Regional benchmarks in the Great Lakes

Joint NGO note to the International Contact Group on the Great Lakes Region and the Technical Support Committee on the regional benchmarks

During the past months, signatories to the Peace Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF) have made significant progress towards establishing national, regional and international benchmarks. This was recognised during the meeting of the Regional Oversight Mechanism (ROM) in New York on the 23rd September. During this meeting, efforts to develop and adopt national benchmarks were welcomed, regional benchmarks were adopted, and it was agreed to further refine international benchmarks. As international NGOs working in the DRC, we welcome and encourage this progress towards the commitments of the PSCF. However, we remain concerned about the transparency of the benchmark drafting process and space for consultation with civil society, especially at national and provincial levels within the DRC. We are also concerned that key institutions on national levels, such as national parliaments, have not been sufficiently consulted to ensure their buy-in.

To maximise the potential of the PSCF, long-term national, regional and international commitment to an inclusive and transparent process are necessary. We have previously raised concerns about the process around the drafting of agreement.[1] Prior to the September meeting we asked that the benchmarks spell out shared national and regional visions of peace and stability, clear steps on how to get there, and reflect the priorities of the Congolese people through systematic consultation with representative civil society groups.[2] We asked for delays and lack of commitment to be addressed and top-down approaches avoided. We also asked that the four guarantors of the framework, the UN, SADC, AU, and ICGLR, provide firm leadership to ensure that the benchmarks are met.

If the framework is to be effective and sustainable, it must include and be representative of the lived experiences of Congolese people and populations across the region, and connect to existing bottom-up peace initiatives undertaken by non-governmental actors.

As such, we ask that forthcoming meetings of International Contact Group and the Technical Support Committee of the Regional Oversight Mechanism ensure that these concerns are addressed and recommendations are integrated into the roadmap of the PSCF. We ask that good offices be used to ensure that the process is:

  • Inclusive: A clear role for representative national and regional civil society needs to be spelt out in the operationalization, prioritisation, implementation and monitoring of the commitments, including in activities at national, regional and international levels This is extremely complex, particularly in the DRC context, but getting it right is essential for the success of the PSCF and ensuring it works for populations most affected by the conflict. Technical experts, key national institutions, and representative groups from Congolese and Regional civil society should be identified and regularly consulted, and two way communication channels between them and the National and Regional Oversight Mechanisms systematised. The MONUSCO Task Force and the National Oversight Mechanism should serve as key structures for this.
  • Accountable and transparent: Realistic timelines need to be attached to the detailed plan of action, and checks made that national, regional and international benchmarks are aligned so that policies are interconnected. Donor Governments should promote a coordinated and joined up approach that allows all actors to be held to account in its operationalization, and strong communication mechanisms to report on progress and challenges. Donors should consider making funding of activities outlined in the benchmarks contingent on the fulfilment of commitments by the signatories of the PSCF. The role of the MONUSCO PSCF Task Force in coordinating between the UN System, the National Oversight Mechanism, the DRC Government, and regional and national partners needs to be clarified and communicated, and coordination and coherency between the MONUSCO’s military and political tracks needs to be guaranteed.
  • Gender Sensitive: Initiatives in the regional benchmarks to implement UNSC 1325 on women, peace and security are welcome. However, the different needs and concerns of men, women, boys and girls need to be mainstreamed through the benchmarks at all levels, particularly in reform of the army and police.
  • Strong long term political engagement and leadership from all stakeholders is essential: The guarantors of the PSCF should promote using existing platforms such as the ICGLR and the AU for confidence building, on-going broad consultation and transparent communication between all stakeholders. They need to ensure that all concerns are heard and addressed. Transparency, communication, coordinated leadership and commitment from these forums, the Contact Group, the National and Regional Oversight Mechanisms and the Technical Support Committee, are essential to if the potential of the PSCF is to be realised.

[1] Joint NGO note: 46 Congolese and international NGOs welcome Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, but call for further action to make peace a reality
[2] Joint NGO note: Milestones for peace: an on-going process