collection: Famous (Celebrity) Witnesses,” https://proquest.libguides.com/ hearings/famouscelebs (accessed August 14, 2019). 46. Human Rights Watch, “DR Congo: M23 Rebels Committing War Crimes,” September 11, 2012. 47. Interview 23. 48. Representative Adam Smith, “Fragile Progress in the Congo,” Huffington Post, February 4, 2014. 49. Adam Smith, “Fragile Progress in the Congo.” 50. Adam Smith, “Fragile Progress in the Congo.” 51. Ben Affleck, “Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Testimony by Ben Affleck, Founder, Eastern Congo Initiative,” February 26, 2014, https:// www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/022614PM_Hearing_Testimony %20-%20Ben%20Affleck.pdf (accessed August 14, 2019). 52. Affleck, “Senate Foreign Relations Committee.” 53. Affleck, “Senate Foreign Relations Committee.” 54. Eastern Congo Initiative, “CBO Landscape Analysis,” http://www .easterncongo.org/success-stories (accessed August 14, 2019). 55. USAID Press Office, “USAID and Eastern Congo Initiative Announce Online Database to Support Congolese Organizations,” August 12, 2013, https://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/usaid-and-eastern

Notes to Chapter 5  • 257

-congo-initiative-announce-online-database-support (accessed August 14, 2019). 56. Eastern Congo Initiative, “Advocacy,” http://www.easterncongo .org/about/advocacy/economic-investment (accessed August 14, 2019). 57. Eastern Congo Initiative, “Who We Are,” http://www.easterncongo .org/about/who-we-are (accessed August 14, 2019).

5. Saving Congolese Coffee 1. “The Advisors Guiding the World’s Top Philanthropists,” Town and Country, May 11, 2016. 2. Personal email correspondence, anonymized, June 15, 2016. 3. In a similar narrative around revival, George Clooney used his position as brand ambassador for Nespresso to link the company to the NGO TechnoServe to support the coffee industry in South Sudan (see Gulam 2019; Budabin 2020). 4. Renata Birkenbuel, “Carrying on Family Legacy: Whitney Williams Goes Global,” Montana Standard, September 21, 2014, https://web.archive .org/web/20141204150312/https://mtstandard.com/special-section/local/ carrying-on-family-legacy-whitney-williams-goes-global/article_77c1da58 -d82a-5bc5-a2fe-94d43bd73a96.html (accessed August 13, 2019). 5. David Brancaccio, “Ben Affleck on Sustainable Aid in the Eastern Congo,” Marketplace Morning Report, December 8, 2014. 6. David Olsen, “Coffee Beans Bring Hope to War-­ Torn Nation,” Seattle Times, February 20, 2015. 7. Olsen, “Coffee Beans Bring Hope to War-­Torn Nation.” 8. Testimony by Ben Affleck, founder, Eastern Congo Initiative, U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (2015). 9. Testimony by Ben Affleck. 10. Testimony by Ben Affleck. 11. Testimony by Ben Affleck. 12. Testimony by Ben Affleck. 13. Ben Affleck, “Ben Affleck: Why I’m Hopeful about Congo,” New York Times, December 5, 2017. 14. Harper McConnell, “Can Aid Work Itself Out of Business?,” TEDxNewBedford, YouTube, December 2, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=ayuyledgnJw (accessed October 23, 2019). 15. McConnell, “Can Aid Work Itself Out of Business?” 16. McConnell, “Can Aid Work Itself Out of Business?”

258  •  Notes to Chapter 5

17. This section was written in collaboration with Stefano Ponte and is further expounded in Ponte and Richey (2020). 18. See also Agritrade, “Executive Brief Update 2013: Coffee Sector,” December 17, 2013, http://agritrade.cta.int/Agriculture/Commodities/ Coffee/Executive-Brief-Update-2013-Coffee-sector.html (accessed October 23, 2019). 19. Starbucks, (STARBUCKS)RED, https://www.starbucks.com/respon sibility/community/starbucks-red (accessed August 13, 2019). 20. LMC International, “ICO/CFC Study of Marketing and Trading Policies and Systems in Selected Coffee Producing Countries, Country Profile: Democratic Republic of the Congo,” Common Fund for Commodities/ International Coffee Organization/The World Bank, 2000, 3, http://www .ico.org/projects/countryprofiles/countryprofileDEMREPofCONGOe.pdf (accessed August 13, 2019). 21. LMC International, “ICO/CFC Study,” 5. 22. International Coffee Organization, “Historical Data on the Global Coffee Trade,” http://www.ico.org/new_historical.asp?section=Statistics (accessed August 13, 2019). 23. LMC International, “ICO/CFC Study,” 3. 24. Interview 19. 25.  Clair MacDougall, “Congo’s Specialty Brews Look to Be the ‘Future of Coffee,’” New York Times, August 24, 2017, A6. 26. Interview 19. 27. Interview 19. 28. African Fine Coffee Association, “About Us,” https://afca.coffee/ about-us/ (accessed August 13, 2019). 29. African Fine Coffee Association, “AFCA Members,” https://afca .coffee/membership/afca-members/ (accessed August 13, 2019). 30. Saveur du Kivu, “About,” http://www.saveurdukivu.org/#about (accessed August 13, 2019). 31. U.S. Agency for International Development, “Global Development Alliance (GDA), Annual Program Statement (APS),” APS No. APS-­OAA-­ 16-­000001, 30, May 16, 2016. 32. U.S. Agency for International Development, “Global Development Alliance.” 33. U.S. Agency for International Development, “Global Development Alliance,” 2. 34. Interview 23. 35. Starbucks, “Ethics & Compliance,” https://www.starbucks.com/ about-us/company-information/business-ethics-and-compliance (accessed August 13, 2019).

