What next for UNSCR 1325 in DRC?

International Alert recently assisted the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in gathering opinions and recommendations from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for the Swedish national action plan (NAP) on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on women, peace and security.

The consultation, held in Goma on 20 May 2015, was the second in a series of field consultations being held by the Swedish government with relevant actors in five conflict and post-conflict countries. The main objective of these consultations is to gather new perspectives on what needs to be done in order to further implement UNSCR 1325, and to assess how Sweden can make a meaningful contribution to this.

Together with a report from Swedish civil society actors and an independent evaluation of the current Swedish NAP, these field consultations will feed into the drafting process of Sweden’s third NAP, which will come into force in January 2016.

The consultations took the form of in-depth discussions with key actors in North and South Kivu provinces in DRC. Representatives of the government, the provincial parliament, the security sector, local and international NGOs as well as the UN were brought together in small groups in order to enable the most fruitful and relevant debates.

Discussions focused on the three main pillars of UNSCR 1325: participation, protection and prevention. Participants discussed the key priorities, challenges and opportunities for each pillar, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of DRC's own NAP, based on the participants' knowledge and experiences of the realities on the ground.

Recommendations for the NAP

A number of specific recommendations and opportunities emerged from the consultations. Women’s political participation and increased role in decision-making was highlighted, and a diverse number of propositions made to further them more effectively. These included increasing the accountability of political actors for their actions and policies, revising discriminatory legislative texts such as the familial code and electoral law, and furthering women's political performance by organising capacity-building programmes on leadership and political engagement.

Women’s economic empowerment was also identified as a key priority. Participants stressed the importance of taking into account the specific challenges women are facing as a result of violent conflict when designing policies and activities. For instance, taking into consideration the psychological toll that conflict has had on women and helping them overcome their trauma is vital. Security sector reform was noted as another priority and a large number of recommendations were proposed. The wilful ignorance of UNSCR 1325 by the army and police presents a major obstacle to women’s protection and security in DRC. And the dominant norms of masculinity among those in politics, the police and army were identified as a significant impediment to their engagement on issues of gender. Training on UNSCR 1325, gender and especially on positive masculinity were cited as possible solutions.

Gender-based violence was noted as another priority in the consultations. The widespread lack of knowledge on women’s legal protection has meant that perpetrators and survivors are not aware of the unlawfulness of physical, psychological or sexual violence. In some places, for instance, conjugal violence, sexual harassment and early marriage are not considered human rights violations. Encouraging the application of laws and successfully lobbying for perpetrators to be prosecuted were cited among the recommendations.

Challenges facing DRC's NAP

During the consultations, participants also analysed the challenges facing the effective implementation of DRC's own NAP, which was adopted in 2010. A wide range of challenges were identified, including the lack of coordination, resources and political will.

In 2013, the minister of gender announced the official institution of local, provincial and national steering committees to implement UNSCR 1325. Today, only two out of 11 provinces (Katanga and South Kivu) have installed a committee at the provincial level. The lack of political will, technical know-how and financing represent the main reasons for the delay in setting up the various committees. Moreover, the ministry of gender lacks support, especially in its decentralised entities. Public officials often lack the tools and necessary assistance to work more effectively.

Last but not least, the absence of an international accountability mechanism charged with monitoring the implementation of UNSCR 1325 presents a significant obstacle to the effective application of the resolution. A similar system to the committee in charge of monitoring the application of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) would make DRC more accountable and transparent regarding its implementation of UNSCR 1325. The state should regularly indicate how it applies the recommendations of the resolution.

International Alert organised the consultations as part of our four-year project funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), 'Tushiriki wote' (meaning 'let's all participate'). As part of the project, Alert and its international partners are supporting an alliance of more than 50 local organisations running an advocacy campaign entitled ‘Rien Sans les Femmes’ (‘nothing without women’). You can find out more about the campaign and 'Tushiriki wote' here and find out more about Alert’s work on gender and peacebuilding here.

Photo © Swedish embassy, DRC