The Democratic Republic of Congo has for several decades been a country shaken regularly by different shocks; the global humanitarian and security context is greatly destabilized by the presence of armed groups and large population movements in the east of the country. These events are further exacerbated by growing political tensions and a declining economy.
In such a context, it is essential to foster prospects for peace, security and reconciliation in the long term through the rebuilding of trust both between communities and with their governments. Strengthening the skills and knowledge of communities and local authorities for conflict mitigation and management helps to prioritize and implement the most pressing development and security needs for citizens. The CISPE program is part of the overall stabilization framework articulated by MONUSCO (United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and the Congolese Government through STAREC (Governmental Program for Stabilization and Reconstruction of the Post armed Conflict Areas). By respecting and supporting international stabilization efforts, the CISPE encourages democratic dialogue, improved delivery of public services, and the trust of communities in key institutions.
VNG International, as a member of the consortium, draws on its expertise in supporting decentralization processes as a base for peacebuilding and reconciliation. One of the activities conducted by VNG International in North Kivu and Ituri is the participatory security diagnosis, which brings together provincial, territorial, chiefdoms and sectors, groups and civil society around the same table. Together, within the Security Committee, they lead participatory security diagnosis processes and develop local security action plans.
The beneficiaries of this work are both deconcentrated and decentralized administrations, but also communities. They all benefit from training that strengthens their ability to analyse security problems, allowing them to go beyond their assumptions and perceptions. The Chief of Walesse Vonkutu’s shared his impression following the participatory diagnosis: «You have an innovative method that allows everyone to identify threats and security problems, share and harmonize with others, and find compromises on priorities. It’s really a very good participatory method». The satisfaction and the appropriation of the direct and indirect participants are growing: the authorities have repeatedly expressed their willingness to duplicate the methodology in the provinces not covered by CISPE. The strongest political indicator here is the support given by the Provincial Assembly to the budget of the Provincial Ministry of the Interior, which will include the security diagnosis and the development of the local security plan. The deputy speaker of Assembly, Honourable Jeanine, said: «As a deputy, it was necessary to participate in training and practical security diagnosis. It’s really a capacity building that should have started at the beginning of our mandate».
The reason VNG International’s approach is growing in popularity is that it is based on the priority needs of local governance bodies. In addition, the whole process is focused on trust between stakeholders. A customary representative involved in the diagnosis confided to the VNG International team leader; «The strategy used to get information on the participants/support forces and the participants/opposition forces are very effective and 100% confidential. They allowed us to express ourselves without fear of reprisal». In a consistent and immediate manner, peacebuilding is integrated into local development programs as these respond to the priorities of land and resource conflicts and power struggles. The economic development of the CISPE zones is sensitive to conflicts and triggers factors. Women, agents of change, are also targeted for greater responsibility as participants in political life, but also to promote their accession to decision-making positions.
All community members are encouraged to contribute to this new form of governance that identifies the political and structural causes of conflict. With the population better educated about their role as citizens and local governments more receptive, the dialogue between state institutions and communities is restored. Once again, the direct testimonies of the participants attest to this observation: «Mr. Thierry, we must sincerely thank you for your coaching which allows us to acquire expertise that was not available within the political cabinet of the Provincial Ministry of Interior» declared an adviser to the provincial minister of Ituri after participating in the conduct of exchanges on the first practical diagnosis of security carried out in Irumu.
Although VNG International’s work in both provinces is unique, it is important to emphasise that joint effort with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), PAX and Cordaid are key to the success of the program. The approaches of each are complementary and the areas of intervention as well as the beneficiary groups combine for a sustainable approach. The increased effectiveness of the Congolese National Police thanks to the support of the IOM and the establishment of legal clinics by Cordaid are multiplying factors of impact. Activities common to the various implementing partners take place regularly, which ensures maximum cooperation between the local teams, and thus optimizes the sharing of information about the beneficiaries. Everyone’s actions are then more effective.
The day-to-day management of security and its planning by the local authorities have changed since the beginning of the implementation of the program in 2016. New dynamics of dialogue and pacification have been established thanks to the collaboration and the will of all stakeholders involved. Although uncertain, the security outlook for the two provinces of the CISPE program has been stabilized, and the risk of a blaze has been reduced. Ultimately, the full ownership of the participatory and transparent process of security diagnosis by the provincial and territorial authorities, as well as the effective implementation of local security plans, will offer them real levers of action for conflict mitigation and promotion of peace.
Caroline Herouan – Guy
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