Notes to Chapter 5  • 259

36. Birkenbuel, “Carrying on Family Legacy.” 37. Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Annual Report, 2016, 1, https:// www.thehowardgbuffettfoundation.org/annual-reports/ (accessed August 13, 2019). 38. Joe Kita, “The Good Farmer: Howard G. Buffett’s Crusade to Eliminate Hunger in America,” Parade, December 2, 2012, https://parade .com/126884/joekita/02-giving-issue-howard-buffett-hunger-in-america/ (accessed June 1, 2018). 39. David Callahan, “Meet the Unlikely Funder Who Actually Cares about Congo,” Inside Philanthropy, January 27, 2014. 40. Zahra Moloo, “The Problem with Capitalist Philanthropy,” Jacobin, February 6, 2018. 41. Catholic Relief Services, “Where We Work: Africa,” https://www .crs.org/our-work-overseas/where-we-work/democratic-republic-congo #toc-link (accessed August 13, 2019). 42. Interview 1. 43. Interview 18; see Center on Conflict and Development, Texas A&M University, “Edwin Price,” http://condevcenter.org/edwin-price/ (accessed August 13, 2019). 44. Interview 18. 45. Interview 5. 46. Interview 5. 47. Interview 18. 48. Interview 35. 49. Notes from fieldwork for the EC Coffee Study conducted December 12, 2017, 2. 50. Notes from fieldwork for the EC Coffee Study, 3. 51. Carita Developpment Bukavu, “Homepage,” http://www.caritasde veloppementbukavu.org/index.php?lang=en (accessed August 13, 2019). 52. Notes from fieldwork for the EC Coffee Study, 3. 53. Interview 35. 54. Interview 18. 55. Interview 18. 56. Interview 35. 57. Interview 18. 58. Interview 18. 59. Interview 18. 60. Interview 18; Interview 20. 61. Harper McConnell, “Linkedin Profile,” https://www.linkedin.com/ in/harpermcconnell/?locale=de_DE (accessed August 13, 2019).

260  •  Notes to Chapter 5

62. Starbucks, “Ethical Sourcing: Coffee,” https://www.starbucks.com/ responsibility/sourcing/coffee (accessed August 13, 2019). 63. Starbucks, “Investing in Coffee Communities,” https://www.star bucks.com/responsibility/community/farmer-support/social-development -investments (accessed August 13, 2019). 64. Starbucks Channel, “Project in Congo Helps Restore Country as Source of Coffee,” September 15, 2016, https://stories.starbucks.com/sto ries/2017/project-in-congo-helps-restore-country-as-source-of-coffee/ (accessed April 28, 2020). 65. Interview 1. 66. Interview 7. 67. Interview 23. 68. Interview 23. 69. Discover Starbucks Reserves, “Eastern D.R. Congo Lake Kivu—­ April 2017 (July 2017 Subscription Coffee),” April 17, 2017, https://www .discoverstarbucksreserve.com/home/2017/4/17/eastern-dr-congo-lake -kivu-april-2017 (accessed October 18, 2019). 70. Interview 23. 71. Interview 4. 72. Discover Starbucks Reserves, “Eastern D.R. Congo Lake Kivu—­ April 2017 (July 2017 Subscription Coffee).” 73. “A Cup of Hope with Starbucks Coffee from Eastern Congo,” https://stories.starbucks.com/emea/stories/2016/starbucks-eastern-congo -lake-kivu/ (accessed September 30, 2020). 74. Interview 4. 75. Interview 23. 76. Catholic Relief Services, “Media Center: Actor Ben Affleck Highlights Partnership with CRS in DRC Coffee Project,” March 27, 2015, https:// www.crs.org/media-center/crs-news/actor-ben-affleck-highlights-partner ship-crs-drc-coffee-project (accessed October 23, 2019). 77. Interview 34. 78. Interview 19. 79. Interview 13. 80. Kelly Goodejohn, “Hearing on International Development: Value Added through Private Sector Engagement,” testimony delivered before U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, May 4, 2017, 4. 81. Goodejohn, “Hearing on International Development,” 12. 82. Goodejohn, “Hearing on International Development,” 12. 83. Interview 34. 84. Interview 34.

Notes to Chapter 6  • 261

85. The description accompanying McConnell’s TEDx talk reads: “Would the world look different if businesses and non-­profit organizations collaborated? Development pioneer, Harper McConnell, explores the impact non-­profits can have in the business world through managing risks to create economic opportunity in emerging economies.” McConnell, “Can Aid Work Itself Out of Business?” 86. Promotional email for a video featured in the ECI newsletter sent on October 30, 2017, http://www.easterncongo.org/about-drc/newsletters/ detail/37; the video is available online at https://indi.com/98v9t (accessed August 14, 2019). 87. A video titled “A Cup of Hope: A 360 Journey to Congo” was released on November 28, 2017, and has more than three thousand views on YouTube. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBKgvAnBrx8 (accessed October 23, 2019).

6. Celebrities and the Local Politics of Development 1. All interviews except one were held in English; one was in French with simultaneous translation. 2. The Chatham House Rule reads as follows: “When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.” Chatham House, https://www.chathamhouse.org/about/chatham-house-rule (accessed October 23, 2019). 3. Interview 3. 4. See Marc-­Andre Lagrange, “Lumbashi Takeover: ‘Governance by Substitution’ in the DRC,” International Crisis Group Commentary, April 15, 2013, https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/central-africa/democratic-republic -congo/lubumbashi-takeover-governance-substitution-drc (accessed October 23, 2019). 5. Gross National Income is the total domestic and foreign output claimed by residents of a country. OECD, Statistics on Resource Flows to Developing Countries, updated December 21, 2018, “Table 25. ODA Receipts and Selected Indicators for Developing Countries and Territories,” http:// www.oecd.org/dac/stats/statisticsonresourceflowstodevelopingcountries.htm (accessed April 23, 2020). 6. U.S. Department of State, “U.S. Relations with Democratic Republic of the Congo,” Bilateral Relations Fact Sheet, Bureau of African Affairs, October 10, 2018, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2823.htm (accessed October 23, 2019).

