Have you seen A New Light in Harlem?

Our original upload to YouTube got over 600 views in just a matter of days! We had to do a *tiny* bit of clean-up, so we uploaded a new version (click below).

The film features interviews with General Colin Powell, Dean Vince Boudreau, and faculty, students, alumni, and board members, spotlighting the amazing community we have up here on the City College campus.

Do you know a young person who wants to be a leader in public service? Get access to world-class preparatory coursework and field experience without amassing piles of debt?

Are you a scholar, educator, or community organizer looking to break down walls between the Academy and the surrounding community? Who knows that in order to find better answers to pressing questions of the 21st century, we need to hear more voices?

Watch and learn more about the mission of the Colin Powell School—”A New Light in Harlem.”



Kofi Annan to Speak at City College Friday, February 8

Kofi Annan will deliver a lecture at CCNY on February 8 at 10 a.m. Photo: Creative Commons/Alberto CabelloOn Friday, February 8, Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, will deliver a special guest lecture at City College. His appearance, sponsored by the Colin L. Powell Center for Leadership and Service, marks the publication of his collected papers, a joint six-year CCNY-Yale project, led by principle investigator Jean Krasno. Professor Krasno is the Center’s initiative director for multilateral diplomacy and international organizations.

Annan, a Nobel Laureate, will address the challenges of his decade of leadership and the future of the UN. The talk, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 10 a.m. in the Great Hall of Shepard Hall on the City College campus. (Doors open at 9:30.) Registration is requested (see below to register), and a reception will follow the event.

Lessons from a Pivotal Leader
The Ghanaian diplomat led the UN at the end of the Cold War (1997-2006), a period during which he established new expanded norms for the international community in terms of their role and responsibilities. A pivotal leader, Annan focused the world’s attention on the global HIV/AIDs pandemic, confronted human-rights issues in Africa, and served as a tireless peacemaker in critical conflicts, most recently as the joint special envoy to the Syrian crisis.

The Annan Collection, a five-volume set from Lynne Rienner Publishers,contributes an organized historical record of selected public and declassified papers of the former UN secretary-general, and makes the breadth and depth of his work accessible to scholars, students, and policymakers, Krasno notes. “The papers demonstrate Kofi Annan’s unique ability to negotiate settlements and to find peaceful solutions in conflict situations,” she adds, noting, for example, “They lead us to understand why he was selected as joint special envoy to Syria.”

Kofi Annan: Insights into a Challenging Decade and the Future of the UN
RSVP here now, or by email: cpowellctr@ccny.cuny.edu

  • DATE: Friday, February 8, 2013
  • TIME: 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
  • PLACE: The Great Hall, Shepard Hall, CCNY campus
  • WHO: Free and Open to the Public; reception following.

(Locate City College on Google Maps here.)

Center Alumnus Ethan Frisch: Working for Change in Afghanistan

efrisch_crop_vhColin Powell Leadership Alumnus Ethan Frisch (2006–2008) is now working in Afghanistan with the Aga Khan Foundation, a humanitarian organization. We recently followed up with Ethan to learn more about his work, goals, and trajectory.

What are you doing in Afghanistan?
I’m working for the Aga Khan Foundation–Afghanistan as the national program coordinator for engineering, helping to oversee the administration of grants dealing with physical infrastructure and engineering projects in northern Afghanistan. I’m based at AKF’s headquarters in Kabul, working closely with our regional teams and traveling regularly throughout the five provinces in which AKF works.

At this point, early in both my career and my time in Afghanistan, my goal is primarily to learn; I want to deepen my understanding and appreciation for the level of nuance and complexity that exist here. I chose to come here exactly because of that complexity, and I find Afghanistan to be such an interesting case because there are so many forces at work. I want to understand the specific ways that Afghans, as individuals and communities, have interacted with violence, and the ways that those interactions have impacted their decision-making.

How did you prepare academically?
My major at CCNY was a self-designed program in Conflict Studies through the CUNY Baccalaureate Degree program, and my master’s degree (from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London) was in Violence, Conflict and Development, so I’ve long been oriented towards working in a country dealing with violent conflict.

My academic interests focus on the organizational and logistical underpinnings of insurgency—how insurgent organizations grow, adapt and attempt to achieve their objectives. Afghanistan is home to one of the most complicated, decentralized insurgencies in modern history, and I hope I can learn more about their inner workings while I’m here. [Note: Ethan’s master’s thesis on the organizational structure and strategic decision-making of insurgencies, was published earlier this year in the Peace and Conflict Review.]

