After a week of business attire and meetings with policy makers on Capitol Hill, the State Department, and the White House, activist and actress Robin Wright helped convene a relaxed round-table luncheon last week with Enough’s partner organizations to delve into a discussion about the situation on the ground in eastern Congo. After showing her video trip diary, Wright and two of her travel partners, Enough’s Congo field researcher Fidel Bafilemba and Congo campaign manager JD Stier, each offered impressions from their experiences about the challenges Congo faces and the role that U.S. advocates can play.
Discussion centered around the linkage between the extraction of tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold and the conflict in eastern Congo, and the centrality of security and conflict resolution to sustainable development.
The luncheon drew a diverse group of partners. World Vision, the Franciscan Action Network, Free the Slaves, Africa Faith and Justice Network, STAND, International Medical Corps, the International Rescue Committee, American Refugee Committee, and UPstander International each brought a unique perspective to the table for discussion.
Allyson Legnini, representing Franciscan Action Network, said that Bafilemba’s insights particularly resonated with her:
Fidel has an incredibly unique position of being able to speak from both a perspective of policy research and personal experience on the issue. His illustrations of the issue really connect the policies here and abroad with the individual lives of those who are truly affected by them. It was a real pleasure to listen to his accounts as well as Robin's.
The luncheon created a unique platform that should be replicated in future events about Congo. With fresh insights from the policy analysts in the room setting the stage, the event spurred an informed dialogue between the Congolese voices, grassroots activists, and analysts about pressure points that U.S. based advocacy efforts should utilize.
It’s a rare opportunity to convene in one room with a diverse group of people whose organizations are all involved in different ways in Congo. Hopefully the event will inspire new partnerships and collaboration.
Photo: Robin Wright speaks with Congolese journalist Chouchou Namegabe (Enough/Alex Hellmuth)