From paper to practice, a guide to the actors who seek to implement a gender perspective into peace operations.
Mapping the Actors
From New York to the field: How does it work in theory and in practice?
Democratic Republic of Congo
SVCU - Sexual Violence in Conflict Unit (SVCU) – MONUSCO
The SVCU Office at National level is based in the capital of DRCongo, Kinshasa.
It supervises the work of SVCU Field Offices based in Eastern DRCongo and acts as liaison between the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict in New York. It also passes on the information coming from the field on conflict-related sexual violence.
The SVCU is based in Eastern DRCongo, with Field Offices in North Kivu province (Goma), South Kivu province (Bukavu), Oriental Province (Bunia), and a National Office in the capital of DRCongo, Kinshasa. The opening of a new office is ongoing in Katanga Province (Kalemie).
Each SVCU Field Office daily reports to the National SVCU Office in Kinshasa, which maintains regular coordination directly with the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict, based in New York.
Office of the SRSG for Sexual Violence in Conflict – UN Headquarters
Gender Field Offices
Gender Field Offices were established in all multi-dimensional peacekeeping operations following recommendations contained in UN Security Council Resolution 1325. The Resolution stresses the urgency of incorporating a gender-based approach into peacekeeping operations and of adopting a gender equality approach during negotiations and when implementing peace agreements.
In the field, Gender Offices are tasked to guarantee the incorporation of a gender perspective within peacekeeping missions’ rules. The Offices must ensure the link between female civil society organizations and governmental institutions in order to guarantee active participation of women in the peace process as well as in the post conflict and reconstruction contexts. Finally Gender Offices ought to explore strategies in order to promote the participation of women in electoral and political processes.
Gender Offices are usually organized with main Offices, lead by Gender Advisers, in capital cities, and field offices in peripheral locations, staffed with Gender Focal Points (depending from the dimensions of the mission and the hosting Country). Gender Advisers is directly in touch with the central Gender Affairs Office in New York, which is part of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
Gender Affairs – DPKO New York
Gender Affairs is part of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and it is tasked to promote gender mainstreaming in both the internal and external policies that are adopted by peacekeeping operations. It acts as supervisor of all Gender Offices established in the field and in all multi-dimensional peacekeeping operations.
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Sexual Violence in Conflict Unit (SVCU) – MONUSCO
The Field Offices of SVCU MONUSCO are based in Eastern DRCongo, the vast area of DRCongo still affected by decennial conflicts. The three small SVCU offices in Goma (North Kivu), Bukavu (South Kivu), and Bunia (Oriental Province, Ituri District) are staffed with Congolese and International Officers, for a total of less than ten people. They are tasked to cover very vast areas, often inaccessible for geographical and security reasons. Their main two roles – coordination of the National/Comprehensive Strategy on Combating Sexual Violence, and participation in protecting civilians from conflict-related sexual violence – require that SVCU Offices closely work with a vast range of stakeholders, internal and external to the peacekeeping operation. Among the external actors are DRCongo Provincial Governments and main UN Agencies. They are the main partners of SVCU for the coordination of all initiatives implemented for a complete prevention and response to sexual violence incidents.
The coordination role of SVCU Field Offices is mainly organised within the framework of the Comprehensive Strategy on Combating Sexual Violence, developed in 2008 by UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict and, in the specific case of DRCongo, adopted by the DRCongo Government in 2009, integrating it within the National Strategy against Gender Based Violence in DRC. The core of the Strategy focuses on the leading role of the State, which is, and ought to be, the primary responsible for the protection and assistance to its own population. That is why the Strategy is primarily lead by the DRCongo Ministry of Gender, and each one of the five components that make up the Strategy are co-lead by ministerial institutions and specialised UN Agencies, notably:
The SVCU Field Offices have the main role to support Government structures and UN Agencies in coordinating their initiatives to fight against sexual violence. They do so by calling upon their responsibility and stimulating the participation of actors, such as: local and international NGOs, public structures (health, justice etc), and donors.
In protecting civilians from conflict-related sexual violence, the SVCU Field Office’s role also calls for collaborating with other sections of MONUSCO, both military and civilian ones. Its task is to adopt the fight against sexual violence as crucial element in all civilian’s protection strategies, from analysis of risk protecting, to crisis response. SVCU Field Offices jointly work with all MONUSCO sections in order to: identify effective systems of Early Warning that include the risk of conflict-related sexual violence; collect and analyze conflict-related sexual violence incidents (profiles of victims, alleged perpetrators, site of the incident etc) in order to create strategies of prevention and protection also with the military peacekeeping Force; provide training for the military peacekeeping Force on Prevention, Response and Reporting of sexual violence in conflict cases; participate to joint field missions (as Joint Protection Teams) with other civilian and military sections of MONUSCO in order to assess, investigate or respond to a crisis situation.
