MONUSCO CVR, a Strategic Paradigm Shift: from traditional to 2nd Generation DDR

For over a decade, United Nations peacekeeping operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have featured activities targeting the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration of ex-combatants and related activities. The impact of these activities has witnessed MONUSCO via its Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement (DDR/RR) Division to achieve the demobilization of some 124,965 combatants since its inception. Recently however, the operational context in the DRC has witnessed a paradigm shift in the typology of armed conflict across the country, the nature of the actors who are its perpetrators and the modalities under which armed violence is applied. Analogous to this change and incumbent upon MONUSCO, is the responsibility to adapt and keep pace with the evolving ground reality, towards fulfilling its protection of civilians and stabilization mandate. In response, MONUSCO is applying a new 2nd generation DDR Strategy termed Community Violence Reduction (CVR), featuring a community-based approach to reducing the high levels of violence within DRC communities and an end goal of obtaining a corresponding increase in security and stability.

A Changing Operational Context

At present, the working context in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is characterized by high permeation of violence against unarmed civilians by non-traditional and undisciplined armed elements or criminal gangs populated by marginalized groups and operating at the subnational level. The conditions for traditional disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) are largely weak, exhausted or non-existent in many regions across the country. The vast majority of armed violence perpetrators be they individuals or groupings, often have varying motivations and agendas for violence, and state institutions (particularly state security sector) are weak and frequently unable to respond to the threat they pose. The consequence is localized protracted conflicts eroding or otherwise destroying social, political, and economic infrastructure, containing significant numbers of child combatants, and leading to significant population displacements. This increasingly complex setting requires new, dynamic and adaptive model of context specific, targeted actions towards staving off the institutionalizing of violence and the creation of a space for civilian protection via interim stabilization measures.

CVR Strategy

MONUSCO via its DDR/RR Division is prioritizing the protection of civilians via implementation of a 2nd generation DDR strategy using a Community Violence Reduction (CVR) approach. Seeking a decline in high levels of localized violence perpetrated by sub-national actors and a corresponding increase in security and stability, the CVR approach necessitates a paradigm shift away from past strategy focused primarily on military structures, personnel and entities, towards a community based response that addresses the variables favoring recourse to violence and crime.

Working in compliment to and reinforcing national government DDR efforts, CVR and in recognition of the need to revitalize approaches to reducing the prevalence of armed conflict actors throughout the country, the CVR approach involves reviewing the typology of the various violent actors across the country through a new lens. More specifically for DDR/RR, this necessitates differentiating veritable foreign and national armed groups operating throughout the Eastern DRC from the undisciplined, non-traditional armed “defense” elements undergoing a deterioration into criminal enterprises, lawlessness and banditry.

2nd Generation DDR – CVR Overarching Principles

CVR is community mobilization, engagement and participation driven and determined. It holds at its core the neutralization of armed groups via the erosion of their membership, the provision of a protective layer against recruitment, and the building of social cohesion and accountability within communities while reinforcing internal capacity to address the marginalization that often results in recourse to armed violence.

CVR entails clear identification of armed actors (i.e. ex-combatant, armed group or gang member); and community needs, interests, agendas, resources and capacities along with dialogue promotion. The core intent being to augment civilian protective factors and contribute to creating conditions favorable to long term stability, the encouraging of social coherence within communities most susceptible to violence and the installing of durable peace by serving as a stabilizing bridge between crisis response to long-term development.

CVR operates in tandem and serves in complement to, ongoing mission support to National DDR program (PNDDR) activities via a priority focus on community reinsertion of armed group members between the demobilization and reintegration phases of the national program.

CVR is evidence-based, endowed with the capacity to quickly adapt to new developments, and will require multicomponent joint engagement from MONUSCO components in tandem with UN sister agencies and INGO’s along with bilateral support.

CVR applies creative crosscutting partnership development both internal and external to the

United Nations family. This is key towards maximizing the potential breadth and depth of ground level impact and long-term sustainability within the mission’s long-term transition planning.

Parameters for CVR Project Selection

CVR Projects seek to have a multiplier effect as regards:

  • Fostering community dialogue amongst local and national actors along with the perpetrators of violence to collectively mitigate armed conflict.
  • Clear identification of armed actor and community priority needs, interests, agendas and capacities.
  • Building social cohesion and accountability mechanisms.
  • Serving as a gap/filler between the demobilization and reintegration phases of traditional DDR.
  • Empowering communities to dismantle or otherwise erode armed/criminal group membership/participation given that these owe their creation to community expressed need for self-defense forces.

Project Selection Priorities:

  • The erosion of sub national armed groups.
  • Serve as entry points for UNCT and other long-term development actors;
  • Open access to conflict areas where other actors refuse or cannot go;
  • Provision of alternatives to violence-based livelihoods;
  • Facilitate economic and psychosocial reintegration into civilian life of at-risk youth and ex-combatants;
  • Focused on capacity building of community based organizations applying a phased support strategy corresponding with evolving organizational skills abilities;
  • Provision of stop-gap support of ex-combatants waiting reintegration in close cooperation with the national DDR program (UE-PNDDR III) and its implementing partners;
  • Targeting marginalized groups most susceptible to recruitment (i.e. youth at risk) and discouraging their voluntary membership into armed groups and gangs and engaging in criminal violence;  
  • Inclusive of concrete and financially measurable local contribution to the project (be it financial, labor, in kind donation or other) as illustration of full local engagement in the initiative;
  • Serving to address disarmament and the irregular flow of weapons, projects to reduce access of armed groups to weapons and ammunition;
  • Prioritizes female access to economic opportunity (30% minimum target of female participation in all projects);  Incorporation of psychosocial support component standard to all projects.