In the context of the review of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by CEDAW (the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women), we wanted to raise awareness about the need for effective implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325), the ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and the linkage between the flow of arms and militarization and sexual violence.
WILPF DRC submitted a shadow report to CEDAW called “Gender-based violence and the small arms flow in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – A women, peace and security approach”. WILPF DRC President, Annie Matundu Mbambi, participated in an informal lunch meeting with NGO representatives and Committee members during which she made a statement on the proliferation of light arms in the DRC in light of UNSCR 1325. Prior to the review, we also organised a panel on a different vision on women in the DRC.
UNSCR 1325 was discussed during the review
During the formal review, which took place on 11th July, the Minister of Justice of the DRC stated that the relevant provisions of UNSCR 1325 should be included in national law and in the National Constitution. She highlighted the creation of a body to monitor the implementation of UNSCR 1325. She also talked about the use of women as a weapon of war.
During the dialogue, a CEDAW member raised a question on the ratification of the ATT as well as on the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and their impact on the security of women. These questions were inspired by our shadow report and our panel event.
The head of the Congolese delegation, however, argued that the flow of arms is created and maintained by armed groups. She remained evasive on the ratification of the ATT and said that the government had created an inter-governmental group on arms trade.
These answers did not meet our expectations, as the linkage between small arms flow and the widespread of sexual violence is evident. Our section president, Annie Matundu Mbambi, had explained this linkage on many occasions. Indeed, in most cases of sexual violence, survivors declare that the perpetrators were armed, even in those cases in which the perpetrator was a civilian and not a member of the army or an armed group.
WILPF's recommendations in CEDAW's report
In its concluding observations, the Committee emphasized its concerns about the limited regulation of the arms trade, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and their impact on the security of women. This was a huge success for us, as we advocated for these recommendations to be included in the concluding observations.
We also welcome the fact that CEDAW raised concerns about the shocking levels and nature of violence and sexual atrocities against women, the failure of the authorities to prioritize the protection of civilians and the denial by key state officials of the extent of violence against women in conflict-affected areas.
The Committee urged the DRC to prevent gender-based violence and to ensure access to justice and protection for victims. It called for the effective implementation of the National Action Plan for the Implementation of UNSCR 1325. The Committee emphasized the need to ensure the effective regulation of the arms trade, to control the circulation of illicit small arms and to consider the ratification the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty.
The Committee experts also recommended that the DRC significantly enhance the inclusion and representation of women in peace negotiations and also ensure their representation in provincial security committees.
The DRC will have to start implementing these recommendations immediately and report back to the Committee in two years. We were glad to see the Committee endorse our recommendations.
WHAT TO DO NOW?
You can read the concluding observations of the Committee on DRC.
We, in particular WILPF DRC, will monitor the implementation of the recommendations in the DRC. The concluding observations will be an essential advocacy tool to defend and protect human rights in the DRC and in particular to implement UNSCR 1325. It will also be very important to refer back to these recommendations when other human rights bodies review the DRC.
In the next two years, we will have to multiply our efforts to promote the implementation of the recommendations. Please share, debate and bring the message from our DRC section forward!
We will keep you updated on further outcomes of this process; so stay in touch and don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or even better, subscribe to our newsletter, so that you get the latest news directly in your inbox.
As always, we'd love to know your thoughts on these issues.