The Vanj Bridge, fourth in a series of bridges funded by the Aga Khan Foundation, will aid in the delivery of humanitarian services.

What do you hope to accomplish?
In terms of what I hope to accomplish, I don’t see myself as a particularly powerful agent of change, nor do I believe that my personal contribution, in the scheme of all the challenges that Afghanistan faces, is particularly significant. The work that the Aga Khan Foundation does, however, is critically important and is on a scale that improves livelihoods for a great many people. I’m honored to be a part of it.

Beyond the wide impact of the physical infrastructure projects I’m involved in, I think my greatest opportunity to affect change, however small, lies in my personal interactions with my Afghan colleagues, friends, acquaintances, and neighbors. While I’m definitely not an official representative of the United States or its policies, my nationality is one of the first things people ask about and is probably my defining characteristic in many people’s eyes. Afghans’ opinions of the United States are often suspicious at best, and through my behavior, I hope I can at least to encourage people to reconsider. Being able to do that, though, is probably my greatest challenge. Beyond the logistical difficulties, including security concerns that restrict my movement and therefore my opportunities to interact with people, there are linguistic, cultural and gender-based boundaries as well. I’m taking Dari language classes, and doing whatever I can to observe and interact with Afghans in my daily life. The slice of Kabul in which I live and work, because of its large and wealthy international community, often feels removed from the realities of life that most Afghans face. As long as I’m here, building and maintaining a nuanced appreciation for those realities will be a challenge I’ll need to continue to overcome.

Do you have any advice for current fellows?
The Powell Fellowship was an integral part of my personal and professional development, allowing me to intern abroad while I was in college, introducing me to some of my best friends and ultimately helping me get my first job after college. My advice to current Powell Fellows would be: Appreciate nuance. Especially in policy, it’s too easy to see things in black and white, and to be satisfied that one perspective is right and another is wrong. Push yourselves to understand not just what people’s opinions are, but why they have them. Nuanced understandings can be tricky to achieve and even trickier to work with, but at the very least they’re more interesting, and they’re usually more accurate.

Center Coordinator Hosts an Open Discussion on Dissenting Diplomats










On Sunday, July 8, I’ll be hosting the FireDogLake Book Salon with New York University’s Hannah Gurman at 2:00pm. We’ll be discussing her recent book, The Dissent Papers: The Voices of Diplomats in the Cold War and BeyondAs FDL notes,

Beginning with the Cold War and concluding with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Hannah Gurman explores the overlooked opposition of U.S. diplomats to American foreign policy in the latter half of the twentieth century. During America’s reign as a dominant world power, U.S. presidents and senior foreign policy officials largely ignored or rejected their diplomats’ reports, memos, and telegrams, especially when they challenged key policies relating to the Cold War, China, and the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. The Dissent Papers recovers these diplomats’ invaluable perspective and their commitment to the transformative power of diplomatic writing.

We’ll be talking about all this, and more, and interested readers are invited to submit their questions in this open, online discussion. The Book Salon series has featured plenty of exciting writers in recent months, including Pulitzer Prize winning authors Tim Weiner and Ellen Schultz, Thomas Frank, Glenn Greenwald,Corey Robin, Christian Parenti, Linda Hirschman, Chris Hayes, Van JonesAndrew Bacevich, Medea Benjamin, James Galbraith, Greg Palast, Tom Englehardt, Dylan Ratigan, and a host of many other thoughtful and provocative thinkers.

My discussion with Gurman should be equally excellent. I hope some of you are able to tune in! If you want any more information, please don’t hesitate to be in touch. —Michael Bush

Michael Busch is a political science and international studies professor at CCNY and a program coordinator at the Colin Powell Center. Read more about him and our other writers.

Judging History’s Boogeymen: What Justice Is There for Genocide?


Last month, I saw “Brother Number One,” a documentary by Annie Goldson that follows New Zealander Rob Hamill on the trail of his brother Kerry, who was captured and killed by the Cambodian Khmer Rouge regime in 1978. Kerry was just one of 1.5 million victims of the regime, nearly all of them Cambodians.

In the film, Rob travels to Cambodia to testify at the trial for crimes against humanity of Kang Kek Iew, better known as Comrade Duch, the director of the infamous S-21 prison where Kerry and thousands of others were tortured and killed. (Duch was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2010, extended to a life sentence this year.)

