DR Congo

Inter-Agency Internal Displacement Division (IDD) Mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo 12-20 May 2005


The IDD undertook a mission to the DRC from 12 to 20 May 2005, following a request from the RC/HC, Ross Mountain. The IDD mission team consisted of Mark Cutts and Anne-Marie Linde. The mission was specifically asked to review activities related to the return and reintegration of IDPs, including a UNDP-funded Pilot Project (Projet de Protection, Réinsertion et Reclassement Social des Déplacés de Guerre). The team visited IDP camps in the Kinshasa area and travelled together with officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs and colleagues from OCHA, MONUC and UNDP to the eastern DRC, where it visited Goma, Beni, Oicha, Uvira and Bukavu. The mission met with a wide range of Government officials, national and international humanitarian partners, MONUC officials, development actors and donor representatives.

General observations

Some 2,000 IDPs are currently travelling up the River Congo on a barge that is expected to take 30 days to get from Kinshasa to Kisangani. They are returning to their provinces after years of displacement - in some cases nine years. The return operation, organized by the Ministry of Social Affairs, with funding from UNDP, is part of a Pilot Project on Return and Reintegration of IDPs in the DRC.

On one hand, the barge is a powerful symbol of some of the positive developments taking place in the country. On the other hand, it has not been a shining example of an inter-agency collaborative response. On the contrary, in many ways it has been quite the opposite, as outlined in an IDD Preliminary Note on Lessons Learned from the Pilot Project, dated 3 June 2005.

The Pilot Project has graphically demonstrated two things: first, that large numbers of IDPs in the DRC are ready to return to their homes if minimal support is provided. Second, that for returns to be safe and sustainable, a clear strategy and close collaboration between a wide range of Government authorities, humanitarian and development actors is needed.

Over 90% of the IDPs in the DRC are with host families rather than in camps. This makes it difficult to gain an accurate picture of the number and location of IDPs and of the conditions in which they are living. The latest estimate from OCHA is that there are some 2.3 million IDPs. About 95% of these are in six provinces: Orientale, North Kivu, South Kivu, Maniema, Equateur and Katanga.

This total figure of 2.3 million IDPs includes figures for some provinces which have not been updated since 2003. New IDPs are usually added, while those that return are not always struck off the lists. The correct figure is probably lower than 2.3 million. Population Movement Committees (Commissions sur les Mouvements de Population), comprised of national authorities and humanitarian agencies, have been set up in most provinces and have made significant progress in updating information on IDPs. However, these have not yet been set up everywhere and methodologies for counting IDPs remains vague.

Return and reintegration

While some provinces, such as Equateur, have been relatively calm over the last three years, much of the eastern part of the country remains volatile and insecure, with sporadic clashes amongst armed groups and civilians continuing to bear the brunt. Widespread human rights violations by armed groups continue with almost total impunity, including killings, rape, sexual exploitation, abductions, forcible conscription of children, looting, plundering of crops, illegal taxation and general harassment of civilian populations. Unpaid Government troops (FARDC) are responsible for many of the crimes. Lack of salaries for these troops is a major problem.

Ethnic, clashes, the presence of foreign troops, illegal exploitation of natural resources (gold, coltan and diamonds), and smuggling of goods and weapons all add to the violence. There is no functioning judicial system in much of the eastern DRC. A recent survey showed that it would cost a woman US$ 300 to succeed in having a rape case brought to court.

MONUC troops have helped stabilize the situation in places such as Bunia, but with only 16,000 troops - UNMIL has 15,000 in Liberia, which is more than twenty times smaller - it remains seriously constrained despite its Chapter VII mandate.

Against this backdrop, it is difficult to see how return and reintegration of IDPs - and refugees - can be a serious proposition at this stage. And yet it is. The Congo's transition may be failing in some respects, but for hundreds of thousands of people the option of returning to their towns and villages of origin is more attractive than that of remaining displaced, either in camps or with host families. In spite of the continued violence and human rights abuses, there are also pockets of stability where in many cases small-scale recovery projects have already started.

OCHA estimates that some 900,000 IDPs have returned to their places of origin since the end of 2003. While it is difficult to verify this figure, it is clear that large-scale returns have taken place and continue to take place. In some cases, people who have been displaced for relatively short periods of time (up to two years) are returning, as in the case of IDPs returning from North Kivu to Ituri. Project proposals submitted to donors for funding over the last year include a UNICEF project to assist some 150,000 IDPs to return from North Kivu to Ituri and projects for UNICEF and NGO partners such as CRS and Caritas to assist some 100,000 IDPs to return to northern Maniema. During our visit to Oicha IDP camp in North Kivu, IDPs expressed a strong desire to return to Ituri as soon as transport and other basic assistance is made available. Main areas of return include Bunia (centre), Komanda, Irumu, Marabo and Nyakundo.

