Eastern Congo Initiative

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Eastern Congo Initiative
Eastern Congo Initiative Logo.png
TypeNonprofit organization
PurposeGrant making,
Political advocacy
Ben Affleck, Whitney Williams

The Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) is an American nonprofit organization established by Ben Affleck and Whitney Williams in 2010 as "the first U.S.-based advocacy and grant-making initiative wholly focused on working with and for the people of eastern Congo".[1] ECI provides development grants and international advocacy for community-building initiatives in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Affleck began to explore the possibility of becoming more actively involved in philanthropy in 2007 and was drawn to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof's coverage of human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo.[2] During two 2008 trips, Affleck reported on the humanitarian crisis for ABC News Nightline[3] and directed a short film, Gimme Shelter, for the UN Refugee Agency.[4] He also spoke at the Combating Global Poverty event during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.[5] In 2009, he wrote an essay for Time,[6] spoke at the Global Leadership Awards,[7][8] and served as an executive producer of the HBO documentary film Reporter, which focused on Kristof's work in the Congo.[9] After five visits to eastern Congo between 2007 and early 2010,[10][11] Affleck developed "a clearer sense of what I wanted to do...[10] What I found was that the people doing the best work, with the real expertise, who understood what was needed intuitively, just like they would in my neighborhood, who knew who the guy was to talk to, were community-based organizations."[12][13]


In 2010, Affleck and Whitney Williams co-founded the Eastern Congo Initiative.[14][15] Early investors included Howard Graham Buffett, Google, Laurene Powell Jobs, Pam Omidyar and Cindy McCain.[16] ECI acts as a grant maker for Congolese-led, community-based organizations.[17] ECI, with two employees in the US and 12 in the Congo,[18] fundraises, makes grants and offers capacity-building support to over 20 charities.[19][20] These local charities support survivors of rape and sexual violence, help to reintegrate child soldiers into their communities, promote economic opportunity, increase access to health care and education, and promote community-level peace and reconciliation.[17][21] In an effort to create sustainable wealth,[13] ECI offers training and resources to cooperatives of Congolese farmers while leveraging public-private partnerships. In 2010, ECI partnered cacao farmers with Seattle-based Theo Chocolate and,[22][23] as of 2014, Theo is the biggest sourcer of cocoa beans in the Congo.[24] In 2011, ECI began supporting coffee farmers to increase the quality and quantity of their crop production; Starbucks began exporting their coffee beans in 2015.[25][26][27]

ECI also advocates with and on behalf of the people of eastern Congo to raise public awareness and drive policy change in the US.[28] In an effort to achieve this goal, ECI has published a white paper and a USAID-supported landscape analysis and searchable database of over 400 of the most effective community-based organizations.[29][30] Affleck has made nine media-documented trips to Central Africa since 2007 and has discussed ECI's work in many television interviews.[31][32] In 2010, he wrote a column for The Washington Post,[33] contributed an essay to The Enough Moment[34] and appeared as a panelist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.[35] In 2011, Affleck and Cindy McCain, an ECI board member, testified before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights.[36][37] Also in 2011, Affleck was a speaker at the Global Philanthropy Forum.[38] In 2012, he spoke alongside Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Washington's Child Survival: Call to Action Forum and alongside Senator John McCain at the Sedona Forum.[39][40][41] He wrote op-eds for The Washington Post and Politico.[42][43] During the Kony 2012 campaign, Affleck wrote an essay for The Huffington Post. While welcoming increased awareness of the issue of child soldiers, he warned that Western 'saviours' are "ineffectual at best and deadly at worst" and stressed the importance of funding "remarkable local organisations."[44] Later in 2012, Affleck testified before the House Armed Services Committee and met with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.[45][46] In 2013, Affleck introduced the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste at a TED conference[47][48] and began developing an Africa-set film.[49] Also that year, President of Rwanda Paul Kagame was photographed arriving at Affleck's Los Angeles home; Affleck had testified before Congress in 2012 about the Rwandese government's support of rebel groups in eastern Congo.[50][51] In early 2014, he and US Special Envoy Russ Feingold testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and met with Secretary of State John Kerry.[52] He also spoke at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Awards, where Denis Mukwege was honored.[53][54][55] In 2015, Affleck testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Projects[56] while, in early 2016, he was a speaker at the Starkey Expo.[57]