Who Does Justice Benefit?

Throughout the film, I thought back to my college history thesis, on the 1994 trial of Paul Touvier for crimes against humanity. Touvier was the first Frenchman to be tried on that charge, and his trial, a half century after the German occupation of France ended, brought the dark memories of collaboration and the dirty deeds of the Vichy regime to the surface of the public consciousness.

It’s the similar images of the two trials I found most striking. I was fixated on Duch’s teeth, rotting and askew. Touvier, 80-years-old and dying of prostate cancer during his trial, claimed- believably- to have forgotten much of what happened during the war. Duch and Touvier, finally facing justice, were no longer the young ideologues who energetically carried out their killings. Old age had blunted their evil and emphasized their humanity. The lives their incarceration was designed to take away had already been lived.

READ MORE: Convicting Charles Taylor: Justice for Sierra Leoneans

Does their imprisonment do anyone any good? Possibly. Victims were ignored for decades before seeing those who tortured and killed their loved ones enjoy the fruits of legitimate criminal justice systems: defense lawyers, impartial judges, no death penalty. Whether or not they find solace in the delayed imprisonment of these boogeymen is a personal matter. In “Brother Number One,” Hamill seems to benefit from confronting Duch and airing out the deep pain of losing two older brothers: not only Kerry, but another who committed suicide soon after the family learned of Kerry’s death.

The criminal justice system is ill designed for a national reckoning. It is too focused in its scope, too legalistic in how it defines justice, guilt, and punishment. I do not believe that Cambodia or France, or any country that has killed its citizens by the hundreds of thousands, will ever reach the idealized notion of justice the court aims to dispense. Not by sending old men and women to prison or the gallows. These boogeymen are only effective if they work in the dark, when many shield their eyes or participate in their crimes.
In my thesis, I argued:

France has never moved past the haunting memories of betrayal that the occupation and collaboration represent…Instead, in the years after the war, they were suppressed and denied. They have since resurfaced again and again, and often enough in the last forty years to make clear that they will never completely disappear from the French public consciousness.

A Different Route

I fear that Cambodia is headed toward the same fate if it continues to present the interminable (and corrupt, according to some critics) trials of Khmer Rouge leadership figures as an answer to mass murder. Nothing can be done to them that will balance the scale.

An extended, national howl of grief, accompanied by an admission of guilt by everyone who could have done something to stop the killing, on top of these trials, would throw salt in the wounds of the Khmer Rouge’s victims. But it would be an important step in the healing process. – Alex Davies

Alex Davies is communications coordinator for the Colin Powell Center. Read more about him and our other contributors here.

World’s Largest Refugee Camp Turns 20-Years-Old. That’s a Major Problem.



Depressing right? Located in Eastern Kenya, Dadaab is the largest refugee camp in the world with almost half a million refugees living there. That’s 500,000 people. Living in temporary housing – mostly tents, but also mud and brick houses. With no water, electricity, means of income..nothing.

There are 10,000 third-generation refugees in Dadaab. What the hell?? That means their parents were born in the camp as well. It was set up 20 years ago with 90,000 Somali refugees fleeing the Somali civil war of 1991/1992.

Last year’s famine in the Horn of Africa  saw an influx of nearly 140,000 more refugees, mostly Somalis. They are exposed to the dangers of overcrowding, health and sanitation problems, hunger, sexual harassment and violence. Last year, the Kenyan government turned down a proposal to build an extension of the camp to accommodate the growing number of refugees.

With a population larger than most of the world’s islands, at one point in 2011 Dadaab was receiving 9,000 refugees on a weekly basis.

food aid kenya

Dadaab is managed by UNHCR, the Kenyan government and several international NGOs including Medecins Sans Frontieres and CARE. For a look at life in Dadaab, the Atlantic has an interesting photo gallery.

There’s been a lot of #Kony2012 hype going on this week, and it’s been interesting to watch the power and speed of social media in spreading a specific message that calls to people’s inner willingness to do good. I read this on Evan Lieberman’s blogand I think he brings up some key questions that we can ask about the Kony campaign:

I don’t know if the Kony 2012 campaign will work, or if in the grand scheme of things, given Kony’s waning influence in the region that this is the problem that “deserves” the attention it’s getting. I’m impressed that so many people care, and that they are spending their time watching this instead of videos about babies biting their brother’s fingers (well, they do that too.)

