S/2017/ 824 - Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Demographic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO)- 10/02/2017
S/2017/826 - Special Report of the Secretary- General on the strategic review of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Demographic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO)- 09/29/2017
S/2017/963 - Report of the Secretary General on progres in the implementation of the political agreement of 31 December 2016 - 11/17/2017
Period of the review: May-November 2017
Prepared by Anne Lescure
Women electorate of Mongwalu listen to a UN pre-election presentation on good governance by UN representatives, ahead of the second round of the 2006 presidential and provincial elections in Bunia, DRC (UN Photo/Martine Perret).
Pursuant to Security Council Resolutions 2293 (2016), 2277 (2016), 2211 (2015), 2198 (2015), 2147 (2014), 2136 (2014), and 2098 (2013), the Security Council calls on all stakeholders in the DRC to swiftly implement the 31 December 2016 agreement and ensure an environment conducive to a free, fair, credible, inclusive, transparent, peaceful and timely electoral process. In addition, Resolution 2348 (2017) specifically urges for the full participation of women at all stages of the electoral process. Resolution 2348 (2017) also demands that all armed groups cease immediately all forms of violence; and calls upon the Government of the DRC to uphold its national commitments to Security Sector Reform (SSR) and to implement of its national Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) Programme. Lastly, the Security Council decides to extend the mandate of MONUSCO until 31 March 2018, reducing the number of MONUSCO military personnel, observers and staff officers.
This document compiles the analyses of the Secretary-General S/2017/824, S/2017/826 and S/2017/963: S/2017/824 covers major developments that have occured in the DRC since June 2017, S/2017/826 provides a strategic review of United Nations Organisation Stabilisation mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) from May 2017 to September 2017, and the report on the progress of the political agreement of 31 December 2016 (S/2017/963) provides information on the implementation of the Comprehensive and Inclusive Political Agreement of 31 December 2016, from September 2017 until November 2017. While the report of the Secretary-General on MONUSCO (S/2017/824) and his special report on the strategic review of MONUSCO (S/2017/826) consider MONUSCO’s mandate to protect civilians through a gendered lens, S/2017/963 is completely gender-blind.
In the three documents, the Secretary-General reports that the broad consensus among key political actors that had underpinned the signing of the 31 December 2016 agreement continued to erode over the reporting period. The Secretary-General noted the slow, incomplete and non-inclusive implementation of the agreement. According to the Secretary-General, the publication of a credible electoral calendar by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) was much delayed, the voters’ registration process is still not fully completed and the confidence-building measure stipulated in the political agreement are not implemented. As a result, the elections will not take place before December 2018, violating the terms of the peace agreement. The mounting disagreement between the signatories has increased political uncertainty amid deteriorating socioeconomic, human rights and humanitarian contexts. In his reports, the Secretary-General expressed deep concern at the security situation across DRC, and in the Kivu Provinces in particular, where the manipulation of armed militias and ethnic tensions by a range of state actors and spoilers has contributed to a resurgence of intercommunal violence.
According to the Secretary-General, since the beginning of 2016, there has been a sharp increase in the total number of human rights violations, perpetrated across the DRC: 2.822 human rights violations were documented during the first half of 2017, in comparison with 2.343 over the same period in 2016 (S/2017/826, para. 31). The Secretary-General is especially concerned that journalists, political opponents and civil society activists remain subject to intimidation and violence in relation to their political activities (S/2017/963, para. 23). In September alone, 77 human right defenders and 6 journalists were victims of human rights violations (S/2017/963, para. 15).
Over the reporting period, women and children continued to account for a significant portions of victims of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations (S/2017/824, para. 29). In the DRC, women still make up the majority of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) (S/2017.824, para.26) and the proportion of crimes of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) has remained too high. In the context of MONUSCO’s strategic adjustments in 2018 towards a more intervention-based protection mandate, the Secretary-General highlighted the importance for the Mission to continue ensuring that women’s concerns and perspectives are taken into account (S/2017/826, para. 59). On the topic of elections however, too few concrete recommendations were given to insure the participation of women in the electoral process and their protection from increased violence during elections. In addition, the looming possibility of the amendment of a draft law imposing a 3% representation threshold to obtain a seat in the National Assembly could sign the death sentence of a number of satellite parties currently occupying the national political space. Women’s political groups could be especially affected.
