Despite the occurrence of the country's first democratic elections in 40 years, the recent outbreaks of violence, particularly in the capital, are a stark reminder that transparent, democratic elections, while vital, are only the first step towards peace and development. Efforts by the international community to encourage disarmament and demobilisation have been rigorous, but many ex-combatants and their dependents remain without a vocation and the temptation to return to violence is strong.
"There is no justification for being complacent about the integration of ex-combatants and their dependents," said Melkert. "In the east of the country, integration is one of the most pressing needs. If it is to work, we need to scale up job creation dramatically."
The DRC, one of the poorest countries in the world, has seen years of conflict resulting in at least 4 million deaths, between 3 and 4 million displaced persons and over 300,000 child soldiers.
Melkert acknowledged that the integration of ex-combatants and their dependents into Congolese society can not happen in isolation and must be accompanied by security sector reform. "There are no quick fixes to the security challenges, but it is extremely important to get our own act together to support the authorities to develop the capacity of the police and security sectors," he said.
During his visit to Goma, Melkert listened to accounts of how increased levels of insecurity in the province dominate an already war-torn landscape. There are reported incidents of murder, torture, rape, arbitrary detention, forced labour and violations of human rights in the region.
"As previous conflicts have proven, the situation in DRC can have a devastating impact on the fortunes of Africa," said Melkert. "With lasting peace and a successful fight against poverty, the DRC could someday become an engine for growth in Africa. The international community cannot afford to turn its attention away from this fragile state."
While in Kinshasa, Melkert joined UN Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro in a meeting with President Joseph Kabila who stated that, in the post-elections period, the greatest threat to their democracy is poverty and a lack of development.
Through a five-year $200 million governance programme, UNDP works to assist the population gain access to social services and better living conditions for the Congolese people. While the need for democracy is a priority, for most of the population, the benefits of democracy will remain elusive without local progress.
Over the next few years, UNDP will support the Congolese government in their decentralization process, starting with the organization of local elections and support to local institutions to increase access to quality public services. A key challenge will be increasing the numbers of women represented in the government and the National and Provincial Assemblies. One suggestion discussed during a meeting with the President of the Electoral Commission was to use the Southern African Development Community's quota of 30 percent women participation as a base line for increasing numbers of women in the democratic process.
Melkert also met with donor representatives based in Kinshasa to discuss an innovative mechanism in the DRC which brings together the UN system, the World Bank, and 17 donors to more effectively support poverty reduction in the country. They discussed using this mechanism as a possible model for other countries in similar circumstances.