My question is how to capture people’s imagination about problems that don’t have clear villains, or sexy solutions? And in particular, how to capture the imagination of people in the places where the problems persist so that they might develop the best solutions that are needed for improving their own lives?

“How to capture people’s imagine about problems that don’t have clear villains, or sexy solutions?” Food for thought. – Michelle Muita

Michelle Muita is a former New York Life undergraduate scholar (2009-2011). A Kenyan native, she lives and works in the Horn of Africa. Read more about her and our other contributors.

Moving Beyond the Mafia Stat

Moisés Naím, World Economic Forum on Latin America

Originally posted on Huffington Post by Center Coordinator Michael Busch.

Earlier this spring, Moisés Naím provocatively warned against an emerging menace facing our world today — the advent of what he terms the “mafia state.” Analyzing the role of transnational organized crime in the age of globalization has been Naím’s bailiwick for some years now, and familiar readers will find little that catches them off-guard. Still, his argument that illicit actors have penetrated national governments with unprecedented success in recent years should be enough for policymakers to take notice. Naím doesn’t mince words about what’s at stake. “In a mafia state, high government officials actually become integral players in, if not the leaders of, criminal enterprises, and the defense and promotion of those enterprises’ businesses become official priorities.”

The new issue of Foreign Affairs — out this week — features a brief response to Naím’s “Mafia States” article by Peter Andreas, a political scientist at Brown University. Rejecting outright the claim that mafia states constitute a “new threat” to international relations, Andreas piles on evidence to suggest quite the contrary. From Latin America to the Balkans, and including even the prohibition-era United States, Andreas convincingly makes the case that the intersection between state power and illicit actors is as old as the modern nation-state itself. Not only that, Andreas contends, the very idea of a mafia state is itself “misleading, and applied so erratically as to become nearly meaningless,” a barb which prompted Naím to issue his own acerbic attack in response.

This exchange of intellectual artillery fire, while impressive to a point, does little to move the discussion forward, however. From a policy point of view, it doesn’t really matter if the relationship between government officials and illicit actors is new or old. Nor does it make a difference if the scope and scale of transnational organized crime has increased (which should be the logically expected outcome in an age of expanding market opportunities). Effective response to the threat of transnational crime will rely not so much on the “what” of the phenomenon, but on the “how.” And here we see the value of Naím’s back-and-forth with Andreas: namely, that it points to a crucial area of weakness in the study of international relations.

News Ways of Thinking

If international relations (IR) scholarship is to advance policymakers’ understanding of transnational organized crime and its role with respect to state power — and therefore by extension, the best ways to militate against illicit power corrupting the national interests of states — new theoretical frameworks are needed. To each of their credit, both writers implicitly acknowledge this — first in Naím’s introduction of a new conceptual category, the “mafia state,” and then in Andreas’ rejection of it as being fuzzy and unserviceable. But the trouble here is that slap-boxing bouts of this variety simply rehash fights over the nature of states that consumed IR study twenty-five years ago. They fail to innovate.

This doesn’t mean scholars need to start from scratch. If anything, students of international relations should continue building on the cutting edge theoretical work produced over the past decade or so, and look where possible to integrate findings from other fields of political science, sociology and criminology research (something, it should be said, Andreas has done to great profit in his academic work). Happily, political scientists and others have crafted a wide variety of analytical tools with which to understand the world of international politics. It’s time to be smarter and more deliberate in applying them to the threat of transnational organized crime.

One possible route into rethinking the relationship between state actors and their illicit counterparts might be found in Anne-Marie Slaughter’s idea of thedisaggregated state. In this view of the new world order, states comprise various strands of agencies, actors, and other constituent parts which increasingly network with other actors — state and non-state — across and within borders. Shifting perspective from Naím’s monolithic “mafia state,” Slaughter’s model allows for greater precision in homing-in on which “functionally distinct” parts of the state have been colonized by criminal elements, asking questions of how they were penetrated, and understanding their place within the larger power configuration of the government in question. From this perch, scholars and policymakers would get a much clearer sense of how illicit elements use the disaggregated nature of states to their advantage, and what remedies would be most effective in rolling it back.

