The Civil Affairs Section plays a crucial role within MONUSCO in engaging different stakeholders at the local and sub-national levels on issues pertaining to the Protection of Civilians (PoC), and serves as an effective interface between the wider Mission and the Congolese population and authorities.
Civil Affairs seeks to strengthen community –level engagement and early warning, engages and promotes community reconciliation, including dialogue and mediation in support of PoC. In addition, Civil Affairs supports efforts to strengthen local participative security governance, and seeks to mitigate the risk of election- related violence through targeted engagement with civil society and supporting their role and capacities to mobilize support for dialogue and a peaceful electoral process. Efforts are coordinated within MONUSCO, international and local organizations, and with national authorities and the civilian population for enhanced national ownership
Civil Affairs is composed of 250 staff deployed across 10 field locations and Kinshasa. The majority of staff is deployed at the local level assisting in responding to the evolving protection challenges. Hence, the Section plays a key role in supporting the Mission’s protection mandate due to its proximity to local realities and dynamics.
Based on the priorities for the Mission outlined in the Resolutions 2348 and 2277, Civil Affairs focuses on the following main strategic priorities:
- Protection of Civilians: Civil Affairs supports the Mission comprehensive approach to PoC and focuses on a preventive approach to protection that is supported or driven by political advocacy seeking political solutions, recognizing the primacy of politics with the engagement of key leader at all levels. This includes support to MONUSCO’s new concept protection through projection (ptp). Emphasis is placed on community engagement and support to local conflict prevention efforts, including inclusive dialogue and mediation efforts, to mitigate priority conflicts involving violence or the risk of violence, and on the strengthening of local mechanisms for dialogue and mediation. An enhanced emphasis is placed on strengthening community-based PoC mechanisms to advance resilience, early warning and local participatory security governance.
Civil Affairs adopts and inclusive approach to PoC, coupled with a conflict sensitive approach and is guided by the principles of do no harm and local ownership. The Section jointly with other MONUSCO components has developed and maintains an array of tools to respond to key protection needs in its area of operation, including the Community Liaison Assistants (CLA) and the Community Alert Network (CAN):
Community Liaison Assistants (CLA): Civil Affairs currently manages 180 CLAs, most of whom are deployed amongst MONUSCO military bases at the local level concentrated in the east of the country and in the Kasais. CLAs are national staff familiar with the local conflict dynamics. They serve as an interface between the Mission, including between MONUSCO’s Military and the Congolese population and local authorities at field level and play a key role in efforts to engage with local communities and other key actors. They assist in responding to evolving protection challenges. Their deployment provides the Mission’s civil and military components with first-hand information from remote areas to better understand local communities and dynamics at field level and assist in responding to the evolving protection and security situation.
Community Alert Network (CAN): CAN enables communities primarily in areas where MONUSCO is present to transmit, using specially assigned phone numbers, protection alerts or incidents to MONUSCO to prevent, mitigate or stop imminent threats to their communities. Following the reception of a CAN alert, MONUSCO triangulates the information and addresses verified alerts, or refers them to relevant local actors, particularly in areas where MONUSCO is not present. In view of the reduction of the MONUSCO military footprint, CA increasingly engages with local actors and mechanisms on early warning in support of the ptp model.
- Implementation of 31 December 2016 Agreement: As part of efforts to create an environment conducive to the holding of peaceful electoral process, CA contributes to the Mission’s efforts in supporting the implementation of the 31 December 2016 Agreement. Civil Affairs works to empower civil society actors at the local level in their role in dialogue and mediation conducive to peaceful elections. Civil Affairs supports sensitization campaigns for civil society and local communities, in particular for the youth and women in identified hotspots and priority zones, on best practices for peaceful elections, tolerance and on civil society’s role in mitigating violence.
JOINT PROJECT WITH UNDP AND HHI ON THE PERCEPTION ON SECURITY AND JUSTICE:
Since 2014, quarterly polls capturing the perception of the local population on security and justice are conducted in three provinces in Eastern DRC as part of the Data Collection Project on Peace Consolidation and Reconstruction. The project implemented through a partnership between UNDP, Civil Affairs and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) with participation of local universities including: Université Libre des Pays des Grands Lacs, Université Catholique de Bukavu and Université de Bunia.
Data collected through the polls allows amongst others to identify trends in how the population perceives the security situation and role of the security actors in targeted areas. For example, the results of the 11th poll conducted in July 2017 indicate that, overall, the perception of security in the Eastern DRC is at the lowest level in two years. The polls provide valuable information for planning, programming and decision making for national and international actors. Poll results and analysis are available on the peacebuildingdata.org website.
Civil Affairs collaborates with the Government at different levels with the Ministry of Interior and Security as well as the Ministry of Decentralization and Customary Affairs as its key partners. Civil Affairs also works closely with civil society at all levels (networks, platforms, and at the grassroots) in supporting civil society in mitigating violence and mobilizing for dialogue and a peaceful electoral process. In addition, the Section engages with the UNCT and local and international organizations in support to their humanitarian and peacebuilding efforts. OCHA and UNHCR are key humanitarian partners, and UNDP is a strategic partner for the implementation of the joint project on the perception on security and justice.