Laura Davis

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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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Democratic Republic of Congo:

 Gender Country Profile 2014

This Gender Country Profile DRC 2014 (Profil genre 2014 RDC) was commissioned by the Embassy of Sweden in Kinshasa, with the Department for International Development (UK), the European Union delegation in Kinshasa and the Embassy of Canada. It examines gender relations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and offers recommendations to the assignors, and donor community more generally, on ways to improve gender equality in the country.

Main challenges to gender equality include: 

1. Who are ‘Congolese women’?

The dominant definition – explicit or not – is to see equate women with mothers, and/or in relation to male family members. Nationals and internationals rarely see ‘women’ as essential beings. This hinders understanding different women’s and girls’ range of needs and expectations, and therefore designing effective programmes and policies.

The view of women as poor, rural, ‘vulnerable’ (i.e. passive) dominates national and international agendas. There is apparently little interest in how women acquire, maintain, use and lose power. National and international actors lack critical awareness of the assumptions they make and perceptions they have of ‘women’, their needs and priorities. This report identifies the following trends in perceptions and assumptions:

a. Women are treated as objects for charity, not rightsbearers

This feeds the tendency to prioritise the palliative over the preventive: marginally improving the plight of individual women but not changing the status quo. Programmes relieving women’s suffering often substitute the core functions of the state: robust political engagement could lead to systemic change, enabling women to access routinely the services they are entitled to. Programmes ‘addressing’ sexual violence try to relieve some of the consequences of men’s violence but do not prevent it. So some women receive charity, but women should be treated as citizens, whose rights the government, primarily, and ‘international community’ indirectly, are obliged to protect.

b. Women to blame for gender inequality

The gender discourse in DRC tends to place the blame for gender inequality implicitly on women, either as the (moral) educators of children, or because they show insufficient ‘solidarity’ with other women, or because they are ‘too ignorant’ to access their rights.

c. The unbearable burden of gender equality

Women have heavy workloads, household and community responsibilities, and little rest. Women in power are expected to be more competent than their male colleagues, resist corruption, and show solidarity with other women. The expectations on women are simply too high: they are, effectively, set up to fail.

d. Wanted: men’s agency

Men are central to gender (in)equality, yet men’s agency is absent from the gender discourse. Men’s agency and power in perpetuating and addressing discrimination and exclusion needs to be acknowledged and included in the discourse.

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In these short videos onTransitional justice and peace mediation for the Peace Mediation Platform, I discuss the Peace and Justice DebateAddressing justice questions in peace processesGender Inclusive Transitional Justice and Universal Laws and Norms in Peace Processes

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Research team, Ségou, November 2013

In late 2013 and early 2014, I headed a research team (pictured left) on behalf of International Alert and Mouvement Malivaleurs. Our objective was to identify ways in which donors could contribute to long-term, peaceful change in Mali after the calamities of 2012.  We listened to Malians from different walks of life from across the country. The hunger for debate on every aspect of what it means to be Malian was striking.

We heard a strong desire for a new Mali, a Mali of the 21st century. In this new Mali, inclusive participation will replace the old systems of ‘consensus’ politics, mousalaka, clientelism, corruption and the divisions between the nyèmogow and the brousse konomogow, the leaders and the led. Public institutions and the political class will be reformed and reinvigorated.

But this desire for change does not imply agreement. There are deep fractures between communities, between citizens and the state, between generations, and between men and women, rural and urban, rich and poor, conservative and progressive, traditional and reformist. The challenge for the donor community is to engage sensitively, supporting a process of long-term reform and inclusion. Avoiding difficult issues may leave tensions festering, only to erupt again, as they did in 2012. The report, (disponible aussi en français, bien sûr!) details our findings and recommendations to donors.

 

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The Global Accord (2002) ended the Congo War, contributed to the creation of the Third Republic and influenced subsequent peace agreements. This article (in the International Journal of Human Rights, 2013, Vol. 17, No. 2, 289–306) analyses how justice for human rights violations was included in the Global Accord and later peace deals. It assesses how the power-sharing aspects of these agreements affected the pursuit of accountability, and finds they undermined transitional justice efforts and contributed to continued abuse. It concludes that free-wheeling power-sharing within the security institutions is the biggest challenge to both accountability and peace: post-conflict security arrangements are therefore the crucial nexus between peacebuilding and accountability for human rights violations.

Keywords: power-sharing; transitional justice; Democratic Republic of Congo; security arrangements; peacebuilding; gender

The article is available here.

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