Overall in his reports, the Secretary-General makes a strong and valid attempt at including a gender perspective in his analysis of the situation in the DRC, especially in areas affected by the closure of MONUSCO bases. While the Secretary-General does not dedicate one single paragraph to women and gender in his report S/2017/936, he recognises the gender-specific challenges faced by Congolese women during pre-electoral times in his report S/2017/824 (S/2017/824, para. 79). In his report S/2017/826, he underscores the importance of gender mainstreaming and consultations with civil society actors to support MONUSCO’s strategic shift of mandate towards a more agile, flexible and responsive force. However, no concrete commitments or plan of action are developed to integrate women in MONUSCO’s strategic priorities during the pre-electoral phase. This is especially concerning in view of the reduction of MONUSCO’s budget for 2017/2018, and the Mission’s ensuing strategic reassessment.
In his report S/2017/826, the Secretary-General recognises that given the reduction of MONUSCO’s scope of action and deployment, the Missions’ prevention and advocacy local efforts will need to be supported by enhanced information collection and strengthen its early warning capacity through greater situational awareness and human rights monitoring, including with a gender lens and in collaboration with UN and non-UN human rights and humanitarian actors (S/2017/826, para. 59). This development is a decisive step towards greater recognition of the work of civil society -and women’s group in particular- in the development of early warning to community alert mechanisms and mitigation strategies. In his report S/2017/824, the Secretary-General reports that MONUSCO has continued its efforts to specifically prevent and mitigate the risk of violence linked to the upcoming electoral process. Disappointedly however, the Secretary-General does not mention the crucial need for MONUSCO to adopt a gender-perspective in the preparation for the elections, and promoting gender equality throughout the electoral cycle. This represents a missed opportunity for the Secretary-General to discuss the work of CENI’s Gender Unit, which was created to promote gender mainstreaming into the institution.
The three reports heavily focus on the voter registration process going on in the DRC. DRC is well-known for its gender-sensitive voter registration process where mobile registration stations are set up in rural areas and awareness-raising campaigns are launched with NGOs and national women’s organisations to encourage women to register, including through targeted voter registration sensitisation campaign for women in remote provinces. S/2017/826 reports that women in the DRC now make up 48 percent of the 40 million voters registered, but currently occupy less than 10 percent of all public offices (S/2017826, para. 40). This discrepancy can partly be explained by the Congolese patriarchal society whereby women can vote for men, but are discouraged from running for office themselves. What is fundamentally problematic with the Secretary-General reports is that they re-state this patriarchal outlook and perspective by mentioning women’s participation in the Congolese electoral process solely from the voter’s perspective. The report does not mention women’s participation in the organisation and carrying out of the registration process itself, or in any other politically active position as part of the electoral process. The Secretary-General simply encourages lawmakers to explore the possibility of increasing the representation of women during the current deliberations on the amendment of the electoral law on the organisation and functioning of the National Council (S/2017/824, para. 79), ultimately confining Congolese women as a marginalised group in political processes. Women’s active presence and involvement at voter’s registration stations for example could have prevented the rape of 5 women by national police force officers trying to register at registration posts (para. 37 of S/2017/824).
According to the Secretary-General, in 2017, there has been a sharp increase in the total number of human rights violations perpetrated across the DRC. However, the reports do not adopt a gender-lens on this issue. Women human rights defenders are targeted in pre-election violence at higher rates than male counterparts, and this increased risk should be addressed by the Secretary-General. Moreover, in his report S/2017/826, the Secretary-General reports that to mitigate the reduction of the footprint of the MONUSCO force, the Mission is currently shifting its protection of civilian strategy from a “protection-by-presence” force which relies on company operating bases which are static structures to a “protection-by-projection” force relying on flexible and agile rapidly deployable battalions. In this whole-of-mission effort, the involvement of civilian teams and women is indispensable and lacks emphasis at this time.
Relief and Recovery
Over the reporting period, refugees continued to arrive in the DRC, fleeing conflict from the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan. According to the Office of the UN High Commissioners for Refugees, 52 percent of the IDPs are women ( S/2017/826, para 29). However, none of the three reports provide provisions on gender-sensitive care for IDPs and refugees, which, if left unaddressed, could re-ignite conflict. Moreover, while DDR and community-based stabilisation efforts and processes are mentioned, they do not provide a gender-perspective on the issue. Positively however, concerning justice, the Secretary-General highlights the efforts of the UN Joint Human Rights Office, as well as the ones of the Senior Women’s Protection Adviser to ensure accountability for grave human rights violations and conflict-related sexual violence, including through support for mobile courts and participation in joint investigation teams.
