In June 2018, the United Nations (UN) Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy—adopted by the General Assembly in 2006 and reviewed every two years—underwent its sixth biennial review in New York. It took place with lots of raised expectations—particularly around strengthening obligations to comply with human rights law while countering terrorism, and increasing the inclusion of women and civil society organizations in policymaking and programming in this area. Sadly, the results fell short. Here is what happened.
Since August 2016, the Kasaï region has seen one of the most dramatic escalations of violence in Congolese history. A localized struggle over customary power quickly spread across four provinces, fueled by resentment over economic and political marginalization. Within the space of a year, 1.4 million people were displaced and dozens of armed militias were formed. The Catholic Church counted 3,383 deaths due to conflict in the greater Kasaï region between October 13, 2016 and June 17, 2017 alone.
While the conflict in the Kasaïs has diminished, levels of humanitarian suffering are still extremely high, and the potential for further violence, especially in Kasaï province, remains. It is difficult to envisage a comprehensive solution to these challenges, or to prevent further violence, without addressing national dynamics. The Congolese government will need to set up initiatives, backed by donors, to address customary conflicts and to reform traditional power structures. Efforts to break the economic isolation of the Kasaï provinces, and to promote inclusive dialogue should continue. Perhaps most importantly, government officials, including army officers, must be held accountable for fostering violence or using disproportionate force to quell it.
As the UN works to operationalize partnerships to advance the peacebuilding and sustaining peace agendas, the work that regional organizations are already doing in terms of prevention and sustaining peace provides helpful insights.
This paper has been prepared for the inaugural meeting of the High-level Group on Justice for Women (HLG), formed as part of the Task Force on Justice, an initiative of the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies. The paper provides a starting point for the discussion of the HLG as it begins its work on ensuring prioritization of women’s justice concerns within the context of implementing and monitoring SDG 16.