#16Days: Women leaders in the DRC weigh in on Peace, Security and Cooperation

DRC blog post
A delegation of the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) negotiate with Ituri militia groups on the disarmament of combatants and their integration in the government armed forces (FARDC). Photo credit: Martine Perret / United Nations.

Report Review: Women’s Leadership and Participation in the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes Region: Achievements, Challenges, and Opportunities by Niamh Reilly and Roslyn Warren. This was a report on a joint study done by the Centre for Global Women’s Studies, NUI Galway, and the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, Washington, DC. July 2014.

The growth of militarism is quite evident in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where armed groups and the government are locked in a perpetual state of war. Women and children are suffering the most as demonstrated by the countless cases of sexual violence and child soldiers. In hopes of ending systemic violence in the DRC, eleven African countries and four international organizations signed the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes Region (PSC Framework) on February 24, 2013.

The PSC Framework itself does not specifically focus on women; it outlines national, regional, and international commitments to help end violence in the DRC. However, the report reviews the first year of the ongoing implementation of the PSC Framework, while focusing on women and gender issues. It thoroughly analyzes the gains, obstacles, and future opportunities in each of the three fields. Part III of the report is worthy of a special note. It explores the views of key female leaders in the Congolese civil society regarding the national implementation of the three key PSC Framework commitment areas: Security Sector Reform, Consolidation of State Authority, and Economic and Social Development.

Thus far, the focus of the initiatives stemming from the Framework has mainly been on security sector reform (SSR) and consolidation of state authority. The respondents agreed that the focus on these priorities is well-placed. In regards to SSR, they believe that the most urgent aspect is striving to achieve well-functioning and responsible defence and police forces. This is emphasis is understandable since much of sexual violence against women is committed by state’s forces. Therefore, they believe that an appropriate amount of funds should be allocated for SSR in order to achieve effective security and defence sectors that will be able to regain the population’s trust. Furthermore, they emphasized the importance of the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation, resettlement and reintegration for establishing a more secure environment for women (and everyone else) and the importance of consistently applying existing national laws against sexual and gender-based violence. Lastly, the lack of women in the officer ranks and higher leadership positions was cited as a major obstacle to ensuring that SSR benefits women.

In regards to the consolidation of state authority, the participants viewed it as a multidimensional and comprehensive process. Consolidation must be done both within the country, by ensuring an effective public administration and a monopoly on the use of force, and outside it – by maintaining good relations with the neighbouring countries. The women expressed concern that current consolidation efforts of state’s authority do not properly take into account the needs of women and exclude them from the decision-making process. Furthermore, they are concerned that cases of sexual violence are not properly dealt with, and perpetrators go unpunished.

Lastly, in regards to building sustainable development and peace, the women agreed that economic development is essential for peace and vice versa. Unfortunately, they are left skeptical of the government’s commitment to these issues. Indeed, one participant stated that many Congolese people believe that “state authorities want the country’s conditions to remain chaotic and insecure [in order] to remain in power … [and] to gain more money.” Thus it comes as no surprise that none of the leaders were aware of any concrete development initiatives on the ground that arose from the national implementation of the PSC Framework. Considering that the high unemployment often leads to criminal activity, homelessness, and juvenile delinquency (all of which contribute to insecurity), it is surprising that the DRC government ranks economic and social development last in a list of six priority areas in the national implementation of the PSC Framework.

In conclusion, the report demonstrates that women leaders from civil society should be included in the decision-making process as they definitely have a unique perspective on the initiatives undertaken and their impact on women.


Margaryta Yakovenko is a recent graduate from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. She specializes in peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and security sector reform. She is currently interning with Women, Peace and Security Network – Canada.

Time to Act: Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo: What Should Canada Do?

A Congolese woman at the Bompata Encampment, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Photo credit: Marie Frechon/United Nations.

A Congolese woman at the Bompata Encampment, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Photo credit: Marie Frechon/United Nations.

Last month, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development released a report by its Subcommittee on Human Rights: A Weapon of War: Rape and Sexual Violence Against Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo – Canada’s Role in Taking Action and Ending Impunity.

