Written by Bruno Georges Lemarquis | June 23, 2022
Over the past 10 years, the number of people around the world who have been forced to flee their homes and moved within their own countries has more than doubled. Internal displacement is on the rise worldwide. But here in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the rise in the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) has been particularly brutal.
The country has the largest population of internally displaced people on the African continent: 6.2 million people, including 700,000 newly displaced this year. The DRC also hosts over 500,000 refugees and asylum seekers (mainly from Burundi, the Central African Republic and South Sudan).
The drivers of internal displacement are often complex and interconnected, from conflict, climate-related shocks, disasters to rising rates of violent crime. In the DRC, protracted conflicts in the eastern provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu, as well as renewed tensions in the south-central regions of Kasai and Tanganyika have been the main source of displacement across the country, forcing millions of people from their homes, often repeatedly.
As intercommunal conflicts in the eastern provinces enter their second decade and tensions and violence related to land use and the exploitation of natural resources continue, particularly through the many active armed groups in these areas, more displaced families are forced to depend on humanitarian aid to survive.
Balance the link
As we know, humanitarian assistance – while necessary to alleviate short-term suffering – is not enough to address the deep-rooted structural problems that drive internal displacement. The need to find lasting and lasting solutions to the issue of internal displacement in the DRC is extremely urgent.
Finding coherence and restoring the balance between humanitarian, peacebuilding and development actions is essential and is the first of many steps needed to develop more durable solutions to internal displacement and meet the needs of the millions of people stuck in IDP sites.
Over the past few years, we – the UN Country Team in the DRC as well as the Humanitarian Country Team, have worked closely with the DRC government and provincial authorities, as well as with other development, humanitarian and peacebuilding partners, to implement the humanitarian-development-peace nexus.
By working in coordination with national and international partners, this nexus-based strategy moves away from a project-centric approach to tackling the main structural causes of internal displacement – what I have come to call the Gordian knots”. Building on my recent experience in Haiti as Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, I have also come to recognize the importance of working with national authorities to scale up and implement existing public policies to boost the country’s development trajectory.
Development as an effect multiplier
Central to this approach is the recognition that after 20 years of dependence on the humanitarian community and the presence of UN peacekeepers (MONUSCO), which play a vital role in protecting civilians, we need to open up more space for development actors in the DRC – and work in a more balanced way to address both the symptoms and the drivers of displacement.
Even during the current period of crisis and escalating violence, I have understood how important it is to sow the seeds of development and address the underlying vulnerabilities that have uprooted so many families across the country by first place.
During several visits to Tanganyika Province, which has a high number of displaced people, I have been struck by the number of different factors – both the symptoms and the displacement factors that come into play, including the levels high levels of food insecurity, difficulty in accessing services, competition for the region’s natural wealth and escalating violence against civilians.
I have spoken with many IDPs during these visits to Tanganyika province, each sharing their own story of displacement and explaining the difficult conditions in which they are currently living.
“What we want most in the world is to go home, to cultivate our land, but the security conditions are not there yet – and so we have to continue to live in these difficult conditions. We want peace to return because only a lasting peace can allow us to return to our villages”, explained one of the leaders of the Kabembe site for displaced people in the locality of Taba Congo.
Finding a lasting solution to forced displacement in this part of the country clearly requires the involvement of many different actors – peacemakers, humanitarians, development partners and local government, all working together towards a common plan of action. and collective results.
Within this nexus, development can have an important multiplier effect, helping to strengthen local actors and systems, spur local economic development, and support a return to state authority. It is essential to work with local organizations, including NGOs and civil society organizations. We must continue to lead by example on localization.
In eastern DRC, a region that has relied too heavily on humanitarian actors for the provision of social services and public infrastructure in the past, empowering local state actors is a key step in crafting solutions. more sustainable to displacement, and one that we at the United Nations country team will continue to prioritize in the years to come.
A road full of hope
The United Nations Secretary-General’s Program of Action on Internal Displacement, launched today, marks an important step in this direction. Building on the recommendations of the High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement at the end of 2019, the Program of Action sets out a series of commitments for the United Nations system to strengthen its engagement and develop more durable solutions to displacement. internally, placing prevention, protection and local partnerships at the centre.
The challenges ahead for the DRC are significant, but I am hopeful that the new agenda for action, alongside the linkages-based approach, will ensure that displaced communities are further protected, local authorities strengthened and actors of expanded development.
*This blog was written by Bruno Lemarquis, Deputy Special Representative to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), and Resident Coordinator and Coordinator of Humanitarian Operations in the DRC. Editorial support was provided by the United Nations Development Coordination Office. *
*The action program launch event will be broadcast on UN Web TV here tomorrow, June 24, at 10:30 a.m. EST. Additional information on the UN Program of Action on Internal Displacement is available here. *
To learn more about the UN’s work in the DRC, please visit: rdcongo.un.org. To learn more about the results of our work in this area and beyond, please read the latest Report of the UNSDG Chair on DCO.