Refugees too are returning from neighbouring countries - an estimated 25,000 having returned on their own initiative to South Kivu, Katanga and Equateur provinces since 2003, according to UNHCR. The mission visited a UNHCR transit centre in Uvira through which some 12,000 returnees from Tanzania have passed over the last year. Some of the returnees interviewed said that many more would come if transport assistance were provided from the camps in Tanzania. In view of this trend, UNHCR is planning to build up its presence in the DRC to facilitate further returns and to assist with reintegration assistance. UNHCR's operational planning is based on an estimated 44,000 refugee returns to Equateur and South Kivu provinces in 2005. This is part of a regional multi-year operations plan which is being developed for the voluntary repatriation of up to 381,000 Congolese refugees spread out in nine neighbouring countries. Although UNHCR does not plan to be directly involved in assistance to IDPs in the DRC, it has stated that it will ensure that IDPs returning to the same areas as refugees will be included in the community-based approach.

Humanitarian activities related to the return of IDPs have until now focused mainly on transport assistance and the distribution of return packages. Some NGOs interviewed by the mission said that they were unable to do more in terms of shelter programmes and repair of infrastructure in places of return, as donors were unwilling to fund transition activities. There was general agreement, however, on the need for more rehabilitation of basic services - schools, health centres, and water/sanitation systems. IDPs particularly stressed the importance of schools, explaining the reluctance of parents whose children are currently in schools to go back to places with no schools. Both local authorities and IDPs interviewed by the mission also emphasized the importance of road repairs, to improve access generally, to boost economic activities and to provide a means of escape if there are outbreaks of fighting.

Concerning promotion of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the OCHA IDP Unit has conducted numerous training programmes at the field level over the last two years. National legislation on IDPs based on the Guiding Principles has, however, not yet been developed.

Concerning protection monitoring and follow-up by humanitarian actors, working groups on sexual violence (chaired by UNFPA) have been set up in a number of places, as have working groups on child protection (chaired by UNICEF, the MONUC Child Protection Unit or NGOs such as Save the Children). However, no overarching Protection Working Groups have been set up. The Special Advisor to the Humanitarian Coordinator on Protection of Civilians has recommended the establishment of Protection Working Groups in eight hubs, namely Bunia, Beni, Goma, Bukavu, Kalemie, Lubumbashi, Kisangani, Kindu and Kinshasa. If established, such working groups would include a focus on issues relating particularly to displacement and return of displaced persons, such as disputes over property rights, which is a serious obstacle to return in many places.

Coordination and funding

While a number of agencies are involved in activities related to return and reintegration, there is as yet no overall strategic framework. As a result, in most cases humanitarian and development actors operate in separate worlds. UNOPS, for example, has a large programme in the DRC, yet few efforts have been made to engage it in rehabilitation projects specifically in areas of return. The planned establishment of a Return and Reintegration Working Group in Kinshasa, to be jointly chaired by UNDP and UNHCR, should help in this regard.

The Humanitarian Affairs Section of MONUC is proactive and has been extremely helpful in terms of facilitating humanitarian activities. Discussions with humanitarian staff in the field, however, indicate that in many places the links between humanitarian actors and the MONUC Human Rights Section on protection-related issues need strengthening. The MONUC Human Rights Section has 17 field offices, with one international Human Rights Officer in each and sometimes also one UNV.

The Transitional Government, established in June 2003, continues to struggle to affirm its authority in much of the eastern part of the country. This makes it difficult in places such as South Kivu for humanitarian and development actors to work closely with local counterparts. The proliferation of Ministries at the Kinshasa level has also complicated coordination arrangements - more than 50 were created, to allow all the parties to get Government posts. This has meant that return and reintegration activities are handled by at least four different Ministries. This is unlikely to change until after the elections, which will probably not take place until some time in 2006. However, in spite of the difficulties, there is general recognition that humanitarian actors need to involve local counterparts more in planning and implementation of return and reintegration efforts, if these are to be sustainable in the longer term.

Donors' insistence on excluding "transition" activities from the 2005 Consolidated Appeal for the DRC appears to have had the effect of helping to keep the humanitarian and development actors in two separate spheres, hindering efforts to develop a common strategy. Further compounding this, donor representatives in Kinshasa acknowledged to the mission that there is no clear agreement amongst themselves as to what constitutes "transition" activities. The DRC is a pilot country for the Good Humanitarian Donorship Initiative.


Note: Many of the recommendations of the inter-agency mission on internal displacement in the DRC in February 2003 are still valid and some of them are repeated here.