At a remove from the inner-machinery of state power, but equally important, scholarly consideration should also be directed at the institutional arrangements that shape countries where illicit action thrives. All too often, we’ve allowed ourselves to chalk up pathological phenomena in world politics to the pernicious effects of state failure, itself a fuzzy conceptual silo that excuses serious analysis of social dysfunction. But the focus on failed states does possess the virtue of emphasizing the importance of state institutions in determining outcomes witnessed in the global arena. It’s long been recognized, for example, that the institutional arrangement of state power has direct consequences for where multinational corporations seek to do business and where they enjoy the greatest success. Similar studies could be meaningfully undertaken to assess the extent to which the institutional architecture of different states affects the thinking and success of transnational criminal actors, not to mention the efficacy of international efforts at proscribing illicit commerce. And to be sure, there are undoubtedly many other approaches that will offer equally important insights.

What won’t suffice is more of the same. While Naím’s efforts at raising the profile of international crime in the minds of policymakers are commendable, Andreas is right to point out that he has essentially repackaged old wine in new caskets. If practitioners are to get serious, as Naím suggests they should, about confronting the challenges illicit actors pose to human and international security, they’ll need a more richly textured appreciation of the threats they face. The only way they’ll get it is if academics continue refining the production of knowledge and exploring the new frontiers of social science. —Michael Bush

Michael Busch is a political science and international studies professor at CCNY and a program coordinator at the Colin Powell Center. Read more about him and our other bloggers.

Linking Studies with Service, a Center Fellow Launches a Career in Global Public Health


Looking back at my academic and career trajectory, it would not have been possible without my affiliation with the Colin Powell Center. My internship at theCouncil on Foreign Relations (CFR), which led to my full time employment there after graduation, was largely due to the service-learning requirements at the Colin Powell Center. The idea of linking students with a domestic or international organization engaged in work around a student’s area of interest to provide real world experience is innovative and immensely rewarding to those who participate. My time at the CFR allowed me not only to grow my professional network, but to learn and discover new approaches to solving global issues, including global public health, a field in which I currently work.

After almost two years at the CFR in New York, first as an intern for the Africa program, and later as an interdepartmental program associate, I started work atIntraHealth International in 2012. I work in program development, where I help prepare grant proposals to various donors including the US government, corporations, foundations, and global health organizations.

READ MORE: Convicting Charles Taylor: Justice for Sierra Leoneans

Working for Africa

While I do not work on the ground, so to speak, I am proud of my role in supporting IntraHealth’s work around the world, especially in Africa, where it has been involved for over 30 years. Working for an organization that contributes to Africa’s overall development through strengthening health workers and health systems, utilizing technology to build local capacity, and mobilizing local talent for sustainable and accessible health care, mirrors my lifelong commitment to improving the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

When I left the shores of Sierra Leone almost a decade ago amidst the smoldering ruins of war, I was not really sure of what the future had in store for me, nor the friends I would cross paths with on a journey to a foreign country I hardly knew. Fast forward to 2012, I feel not only a sense of accomplishment every time I think about how far I have come, but also a deeper appreciation for all the good folks at City College who prepared me to face the challenges of the real world. Today, I can say without doubt that I am well on my way on a journey to fulfill a lifelong commitment to confronting the many developmental challenges of Africa. – Mohamed Jallow

Mohamed Jallow is a former Colin Powell fellow (2008/2009), and is currently a Program Development Specialist at IntraHealth International, an organization that empowers health workers to better serve communities in need around the world. Read more about him and our other writers here

General Powell Discusses His Book, Iraq, Reagan, and Squirrels on The Daily Show


Last night, General Colin L. Powell appeared on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” to promote his new book, It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership. Powell discussed his “13 Rules”, fielded questions about his support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq , and recounted stories about President Reagan- and squirrels.

With respect to the Iraq invasion, Powell said, “I of course regret the UN speech that I gave, which became the prominent presentation of our case.” Asked by Stewart how he gets over the mistake, Powell called it a “blot” on his reputation, but resorted to the last of his rules to live by, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier”:

Things will go wrong, things will be seen as a failure. You’ve got to get over those. I was still the Secretary of State, I still had a lot of work to do. So I had to figure out what happened as best I could and then roll it up in a ball, throw it over my shoulder, and try to see if we could fix everything.

In the 15 minute interview, Powell also recounted lessons he learned from President Reagan, one of which centered on the president watching squirrels find nuts he had placed on the White House lawn.

READ MORE: General Powell Visits CCNY to Promote His New Book

Watch the interview (in two parts)!

Part I | Part II

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