By Daniel Levine-Spound and Samuli Harju
The UN Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the world body’s peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo during discussions later this month in New York.
But as the mission – known by its French acronym MONUSCO – makes plans to draw down and eventually exit the country, discussions on its future must be informed by the needs of Congolese civilians and civil society groups on the ground.
The Security Council’s upcoming discussions – which include a separate briefing today on MONUSCO and the broader situation in Congo – will be informed by a newly released transition plan that maps out the mission’s phased withdrawal from Congo.
Developed by the mission and the Congolese government, the plan includes detailed benchmarks designed to ensure the drawdown is contingent on improvements in the security situation, and on the capacity of the state to properly protect civilians.
The effort to link the mission’s drawdown to concrete benchmarks on security and the protection of civilians is a positive step. Past research that we have conducted at the Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) has similarly highlighted the importance of ensuring that changes in the mission’s posture, such as base closures, are based on concrete analyses of protection threats.
But achieving the 18 benchmarks and associated indicators detailed in the transition plan would mean a radically different future for civilians in eastern Congo. And in the context of widespread armed group violence and political instability, such a future feels a long way off.
The UN and the peacekeeping enterprise are also largely state-driven endeavours, subject to political dynamics around Security Council negotiations that risk excluding Congolese voices, without whom the transition process cannot succeed.
A lot is at stake: A botched transition could further destabilise the region, where communities already contend with weak or non-existent government institutions and frequent human rights violations by state and non-state forces alike.