Research evidence on DRC presented to International Development Committee
DLP Research Fellow Suda Perera gave evidence to the UK Parliament’s International Development Committee today (Tuesday, 25 October).
The IDC is currently conducting an inquiry into fragility and development in the DRC. UK aid is estimated to account for about £306m of development assistance to DRC and DFID’s current operational plan for the country expires this year. Its priorities in recent years have included work to strengthen the rule of law, transform the state’s ability to resource and deliver services, encourage economic development, and empower women and girls.
Suda’s evidence was based on insights drawn from her research into armed groups and political inclusion in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She told the committee that donor efforts in DRC had, understandably, tended to focus on humanitarian issues and crisis containment. However, the short-term programming that such an approach encouraged, combined with a rapid turnover of donor and NGO staff, did little to address long-term developmental problems.
Communities driven off fertile land by conflict and left with no other means of making a sustainable, secure living were being forced into dependence on donor aid. Poor roads and other inadequate infrastructure made trade and commerce impossible. The resulting social and economic difficulties forced on the Congolese people were among the most potent drivers of recruitment to non-state armed groups, and the long-term focus of donors, said Suda, should be on measures that would improve DRC’s economic development.
She was asked whether it was really possible, as she had suggested in her written evidence to the committee, to engage with armed groups without being compromised. She pointed out that the international community had supported the DRC’s current political elite despite the fact that many, including President Joseph Kabila himself, had risen to power through armed struggle. Little was likely to change unless more effort was made to understand the willing support given by many Congolese to armed non-state groups.
She said that a lack of trust in MONUSCO, the UN stabilisation mission in the country, was being fuelled by unrealistically high expectations among Congolese people about what its personnel ought to be able to achieve. She added that all those connected with MONUSCO needed to be much more honest about what might feasibly be done to improve security in DRC.
The first of three papers that will present findings from Suda’s DRC armed groups research project will be published shortly.