CSIS delivered this afternoon with a stellar event, ‘Challenges to Peacebuilding in Liberia”, featuring a UN expert on Liberia, Benjamin Spatz. The talk was not for attribution, so I cannot go into any specifics, but much of what Spatz said was based on a paper submitted to the UN the past December. The Deputy Director of the CSIS Africa Program, Richard Downie, gave solid opening remarks. I was particularly pleased to hear Downie acknowledge that while the Sirleaf administration and Liberia have made many strides in the past decade, there is a growing sense of dissatisfaction with her performance among Liberians (a sentiment that I have certainly found to be true on my previous two voyages there).
Judging from his physical appearance (he did not look to be that old) I am guessing that Spatz has spent the better part of his career on Liberian issues. He is currently serving the UN (as a consultant), but has previously worked for the Liberian government directly and also served as an election monitor in the country.
While I wish I could go further into the substantive nature of the talk, I will say that I was quite pleased to see a think tank focusing on a topic that is not timely nor headline grabbing (and CSIS had a full house today as well!). Only after the French intervention in Mali, did the Islamist presence there really burst onto the scene in DC and I have recently covered several topical events focusing on the Kenyan elections. In my estimation, CSIS, better than any other DC think tank, engages the important issues that may not necessarily be making international headlines.
If one wants to hear an important luminary, go to the Wilson Center. If one wants to hear the so-called experts address that week’s headlines, the Brookings Institution will serve you well. In my personal estimation, CSIS by far leads the way in the DC think tank community regarding the regular analysis of important, but often overlooked issues. And they often get the big name luminaries as well.
I hope to write a piece this weekend extending this analysis through a particular lens that impacts the situation in Liberia – the (lack of) treatment of the situation in the Ivory Coast by the DC policy community.