262  •  Notes to Chapter 6

7. Donor Tracker, United States, https://donortracker.org/country/united -states (accessed September 24, 2019). 8. U.S. Department of State, “U.S. Relations with Democratic Republic of the Congo.” 9. Donor Tracker, United States. 10. République Démocratique du Congo, Plan national stratégique de développement: Vision de la RDC à l’horizon 2050 (Kinshasa, 2016). 11. USAID, Country Development Cooperation Strategy Democratic Republic of the Congo 2015–­2019, i. 12. USAID, Country Development Cooperation Strategy Democratic Republic of the Congo. 13. USAID, Country Development Cooperation Strategy Democratic Republic of the Congo, 3. 14. USAID, Country Development Cooperation Strategy Democratic Republic of the Congo, 6. 15. USAID, Country Development Cooperation Strategy Democratic Republic of the Congo, 19. 16. USAID, Country Development Cooperation Strategy Democratic Republic of the Congo, 16, n. 50. 17. USAID, Country Development Cooperation Strategy Democratic Republic of the Congo. 18. Cory R. Gill and Susan B. Epstein, State Department Special Envoy, Representative, and Coordinator Positions: Background and Congressional Actions, September 15, 2017, Congressional Research Service. 19. Notes from respondent Interview 12. 20. Interview 16. 21. Interview 14. 22. Interview 14. 23. Interview 16. 24. Interview 16. 25. Interview 15. 26. Interview 16. 27. Interview 14. 28. Interview 14. 29. Interview 10. 30. Spyros Demetriou and Salamah Magnuson, “Strengthening United States Foreign Policy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo” (Eastern Congo Initiative, 2010). 31. Interview 12. 32. Interview 14.

Notes to Chapter 6  • 263

33. Comment after research dissemination presentation in Kinshasa, June 16, 2016. 34. USAID, “Our Commitment to Transparency,” https://www.usaid .gov/results-and-data/progress-data/transparency (accessed October 23, 2019). 35. Eastern Congo Initiative, “Financial Reporting,” http://www.east erncongo.org/about/financials (accessed October 23, 2019). 36. Grantspace by Candid, “KNOWLEDGE BASE: Where Can I Find out Who Has Donated Money to a Particular Nonprofit Organization?,” https://grantspace.org/resources/knowledge-base/researching-nonprofit -donations/ (accessed October 23, 2019). 37. Eastern Congo Initiative, IRS Form 990, 2014. 38. Interview 2. 39. For critiques of this policy implication of Kony 2012, see Taub 2012. 40. Interview 17. 41. Interview 17. 42. Interview 17. 43. “We Will Win Peace,” https://www.kanopy.com/product/we-will -win-peace (accessed October 23, 2019). 44. Christopher Vogel, “New Doc Film, ‘We Will Win Peace,’ Skillfully Debunks Many Myths behind Conflict Minerals in the Congo,” Africa Is a Country (blog), June 11, 2015, http://africasacountry.com/2015/11/we -will-win-peace-skillfully-debunks-many-of-the-myths-behind-conflict-in -the-drc/ (accessed October 23, 2019). 45. Teju Cole, “The White Savior Industrial Complex,” Atlantic, March 21, 2012. 46. Interview 9. 47. This discussion was in English and French, and I had informal simultaneous translation by a friend so that I could take notes on the content. 48. Chimamanda Ngozi, “The Danger of a Single Story,” TEDGlobal 2019, https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_ single_story (accessed October 23, 2019). 49. Christopher Vogel, “DRC: Who Are the Raïa Mutomboki?,” Think Africa Press, July 17, 2013, http://web.archive.org/web/20140814204628/ http://thinkafricapress.com/drc/drc-who-are-raia-mutomboki-south-kivu (accessed October 23, 2019). 50. Dick Durbin is a U.S. senator from Illinois, first elected in 1996. He has been active in promoting U.S. involvement in Africa, including co-­ sponsoring the Congo Conflict Minerals Act, which was eventually passed as part of Dodd-­Frank. He sits on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee,

264  •  Notes to Chapter 6

which has featured hearings on the Congo with testimony by Affleck (see Figure 2). 51. This is particularly surprising given that Jendayi Frazer is quite a prominent aid celebrity in African policy circles. An African American political science Ph.D. from Stanford and a Republican, she was the first female U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, in 2004, and has been credited with the successes of U.S. policy on the continent during the 2000s, including negotiating a quadrupling of the U.S. aid budget and working toward the end of conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burundi, and DRC. See Berggruen Institute, People: Jendayi Frazer, https://www.berggruen.org/people/jendayi-frazer/ (accessed October 23, 2019). 52. Interview 14. 53. Interview 15. 54. Interview 14. 55. Interview 17. 56. Interview 17. 57. Lagrange, “Lumbashi Takeover.”

7. Conclusions on Celebrity and Development 1. Ben Affleck and Adam Hochschild, “Op-­ Ed: In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Foreign Aid Matters,” Los Angeles Times, June 19, 2019. 2. Affleck and Hochschild, “Op-­Ed.” 3. Interview 23. 4. The couple finalized their divorce in the fall of 2018. 5. Naomi Fry, “The Great Sadness of Ben Affleck,” New Yorker, March 24, 2018. 6. Emily Yahr, “Do We Need to Know So Much about Ben Affleck?,” Washington Post, August 23, 2018. 7. Know Your Meme, “Sad Affleck,” https://knowyourmeme.com/ memes/sad-affleck (accessed December 7, 2018). 8. Eastern Congo, “Newsletters,” http://www.easterncongo.org/about -drc/newsletters (accessed November 11, 2019). 9. Ben Affleck, “Ben Affleck: Why I’m Hopeful about Congo,” New York Times, December 5, 2017. 10. Ale Russian, “Ben Affleck Makes His Tenth Humanitarian Trip to Congo: ‘My Heart Will Forever Be There with Them,’” People, June 6, 2017. In his Instagram account of his trip, Affleck took care to report on visits to coffee communities, where he “saw the positive impact Starbucks’

