The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is placing a great deal of hope on the latest peace agreement, a senior United Nations official today said, following her visit to the region to keep a global spotlight on the complex and protracted humanitarian emergency in the African country.
The longing for peace is “great,” Kyung-wha Kang, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator in the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told journalists in New York.
During her visit to the DRC and Uganda between 26 and 31 May, Ms. Kang said, everyone she spoke with “appealed very earnestly for peace so that they could resume their lives and livelihoods.”
She said there is optimism following the recent visit to the Great Lakes by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, his Special Envoy for the region, Mary Robinson, and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim around the peace agreement – known formally as the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Region.
Mr. Ban’s visit to North Kivu in eastern DRC came just days after renewed fighting between the DRC national armed forces (FARDC) and the 23 March Movement (M23) rebels.
Ms. Kang, whose visit followed soon after, said she was “impressed” by the humanitarian efforts to provide urgent assistance to the people in need, which include 2.6 million people displaced throughout the country, some 973,000 displaced in North Kivu alone.
She cautioned that despite efforts, many remain in need outside the reach of humanitarian access, due to insecurity and lack of resources. The $892 million Humanitarian Action Plan (HAP) – launched for 2013 by humanitarian partners and the Government to provide aid to millions affected by food insecurity, conflict and disease – is only about 37 per cent funded at $333 million.
“Funding is a big concern,” Ms. Kang said, adding that at the current rate there is only enough food available to last five or six months.
In South Kivu, Ms. Kang spoke at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu to women and girls who had suffered rape and other sexual violence. Quoting its medical director, Ms. Kang said the hospital treats around 300 survivors of rape every month, an increase in the numbers seeking treatment since 2012.
The survivors of sexual violence, beyond immediate medical and psychological needs, have told Ms. Kang that they place hope in the framework as “the last chance to bring about peace.”
Some of the issues raised by Ms. Kang were also touched on today during a panel discussion on “Women and peacebuilding in the Great Lakes region,” which featured among its speakers Mrs. Robinson and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura.
Mrs. Robinson said that during her first visit to the region in late April and early May to promote the peace accord, she encouraged the widest possible partnership with civil society and she had made it a priority to meet with many women’s groups. Women had been very active in developing and promoting action plans, she said, and they would be vital to ensuring acceptance and implementation of the accord, which she has dubbed the “Framework of Hope.”
She announced that women from the Great Lakes and other countries whose Governments had signed the accord planned to meet on 9 July in Bujumbura, Burundi, to outline a platform as a means to ensure that women’s voices influenced the accord’s monitoring mechanisms, oversight and proposed benchmarks. Women’s active participation would ensure that the Framework will be embraced by people “from the bottom up and adhered to and implemented by Governments from the top down.”
Ms. Bangura said that the world was coming to realize that without the active participation of 50 per cent of the population, there could be no peace or active pursuit of the broader development agenda. “Women bring experiences, ideas and points of view that we cannot ignore if we want to heal the wounds of the past and ensure justice,” she said.
The Framework Agreement provided an excellent opportunity to “tap into the vast potential that is African women,” she stated. Women could be leaders in all the priority areas under the accord – from peacekeepers to activists and religions leaders.
“If we accept as fact that women – from Heads of State to grandmothers – have an integral role in rebuilding communities after war, we can make real progress,” she declared, adding that women’s education, empowerment and inclusion at all levels would yield the peace dividend “to build the future we want for the DRC and the Great Lakes.”