Sexual Violence in Conflict Unit (SVCU) – MONUSCO
The National Office of SVCU is based in Kinshasa, the capital of DRCongo (almost 2.000 km from the Eastern side of the country, without road connections, and solely aerial and – partially – fluvial connections). It is lead by the Senior Adviser and Coordinator on Sexual Violence in DRCongo, supported by other two staff members. The Senior Adviser and Coordinator has an important advocacy role, coordinating mainly with DRCongo National Government and UN Agencies at National level in order to disclose funds and support for the policies and strategies identified as the most adequate to prevent and respond to situations of sexual violence in conflict occurring in the East of the country. The National SVCU Office has also a primary role in conjunction with the Office of SRSG-Sexual Violence in Conflict in New York, as it regularly contributes to reports for the Secretary-General through an attentive monitor and analysis of data of incidents received from the field.
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Sexual Violence in Conflict (SRSG-SVC) – UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict – New York
The SRSG-SVC Office in New York, currently lead by the SRSG-SVC Zainab Hawa Bangura, and supported by a small team, identifies the main policies to orientate strategies of prevention and response to sexual violence in conflict in all peacekeeping missions where conflict-related sexual violence is a priority risk. Regarding the case of MONUSCO, the Office of the SRSG-SVC communicates directly with the National SVCU Office in Kinshasa, in order to receive regular information on the situation of sexual violence in conflict in the country, the impact of the activities of prevention, protection and response, and the status of funds to carry out such activities.
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Gender Field Offices
Gender Field Offices have the complex task of promoting gender mainstreaming in all dimensions of peacekeeping operations. Internally, the Offices stimulate both military and civilian sectors, in order for the peacekeeping mission to adequately take into account the promotion of gender equality in the elaboration of strategies of protection and conflict-resolution. Externally, they endorse and encourage national actors, from government to civil society, to be sensible to gender perspective. Similarly to the fight against sexual violence, the integration of a gender perspective as crucial tool to achieve conflict resolution and a sustainable peace – as acknowledged by the Security Council Resolution 1325 – is neither automatic in a context of conflict, nor within a peacekeeping mission. Seeing as gender is intrinsically part of all domains (from political settings to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of armed elements), it is necessary for Gender Offices to constantly work with all possible stakeholders in order to achieve results and have an impact. Sadly it is often avoided due to a lack of awareness, of instruments, or simply because it is more convenient to leave it aside. For Gender Offices to succeed in their endeavor, there would need to be focal points in each section of peacekeeping missions, in addition to expert staff working with actors external to the mission, such as national and humanitarian stakeholders. Unfortunately, the current situation in many peacekeeping operations is that Gender Offices are very small and under-staffed for the tasks they need to undertake. This results in limitation of their possible initiatives and they, in the end, can only support local women’s associations. Although these initiatives are of crucial importance, their results are only ever limited, if they are not supported by overall strategies that take into account the promotion of, and participation in, a gender perspective by both men and youth in the economic, political and social spheres.
In order to overcome the limitations imposed by small staffed structures, Gender Offices need to closely cooperate with the other sections of peacekeeping missions. However, the tendency is for interactions only to occur with offices considered ‘similar’, such as the Sexual Violence in Conflict Unit or the Electoral sections. Where existing, such interactions result in relating gender only with two domains, those of fighting against sexual violence and of women’s participation in elections.
- Fight against Impunity component (access to justice for victims, legal assistance, fair process), co-lead by Ministry of Justice and the Joint Human Rights Office (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights/ MONUSCO);
- Protection and Prevention component (awareness campaigns, strategies to create a protective environment), co-lead by Ministry of Social Affairs and UNHCR;
- Multi-sectorial assistance component (medical, psychosocial assistance and socio-economic reintegration), co-lead by Ministry of Health and UNICEF;
- Security Sector Reform (training and awareness for Defence and Security Forces, Vetting), co-lead by Ministry of Defence and Security Sector Development Section of MONUSCO;
- Data and Mapping component (data collection, analysis, mapping of incidents and actors providing services of assistance), co-lead by Ministry of Gender and UNFPA