The UN Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) on December 18, 2020. In anticipation of this process, the International Peace Institute (IPI), the Stimson Center, and Security Council Report co-hosted a virtual discussion on November 12, 2020. The workshop offered a platform for member states, UN stakeholders, humanitarian actors, and independent experts to share their views on what is needed to ensure lasting peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and to prepare for the anticipated gradual withdrawal of MONUSCO.
The discussion took place at an important moment in the UN’s engagement in the DRC. The election of President Félix Tshisekedi and the formation of a new governing coalition in early 2019 set the conditions for the UN to begin considering the mission’s eventual withdrawal. In late 2019, the independent strategic review of MONUSCO proposed a “phased, progressive and comprehensive exit strategy” for the mission.1UN Security Council, Transitioning from Stabilization to Peace: An Independent Strategic Review of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, UN Doc. S/2019/842, October 25, 2019. Nearly one year later, on October 26, 2020, MONUSCO and the government of the DRC submitted a “Joint Strategy on the Progressive and Phased Drawdown of MONUSCO” to the Security Council.2UN Security Council, Joint Strategy on the Progressive and Phased Drawdown of MONUSCO, October 2020, UN Doc. S/2020/1041, October 27, 2020. The Joint Strategy served as the framework for discussions during the workshop, with participants focusing on the upcoming mandate negotiations and the mission’s future.
Participants agreed that the mission’s mandate accurately reflects the UN’s strategic priorities and MONUSCO’s ongoing role in the country. There was strong agreement that the mission’s existing strategic priorities—the protection of civilians and support to stabilization and the strengthening of state institutions—should continue to provide an overarching framework for the UN’s engagement across the country.3UN Security Resolution 2502 (December 19, 2019), UN Doc. S/RES/2502, paras. 24(a) and (b). In addition, participants expressed the importance of focused engagement with local actors, including local government officials and civil society representatives.
Recognizing that the upcoming Security Council mandate for MONUSCO will likely be a “transition mandate,” participants discussed the initial planning for the mission’s exit strategy. They encouraged the UN to develop a transition plan that lays out a political vision for the future of the UN’s engagement in the country that is shared by the Congolese government, the Congolese people, and the UN system. They discussed the transition in terms of defining an “end state” rather than an “end date,” with a gradual drawdown that is based on realistic and measurable benchmarks, fosters national ownership, and ensures an integrated UN approach.