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Transitioning from stabilization to peace: An independent strategic review of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (S/2019/842)

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Letter dated 24 October 2019 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council

I am writing further to Security Council resolution 2463 (2019), by which the Council requested an independent strategic review of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) assessing the continued challenges to peace and security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and articulating a phased, progressive and comprehensive exit strategy.

I am pleased to transmit the independent strategic review report of MONUSCO conducted by Youssef Mahmoud. The five sections of the report encompass an evaluation of the current political challenges and opportunities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an assessment of the current mandated tasks of MONUSCO, suggested new tasks, and conditions for a responsible drawdown. The report also provides a number of recommendations to adjust the mandate, configuration and priorities of the Mission, as conceived by the independent expert. As requested by the Council, I should like to point out that the present report is independent, and therefore its content and recommendations do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.

The author of the report recognizes the positive impact that two decades of peacekeeping have had in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the opportunities created that, if leveraged, could pave the way to sustainable peace and development. The first-ever peaceful transfer of power has fuelled hopes for an improvement in the fortunes of the country, even though it continues to face significant security, human rights, humanitarian and development challenges, including the second-worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded. While the majority of the 26 provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are now stable, with opportunities to advance sustainable development, the persistence of national and foreign armed groups and the resurgence of intercommunal violence in a dozen territories of the eastern provinces of the country (particularly North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri) have generated a worrying protection situation for civilians.

The strategic review contains a useful re-examination of key assumptions underlying the Mission’s military mandate and its mandate to protect civilians. It is vital that efforts to enhance the impact and effectiveness of the Mission’s military component be guided by a whole-of-force and whole-of-mission approach with the protection of civilians at its core. I would also emphasize that the use of military force is only one part of a multidimensional effort aimed at promoting peace, which requires national ownership. In the medium to long term, only an appropriate political and security response, including with countries of the Great Lakes region, can provide the necessary framework for resolving the current situation in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Ultimately, the only way to achieve a durable peace is through a sustained effort to build strong democratic and governance institutions. The international community, including the United Nations, must fully support the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to that end. As the United Nations reconfigures its presence in response to the evolving needs on the ground, the ability of the United Nations country team to support the authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in reforming and strengthening key institutions must also be carefully assessed and, where necessary, strategies must be implemented to ensure that the necessary resources and operational capabilities are in place before drawing down the presence of the Mission.

The development of effective partnerships with regional organizations, international financial institutions and key actors will be critical to avoid the financing and engagement challenges associated with transitions. The proposed compact for sustained peace, if managed properly, could help in that regard.

Going forward, it will be crucial to conduct consultations with the recently formed Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo with a view to ensuring that the future role and priorities of the Mission and the United Nations country team align with the vision and priorities of the Government for the future of the country. Based on such consultations, I may revert to the Security Council, including ahead of the renewal of the Mission’s mandate, with additional comments and recommendations on how the Mission could best respond to the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and could best support that country’s Government and people in their efforts to achieve peace and stability.

(Signed) António Guterres

Transitioning from stabilization to peace: An independent strategic review of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

I. Introduction

A. Background

1. After 20 years, the United Nations peacekeeping presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been credited with having contributed to significant peace gains, including the reunification of the country, the official departure of foreign armies from Congolese soil, the prevention of greater instability during intermittent moments of crisis and the creation of an environment conducive to the holding of three presidential elections, in 2006, 2011 and 2018. Today, it is commonly acknowledged by both Congolese sources and the international community that more than two thirds of the country is stable.

2. As the peace and conflict dynamics within the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region have evolved and pressures to consolidate peacekeeping efforts and reduce costs have increased, there have been repeated calls for reviews and adjustments throughout the life cycle of the United Nations Observer Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). The most recent strategic review, conducted by the United Nations Secretariat in 2017 (S/2017/826), contained a recommendation to reorient the activities of MONUSCO towards supporting the implementation of the agreement of 31 December 2016 between political actors that paved the way for the most recent elections.

3. Despite the controversy surrounding the real winner, these most recent elections, entirely organized and financed by Congolese actors, marked the first peaceful transfer of power to an opposition party in the country’s history. Most opposition political figures declared their intention to support the new President, Félix Tshisekedi, who has announced an ambitious reform agenda to bring about immediate positive change in the areas of accountable governance, security and socioeconomic development.

4. Notwithstanding this promising outlook, the political and security situation remains fragile and the future is not risk-free, as outlined below. The locus of power remains uncertain in the context of a potentially unstable government coalition, and there is an ongoing security and protection crisis in the six provinces affected by conflict, Tanganyika, Kasai Central, Kasai Oriental, North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri. To date, the activity of armed groups, the continued involvement of State actors in human rights abuses and the potential further spread of Ebola are major impediments to a responsible and sustainable MONUSCO exit. The international community should continue to lend a hand in the coming years so that the Democratic Republic of the Congo can move purposefully from stabilization to sustainable peace.