Canada Must Not Turn Its Back on the Democratic Republic of Congo According to Report Released Today

November 12, 2008

Peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains illusory, despite a number of on-going peace efforts. Unless the international community, including Canada, remains engaged, the country runs the risk of being subsumed by violence, according to a report released today by the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC).

Promoting an Inclusive Peace: A Call to Strengthen Canada's Peace-Making Capacityasks the question: "Is Canada Turning Its Back on the DRC?"

The report is based on 37 interviews carried out in the DRC this July with diplomats, Congolese and international NGOs, women's groups, government officials and community and religious leaders. According to many of the interviewees, Canada's support to the DRC is declining as the need for support for peace efforts has never been greater.

Canada did actively support a DRC peace process in 2003 known as the Inter-Congolese Dialogue and more recently, Canada provided over $50 million in humanitarian and longer-term assistance.

But it looks like Canada's commitment to the DRC may be waning, particularly in the areas of diplomacy, peace-making and peace-building. Canada's limited, strictly financial support, to the ongoing Goma Peace Process signals that Canada, according to Congolese civil society organizations is no longer an "active player' in building peace in the DRC. Canada must also contribute diplomatically to the Goma Peace Process.

The DRC is also no longer listed on the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade's Global Peace and Security Fund. This omission makes it more difficult for the DRC to get funding from DFAIT's Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START). Since START is the main funder for policing and security sector reform, Canada's support for these programming areas is, sadly, lacking.

"For Canada to lose interest in the DRC now, while violent conflict is still a fact of life in eastern DRC would not only leave hundreds of thousands of civilians at risk, but would also undermine Canada's long history of support to the DRC," according to Surendrini Wijeyaratne, the author of the report and CCIC's Peace and Conflict policy analyst.

Sexual violence initiatives, in particular, can contribute to building peace over the long term in the DRC. According to the report, "the scale of sexual violence, combined with the number of sectors involved in prevention and response, means sexual violence initiatives must simultaneously involve security sector reform, access to justice programs, human rights and women's rights monitoring, health systems, sexual education and traditional justice and healing."

Canada has contributed $15 million over four years to a United Nations Joint Initiative Against Sexual Violence, but unfortunately, these funds, according to women's groups interviewed in the DRC, have not translated to direct victim assistance. Canada must develop a strategy to support sexual violence programs in the DRC and Canada must review its funding for the Joint Initiative Against Sexual Violence to ensure funds contribute to local women's groups' capacity building.

Surendrini Wijeyaratne is available for interviews. The full report is on CCIC's website.

The report was supported by the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation.

For more information contact:

Katia Gianneschi
Media Relations
Canadian Council for International Co-operation
613-241-7007 ext. 311