Given the vastness of the country and the limited resources at the disposal of MONUSCO, the Mission’s overarching strategy should be to focus on the targeted prevention, de-escalation and resolution of local and provincial conflicts. It should enhance its political engagement with community leaders and civil society organisations in the collection of information, stakeholder mapping and conflict analysis to increase its efficiency and reduce its footprint. Very importantly, it should make sure to collect gender-disaggregated data. After the example set up by Twa and Luba communities in the Tanganyika province, MONUSCO should also support further intercommunal peace dialogue, and make sure to include women and religious leaders in the peace discussions. Concerning the prevention of pre-elections violence, MONUSCO should focus on empowering women’s group in their prevention efforts and support the creation of Women's Situation Rooms throughout the country to help prevent breaks out of violence through early-warning systems and partnerships with influential local figures. Overall, MONUSCO’s mandate must adapt to the specific needs of a combined mission staff and budgetary reduction phase and pre-elections phase, while strengthening community-level engagement and adopting a gender-power analysis.
Ensuring that women and men can and do participate without unfair barriers is a core component of delivering an inclusive election. The fact that women are being raped at voter registration stations, nonetheless by national police officers, completely contradicts the idea itself of elections as a democratic process to reinforce civilian engagement and bring peace and security to post-conflict countries. As a first step, MONUSCO should help national authorities -and CENI in particular- to consider the need for women-only registration teams, ensure that the need for proof of identity is not a barrier, consider the need for flexibility in regulations for displaced peoples across DRC, and deliver gender-sensitive outreach about registration. Concerning the nomination of candidates, MONUSCO must help ensure the enforcement of nomination rules regarding number of women candidates and the enforcement of campaign finance rules regarding gender equality. It must also support CENI to provide training opportunities for women via its gender unit. Upcoming elections can be a critical momentum to institute women groups’ inclusion in peace processes and to establish more stable post-conflict institutions where women are more equally represented. Future Secretary-General reports must recognise women’s role as active participants in the holding of elections beyond their role as voters.
While shifting its mandate from “protection-through-presence” to “protection-through -projection”, MONUSCO should capitalise on the wide array of civilian protection tools available to the Mission, such as community alert networks, community liaison officers, joint protection teams and so on. This must be accompanied with deepened consultations with the police and civil society organisations who are true partners in human rights monitoring, investigating and reporting. 57 percent of human rights violations documented since the beginning of 2017 can be attributed to state agents (S/2017/826, para. 32) . The problem is compounded by the long-standing practice of integrating former members of armed groups into FARDC without proper vetting. MONUSCO should assist state authorities in vetting ex-combattants before integrating them in the national military forces. Moreover, it should call upon Congolese state authorities to carry training sessions for FARDC soldiers on age assessments and screening of new recruits. More efforts must also be allocated to gender-sensitive training for FARDC soldiers, as they continue to be the first SGBV perpetrators in the DRC.
Relief and Recovery
MONUSCO should strengthen its collaboration with humanitarian actors and streamline coordination mechanisms with humanitarian agencies to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable. On the topic of justice for SGBV crimes, the UN Joint Human Rights Office and the Senior Women’s Protection Adviser should continue to support FARDC and the Congolese government to implement the Joint Communique between the government and the United Nations on the Fight Against Sexual Violence in Conflict and related actions plan, with a particular emphasis on strengthening accountability.
At this critical juncture, with the end of 2017 a few weeks away, a renewed political commitment is required to build trust among all political actors. Despite the mounting levels of disagreement between its signatories, the political agreement of 31 December 2016 remains the framework guiding political transition in the DRC. With so much at stake, the international community cannot afford to conduct business as usual. Hence, in the future, the Security Council should first increase MONUSCO’s funding; the Mission’s budget simply does not match its mandate. Recent budgetary reductions are not tenable for MONUSCO to effectively deliver on its core protection of civilians mandate in a country roughly the size of Eastern Europe. Moreover, it should further collaborate with civil society organisations in conflict prevention efforts, including early warning and human rights investigation, monitoring and reporting. In a resource-constrained environment, the Mission must concentrate on areas in which it has a clear comparative advantage, and delegate other responsibilities to local authorities and civil society. In addition, it must consult civil society organisations for MONUSCO’s 2018-2019 strategic review. Future reporting must also include recommendations on how to better integrate women in electoral processes in the DRC. Deepened partnerships and collaboration with women civil society organisations (CSOs) is key to address gender inequalities in electoral processes. CSOs can be an excellent conduit to share civic and voter education materials because of their reach, especially in remote communities. Moreover, they can bring their gender expertise to bear on the electoral process, providing advice, assistance and access to networks that government entities may not have themselves. Lastly, the Secretary-General must insure smaller political groups are represented in the political landscape, especially during elections, regardless if their level of representation. Democracy entails the right to representation, and any attempts to limit certain groups’ participation would be anti-constitutional.