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Sep 2, 2016 | Uncategorized

The Centre for Security Governance is pleased to announce a new blog series which explores the security sector reform (SSR) dimension of Canada’s planned re-engagement with peacekeeping and peace operations. This four-part series focuses on the main options being speculated upon for troop deployment: Mali, the Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).


The Canadian government has announced a series of initiatives as part of its strategic plan for a re-engagement with peacekeeping and peace operations, a key pillar of its foreign policy. It has launched the Peace and Stabilization Operations Program (PSOP) to coordinate and fund its efforts, is sending a fact-finding mission in Mali to assess the context of a potential Canadian contribution there and will participate next week in a conference in London on peacekeeping where it is likely the government will announce further details on its ‘peace operations roadmap’.

A participation in the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO) is one of the options discussed, with the UN having asked in the past Canada to take command of this mission.

Yet, the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a particularly challenging one, and addressing the root causes of insecurity and violence will require tackling politically sensitive questions of security governance – most notably demobilization, disarmament and reintegration (DDR) and security sector reform (SSR). In the next sections, I review the status of SSR efforts and provide preliminary recommendations on how Canada could be an effective contributor and provide much-needed assistance that is tailored to the current needs of Congolese and focuses on pressing security issues.

An overview of security sector reform in DRC

More than a decade of extensive security sector reform (SSR) activities at the national level, with assistance from a variety of international donors, has not led to the expected improvements in the security situation and insecurity is still widespread across the country, especially in eastern DRC.

This failure of the international community and Congolese actors to provide better security and to develop an effective security governance framework is well documented.  Lack of political will, uncoordinated efforts from the donor community, lack of sustainability of SSR projects, corruption, a limited governance focus replaced by a train & equip approach, etc. are all factors that partly explain the current SSR situation in DRC.

Taking a closer look at the UN mission yields similar conclusions. MONUSCO is currently involved in several projects related to security sector reform that support both national efforts to reinvigorate police and rule of law reform strategies and local projects aimed at addressing community security issues. Such efforts, while providing much needed short-term attention to SSR, are unlikely to remedy the current causes of the overall failure of SSR in DRC. MONUSCO’s stabilization strategy and DDR efforts have also been recently criticized for not being delivered as part of a holistic and political strategy.

Moving forward: Canada’s potential role and contribution in DRC

There is no denying that the situation in DRC is complicated, and Canada would likely have to commit a significant amount of troops and resources to achieve the kind of tangible results it certainly wants from a potential contribution to peacebuilding there. Beyond the oft-discussed military capabilities that Canada could bring to the table (helicopters, logistics, Canadian Forces’ experience and lessons learned from operating in Afghanistan, etc.), Canada is also well positioned to contribute to improving security governance in DRC. To do so, Canada should take the time to assess the lessons from past security governance and peacebuilding efforts. I have argued elsewhere that there is a need to do security and justice programming differently which should build on lessons learned and be focused on more flexible, problem-driven approaches to security sector reform. Below are some recommendations based on my research and experience working on SSR in fragile and conflict-affected countries, including DRC.

Throughout the process of building Canada’s peace operations strategy, Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan and Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion highlighted two key dimensions of Canada’s strategy: a whole-of-government approach (the 3D lens :development, diplomacy and defense) and a focus on local initiatives for conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Both are essential for a renewed commitment to security sector reform in DRC and can be leveraged in a variety of ways.

First, beyond MONUSCO, there is a large spectrum of security governance assistance that can be developed. This can range from efforts to address the security challenges of internally displaced persons from a humanitarian perspective to long-term focus on local mechanisms for transitional justice and community-based security provision, notably through assistance with UNDP and other local and international actors’ work. These efforts illustrate how a 3D approach could support present and future peacebuilding efforts in DRC.

Secondly, locally-led and innovative efforts to build peace and address the root causes of the conflicts must be supported. In the security sector, there are many examples of small scale projects being implemented that aim at providing justice and security more effectively at the local level and based on the needs of the communities. Canada has a longstanding experience of international police assistance, notably in Haiti, and could play a role in this sector.

Two examples are worth mentioning here. First, Canada recently co-funded a project to map local security dynamics in DRC with the aim of supporting the development of community policing structures. It focused on issues of public security, violence and perceptions of (in)security and is an essential first step in assessing the right kind of interventions to foster better security governance at the local level. This kind of research project should be expanded to other cities and provinces in DRC and the findings should not be left to gather dust on a (virtual) bookshelf, but used as a practical guide to effectively improve local security. Secondly, Canada has prioritized efforts to prevent and tackle sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), most recently in the context of aid for a specialized police unit on SGBV. Providing financial and human resources, capacity-building training and expert advice on SGBV to police and justice officials is an important area to consider. For example, an innovative approach to deal with SGBV includes the creation of mobile courts to make justice more accessible to victims, a recurring approach championed by UNDP.  Projects aimed at developing local capacity to address community security issues and SGBV could represent flagship contributions that would complement Canada’s role in the context of a peace and stabilization operations with MONUSCO and would offer tangible solutions to pressing security issues.

This kind of innovative, problem-driven and flexible approach to addressing security governance challenges in DRC is a good starting point to map out where Canada could help on issues of security sector reform and make a sustainable impact on peacebuilding in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Antoine Vandemoortele is a Senior Researcher and Communications & Publications Manager at the Centre for Security Governance (CSG), with more than 7 years of experience as a researcher and project manager. His current research focuses on European approaches to peacebuilding and post-conflict security sector reform, with a focus on local and community security, and most recently on innovating approaches to security and justice programming in the context of the post-2015 development agenda. He has published and edited over a dozen journal articles, books, book chapters and reports on EU foreign and security policy, peacebuilding, security sector reform in Bosnia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), non-state security providers and community security, strategic culture and Canadian foreign policy.