Notes to Chapter 7  • 265

investment in the coffee sector is making to thousands of families.” The last line reads almost like a farewell: “It’s the honor of a lifetime to support Congo. My heart will forever be with them.” Another Instagram gives special thanks to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and Starbucks for their support. Later that summer he picked up an award from the Starkey Hearing Foundation (which has also honored Jennifer Garner). See benaffleck, Instagram, June 5 and 8, 2017, https://www.instagram.com/benaffleck/?hl=en; Olivia Vanni, “Ben Affleck Shares Optimism from the Congo amid Election Chaos,” Boston Herald, January 2, 2019. 11. Eastern Congo Initiative, “ECI in the Press,” http://www.eastern congo.org/gallery/eci-press (accessed December 7, 2018). Indeed, the press page of ECI shows no more coverage after 2017. 12. Dennis Hadrick, “Coffee, Conflict, and the Congo: Healing Hearts and Minds Begins with Life and Limbs,” DIPNOTE (U.S. Department of State Official blog), March 6, 2018, https://blogs.state.gov/stories/2018/ 03/06/en/coffee-conflict-and-congo-healing-hearts-and-minds-begins-life -and-limbs; Higher Grounds Coffee, “Higher Grounds Public Private Private Partnership Impact Award Finalist: P3 Impact Award + Supporting Survivors in the Coffeelands,” https://www.highergroundstrading.com/pages/p3 impact (accessed November 11, 2019). 13. See Theo Chocolate, https://www.theochocolate.com/products/choc olate-bars/; TOMS Shoes, https://www.toms.com/search?q=Congo; Starbucks Coffee, http://www.starbucks.co.id/coffeehouse/merchandise. 14. Vanni, “Ben Affleck Shares Optimism.” 15. Eastern Congo Initiative, “Contact Us,” http://www.easterncongo .org/about/contact-us (accessed November 11, 2019). 16. Interview 37. 17. Interview 38. 18. Alight, “Homepage,” https://wearealight.org/about/ (accessed May 14, 2020). 19. Alight, “Join Us,” https://wearealight.org/events/ (accessed May 14, 2020). 20. Eastern Congo Initiative, “New from ECI, February 2020, Hello from Abraham,” http://www.easterncongo.org/blog/detail/2020-02-news -from-eci-february-2020 (accessed May 14, 2020). 21. Ideo.org, “The Community Enterprise That’s Creating New Possibilities in the DRC,” https://www.ideo.org/project/asili (accessed May 14, 2020). 22. Interview 38. 23. Stanford Medicine Global Child Health Program, “Asili Evaluation Launch in DRC,” https://med.stanford.edu/globalchildhealth/News/2016 -01-07_Asili_evaluation_launch.html (accessed May 14, 2020).

266  •  Notes to Chapter 7

24. Globalwaters.org, “What’s New,” https://www.globalwaters.org/ HowWeWork/Activities/asili-social-enterprise-zones (accessed May 14, 2020). 25. Eastern Congo Initiative, “New from ECI, February 2020, Hello from Abraham.” 26. Interview 23. 27. Interview 38. 28. Mike Fleming Jr., “Ben Affleck to Direct ‘King Leopold’s Ghost,’ about Unlikely Trio Who Exposed Atrocities in Plunder of Congo,” DEADLINE, November 21, 2019. 29. Interview 23. 30. See Harper McConnell, “LinkedIn Profile,” https://www.linkedin .com/in/harpermcconnell/ (accessed November 11, 2019). 31. Veronica Stracqualursi, “Howard Schultz Drops Plans to Run as Independent Candidate in 2020,” CNN, September 6, 2019. 32. See Whitney for Montana, https://whitneyformontana.com/ (accessed November 11, 2019). 33. Chris Gardner, “Rihanna, Jack Dorsey, Jay-­Z Donate $6.2M in COVID-­19 Grants for New York, New Orleans, Puerto Rico,” Hollywood Reporter, April 15, 2020. 34. See PAINT(RED) SAVE LIVES MURALS, https://www.red.org/paint (accessed November 11, 2019). 35. “TOMS and Charlize Theron Launch Limited Edition CTAOP Shoe Collection,” Culture Addicts, July 18, 2016, http://cultureaddicts.com/ toms-and-charlize-theron-launch-limited-edition-ctaop-shoe-collection/. 36. iPlug Staff, “Akon and Keri Hilson Team Up with H&M’s Fashion against AIDS Campaign,” INDUSTRY PLUG, April 21, 2011. 37. See williamsworks, http://williamsworks.com/ (accessed November 11, 2019). 38. Paige Parker, “Just Ask Whitney,” Montanan Magazine, Fall 2015, https://montanan.umt.edu/issues/fall-2015/just-ask-whitney/default.php (accessed November 11, 2019). 39. Interview 36. 40. Interview 36. 41. Genevieve Roth, “‘I’ve Never Seen Women So Brave’: How Ben Affleck Is Fighting for Women in the Congo,” Glamour, April 11, 2016. 42. Interview 32. 43. Congo Initiative, “What We Do,” https://congoinitiative.org/what -we-do-2/ (accessed November 11, 2019). 44. Nuru, “Our Vision,” https://nuru.cd/ (accessed November 11, 2019).

