The Socio-political Situation
Since the 2002 peace accords between DRC and Rwanda, DRC has made considerable progress. Relations with neighbouring countries in the Great Lakes region have improved. State institutions have progressively been established, and important constitutional and economic reforms have taken place. Improvements are slowly being made to road networks and schools. Three out of four children are attending school, up from 52 per cent in 2001. Although still comparatively high, the number of children who do not reach age 5 has reduced from 213 to 158 out of 1,000 children. The November 2011 national elections for the presidency and the national assembly are the first to be organized and financed mainly by the Congolese Government.
Although DRC has made strides as a sovereign State in the past decade, structures and institutions still need considerable strengthening. Disarmament of hostile armed groups is incomplete and security-sector reform has been slow. Foreign and domestic armed groups and national armed forces continue to prey on civilians in large areas of the country. Decades of poor governance combined with armed conflict have eroded State authority. In many remote areas of the country, State presence continues to be weak or non-existent, including in the critical areas of judicial, administrative and social services. The failure to protect civilians and include all ethnic groups in decision-making processes continues to prompt localized conflicts and displacement. The country’s infrastructure has suffered from decades of neglect and underinvestment, rendering movement of people and goods in the country difficult and costly. These factors discourage production, particularly in the agricultural sector, on which the majority of Congolese depend for food security. The country’s vast mineral wealth is inefficiently and often illegally exploited, and the business climate remains unfriendly to foreign and domestic entrepreneurs. In 2011, DRC ranked last among the 183 countries on UNDP’s Human Development Index. In 2010 it was 179 out of 183 on the World Bank’s Doing Business Index.
In 1999, the UN Security Council passed resolution 1279, which created the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC). MONUC was mandated to support a peace process to end Africa’s most extensive pan-continental conflict to date, and to restore national unity in DRC. The mission was to help the Congolese establish a legitimate State through national elections, which finally took place in 2006. In 2010, the Security Council, through resolution 1925, renamed the peacekeeping mission the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), with a mandate focused on protection of civilians, stabilization and peace consolidation. The mission was authorized to concentrate its military forces in eastern DRC, including a reserve force capable of redeploying rapidly elsewhere as needed. The Security Council decided that future reconfigurations of MONUSCO would be determined as the situation on the ground evolved, including in relation to the completion of ongoing military operations in the North Kivu, South Kivu and Orientale Provinces; improved Government capacity to protect the population; and the consolidation of State authority throughout the territory.
The reconfiguration of the national army (FARDC) along the eastern border has created a vacuum in which armed groups have been able, at least temporarily, to reassert themselves. The groups are exploiting and preying on civilian communities, resulting in heightening insecurity, new displacements and additional humanitarian needs. Communities remain at risk of further sporadic conflict and displacement. Significant humanitarian needs can be expected in a challenging operational context for the short and medium term.
The Humanitarian Situation
The humanitarian crisis in DRC is among the world’s most complex and protracted emergencies. In recent years, improvements have been made, particularly along main axes in the Kivus. Acute complex emergencies continue in the conflict-affected provinces of North and South Kivu, Orientale and Equateur, with large-scale humanitarian needs, particularly for the 1.5 million people displaced and their host communities. In non-conflict areas, main humanitarian concerns include food insecurity and frequent disease outbreaks, including recent epidemics of polio (October 2010), measles (April 2011) and cholera (June 2011). Recurrent expulsions of Congolese people from Angola also have significant protection and humanitarian implications.
During the first half of 2011, the humanitarian situation deteriorated in districts affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), namely Haut and Bas Uélé of Province Orientale. The humanitarian response has been limited due to a combination of factors including high insecurity, limited State presence and difficult terrain. In the Kivus, armed-group activity intensified during the first half of 2011. This resulted in more attacks on civilians, including sexual violence. The conflict in the Kivus is also increasingly spilling over to the neighbouring provinces of Maniema and Katanga, largely as a result of the reconfiguration of the Congolese Army.
The number of security incidents affecting humanitarian actors increased between 2008 and 2010. There was a slight decrease in the number of incidents during 2011, but attacks are becoming more targeted and brutal. September and October 2011 were particularly violent, with two hostage situations and five humanitarian workers killed. In Province Orientale, the lack of road infrastructure over vast areas, together with threats posed by unpredictable movements of small LRA groups, make access to the remote districts of Haut and Bas Uélé challenging. Humanitarian space is also constrained by administrative obstacles for NGOs imposed by authorities at the capital and provincial level.
Many of the root causes of the humanitarian crises in DRC are regional in nature and have cross-border implications. Some 420,000 Congolese live in neighbouring countries, while DRC hosts 160,000 refugees, mainly from Angola, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. The recurrence of natural disasters, such as floods and landslides, and the threat of new volcanic eruptions and earthquakes in the east, are among key humanitarian contingencies.
