DR Congo

Non-military strategies for civilian protection in the DRC

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NRC warns against excessive faith in new force

Increased investment in non-military approaches is essential for a solution to the long-running conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to a new report. The Norwegian Refugee Council warns against excessive faith in a new intervention brigade.

Conflicts in Eastern parts of DRC have forced more than two million people to flee their homes and thousands of civilians have become victims of violence and abuse. Poor strategic thinking and insufficient investment in non-military approaches are undermining the protection response and a lasting solution to the conflict, according to the report launched Thursday 25 April. The report Non-military strategies for civilian protection in the DRC is authored by Liam Mahony at Fieldview Solutions on commission from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

“For nearly two decades the International community has failed in their effort to protect civilians and to help bring peace to DRC. It is necessary to reflect on what we as independent organizations, and as a community, can do differently to better support the Congolese people to work towards peace and prosperity,” says NRC’s Secretary General, Toril Brekke.

The International community endorsed in March a new mandate for the peacekeeping operation MONUSCO, including authorising a special intervention brigade, with the mandate to target armed groups. This is an unprecedented development in UN Peacekeeping. Brekke warns that any purely military approach is destined to fail:

“Excessive faith in military approaches must be overcome. Military operations alone cannot bring much-needed durable solutions to the long-standing problems which have troubled the region and its people for twenty years. The international community must focus on the deeper, uncomfortable issues that have defeated all efforts to bring peace to Eastern DRC until now. The Framework Agreement for a peace process signed in February was a step in the right direction, but it will require substantial political and financial capital to ensure results on the ground,” says Brekke.

The author of the new report, Liam Mahony, argues that the International community needs to invest much more in non-military solutions for protection of people in DRC.

“The International community continues to believe that military protection of civilians in the DRC may succeed, if there are only enough soldiers or a sufficiently strong mandate. However, there is little if any empirical evidence for this. Faith in military solutions is exaggerated by the mistaken belief that violence can only be met with more violence”, says Mahony.

Among other suggestions, he emphasizes the need for increased investment in conflict mediation:

“There is a need for increased civilian efforts, prioritising analysis, dialogue and negotiation with all the different armed parties. Sustained mediation efforts will have to take place at regional, national and local levels. In addition more resources should be put into building a stronger Congolese civil society”, Mahony adds.

Specific problems highlighted in the report include:

• The exaggerated faith in the armed protection approaches of MONUSCO/FARDC is based on a number of myths and stereotypes rather than on empirical results. Given the importance of MONUSCO/FARDC’s protection role and its impact on humanitarian action, humanitarian organisations should support (and encourage donors to support) an intensive, objective impact assessment of the net protective impact of MONUSCO and FARDC military action on the reduction of abuses against civilians.

• The chronic and extreme violence in the eastern DRC poses a stark challenge to traditional humanitarian “urgent response mode” approaches. The humanitarian service machinery has become a virtually permanent fixture in the region, serving victims of multiple displacements and repeating cycles of violence for two decades, while efforts to change the underlying dynamics of conflict have been insufficient and ineffective.

• Protection in this conflict cannot be achieved solely by providing services to victims. The abuses and the conflict are chronic. Protection must involve efforts to change the behaviour of perpetrators of violence and reduce conflict.

• The international community has invested significantly in initiatives aimed at documenting protection needs - information gathering and early warning systems – but the response has been largely limited to deployment of peacekeepers to areas of concern, which has often proved to be “too little, too late”.

The report provides a range of recommendations to address these and other problems, summarized in the attached conclusions. It reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not necessarily coincide with NRC’s positions.
For further information or interviews, contact the NRC in the DRC through Sigve Andera - pd@drc.nrc.no, mob. +243815022040, the Head of Communications at NRC Oslo Rolf Vestvik, rolf.vestvik@nrc.no, +47 48893313 and the report’s author Liam Mahony - liammahony@fieldviewsolutions.org, mob. +001-508-385-2654