Notes to Chapter 7  • 267

45. Interview 33. 46. Congo Initiative, “Dr. David Kasali Awarded 2014 Scholar Leader of the Year,” February 24, 2015, https://congoinitiative.org/2015/dr-david -kasali-awarded-2014-scholar-leader-of-the-year/ (accessed November 11, 2019). 47. Baraka Kasali and Kambale Kisumba Kamungele, “A New Look at Congo Coffee,” April 15, 2016, http://www.easterncongo.org/blog/detail/ 2016-04-a-new-look-at-congo-coffee (accessed November 11, 2019). 48. Eastern Congo Initiative, Facebook, May 13, 2019, https://www .facebook.com/EasternCongoInitiative/photos/a.179654442074063/22486 64888506331/?type=3&theater (accessed November 11, 2019). 49. Eastern Congo Initiative, Facebook, July 24, 2018, https://www .facebook.com/EasternCongoInitiative/videos/1831608380211986/ (accessed November 11, 2019). 50. Interview 23. 51. Interview 17. 52. Partnerships for the SDGs, “BUSINESS FOR 2030,” https://sustain abledevelopment.un.org/partnerships/businessfor2030 (accessed November 11, 2019). 53. benaffleck, Instagram, October 8, 2018, https://www.instagram.com/ p/BoprpFGAIMs/ (accessed December 7, 2018). 54. David Smith, “Congolese Doctor Who Worked with Rape Victims Survives Murder Attempt,” Guardian, October 12, 2012. 55. LUCHA, “Nos Actions,” http://www.luchacongo.org/nos-actions/go ma-leau/ (accessed November 11, 2019). 56. See LUCHA, http://www.luchacongo.org/. 57. Zahra Moloo, “The Problem with Capitalist Philanthropy,” Jacobin, February 6, 2018. 58. Affleck and Hochschild, “Op-­Ed.” 59. Affleck and Hochschild, “Op-­Ed.” 60. See ECI’s webpage “Grantmaking,” http://www.easterncongo.org/ about/grantmaking (accessed November 11, 2019). 61. Interview 38. 62. David Bauder, “Ben Affleck Takes Journey to Congo,” Fox News, June 25, 2008. 63. Hashtag sequence from Saveur du Kivu, Facebook post, September 24, 2019. 64. Interview 38. 65. David Bauder, “Ben Affleck Takes Journey to Congo.”

268  •  Notes to Chapter 7

66. “Understanding the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Coffee Industry,” Perfect Daily Grind, May 16, 2019, https://www.perfectdailygrind .com/2019/05/understanding-the-democratic-republic-of-congos-coffee-in dustry/ (accessed November 11, 2019). 67. Interview 12.

Epilogue 1. Eastern Congo Initiative, “News from ECI, March 2020,” http:// www.easterncongo.org/blog/detail/2020-03-news-from-eci-march-2020 (accessed May 14, 2020). The blog notes that while most Congolese staff are sheltering in place, the executive director is home with his family in Virginia, and the product manager, Tad Lunden, had returned home to Minnesota. 2. Eastern Congo Initiative, “How to Survive a Disaster: Lessons from Eastern Congo,” http://www.easterncongo.org/blog/detail/how-to-survive-a -disaster-1 (accessed May 14, 2020). 3. Interview 38. 4. Interview 38. 5. ECI, “Technical Briefings on COVID-­19 Response in the Kivus,” https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1cB1iDXGcozRcnfqvOTtHV-Q1ki 6hyPAL (accessed May 4, 2020). 6. ECI, “Technical Briefings.” 7. Eastern Congo Initiative, “News from ECI, April 2020,” http:// www.easterncongo.org/blog/detail/2020-04-news-from-eci-april-2020 (accessed May 4, 2020). 8. Of the three authors visible on the COVID-­19 brochure, one is a Congolese doctor, while the other two are experts in communication and commerce, according to LinkedIn. 9. “2020-­04-­01 Conseils COVID-­19,” https://docs.google.com/docu ment/d/1HLdYYcRxUbFYxD3W_iVHtu-aSoE0-zBIEl6uaBTAisE/edit# (accessed May 4, 2020). 10. Eastern Congo Initiative, “How to Survive a Disaster, Part 5: Be Powerful When You Can, and Help Others Be Powerful Too,” http://www .easterncongo.org/blog/detail/how-to-survive-a-disaster-5 (accessed May 4, 2020). 11. IREX, “Johny Bah’ogwerhe Muhind,” https://www.irex.org/people/ johny-bahogwerhe-muhindo (accessed May 4, 2020). 12. IREX, “Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders,” https://www.irex.org/project/mandela-washington-fellowship-young -african-leaders (accessed May 4, 2020).

Notes to Epilogue  • 269

13. IREX, “Johny Bah’ogwerhe Muhind.” 14. “Coronavirus: Le Président de la RDC, Félix Tshisekedi prend des mesures drastiques,” BBC News, March 19, 2020. 15. Ministère de la Santé, Stop Coronavirus COVID-19 RDC, https:// www.stopcoronavirusrdc.info/ (accessed May 4, 2020). 16. Interview 38.

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INDEX

Page numbers in italics refer to illustrations and tables. access of celebrity humanitarians, xi, 6–8, 23, 25, 61, 73, 114, 173, 185, 191, 199; and Affleck, xvi, 92–99, 106, 209; and noncelebrity lack of, 88, 201 Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi, 39, 180 affective visibility, xi, xii, 10, 31, 61, 78, 89, 112, 156, 195 Affleck, Ben: awards for humanitarianism, xv; and celebrity capital, xiv, 89, 174, 190, 209; Congo, choice of for advocacy, research, 86–90; Congo, trips to, 88; and Congolese voices, amplification of, 131, 200–202; and congressional hearings, ix–xi, x, xv, 15, 78, 96–99, 98, 131, 141, 158, 182, 231–32; domestic charities, involvement in, 78–79; and ECI promotion, 122–23, 126–27, 131, 142, 190–91; and elite network, xiv–xvii, 72, 90, 132–33 (see also

williamsworks); as expert, 97–99, 173, 179, 189–90; fundraising, criticism of, 79–80; Gimme Shelter, 29–32, 30; on humanitarianism as form of reparation, 187–88; and King Leopold’s Ghost, 194–95; on local efforts of Congolese, 104; long-term interest, 172; and media coverage and appearances, xvi, 89, 92, 108, 142, 187–88, 192–93; personal and professional troubles, 192; political aspirations of, 79, 93; response to humanitarian efforts, 127, 207; and Shah, xvii; with Special Envoy, 172; with UN Organization Mission, 11; on Virunga Park, 63. See also Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) Africa Great Lakes Peace Initiative, 148 African Fine Coffees Association (AFCA), 146   • 291