1. UNDP should ensure that during the next phase of the pilot project there is a clearly defined and appropriate division of labour amongst national authorities and relevant humanitarian and development agencies. It is recommended that UNDP's own involvement should be limited primarily to reintegration activities in areas of return, with a focus on rehabilitation of essential services (schools, health centres and water/sanitation systems), shelter projects, and repair of roads and other vital infrastructure. UNDP should also invest in capacity building of local authorities/institutions. Protection monitoring, transportation of IDPs, distribution of return packages and other return-related activities should be the responsibility of agencies with the requisite expertise and capacity. An appropriate division of labour should be agreed on in the Working Group on Return and Reintegration.


For OCHA and the Population Movement Committees:

2. A clear methodology should be developed for collecting information on population movements and IDP figures. These figures, some of which have not been updated since 2003, should be updated regularly. (A clear picture of where most IDPs are located is useful also for planning on return and reintegration activities, since the majority of IDPs in the DRC return to places within the provinces in which they are displaced.) As a minimum, OCHA should ensure that the six provinces with large IDP populations provide an updated figure on the total IDP population in their respective provinces at the end of each quarter (i.e. on 31 March, 30 June, 30 September and 31 December). Where accurate figures cannot be provided, the Population Movement Committees should provide estimates. It is recommended that OCHA invite the NRC Global IDP Project, which has considerable experience in IDP data management, to assist in setting up an effective system in the DRC.


For OCHA, UNDP, UNHCR and the rest of the Country Team:

3. Senior IDP Advisor and revitalized OCHA IDP Unit: It is recommended that the OCHA IDP Unit (which currently has no full-time professional staff) be headed by a full-time Senior IDP Advisor (P4). This would involve either the re-designation of an existing P4 post in the OCHA office, or the creation of a new post.

4. Inter-Agency Working Group on Return and Reintegration: To ensure closer coordination between humanitarian and development actors, including larger-scale reconstruction efforts being undertaken by the World Bank and others, a Working Group on Return and Reintegration is in the process of being established at the Kinshasa level. It will be chaired by UNDP and UNHCR, with OCHA support. The Terms of Reference, being drawn up by UNDP and UNHCR, should be finalized and approved by the Humanitarian Coordinator by 30 June. They should include provisions to ensure close links with other coordination mechanisms for DDRRR activities, including the World Bank and donors involved in recovery activities. The Working Group should start meeting regularly as of mid June. Consideration should also be given to the possibility of establishing a UNDP-UNHCR Joint Reintegration Project Unit.

5. Return and Reintegration Strategy: An outline of a Return and Reintegration Strategy is being prepared by the IDD and will be shared with the Humanitarian Coordinator by 20 June. The Working Group on Return and Reintegration, under the leadership of UNDP and UNHCR, should take responsibility for finalization of the Strategy. A preliminary version should be shared with the RC/HC by 31 July 2005. This may eventually be used to assist the Transitional Government in the development of a national return and reintegration strategy (see Recommendation 7).

6. Population Movement Committees: Committees have already been set up in a number of places. There should be more consistency in the composition and work of these committees, particularly in the six provinces with large IDP populations (Orientale, North Kivu, South Kivu, Maniema, Equateur and Katanga). They should include representatives of local authorities, national and international humanitarian actors, civil society and IDPs themselves. They should not only focus on collection of information on population movements but should be a forum for developing response strategies both for emergency needs and return/reintegration activities. Standard terms of reference for these committees should be agreed on by 30 June 2005. In the short term, OCHA should take the lead in overseeing the work of these committees. In the longer term, should UNHCR agree to take on a larger role in IDP returns, it could be requested to oversee the work of these committees.


For the Transitional Government:

7. National legislation on IDPs: The Transitional Government should be encouraged to adopt national legislation on IDPs consistent with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

8. National Return and Reintegration Strategy: The Transitional Government should be encouraged to develop a national return and reintegration strategy. UNDP and UNHCR should be asked by the RC/HC to assist the Transitional Government in this, using the Country Team Return and Reintegration Strategy as a basis.

9. Inter-Ministerial Commission on Return and Reintegration: In the absence of a single Ministry responsible for all activities related to the return and reintegration of IDPs, refugees and ex-combatants, consideration should be given to the possibility of establishing an Inter-Ministerial Commission on Return and Reintegration.

10. Provincial focal points: At the provincial level, the Transitional Government should be requested to designate a focal point for return and reintegration activities in each of the six main IDP-hosting provinces. Should an Inter-Ministerial Commission be established, it could take responsibility for designating provincial focal points.


