For over two decades, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has faced a series of armed conflicts, resulting in millions of civilian casualties, large-scale displacement, and humanitarian crises. The 2018 election of President Felix Tshisekedi resulted in the country’s first peaceful transition of power. Despite this positive development, the situation remains gravely concerning, particularly in the country’s eastern provinces. Today, more than one hundred armed groups continue to operate in eastern DRC. Civilians continue to be subjected to high rates of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, and millions of Congolese are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
The current UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC (known by its French acronym MONUSCO) was initially deployed in 1999. For almost the entire lifespan of the Mission, the UN Security Council has tasked MONUSCO to protect civilians from physical violence. As the longest running UN mission tasked with POC, MONUSCO has been a leader in the development of innovative protection practices, but has also failed to intervene during major attacks on civilians. In recent years, MONUSCO’s ability to implement its POC mandate has been constrained by efforts to drawdown and eventually withdraw the Mission from the country. As a result of these efforts, the Mission’s budget, number of troops, and presence in DRC have been reduced, despite the high-level of ongoing threats against civilians.
CIVIC is currently monitoring MONUSCO’s civilian protection efforts in the context of the Mission’s drawdown and eventual withdrawal from the DRC, including through analysis of the Mission’s early warning and rapid response (EW/RR) mechanisms and the Mission’s efforts to coordinate protection responsibilities with national authorities, humanitarians, and civil society.
In 2022, CIVIC will continue to focus its efforts to strengthen the ability of MONUSCO to protect civilians in the following three areas:
- UN peacekeeping missions continue to prioritize the protection of civilians during mission transition and drawdown;
- Protection of civilians early warning and rapid response systems are strengthened in UN peacekeeping operations; and
- UN peacekeeping missions mitigate the risks to civilians that could result from their own presence, activities, and operations (a practice called civilian harm mitigation).
In addition, CIVIC ensures that the following issues are integrated in all our UN peacekeeping-related activities:
- The protection of civilians remains a priority for UN peacekeeping missions;
- Peacekeeping performance is strengthened by ensuring that mandates are matched with adequate means and resources.
- Communities at risk of violence are safely and effectively engaged in mission planning and activities to protect civilians;
- Peacekeeping missions integrate a gender-sensitive approach to the implementation of protection of civilians mandates;
- Mission planning and decision-making is linked to assessments of threats to civilians; and
- Accountability systems for underperformance are improved.
CIVIC has been undertaking independent research, analysis, and advocacy to support and strengthen MONUSCO’s efforts to protect civilians in the DRC since 2016.
Examples of CIVIC’s research and analysis in DRC include:
- How Ugandan and Congolese Troops Are Conducting Joint Operations and what that could mean for MONUSCO
- MONUSCO’s implementation of the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy (HRDDP)and the Mission’s collaboration with national security forces
- How MONUSCO has incorporated gender into its conflict analysis and prioritized efforts to protect civilians from conflict-related sexual violence
- Developments in the Mission’s budget, presence, and mobility over recent years and the future of MONUSCO
- MONUSCO’s efforts to protect civilians with a smaller footprint and reduced resources through the “Protection through Projection” strategy
- The cycle of information-collection, storage, analysis, planning, and decision-making in MONUSCO
- Steps MONUSCO has taken to mitigate harm to civilians, including harm that could result from the Mission’s presence, activities, and operations