The report reviews testimony heard by the Subcommittee over the last few years on conflict-related sexual violence – in general and in the DRC. It includes 12 recommendations, many of which address issues of interest to WPSN-C members. The report also requests that the Government table a “comprehensive response” to the report. This is something to watch for!

The report examines causes and consequences of sexual violence as a weapon of war, following natural disasters and in other crisis situations. The Subcommittee heard that there are various underlying factors that contribute to “shaping an environment in which sexual violence can occur, including entrenched discriminatory practices and attitudes, weak rule of law, poverty and lack of economic opportunity, and a climate of impunity for perpetrators.”

The report notes that a number of key factors contribute specifically to the prevalence of sexual violence in the DRC:

  • Widespread discrimination against women in Congolese law and society;

  • Weak rule of law and a critically under-resourced justice sector that lacks capacity, independence and impartiality, leading to pervasive impunity;

  • An ineffective, ill-disciplined security sector that is not subject to effective civilian control; and,

  • Competition among armed groups and individuals for control of natural resource revenues in a region affected by widespread poverty and lack of economic opportunity.

The Subcommittee made 12 recommendations to the Government of Canada. Some relate to Canada’s relationship with DRC and others to the issue of conflict-related sexual violence more generally.

Continue reading “Time to Act: Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo: What Should Canada Do?”

Time to Act: New blog series highlights issues of SGBV around the world

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Next week’s Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict faces a formidable challenge – to not only inspire commitments to end sexual violence in conflict, but to elicit concrete actions to resolve this insidious and enduring issue.

As the Summit approaches, Women, Peace and Security Network – Canada members
will examine issues of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), and efforts to combat it, on our blog. For the next 8 days, posts will highlight the situation in fragile, conflict-affected and post-conflict states, including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Syria and Zimbabwe. We’re drawing on the expertise and interests of our members to increase awareness and discussion in advance of the Global Summit.

Once the Summit starts, we’ll turn our attention to the proceedings, then wrap-up shortly after its conclusion.

Want to contribute? Please visit our Facebook page or Twitter feed to join the conversation, and use the hashtags #TimeToAct or #CanadasCommitment.

Event: Seeds of Hope Premiere & Panel Discussion

Seeds of Hope Poster

The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict is less than a month away, which means the Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict is kicking into high gear and planning several events!

One of these is the upcoming premiere of Seeds of Hope by award-winning BBC/Al Jazeera filmmaker Fiona Lloyd-Davies. On May 28, the film will be screened at the Mayfair Theatre (1074 Bank St.) in Ottawa at 6:30pm and followed by a panel discussion on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

Seeds of Hope is feature-length documentary that explores how one woman shines a beacon of hope for survivors of rape in the war-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Masika Katsuva, herself a survivor, has built a centre providing medical, practical and psychological support which has helped over 6,000 women and children. Together, they cultivate crops of maize and beans, and share their experiences, to heal and rebuild their lives and to plant their seeds of hope.

The film will be followed by a panel discussion with filmmaker Fiona Lloyd-Davies, Senator Mobina Jaffer and Nobel Women’s Initiative Executive Director Liz Bernstein, and will be moderated by CBC’s Lucy van Oldenbarneveld.

Please join us for this free event!

More details are available on Facebook.

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The evening is presented by the British High Commission in Ottawa and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict ahead of the UK’s Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict from June 10-13, 2014.

 

Film: War on Women

UN Photo - Survivors of sexual violence in DRC - by Marie Frechon

Women in a shelter for survivors of sexual violence in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo credit: Marie Frechon/United Nations.

War on Women” is a powerful, 15-minute film by award-winning filmmaker Dearbhla Glynn. Featuring testimonies from sexual violence survivors and perpetrators, as well as insights from analysts and activists, the film explores the impact of sexual violence and the culture of impunity that allows this violence to continue in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It also offers insights into how this situation might change.

The film was produced by the Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), a UN-supported news agency devoted to humanitarian news and analysis. Based in Kenya, IRIN produces content in 6 languages, serves 82 countries and has won several awards for its coverage of health issues and climate change.

Unfortunately, the UN will cease funding IRIN in December 2014 and its future is in doubt. For more information, please see IRIN’s website or the petition to maintain the agency’s funding.