Laura Davis

The EU and peacebuilding in the Democratic Republic of Congo

This paper, the EU and peacebuilding in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is published as part of a series of Civil Society Dialogue Network discussion papers by the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office.

In it, I reflect on the EU’s trackrecord in contributing to peacebuilding in the Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly through its involvement in security sector reform, justice initiatives and peace mediation. The DRC is, after all, one of the few places where the EU has had a foreign policy, one which has been largely based on an accurate conflict analysis (with the glaring exception of the extreme structural and physical violence men mete out on women across the country).

The EU has made considerable investment in both innovative and tried-and-tested approaches to peacebuilding. The approach has had its flaws: for example, a stronger commitment to the Treaty values, particularly on human rights and women’s rights, might have given the EU both more clout and more impact. Greater political engagement, rather than a ‘technical’ approach, re-conceptualising the CSDP SSR missions as multiyear instruments and measuring their impact could have strengthened the EU’s contribution to peacebuilding in the DRC and the region.

The months leading up to the DRC’s (potentially) first democratic change of head of state – the presidential elections are scheduled for November 2016- are likely to be rocky. The EU, like many other democratic donors, is in an invidious position regarding the elections. There is a strong case that the EU should not have to finance the third democratic elections in the country and that, by now, these should be a sovereign affair. It is a difficult decision to take: if the ‘international community’ does fund the elections, donors are likely to face criticism at home and accusations of interference in Congo; if they do not, they are likely to be blamed for a sliding electoral calendar. Whatever the EU and its member states decide to do, clear communication on the decision and its reasons will be necessary. The EU should also clearly communicate its position, grounded firmly in the Treaty values, on how the elections should be run and, in particular, how the government and security services should behave. It should fund credible research into the links between armed groups and politicians, as well as civil society monitoring projects, follow closely what happens to human rights defenders and actively promote women’s empowerment.

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