Urgent Appeal to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Recalling Resolution 1820 (2008), the NGO Working Group urgently called upon the Secretary-General to use his leadership to demand that the specific needs of women and girls were addressed in the DRC, given the context of increased violence, particularly sexual and gender-based violence, in the North Kivu region. The Working Group called on the Secretary-General to ensure a number of recommendations, including gender training and gender expertise within MONUC, women’s representation in all formal peace processes, and establishing a specific vetting processes for DRC security forces to ensure the exclusion of those that have been accused of perpetrating sexual and gender-based violence.

24th November 2008

Dear Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon,

I am writing to you on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security with regard to the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In particular, we seek your leadership at this crucial time and encourage you to ensure that the specific concerns of women and girls in DRC are addressed.

As you know, more than 250,000 civilians have been forced from their homes in North Kivu during the past two months of fighting, bringing the total number of displaced people in the province to at least 1.2 million. All sides to the conflict have committed international crimes, and since combat resumed in August, at least 100 civilians have been killed. In the last week alone, over 66 women were treated for rape in Kanyabayonga, a town north of Rutshuru in North Kivu. These represent only a fraction of the crimes of sexual violence being committed throughout the region.

The UN has taken a strong position on the need to protect civilians in this conflict, most recently through Security Council resolution 1843 of 20 November. Through resolution 1820 (2008) on Women Peace and Security, the Security Council has stressed the need for crimes of sexual violence to be excluded from amnesty provisions, and has called on member states, including the DRC, to ensure that the perpetrators of these actions are held accountable. The Security Council also has requested you to develop effective strategies to enhance the ability of UN peacekeeping operations to protect civilians from all forms of sexual violence.

In this context, we therefore applaud the Security Council’s decision last week to provide much-needed troops to the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC). We urge you to help ensure that these troops are deployed rapidly, that they are briefed on widespread use of sexual violence as a tool of war in the DRC, and that they fulfill their mandate to protect civilians from this violence.

The UN system and member states have repeatedly committed to ensuring women’s full participation in peace processes, as a matter of peace and security. Following the open debate on Women Peace and Security in October, the Security Council re-affirmed the core message of resolution 1325 (2000), and urged “Member States, international, regional and sub-regional organizations to take measures to increase the participation of women in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding and to strengthen the role of women as decision-makers in these areas.” We have yet to see concrete action.

The NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security therefore suggests that you consult with, inter alia, your Special Representative Alan Doss, your Special Envoy Olusegun Obasanjo, and member states to ensure the following:

While the conflict is still occurring

  • All MONUC peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel receive the necessary training and resources, and are configured, to effectively fulfill their mandate to actively protect civilians from sexual and other forms of violence, in line with Security Council resolutions 1794 and 1843 on the DRC and 1820 on Women Peace and Security.
  • MONUC peacekeeping personnel provide safe corridors for humanitarian aid, in order to ensure that the UN and non-governmental humanitarian workers can continue to assist the vast number of internally displaced persons in the country.
  • MONUC, and the Group of Experts established pursuant to resolution 1771, are provided with the necessary resources to effectively gather, examine and analyze all relevant information on the flows of arms and materiel in violation of the measures provided in Security Council resolution 1807 on the DRC. This includes information about “serious violations of international law involving the targeting of children or women in situations of armed conflict, including killing and maiming, sexual violence, abduction and forced displacement.”

Throughout the negotiations

  • Your Special Representative, your Special Envoy and their staff are actively working to ensure the substantive participation of women’s representatives in all current and future peace negotiations, including any informal discussions prior to formal negotiations. In practice this will require the provision of transportation, security, and if necessary care for the families of the local women representatives.
  • Peace agreements for DRC do not include amnesty provisions for crimes under international law, including crimes of sexual violence.

To overcome impunity, the final peace accords

  • Establish an independent and effective vetting process for members of the police and military forces and civilian personnel that will exclude or suspend those reasonably suspected of crimes under international law, including sexual violence, or other human rights abuses from these forces.
  • Express support for the prosecution of crimes under international law including sexual violence.
  • Promote women’s active participation in the rebuilding of their communities through electoral processes, economic empowerment, and representation in the judiciary.

The NGO Working Group appreciates UN efforts within the last two years in response to women peace and security concerns, such as the formation of the UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict and the appointment of MONUC’s Senior Adviser/Coordinator on Sexual Violence. We now urge you to take into account the views of women in DRC as expressed in the attached Declaration, delivered in Cape Town on 15 November 2008, and we look forward to your engagement on our recommendations.

Yours sincerely,

Sarah Taylor, Coordinator, Ngo Working Group On Women Peace And Security

Amnesty International
Boston Consortium on Gender, Security and Human rights
Femmes Africa Solidarite
Global Action to Prevent War
Global Justice Center
Human Rights Watch
International Alert
International Action Network on Small Arms
International Women’s Tribune Center
PeaceBoat U.S.
Women’s Action for New Directions
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom