Understanding Equity and the African Diaspora

Q&A with Marie Jones

Marie Jones

Marie Jones is a senior international and defense researcher at RAND. Her work is focused on issues related to conflict in Africa and the African Diaspora.

What draws you to this work internationally, on topics related to poverty, governance, security, and stability?

Before joining RAND last summer, I had a long career in the Intelligence Community producing strategic analysis on Latin America and the Caribbean. It’s one of the world’s most unequal and inequitable regions, and poverty and insecurity drive hundreds of thousands of migrants to the United States each year. My work examined political, socioeconomic, and security trends to inform U.S. policies for engagement and assistance.

At RAND, I’ve continued research on Latin America and the Caribbean, with projects on migration and climate change resilience. I also looked for collaboration opportunities in new areas by networking with the BELIEVE Employee Resource Group among other groups. BELIEVE asked me to lead an initiative applying research and analysis to the very underexamined topic of conflict in Africa and the African Diaspora. We plan to look at the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Haiti as a start.

What could Americans better understand about the state of policy across the African Diaspora?

I think Americans would benefit from a deeper understanding of the diversity within the African Diaspora and the complex socio-political landscapes of the countries and regions it encompasses. The way challenges manifest in the African Diaspora varies depending on factors such as historical context, colonial legacies, economic development, and governance structures.

Moreover, Americans should know that policies affecting the African Diaspora have implications that extend beyond national borders. Issues like immigration, trade, foreign aid, and human rights intersect with the experiences of people of African descent both within the U.S. and globally. Few nonprofit organizations focus research and analysis on these issues, and RAND researchers have an opportunity to fill the gap.

What questions should we ask about racial equity in the context of global development policy?

Staying with the topic of advancing equity for people of African descent, I think we need to understand how the legacy of colonization, slavery, and exploitation has contributed to inequity today. We should then ask ourselves: How can we improve data collection and analysis to assess the impact of global development policies on different ethnic and racial groups? How do the policies and practices in one part of the African Diaspora impact others? How can development policies better incorporate the perspectives and priorities of people of African descent? In other words, how can we center the voices of affected communities to ensure that policies are relevant, effective, and sustainable? Finally, recognizing that racial inequities are global issues that require international collaboration, we should also ask what role multilateral organizations can play in offering solidarity, addressing root causes, and promoting systemic change.

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