Cote D'Ivoire, Celebrities and Aid

Now is the perfect time for Bono, Clooney, Jolie and company to step up and speak out against the stolen election and human rights abuses in Cote D'Ivoire.
12/30/2010 01:41 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Recently, The Guardian Development did a podcast where they discussed the role of celebrities and aid.

Madeleine Bunting is joined by the executive director of the advocacy organisation ONE, Jamie Drummond, assistant head of the Africa Programme at Chatham House, Tom Cargill, and professor of economics at New York University and co-director of its development institute, William Easterly, to debate the issue.

We also hear the views of the director of the global justice organization, the World Development Movement, Deborah Doane, the founder of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation and the Council of Europe's goodwill ambassador, Bianca Jagger, and the professor of political science at the University of Waterloo, in Canada, and author of the book Celebrity Diplomacy, Andrew Cooper.

One point that Professor Easterly makes during the discussion is that celebrities can be great advocates for moral issues. He gives the example of the anti-Apartheid movement which musicians, such as Bono, took part in during the late eighties and early nineties. To Easterly, this is a way that celebrities can bring forward a topic/issue and encourage people to learn about what is happening. This would provide more of a partnership since reporting and opinion can come from those with more knowledge of situation and what would be most effective in solving the problem.

Speaking about moral issues such as human rights abuses is a topic that does not require as much of an understanding. Stealing a democratic election is wrong. So is suppressing protests and killing people in opposition to the present government. These issues are pretty obvious and could use more attention; enter celebrities.

This struck me because now is the perfect time for Bono, Clooney, Jolie, and company to step up and speak out against the stolen election and human rights abuses in Cote D'Ivoire. As the country teeters on the brink of civil war, the issue has yet to become significant enough to reach consistent media coverage. I would go as far as to guess that most Americans did not even know that an election took place in Cote D'Ivoire this year (pure speculation).

I do not entirely agree with Professor Easterly that someone like Bob Geldof does not have an understanding of the intricacies of aid and development. It is possible that he does not know better, but there is a good chance that he has a strong understanding after years of learning. We should not write Geldof off, but should also not assume that he knows best. That is why I lean towards the idea of he and other celebrities being most effective in advocating for change by discussing the moral and ethical issues.

There is a place for celebrity in aid and development, but they should be willing to step aside when it comes to the discussion of solutions and interventions.

To keep up with what is happening in Cote D'Ivoire I suggest following:

UN Dispatch @UNDispatch
Texas in Africa @TexasInAfrica
Chris Blattman @Cblatts