For women’s full participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding

An initiative from Kvinna till Kvinna

Increased violence in DR Congo threatens civil society

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A UN tank makes it way through the streets of Bukavu in South Kivu. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Mufariji Assy.

A UN tank makes it way through the streets of Bukavu in South Kivu. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Mufariji Assy.

Recent months have seen an increase in fighting between different militia groups and the national army in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North and South Kivu provinces. The situation is now so bad that it seriously affects civil society organisations ability to carry out their work.  

”We are deeply worried, both for the safety of our partner organisations and for all civilians who are subjected to this violence” says Ylwa Renström, Coordinator for DR Congo at the Swedish women’s rights and peace organisation The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation

In February this year, 11 African countries signed an agreement called the Framework of Hope for peace and security in DR Congo and the region.

The following month the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2098, in which it for the first time gave a brigade within a UN peace keeping mission (MONUSCO, DR Congo) the task of carrying out offensive operations – on its own or together with the Congolese army. The resolution also gave the newly appointed Special Envoy for the Great Lakes, Mary Robinson, the task of helping the parties in the framework to deliver on their commitments. Within her mission is a special mandate to focus on women’s empowerment and regional economic integration.

Framework without women

Mary Robinson has highlighted the crucial importance of women and women’s rights organisations being a big part of the peace work. However, the framework itself hardly mentions women – apart from stating that it’s important that ”women’s groups” know the details of the agreement. And so far, neither the framework nor the resolution have lead to any big improvements in the situation for people living in the conflict-ridden North and South Kivu.

Besides from fights constantly flaring up, UNHCR in the end of July reported an alarming rise in sexual violence in North Kivu, with a registered 705 cases January-July, compared to 108 cases during the same period last year. At the same time tens of thousands of civilians have been forced to leave their homes, fleeing the armed violence. There are several militia groups that are active in the provinces and they are fighting amongst each other as well as with the Congolese army.

Severe threats against activists

Civil society organisations operating in the Kivu regions, are used to working under difficult conditions security-wise. However, it has gone from difficult, to worse, to really dangerous.

”Earlier our partner organisations talked about, for example, getting stopped in road blocks but being able to talk their way through. Now there are times when they don’t even dare to go out. There have been several severe threats against human rights activists and many are very afraid” says Katarina Carlberg, Kvinna till Kvinna’s Field Representative in DR Congo.

”It’s crucial that the Congolese government, as well as the international community, focus on the protection of civilians and to achieve a stable security situation. This is also in MONUSCO’s mandate.”

Malin Ekerstedt

NATO appoints Special Representative for UNSCR 1325

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A lot of men, and not so many women, met to discuss Afghanistan at the NATO Summit in Chicago. Photo: NATO.

NATO will appoint a Special Representative ”for mainstreaming UNSCR 1325 and related Resolutions into its operations and missions”. This was decided on the Alliance’s recent summit held in Chicago, USA. NATO also stated the importance of ”the full participation of all Afghan women in the reconstruction, political, peace and reconciliation processes in Afghanistan” and that this opinion is shared by the Afghan government.

The declaration released at the end of the summit, points out that the continued under-representation of women in peace processes, together with the widespread acts of sexual and gender-based violence, are severe impediments to building sustainable peace. NATO reaffirmed its commitment to UNSCR 1325 and related Resolutions, but also claimed that they ”in line with the NATO/Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) Policy (…) has made significant progress in implementing the goals articulated in these Resolutions”.

Besides from appointing a Special Representative, whom the member country Norway offered to provide, the Alliance also endorsed a Strategic Progress Report outlining NATO’s implementation of UNSCR 1325 to date and required the North Atlantic Council to provide a report on the status of implementation prior to the next NATO Summit.

The international development organization Gender Concerns International, GCI, welcomed the statements from the declaration, but raised concern over whether the words would translate into actual benefits for, for example, the women of Afghanistan, since it nowhere was mentioned how much of the budget, of 4,1 billion USD for the Afghan National Security Force, that would be allocated to recruit and train women.

GCI also stated that: ”The false notion that peace and security has little to do with women is exacerbated by the fact that while heads of state discussed issues which have a disproportionate affect on the lives of women in Afghanistan, Afghan women themselves were relegated to raising concerns at a shadow summit also held in Chicago”.