  1. ^ "ECI: Overview". easterncongo.org. Retrieved 2010-03-22.
  2. ^ "Ben Affleck talks chocolate bars as sustainable aid in Congo". CBS News. October 9, 2012. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  3. ^ Escherich, Katie (June 23, 2008). "Ben Affleck's Journey Through the Congo". ABC News. Retrieved June 30, 2008.
  4. ^ "UNHCR - Ben Affleck video unveiled for UNHCR "Gimme Shelter" campaign". UNHCR. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  5. ^ "Combating Global Poverty Panel Discussion". FORA.tv. Archived from the original on October 14, 2014. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  6. ^ Chi, Paul. (February 16, 2009) Ben Affleck Urges Hope in Eastern Congo - Good Deeds, Ben Affleck. People.com. Retrieved on June 5, 2014.
  7. ^ "Clinton named Global Trailblazer". Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  8. ^ "Ben Affleck Moved by Victims' Testimonies - Vital Voices". Archived from the original on October 14, 2014. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  9. ^ "Actor joins panel discussion about Africa". Archived from the original on October 15, 2014. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  10. ^ a b "In Conversation With Ben Affleck « Global Philanthropy Forum". Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  11. ^ "Ben Affleck launches foundation to aid victimized women and children in eastern Congo". NY Daily News. New York. March 22, 2010. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  12. ^ Murphy, Tom (August 23, 2013). "Want to help Congolese? Give them money – directly, says Ben Affleck" – via Christian Science Monitor.
  13. ^ a b "Ben Affleck on sustainable aid in the Eastern Congo".
  14. ^ "Ben Affleck Launches Aid Group for Eastern Congo". CNN. March 23, 2010. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
  15. ^ "Just Ask Whitney".
  16. ^ Kerry A. Dolan (April 18, 2011). "Ben Affleck's Congo-Billionaire Connections". Forbes. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  17. ^ a b "Ben Affleck launches initiative for Congo aid". CNN. March 23, 2010. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  18. ^ Cassata, Donna (February 26, 2014). "Ben Affleck harnesses celebrity to spotlight the Congo". USA Today. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  19. ^ "Event Eleven - What do President Bill Clinton and Ben Affleck have in common". Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  20. ^ "An Evening of Entertainment, Poker, and Giving Back Benefitting Eastern Congo Initiative and water.org - Entertainment Industry Foundation". Archived from the original on October 14, 2014. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  21. ^ "Grantmaking". Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  22. ^ "CBO Success Story Details". Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  23. ^ "Seattle News and Events - Theo Chocolate Sources Beans From the Congo—and Ben". Seattle Weekly. Archived from the original on October 16, 2014. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  24. ^ Marc Gunther. "Theo: the small chocolate company taking big strides in the DRC". the Guardian. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  25. ^ Brancaccio, David (December 8, 2014). "Ben Affleck on sustainable aid in the Eastern Congo". Marketplace. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  26. ^ Olsen, Dave (February 20, 2015). "Coffee beans bring hope to war-torn nation". Seattle Times. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  27. ^ "Coffee from Eastern Congo Arriving in Starbucks Stores". March 16, 2016.
  28. ^ "Ben Affleck Launches Initiative to Support Local Solutions in Eastern Congo". March 22, 2010. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  29. ^ Tom Murphy (August 23, 2013). "Want to help Congolese? Give them money – directly, says Ben Affleck". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  30. ^ "Archives". Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  31. ^ ABC News. "Ben Affleck Aims to Give Back With Work in Congo". ABC News Blogs. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  32. ^ "Ben Affleck 'This Week' Interview Exclusive: Hollywood Actor, Activist Discusses Violence in Congo". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-15. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  33. ^ "Ben Affleck - Ben Affleck: How the United States can help secure Congo". The Washington Post. November 30, 2010. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  34. ^ "Ben Affleck: Supporting African Solutions". Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  35. ^ "Ben Affleck, John Kerry join forces". Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  36. ^ "Congo crisis pairs Ben Affleck, Cindy McCain - PATRICK GAVIN | POLITICO CLICK". Politico.com. March 8, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  37. ^ "Ben Affleck and Cindy Mccain's Passion (03.07.11)". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-15. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  38. ^ "In Conversation With Ben Affleck and Laurene Powell Jobs". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-15. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  39. ^ ABC News. "Ben Affleck, Hillary Clinton Lobby for World Child Survival". ABC News Blogs. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  40. ^ "Why Kelly Ayotte Is Talking To Actor Ben Affleck". wmur. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  41. ^ "Frances Townsend on Twitter: "Ben Affleck in Sedona w Cindy McCain at the McCain Institute talking about his effort in East Congo"". Retrieved October 8, 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  42. ^ "Ben Affleck: Congo urgently needs U.S. help". Washington Post. November 29, 2012. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  43. ^ "Opinion: Ending child mortality - Ben Affleck and Rajiv Shah". POLITICO. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  44. ^ "Kony 2012: Westerners Are Not And Will Never Be The 'Saviors' Of Africa". The Huffington Post. March 14, 2012. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  45. ^ Horn, John (December 19, 2012). "Ben Affleck testifies in Congress about war-torn Congo". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  46. ^ "Ben Affleck passes on U.S. Senate run".
  47. ^ "The Congo is not hopeless: Ben Affleck at TED2013". TED Blog. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  48. ^ Barnes, Brooks (March 15, 2015). "Hollywood's New Role Model (Beard Optional)". New York Times. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  49. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (October 25, 2013). "Ben Affleck Plans Geopolitical Africa-Set Warner Bros Thriller; Will Staples Scripting". Deadline. Retrieved October 7, 2014.
  50. ^ "Paul Kagame Visits Ben Affleck's House". Zimbio. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  51. ^ "Ben Affleck urges more robust US diplomacy in DR Congo". The Australian. December 20, 2012. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  52. ^ "Affleck casts spotlight on situation in Congo". The Big Story. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  53. ^ "Clinton Presents Advancing Women in Peace and Security Awards". Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  54. ^ "Tina Brown on Twitter: "Very convivial dinner after Clinton Awards. @BenAffleck showed up & did joint toast of @WilliamJHague & Mukwege w/ @HillaryClinton"". Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  55. ^ "CelebEstateMgr on Twitter: "Where was @BenAffleck last night? Last time we saw him was a week ago in DC with @HillaryClinton at Evermay http://t.co/6mNsvuLJNi"". Retrieved October 8, 2014. {{cite web}}: External link in |title= (help)
  56. ^ "Ben Affleck, Bill Gates nonprofits praised at Senate hearing".
  57. ^ Technologies, Starkey Hearing. "Starkey Hearing Technologies Announces Keynote Speakers and Guests for 2016 Hearing Innovation Expo".
  58. ^ a b c d "Ben Affleck Launches Initiative to Support Local Solutions in Eastern Congo". PRNewswire. Retrieved 2010-03-22.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 47°39′01″N 122°21′00″W / 47.650214°N 122.349989°W / 47.650214; -122.349989