The Humanitarian Strategy and Response
The humanitarian machinery in DRC is large and well established. It operates in tandem with peacekeeping, stabilization, reconstruction, peaceconsolidation, peacebuilding and development efforts. Under the HC’s leadership, hundreds of humanitarian organizations work together to deliver assistance and protection. They include UN agencies and programmes, ICRC, IFRC, IOM, 120 international NGOs, 475 national non-profit organizations and 20 donor governments. The humanitarian community works in partnership with 25 Government ministries and services at national and provincial levels. The HC is also the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for MONUSCO. It is the UN’s largest peacekeeping mission, with an annual budget of $1.4 billion, roughly twice that of the humanitarian appeal. Resources allocated to humanitarian activities in DRC captured by the UN Financial Tracking System for the past 10 years total over $4.2 billion. This peaked in 2009 when nearly $700 million was received.
The 2011 Humanitarian Action Plan (HAP) outlines humanitarian needs estimated at $721 million. The HAP provides the basis for the humanitarian community strategy in DRC. However, the full extent of the country’s humanitarian needs remains unknown due to difficult and costly access constraints to many remote areas, such as Walikale, Shabunda, Minembwe heights and Ango. This reality resulted in a downward revision to the 2011 humanitarian requirements, as only funds for activities that could realistically be implemented within the current access and capacity constraints were requested in the appeal.
The strategic objectives of humanitarian partners in DRC are as follows:
1) Ensure greater protection to vulnerable civilians.
2) Reduce morbidity and mortality.
3) Improve the living conditions of people and communities affected by the crises.
4) Restore the livelihoods of affected communities, based on vulnerability criteria and through complementarity with other coordination structures.
The Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) is DRC’s central forum for strategic discussions on principled and standardized humanitarian policy and decision-making. The HCT agenda is shaped by inter-cluster issues at the national and provincial level, as well as by priorities defined at the international level through ECHA, such as improved access and greater complementarity between humanitarian and stabilization programming. The HCT will continue to lead preparation of the HAP annual-planning process. Through this, process attention will be given to improving needs assessments, effective distribution of resources, and strengthened monitoring and evaluation of humanitarian activities and impact.
The HCT has agreed that humanitarian assistance in DRC should be based on vulnerability, rather than on status (refugee, IDP). Other HCT priorities include strengthening clusters, reinforcing humanitarian assistance in conflicts zones, and establishing an emergency support roster with clear standard operating procedures to respond to new emergencies. Within the HCT and cluster system, the humanitarian community will continue working together to strengthen and adjust coordination structures, with the objective of reaching more people in need and better protecting civilians. Stronger and proactive analysis will aim to raise and manage the funds needed to do this.
Given current trends, including uncertainty around the upcoming elections, the most-likely scenario is that the humanitarian situation will remain serious throughout much of the next two years, particularly in eastern DRC. Domestic and regional actors will continue to fuel ongoing and new crises. The various crises will share the underlying reality of widespread poverty, chronic instability, and targeting of civilians by armed groups, including Congolese armed forces.
Underlying poverty, coupled with weak State capacity and insufficient investments in basic services, will continue to expose vulnerable communities to disease outbreaks and epidemics, high rates of malnutrition, and child and maternal mortality. Exposure to natural disaster threats, particularly floods and landslides, but also earthquakes and a possible repeat of the 2002 volcanic eruption in Goma, also adds to vulnerabilities with potentially serious humanitarian consequences.
Humanitarian access will continue to be a key challenge, given the expected insecurity and insufficient investment in State infrastructure. The extent to which humanitarian operations continue to rely on MONUSCO escorts and patrols will depend on the level of insecurity and the willingness of the UNCT to adjust the Security Management System. MONUSCO’s capacity and internal prioritization of patrols and humanitarian escorts will also affect how movement requirements of UN humanitarian agencies are addressed. With access constraints likely to continue, hundreds of communities in need may remain beyond reach.
Civilian population movements are expected to continue. These movements would be related to displacement due to continued conflict and insecurity, and to returns to areas where there has been progress on stabilizing the environment. Following low return levels in 2011, humanitarian operations are expected to increase support for returns, particularly in the Kivus and Province Orientale. The increasing spillover effects of the conflict on the Katanga and Maniema Provinces will require an expanded humanitarian presence in these two areas as of late 2011. The post-electoral security environment, particularly in Equateur Province, will be a key factor in determining whether conditions will be conducive for the return of refugees from Republic of Congo. In the best-case scenario, an OCHA phase-down in the province could be envisioned during the second half of 2012, with planning for the handover of coordination responsibilities to other UN (UNCHR/UNDP) or Government bodies as the situation stabilizes.
While there is generally more optimism for the country, broad, coherent international support to the Government will be needed in the years to come. The international investment should be one that delivers in DRC. It has the potential to do so if gains are consolidated, and if opportunities for more sustainable and responsible development are capitalized.