For UNDP, UNHCR, OCHA and other Country Team members:

11. Capacity building: Greater involvement of local authorities in assessments, planning and implementation processes is needed, to the extent possible. To achieve this, more needs to be done to build up the capacity of local authorities and to establish committees composed of both national actors and international humanitarian actors, particularly in areas of actual or potential return. Should an Inter-Ministerial Commission on Return and Reintegration be established, capacity building of this Commission, and of the provincial focal points designated by this Commission, should be a priority.



12. Protection Working Groups: Protection Working Groups (covering not only IDPs but all civilians) should be set up in the field, as recommended by the Special Advisor to the Humanitarian Coordinator on Protection of Civilians. Once established, it is recommended that existing Sub-Working Groups on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and on Child Protection be asked to report to these over-arching Protection Working Groups. Until and unless other measures are put in place, it is recommended that the MONUC Human Rights Section be asked to chair, or co-chair, these Protection Working Groups. This should be further reviewed in the context of the upcoming Protection of Civilians (POC) Workshop.


13. MONUC Human Rights Section: With protection activities amongst humanitarian actors currently limited almost exclusively to child protection and sexual violence, the RC/HC should encourage the MONUC Human Rights Section to play a more active role in IDP-related protection monitoring and follow-up.


14. UNHCR's role in protection: UNHCR, which is planning to build up its presence in Equateur and South Kivu Provinces, should be encouraged by the Humanitarian Coordinator to deploy protection staff in these provinces to assist in ensuring adequate protection monitoring and follow-up in areas of return. Should UNHCR agree to deploy protection staff in these provinces, they should be encouraged to co-chair the Protection Working Groups there. UNHCR should also be encouraged to contribute to the development of a countrywide protection strategy and to expand its return and reintegration programme in the DRC to target IDPs generally, and not only IDPs in areas of refugee return. (See also Recommendation 19)


For UNDP, UNHCR, OCHA and the Return & Reintegration Working Group:

15. Mapping of areas of return: More systematic mapping of areas of actual or potential return (IDPs, refugees and ex-combatants) is needed. The Return and Reintegration Working Group should take the lead in identifying focus areas for return and reintegration programmes. This involves close cooperation with national authorities and MONUC. This information should be clearly presented and regularly updated.

16. Rehabilitation of basic services and essential infrastructure: To facilitate spontaneous returns and to contribute to the consolidation of peace, there is a need for an increase in recovery activities in the more stable parts of the country, including the eastern provinces. Recovery activities should place particular emphasis on: labour-intensive public works (to encourage the displaced and ex-combatants to return while contributing to the socio-economic revival of communities); small-scale infrastructure rehabilitation in the areas of health, education and water/sanitation; and establishment of rule of law and judicial systems to counter the widespread culture of impunity. Also of critical importance is the rehabilitation of essential infrastructure such as roads, railways and bridges to facilitate the resumption of economic activities.

17. Development actors to take the lead: The priority should be to try to get development actors such as UNDP (including UNOPS) to take the lead in implementing projects involving rehabilitation of services and infrastructure in areas of return. Only where development actors are unwilling or unable to act quickly enough should humanitarian actors step in to fill the gap.

18. UNDP and UNHCR field presence: If UNDP and UNHCR are to be effective in leading the inter-agency return and reintegration process, they will need to strengthen their field presence, particularly in the eastern DRC. In areas of return, consideration should be given to the possibility of co-locating field offices. As mentioned in Recommendation 15, UNHCR should also be encouraged by the Humanitarian Coordinator to expand its return and reintegration programme in the DRC to target IDPs generally, and not only IDPs in areas of refugee return.


For the OCHA-led inter-agency needs assessment team:

19. Inclusion of return-related rehabilitation activities in the needs assessment: For donors to be able to allocate resources effectively, a clear assessment of needs is required, indicating both ongoing emergency response needs and transition/recovery needs. It is recommended that the OCHA-led countrywide needs assessment currently taking place provide a clear indication of those recovery activities (including rehabilitation of basic services, shelter programmes and road repairs) which are considered essential for facilitating the return and reintegration of IDPs.

For the RC/HC and donors:

20. Advocacy on transition/recovery activities: The RC/HC, with support from the ERC, should continue to emphasize to donors that support for socio-economic recovery and rehabilitation activities (related specifically to IDP and refugee returns) will not only help provide durable solutions for IDPs and refugees but should also contribute considerably to the consolidation of peace in the DRC.

21. Donor contributions: Donors should be encouraged to generously fund both emergency response activities (the 2005 CAP is currently only 27% funded) and transition/recovery activities related specifically to IDP and refugee returns. To facilitate planning by humanitarian and development actors, they should indicate clearly the funding mechanisms that they intend to use for each of these activities.

Mark Cutts
Anne-Marie Linde
8 June 2005


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.