A child accompanies his mother, and two other women, to the field in DR Congo. 
(Photo: NRC/Vincent Tremeau)
Read caption Despite many attempts to build peace in DR Congo, violence has often returned as the underlying factors driving the conflict have remained unaddressed. (Photo: NRC/Vincent Tremeau)

Dialogue key to tackling armed conflict in DRC

Jørgen Ruud|Published 21. Oct 2019
After decades of conflict and short-lived peace agreements in the eastern region of Ituri (DR Congo), an innovative stabilisation strategy provides new hope for lasting peace. NORDEM expert, Ingebjørg Finnbakk, plays a key role in its implementation.

The search for peace and stability in eastern DR Congo has proven to be a difficult process historically. Throughout the years of conflict in the region, different strategies have been implemented and several peace agreements have been brokered with limited success. While previous “quick fix” strategies have been successful in ending violence for short periods of time, violence has often returned as the underlying factors driving the conflict have remained unaddressed.

Learning from previous missteps, the revised International Security and Stabilisation Support Strategy offers an innovative dialogue-based approach to peacebuilding. The strategy aims to set up an inclusive environment where local communities can engage in identifying root causes and solutions together with national authorities. As such, the main aim is putting state and society back together.

The case of Ituri

In 2016, NORDEM expert Ingebjørg Finnbakk was deployed to assist the United Nations Stabilisation Mission (MONUSCO) and Congolese partners with the development and implementation of the stabilisation strategy program in the Ituri province. With support from local civil society partners, Finnbakk has played a key role in facilitating inclusive and participative dialogues between different stakeholders at local, provincial and national level.

Today, a new channel of communication is present in Ituri. Rebel soldiers, community representatives and government officials are talking to each other, and a sense of trust and mutual accountability is steadily growing. This has resulted in an official Peace Agreement being drafted and presented to all parties.

“The key to this process is transparency and sharing information. Building trust was essential and if we received information from someone in Kinshasa, we shared this with people in Bunia. You cannot just stay in an office. You have to get out there, talk to everyone. Use the time to understand the participants, and get sceptics involved. When everyone is part of the process, it is easier to hold them accountable”, says Finnbakk.

Valuable lessons

Even though the process in Ituri remains fragile, the positive effects of the stabilisation approach demonstrates the importance of enabling state and society to work together in finding solutions to complex problems. Peace cannot be imposed from outside, it must be built from within. The case from the Ituri province also provides valuable lessons for other international stabilisation missions.

“Over the years, NORDEM has deployed many experts to civilian monitoring mechanisms and stabilisations missions, in support of Norwegian peace and reconciliation efforts. Ingebjørg Finnbakk’s work has been vital in establishing an open and transparent dialogue with local, regional and national stakeholders and we hope that the results of these activities will be a positive change for people in Ituri”, says Frank Johansen, Head of the NORDEM programme at NORCAP.

 

As part of NORDEM's Thematic Paper series, Finnbakk has written an experience paper with reflections and in-depth analyses of how the stabilisation strategy was implemented in the Ituri province.

Finnbakk was interviewed by Norwegian newspaper on humanitarian and development issues, Bistandsaktuelt, 14th October 2019.