292  • Index

Alight, 193, 213 American Refuge Committee, 193 American Voluntary Medical Team, 45 Apocalypse, 178–79 Asili, 193–94, 213–16 authenticity of celebrity humanitarians, xi, 11–12, 25, 78; building of, 47, 60–61, 68–69, 79, 88–90 Belafonte, Harry, 248n16 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ix, 133 Blood Diamonds, 56 Bono: celebrity-led development organization of, 75, 114; celebrity strategic partnership of, 115, 118, 144; and williamsworks, 72, 82–83 Brand Aid, 16–19, 113–14, 120 Breaking the Silence: Congo Week, 64 Buffet, Howard G., 72, 90–91, 148–50, 183, 203. See also Howard G. Buffet Foundation Burns, Christy Turlington, 114, 116, 254n8 “Business for Peace” (B4P), 21 “Can You Hear Congo Now?” (Enough Project), 59 Caritas Bukavu, 151 Carney, Maurice, 64 Casement, Roger, xx Casement Report (1905), xxiii Catholic Relief Services (CRS), x; and celebrity capital, 157; and ECI, 148–50; and Kahawa Bora, xvi, 140, 141

cause-related marketing (CRM), 16, 118–19; and consumerism as activism, 123, 133–35, 191; criticism of, 19–22; Theo Chocolate, 109–11, 119–23, 121; TOMS, 17, 123–28. See also Kahawa Bora project celebrity humanitarianism: accountability, lack of, 7–8, 12; awareness raising, history of, 35–37; branding of, 10–11 (see also Brand Aid); and celebrity capital, 171–72, 174–75; characteristics of, 8–13, 101, 181; colonialism roots of, xviii–xxiv; and conservationism, 62–64; and credibility, 11–12, 189–90; criticism of, 80–81; and entourages, 174; and narratives as simplified, 37–40; and political engagement, process of, 4–8, 86; and postdemocratic order, 12–13; as private citizens, freedom of, 6–8, 14, 172–73; rise of in Congo, 57–61. See also access of celebrity humanitarians; Affleck, Ben; authenticity of celebrity humanitarians; celebrity strategic partnerships; convening power of celebrity humanitarians; Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) celebrity-led development organizations, 11, 73, 192 celebrity strategic partnerships: and accountability, 12, 78, 151, 176–77; advocacy, 74; as amateur operations, 195; and cause-related marketing, 24, 112–13; and celebrity capital, 17, 156; democratizing development,

Index  • 293

failure to, 191–92; and elite networks, 24–25; explanation of, xi; and funding, 11, 75–77, 78; grant-making, 74; list of, 115–17; local actors’ response to, 176–85, 198–200; and marketing firms, 133 (see also williamsworks); narratives, construction of, 199; as political, 204–6, 209–11; popularity of, 74, 75–77, 114–18; precursor of, 73–74; and private partnerships, increase of, 202–4; program implementation, 74; role of, 177–78; sustainability, question of, 192, 195–96; transparency, lack of, 95–96, 118. See also Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI); individual celebrities or individual organizations Center for Strategic and International Studies, 15 Chang, 178–79 City of Joy, 52 Clara Lionel Foundation, 77, 195 Clinton, Bill, 41 Clinton, Hillary, 53–54, 98; and Affleck, relationship, 122–23 Clinton Foundation, 182–83 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), 15, 142, 148 Clooney, George, 36 Clowns without Borders, 29, 49 cocoa industry, 130, 140–44. See also Theo Chocolate coffee industry, 144. See also under Congo; Kahawa Bora project communications technologies, 33 community-based organizations (CBOs): and counternarratives to

dominant narratives, 100–102, 104; and ECI and development assistance, 26, 71–72, 102, 112, 123–25, 128, 130–34. See also Kahawa Bora project compassion fatigue, 79–80 Conference: Child Survival Call to Action, 104, 122 conflict minerals, 56–61; counternarrative to, 64–65; ECI counternarrative to, 99–100 Congo: advocacy, lack of attention to, 85–86; as “Africa,” stereotype of, 122; and civil wars, 41–42; coffee industry, 145–46, 158, 161, 210; COVID-19 response, 216; elections, 129, 171; government as weak, xviii, 40–46, 165–67; as humanitarian crisis, narrative of, 46–49; humanitarian efforts, history of, xviii–xxiv; and narrative distortions, 40, 49–50, 55–61 (see also conflict minerals; sexual violence); narrative of development for CRM, 120; narratives of, 58–61, 64–69; natural resources, xviii, 42–43; ODA contributions to, 165–69, 166, 167, 168; partnerships as hegemonic, 21–22; public attention in U.S., 46–48 “Congo fatigue,” 26–28 Congo Global Action, 51 Congo Initiative (CI), 48, 66, 201–2 Congolese-led initiatives, 104, 205–6; funding for, 91–92. See also Congo Initiative (CI) Congo Reform Association (CRA), xx–xxiv

294  • Index

congressional hearings, 48, 49, 78–79, 158; Affleck appearances, ix–xi, x, 15, 96–99, 98, 131, 141, 182; attention to causes, 7–8 conservation, 62–64 consulting agencies: rise of, 81–82. See also williamsworks convening power of celebrity humanitarians, xi, 24–25, 84, 134, 172, 203; and Affleck, xvii, 90–91, 110, 114, 126, 130–31, 133, 157–58 corporate social responsibility (CSR): explanation of, 18–19. See also celebrity strategic partnerships; Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) Council on Foreign Relations, 15 COVID-19, 195, 213–16 Creative Artists Agency, 74 Crisis in the Congo (Friends of the Congo), 64–65 Cronin-Furman, Kate, xvi Damon, Matt, 75–76, 79, 83, 114, 115, 118, 125 Darfur, 34–36, 48–49, 51, 57, 87 de Merode, Emmanuel, 63 Demetriou, Spyros, 94 “development,” politics of, xii, xiii, 204, 206–7 DiCaprio, Leonardo, 63–64 Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programming, 95 “disruptor,” definition of and use of term, 13–17, 108, 196 Doctors on Call for Service (DOCS), 45

