Author: Michelle D. Gavin, Adjunct Fellow for Africa
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Council on Foreign Relations Press
Council Special Report No. 31
Once among sub-Saharan Africa’s most prosperous and promising states, Zimbabwe has been driven by mismanagement to social and economic ruin.
The plight of its people and the prospect for instability in the region make the situation deeply troubling for its citizens, its neighbors, and for the United States and the entire international community. But there appears to be little in the way of viable options to bring about favorable change.
In this Council Special Report, produced by the Council’s Center for Preventive Action, Michelle D. Gavin urges the United States to look past the current government to Zimbabwe’s future. She argues that by leading an international process to plan for recovery and reconstruction after President Robert Mugabe eventually departs, the United States can increase the likelihood that change, when it comes, will bring constructive reform instead of conflict and state collapse. Moreover, this planning could encourage and possibly hasten Mugabe’s exit. Ms. Gavin proposes a series of multilateral steps the United States could take now, such as building consensus around post-Mugabe reform measures and establishing an international trust fund to be used for assistance. Such activities would not only provide incentives for Zimbabwe’s next leaders to pursue sound governance, but would also give the United States an opportunity to strengthen its often-troubled relationship with South Africa.
Planning for Post-Mugabe Zimbabwe takes a fresh but realistic look at the situation. In so doing, it offers a way to advance U.S. interests in the region and increase the chance that Zimbabwe’s eventual political transition reverses, rather than continues, that country’s decline.
Michelle D. Gavin is an international affairs fellow in residence at the Council on Foreign Relations, where she is examining the implications of youth bulge in the developing world for U.S. foreign policy. Before joining the Council, Ms. Gavin served as legislative director to U.S. Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO). She previously spent six years serving as the primary foreign policy adviser to Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), where she worked on a broad range of initiatives, including the creation of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and the reform of U.S. policy relating to HIV/AIDS treatment abroad, among others. She has also served as the staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s subcommittee on African affairs.
Ms. Gavin earned her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and an MPhil in international relations from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. She recently taught a course on contemporary African politics at the United States Naval Academy in preparation for the Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference. She is a member of the Board of Directors of TRACE Institute, a nonprofit organization devoted to researching and promoting effective methods of combating corruption. She is also a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
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