Princeton Lyman Interview (2006): Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

A Strategic U.S. Approach to Africa: Conversation with Princeton N. Lyman, Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations; by Harry Kreisler; February 16, 2006

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Origins of the CFR Report on Africa

I will show the report and say welcome, Ambassador Lyman, back to Berkeley.

Harry, thanks. It's wonderful to be back here.

Tell us a little about the origins of this report. How did it come about?

The Council [on Foreign Relations] has two different kinds of programs. They have study programs like mine -- we do various reports and meetings, etc. -- and then they have the independent task forces. We have not done in the Council an independent task force report on Africa for a number of years and decided that it was time to do a serious approach to U.S. policy toward Africa, not just out of the Africa studies program but to bring in people, high-level people, well-known people not always associated with Africa, to take a strategic look at Africa policy. That's the origin of this report.

Who were the co-chairs of the report?

Co-chairs were Christine Todd Whitman, who is the former director of the Environmental Protection Agency, former Governor of New Jersey; and Anthony Lake, who was the National Security Advisor to President Clinton. These are generally led by a Republican and a Democrat because the Council is nonpartisan.

So, from the conception of the idea of doing this, getting the approval -- how long does it take to generate the report, and what is the process by which ideas are put on the table?

This has been a fifteen-month process from the first approval of the idea, the selection of the chairs, then the selection and organization of the people on the task force, and then the organization of the meetings and everything. It's been about fifteen months.

Do you do this through meetings, and shall we call them sub-reports, and so on?

What we did is that we brought the task force together for three meetings that reviewed the issues, reviewed the purposes of the report, etc. We then presented at the final meeting a scope paper of how the report might look, got that approved, and then my co-director Steve Morrison and I did the drafting, and we had through e-mail a constant dialogue back and forth until the report was approved.

Let's now look at the substance of the report. Why is Africa important, and is it important in a new way?

That's really the theme of the report, Harry, and that's why the title is More than Humanitarianism. We have greater interests in development in Africa, not only because of the moral issues of poverty, human rights, and democracy, but because Africa is important to the United States for strategic reasons, making success in development and these related matters all the more important.

Does making the strategic argument make it more likely that it will have an impact?

We hope it does. One of the reactions we got to this approach is, "Oh, my gosh, you're going back to the Cold War. It's going to be energy and terrorism and oil, and you're not going to care about the people of Africa." That's not the theme of the report. The [theme] is, Africa is important, and because it's important we have greater interests in the development than [just] the human rights and the democracy issues in Africa. As the competition for resources gets keener and keener in the United States, to justify increasing resources toward Africa, which the president pledged and the G-8 pledged, there's got to be more than, "Oh, we feel sorry for Africa." It's got to be an important part of our foreign policy.

One of the themes that runs throughout the report, and we're going to talk a little about each of the sections, is that these problems are interrelated. You're in a section on human rights and you need to talk about conflict resolution, and that then leads to a discussion of disease. Talk a little about that.

It's one of the real challenges, because during the preparation of this report some people said, "You've got to focus on only three or four problems, because that's what a strategy is." And we said, "Well, that's hard, because the problems interrelate and we're talking about, in sub-Saharan Africa, forty-eight different countries." But you're exactly right. Poverty and conflict are related, conflict and terrorism and organized criminal gangs are related -- energy, the stealing of oil, is producing armed gangs in the Gulf of Guinea -- and HIV/AIDS is cutting across all these sectors, having an impact on food, having an impact on conflict, etc. So, while we discuss these issues in different ways, you have to bring them back together to have a comprehensive approach that addresses them in an interrelated way.

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