Dodd-Frank Act (“Obama’s Law”), 60, 179, 180 Durbin, Dick, 181 Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI): advocacy and grant-making, 93, 102–3; Affleck association, 92–93; aid models, narrative of, 140; and Alight and Asili, 193–94, 209; business sector, presence of, 20; and CI partnership, 201–2; community-based initiative, 71–72; CommunityBased Organization Landscape Analysis, 102–3, 132; and “Congo fatigue,” solution to, 27; counternarratives to Congo, 99–102; and COVID-19 crisis, 194, 213; credibility of, 45, 86–92, 132, 198; as development organization, failed, 196; as disruptor, overview of, 108; donor-investors, list of, 237n11; East Congo, choice of, 93; economic development, 131–33; elite networks, 141, 190; finances of, 14, 90–92, 103, 127, 177, 197–98; founding and launch, xv, 92, 94; fundraising, shift to, 133–34; and Global Development Alliance, 147; and the New Venture Fund, 103; office locations, 93, 94; and partnerships, 23–24, 90–92, 91, 94–95, 100–102, 158–61, 192–93, 208–9; political capital, 95–96, 198; publicity and media coverage of, xv–xvi, 10–11, 119, 137–38, 194; and security sector, 127–31, 143, 183–84; and security sector,

Index  • 295

white paper, 94, 100–104, 127– 29, 175–76; and social enterprise, 213–16; stability of, 175; and Virunga, 105. See also Affleck, Ben; Kahawa Bora project; williamsworks Eastern Congo Initiative marketbased solutions: as disruption, 190; shift to, 112; and Starbucks, 153, 154–56; and Theo Chocolate, 119–23, 193; and TOMS, 125–28, 193. See also Kahawa Bora project Ebola, 61–62, 215 Endeavor Group, The, 81–82 Engage for Good, 19 Enough Project, 57–61, 99, 178–80 Ensler, Eve, 54, 58; “Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource,” 52 Erickson, Dane, 192 Esco Kivu, 110 ethical consumption, 15–16, 59–61, 118–19. See also cause-related marketing (CRM) ethnography, use of methodology, 224–25 Every Mother Counts, 254n8 Falcon Coffee, 148, 152 Feingold, Russ, xvi, 172 Fossey, Dian: Gorillas in the Mist, 62 Fraser, Jendayi, 182 French, Howard, 64–65 Friends of the Congo, 48, 64; Crisis in the Congo, 64–65 Garner, Jennifer, xiv, 192 Gates, Bill, ix, x, 141 Geneva Convention, 9

Gimme Shelter (Affleck), 29–32, 30 “Gimme Shelter” (Rolling Stones), 29–30 Girvin, 109, 119 Global and Inclusive Peace Agreement, 43 Global Child Advocate Award, xv Global Development Alliance (GDA), 147 Global Philanthropy Forum, xvi Global Philanthropy Group (GPG), 81–82 Goodejohn, Kelly, 158–60 gorillas, 62–64 Gorillas in the Mist (Fossey), 62 Greatest Silence, The (Jackson), 51; screenings held by Robin Wright, 60 Great Lakes (coffee exporter), 152 Groupes Sectoriels et Thématiques (GT), 168–69 Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, 18 Hague, William, 55–56, 55 Half the Sky (Kristof and WuDunn), 95 Harris, Alice Seeley, xxi Harris, John, xxii Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, 95 HEAL Africa, 45, 51, 103 Hear Congo, 65 Heineken, 21–22 Hochschild, Adam, 64; King Leopold’s Ghost, 188 Howard G. Buffet Foundation, x, xvi, 24, 140–41, 147, 149 Human Development Index, xviii “humanitarianism,” use of term, 9

296  • Index

humanitarian workers, noncelebrity: on celebrity power, xvii–xviii Human Rights Watch, 50 Human Security Network, 85 Hyde, Maria: “Lost in Showbiz,” 81 Ideo.org, 194 Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances, 23 insider policy lobby model, 6–7, 181–83 Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), 63 Inter-Congolese Dialogue, 42–43 International Crisis Group, 47 International Rescue Committee (IRC), 47 Jackson, Lisa, 54; The Greatest Silence, 51, 58–61 Jagger, Mick, 29–30 “jazz diplomacy,” 8 Johnson’s Baby Cares, 17 Jolie, Angelina, 31, 47, 54–56, 55 Judd, Ashley, 60 Kabila, Joseph, 42–43, 129, 148, 169, 171, 174 Kabila, Laurent-Désiré, 41–42 Kagame, Paul, 173 Kahawa Bora project: and activist consumerism, 141, 206; and celebrity capital, 153, 157–58; and ECI inexperience with coffee, 148–50; elite promotion of, 142–43, 191; exports, 153; goals of, 140; limitations of, 139, 202; marketing and packaging

of, 154–56, 155; organizations’ competitions, 151–53, 158; partners and financing of, xvi, 140, 147, 147; replicability of, 142; as restoration of coffee production, narrative of, 138–39, 141; and SCAA, 146; Starbucks, discontinuation of, 193; start as slow, 150–53; washing stations, 150, 151, 152; as win-win, 141–42 K&L Gates, 95, 233–35 Kasali, Baraka, 192, 202 Kasali, David, 48, 201–2 Kennedy, Ted, 79 King Leopold’s Ghost (film), 194 King Leopold’s Ghost (Hochschild), 188 Kony 2012, 36, 177–78 Kristof, Nicholas: Half the Sky, with Sheryl WuDunn, 95 Lange, Jessica, 47 Leopold II, King of Belgium, xviii, xix–xxiv Ling, Lisa, 50–51 “Lost in Showbiz” (Hyde), 81 LUCHA (Lutte pour le Changement), 188, 205–6 Lunden, Tad, 268n1 Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, 42 Madonna, 81 Magnuson, Salamah, 94 McCain, Cindy, 45, 90, 96, 173, 182 McConnell, Harper, 15, 94–95, 142–43, 151–52, 153, 160–61, 195 mining, 57–61

