Laura Davis

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Tag "human rights"

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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Screenshot 2014-09-03 15.19.57

 This book analyses how the European Union translates its principles of peace and justice into policy and puts them into practice, particularly in societies in or emerging from violent conflict.

The European Union treaty states that in its relations with the wider world, the EU is to promote peace, security, the protection of human rights, and the strict observance and the development of international law. The EU is active in peace processes around the world, yet its role in international peace mediation is largely ignored.

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GCP cover

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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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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In this post Screenshot 2014-06-14 09.28.02for the Security Sector Reform Resource Centre I argue that the contextual, structural, and political challenges to SSR point to the perils of euphemism. Peace and sustainable development in Congo require a security system that protects public safety. This does not require ‘reform’ of the existing system, but the creation of the new system, described in the Constitution as a republican force at the service of the people as a whole, which protects the people and their goods. 

 

 

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This article, published in European Security (2014), assesses whether the EU contributes to long-term positive change in societies emerging from violent conflict, helping them ‘mend’ or whether it simply encourages societies to ‘make do’ with the     status quo. To do so, the article focuses on two of the principles found in the EU Treaty, peace and justice for human rights violations. It examines how the EU translates the principles of peace and justice into policy and puts them into practice by analyzing EU engagement in peace mediation, transitional justice, and security sector reform in general and through in-depth examination of EU engagement in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the article, I question the prevailing discourse that greater inter-institutional coherence would improve EU security provision and considers whether and how the EU prioritizes between peace and justice. I find that principles may be translated into policy and put into practice, and practice is often ahead of policy. But this is uneven within as well as across the institutions. Greater coherence between principle, policy, and practice, rather than between institutions, would improve EU security provision and enable prioritization. If the EU settles for making do, it undermines its considerable potential to contribute to long-term solutions to complex conflicts.

 

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This briefing paper for the Oslo Forum Africa Mediators Retreat 2013 aims to stimulate discussion within the mediation community about the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in peace processes. In a brief overview of the peace-versus-justice debate to date, it lays out the main arguments for and against the Court. The paper then argues that the ICC has become a ‘straw man’ in the peace and justice debate, being misrepresented sometimes. It is one actor among many in the complex fields of justice and peacemaking – equating the ICC with justice oversimplifies the complexity of justice in (post-) conflict situations. The paper closes with suggestions for greater synergies between peace and justice, including the Court. There are many options on the spectrum between ICC indictments and amnesty that are yet to be explored, and which could advance a pro-justice and pro-peace agenda.

The paper is available here.

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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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What do they think? Photo of IDPs in Ivory Coast by Sunset Parkerpix

What is the ideal transitional justice scenario in Ivory Coast? the Belgian newspaper De Morgen asked me this week in an interview published on Thursday. It is always impossible to predict these types of questions, but there are some trends we can see from other places, which might help the Ivoriens build peace – in the aftermath of so much violence.

Attention at the moment is focussed on prosecuting former President Laurent Gbabgo, his wife and senior aides. Ideally these trials should take place in Ivory Coast, but in many post-conflict situations, the justice system is unable to guarantee fair trials. If this is the case, the International Criminal Court could step in.  But the ICC is a court of last resort – and there are disadvantages to pursuing alleged human rights violators through it. In DR Congo, for example, the Court is often portrayed as ‘foreign justice’. And when trials take place in The Hague, so far from where the violations have occurred it is difficult for the victims and affected communities to access proceedings.

Between national trials and the ICC, there are other options. In the past, the UN has set up ‘hybrid’ courts, like the Special Court for Sierra Leone and ad hoc tribunals, like the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda (ICTR) and for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). But although these courts have made invaluable contributions to combatting impunity for the worst crimes, they are expensive, and slow.  There is little appetite amongst the donors for funding more such courts in the future.  But there are alternatives, such as providing international support for trials within national systems – as in Bosnia. A ‘mixed’ court along these lines is currently in development in DR Congo.

For justice to prevail, it is important not to lose sight of the bigger picture.  The President of the UN Human Rights Council has appointed an International Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights violations committed in Ivory Coast, identify those responsible, and bring them to justice.  If the Commission identifies perpetrators who have been loyal to President Ouattara, they must also be prosecuted. The International Community should support the Commission in its work, ensure it has the access it needs in Ivory Coast to conduct a thorough investigation, and follow up on its recommendations.

And justice is not limited to prosecutions. There have been President Outtara has promised to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Ivory Coast, which could be a useful complement to (but not a replacement for ) criminal prosecutions.  Where truth commissions have been most successful, there have been widespread popular consultations to determine their purpose, mandate and composition.  At best, truth commissions can contribute to building a peaceful society; at worst they can be a whitewash and leave the roots of the conflict unaddressed.

Finally,  a lesson we can learn from countries like Afghanistan and DRC is that failing to reform public institutions – and particularly the armed forces, police and judiciary – and remove those responsible for human rights violations from public service stores up more problems for later. Fair vetting processes, which remove human rights abusers, install discipline and civilian oversight can make a vital contribution to democracy-building.

Prosecutions alone can’t deliver justice; but combined with truth-seeking , vetting and reform of the public institutions and reparations for victims, they may be able to help address the root causes of the conflict and prevent its recurrence. The Commission of Inquiry is potentially a good start in this direction; engaging the Ivoriens, especially the marginalised, will be crucial in making any of these processes succeed.

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The European Union is increasingly involved in mediating peace deals around the world, and has strong commitments to international justice and human rights. Including justice provisions for the victims of a conflict in the peace agreement may make an important contribution to a durable peace. In this paper published by the Initiative forPeacebuilding, I analyse EU capacities for promoting justice for human rights violations in peacemaking, identify gaps and recommend ways to fill these gaps. I argue that a comprehensive EU approach to transitional justice would make the EU a more credible mediator, and should also improve the impact of post-conflict peace- and democracy-building interventions.

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