Login (DCU Staff Only)
Login (DCU Staff Only)

DORAS | DCU Research Repository

Explore open access research and scholarly works from DCU

Advanced Search

Local governance, conflict and peacebuilding in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Gaynor, Niamh orcid logoORCID: 0000-0001-5645-7032 (2013) Local governance, conflict and peacebuilding in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Policy Report. Dublin City University.

Executive Summary The strong link between poverty, inequality, marginalisation and exploitation and conflict is now well established. Bringing together lessons from the relevant literature, it becomes clear that the effectiveness of local governance reforms within post-conflict contexts depends on their impact on the political, economic and social conditions for conflict. This in turn depends on the understandings, motivations and actions of different actors with regard to the local governance project together with the suitability of supports provided in this context. This research, carried out in collaboration with the Governance and Gender Programme of Trócaire-DRC, examines the Congolese local governance process at national, provincial and community levels. The research involves a mixed method approach which includes an analysis of relevant legislative and policy documents; national and provincial level interviews; and interviews and focus groups with a random sample of approximately 350 ‘ordinary’ men and women across 12 diverse sites in Bas-Congo Province. The findings examining progress at a national level highlight two important inter-related aspects. First is the fact that ‘political’ decentralisation as described in the DRC is actually just a more limited ‘territorial’ form which is rooted in elite struggles for power. The relevant legislation and policy documentation makes scant reference to the core principles of political decentralisation as understood more broadly – accountability and participation. And second, there is consequently a significant reluctance at national level to cede power and roll out the programme as originally planned. It is noted that international support in this area has shifted since 2011 from national to provincial and/or ETD levels. At provincial level within Bas-Congo, the findings highlight the importance of employment and job creation to communities as their single most important priority together with access to fertile land for both subsistence and small scale commercial purposes. These remunerative issues are linked to four further priorities – food security, education, health and the prevention of conflict and violence within the home with these latter issues assuming more importance for women. The blame for deterioration in these areas is squarely placed with political authorities and the findings reveal a strong level of frustration and anger toward both the government and within and among communities themselves. A comparison of community priorities with those of Bas-Congo’s Provincial government (through an analysis of the Provincial Development Plan) reveals a general mismatch between the priorities of the provincial authorities and those of communities. This suggests a low level of effectiveness and responsiveness of provincial structures to local needs at present. It is also noted that state and external actors alike are providing minimal support in a range of areas identified as priorities by communities (including environmental protection and climate change, economic development and jobs creation, and social service provision). At local level, the findings from individual interviews and focus group participants reveal a number of important things. First, by far the most common source of conflict within communities is jealousy, hatred and calumny brought about by a breakdown in trust and social norms due to escalating poverty and stress. This is particularly acute in urban sites. It is important to note that while some of these issues are addressed by local authorities, they are not necessarily resolved and, in some cases, they have been exacerbated. Second, cases of rape and GBV have increased yet ‘resolution’ of these cases affords no agency whatsoever to the victim, with resolution focused solely on financial support for the resultant baby and the victim’s family. Third, there is a low level of knowledge of the role and predominantly negative perceptions of the motivations of both Provincial and ETD authorities. This indicates a low level of legitimacy of these authorities. It also raises questions around their capacity and willingness to represent and respond to their citizens’ interests and issues. Fourth, while there is a significantly higher level of awareness of the role of sub-ETD level authorities (village, avenue, cell, quartier, agglomeration), just 18% of research participants have ever consulted them in trying to resolve an issue as they prefer to avoid the expense and public humiliation of this process. And fifth, although some of the priority issues for communities are of particular interest to women (food security, education and health of children, GBV) and while a significant majority (80%) of respondents acknowledge the possibility (in theory) for women to assume local leadership roles, just 7% see any added value in this. The findings on barriers to women’s political participation point to significant social and cultural obstacles across society in this issue and also highlight broader issues of stratification. Three broad lessons are drawn from these findings. First, public trust in and legitimacy of the state is low to non-existent at both national and provincial level. Second, the conditions for structural violence are currently in place and escalating within Bas-Congo as wealth and poverty sit side by side in an uneasy, and frequently inflammatory co-existence. And third, decentralisation, in its current form, seems unlikely to mitigate these conditions. This is because both the policy and the practice make no real provision for citizen accountability or participation; all of the structures (including ETD level) remain at a remove and isolated from ordinary people with access determined by wealth, status, connections and prestige; and leaders and authorities at sub-ETD level remain focused on conflict containment not transformation. Returning once more to the linkages between governance, conflict and violence, three reforms to the local governance system are proposed. The first is that it moves beyond territorial and administrative functions to address the structural and developmental roots of conflict, transforming the conditions for violence rather than stopping short at attempting to manage its manifestations. The second is that it seeks to involve citizens themselves by a) including facilitated mechanisms for the ongoing participation of different groups within society (not just the dominant voices); b) including mechanisms for ‘translating’ these voices into policy; and c) incorporating feedback / accountability mechanisms which honestly and transparently address the gaps between citizen inputs and policy outputs providing a rationale for these. The third reform is that a commitment to real representation be (re-)introduced across political authorities and culture more broadly where representation means mediating between different groups and actors, with the quality of representation determined by the quality of this mediation.
Item Type:Monograph (Policy Report)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Governance; Democratic Republic of the Congo
Subjects:Social Sciences > Law
Social Sciences > Political science
DCU Faculties and Centres:DCU Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Science > School of Law and Government
Publisher:Dublin City University
Copyright Information:© 2013 The Author
Use License:This item is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. View License
ID Code:18791
Deposited On:28 Aug 2013 12:57 by Niamh Gaynor . Last Modified 13 Nov 2019 10:41

Full text available as:

[thumbnail of Report_Final.pdf]
PDF - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader


Downloads per month over past year

Archive Staff Only: edit this record