Index  • 297

Mitifu, Faida, 94 Morel, E. D., xx–xxi, xxii, xxii, xxiv Mount Nyiragongo, 45 M23, 129, 173 Muhindo, Johny, 215–16 Mukwege, Denis, 45–46, 51, 52, 54, 65, 205 Murphy, Chris, ix Mycoskie, Blake, 124 narrative analysis, use of methodology, 37–40, 228–29 National Development Strategic Plan, 169 Neilson, Trevor, 81–82 neoliberalism, explanation of, xiv, 3–4, 22 Nespresso, 194 New Venture Fund, 57, 95, 103 Nike, 18–19 Nobel Peace Prize, 66, 205 Office National du Café (ONC), 145–46, 149–50, 151 Olsen, Dave, 141, 153 OmniPeace: “Stamp Out Violence against Women and Girls of Congo,” 52–53 OneXOne, 79–80 Oprah Winfrey Show, The, 50–51 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), xviii Orr, Robert C., 82 overseas development aid (ODA), x, 167, 168 Panzi Hospital. See Mukwege, Denis

Payne, Donald M., 97 political economy analysis, use of methodology, 225–27 politics of recognition, 184–85 “postdemocratic,” definition of, 12–13. See also celebrity humanitarianism; celebrity strategic partnerships Pour les Femmes, 61 Power, Samantha: A Problem From Hell, 35 power mapping, 90–92, 91 Prendergast, John, 47, 57, 61, 96–97, 179 Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, 55–56 Price, Edwin, 149 Problem From Hell, A (Power), 35 “proxy publics,” 7 public health, 215–16 Radley, Ben, 179–81 Raïa Mutombaki, 181 Raise Hope for Congo campaign by Enough Project, 59 Raising Malawi, 81 RED campaigns, 17, 144 Represent, 63–64 revenue of organizations, 67 Rihanna, 195 Ripples of Genocide (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum), 47 Rolling Stones: “Gimme Shelter,” 29–30 Run for Congo Women, 51 Rupp, George, 47 Russell, Craig, 148 Rwandan genocide, 34–35, 41

298  • Index

Rwandan Trading Company, 151–52 Save the Children, xv Save the Congo organization, 245n76 Saveur du Kivu, 146 Schultz, Howard, 148, 195 Seay, Laura, xvi, 29, 46 Seko, Mobutu Sese, 40–41 sexual violence: and celebrity humanitarianism, narrative of, 50–56, 65; conflict minerals, narrative link to, 56–61; ECI counternarrative to, 100–102 Shah, Rajiv, xvi, xvii, xvii. See also USAID Shannon, Lisa, 51, 54 Simon, Paul, 34–35 Smith, Adam, 96, 130 Smith, Gayle, 57 social media, 20 South Africa, 48–49 Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), 146 “Stamp Out Violence against Women and Girls of Congo” (OmniPeace), 52–53 Starbucks: and CSR, 144, 153, 158–60; and ECI, overlap, 92, 133, 153, 195; and Kahawa Bora project, xvii. See also Kahawa Bora project “Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource” (Ensler), 52 “Strengthening United States Foreign Policy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo” (ECI), 94, 100–102, 127–29, 175–76 Superman, 207–8

SUPPORT HOPE, 41 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), xii Tabankin, Margery, 248n17 TED conference circuit, 15, 142–43, 261n85 Theo Chocolate, 109–11, 119–23, 121, 131 Theron, Charlize, 52, 52, 116, 125, 196 TOMS, 123–28; One for One campaign, 17, 124 Uganda, 48–49, 51 UNICEF, 47, 98, 104 United Nations Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, 53 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 29 United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 44 United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), 27, 42, 43–44, 46, 53, 94 United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), 53, 97, 129 United Nations Security Council, 53 United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 46; Ripples of Genocide, 47 USAID, 170; and advocacy, 169–70; and Asili, 194; celebrity partnerships, x; and COVID-19, 214; and GDA, 147; and

Index  • 299

Kahawa Bora project, 140, 141, 147; and “Landscape Analysis,” 132; and Nespresso, 194; public–private partnerships, 170–71; and Shah, xvi, xvii, xvii; and State Department, 202–3; vision for Congo, 169–71. See also Kahawa Bora project Vagina Monologues, The, 52 V-Day, 52 Virunga, 63, 105 Virunga Fund Inc., 63, 105 Virunga National Park, 62–64, 105 Wainaina, Binyavanga, 39 Wallstrom, Margot, 53 Weir, Bill, 122 Westrock Coffee Company, x, xvi, 141, 151–52 We Will Win Peace, 178–81 Whinney, Joe: on Congo, choice of, 109. See also Theo Chocolate “White-savior syndrome,” 10, 39, 178–81, 208

Williams, George Washington, xix–xx Williams, Whitney, 173–74; and Alight, 194; and Clinton, work with, 82–83; and ECI, cofounder of, 93; media coverage of, 137–38; political aspirations of, 195. See also Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI); williamsworks williamsworks, xv; clients of, 82–84, 125, 148; and ECI, 197; and TOMS, 125–26. See also Williams, Whitney win-win-ism, xi, 19, 24, 131, 142, 157 World Coffee Research (WCR), xvi, 149 World Humanitarian Summit 2016, 14 Wright, Robin, 60–61; The Greatest Silence, 60 Yoga for Congo Women, 54 “Young Hollywood Speaks Up for Congo” (Enough Project), 59–60

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A LE XA N D R A COSI M A BUD ABI N is senior researcher at the Human Rights Center, University of Dayton (U.S.A.) and adjunct professor in the Programme in Media, Communication, and Culture at the Free University of Bolzano (Italy). LISA A N N R I CHE Y is professor of globalization at Copenhagen Business School. She is coauthor of Brand Aid: Shopping Well to Save the World with Stefano Ponte (Minnesota, 2011); author of Population Politics and Development: From the Policies to the Clinics; and editor of Celebrity Humanitarianism and North–­South Relations: Politics, Place, and Power and New Actors and Alliances in Development.

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