Maisha Ngendo, one of the Congo's many internally displaced persons.
Photo: Ramon Sanchez Orense
Our work in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Poverty in DR Congo is deeply rooted and spread throughout the country. In addition, there have been more than 20 years of armed conflict, particularly in the eastern areas. Instability and widespread poverty make people extremely vulnerable, and humanitarian crises are occur repeatedly. Sida's work focuses on some of the root causes of the conflicts and obstacles to development, with the promotion of gender equality and women's rights representing a Swedish profile issue.
Sweden's long-term goals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC, are to work towards democracy, poverty reduction, improved health and freedom from violence. Strengthening the judicial system and Congolese civil society and improving access to sexual and reproductive health are necessary to the long-term development of DR Congo.
Strengthened democracy and gender equality, and greater respect for human rights
A provisional constitution put an end to the war in DRC in 2003, but unrest continues in many parts of the country. Free, national elections could be held in 2006, and in 2011 it was once again time for presidential and parliamentary elections. Sweden contributed to the process in the form of electoral assistance. The next national election is scheduled to be held in November 2016.
Sida works to strengthen the capacity of the Congolese judicial system and to increase respect for political and civil rights. Many human rights violations go unpunished. This is a result of the poor functioning of the judicial system and the widespread nature of corruption. Sida works to build up and support the judicial processes, such as support for victims, prosecutors, courts and prisons. Together with the EU and Belgium, Sweden supports reform in the judicial sector and the promotion of human rights through civil society.
Women are hit very hard both by unequal development and conflicts, and sexual violence is common in conflict areas. High on the agenda of support to DRC are improvements to the situation for women and the strengthening of their rights and voice. Here, Sida cooperates with local organisations and many international organisations, such as International Alert, to strengthen the role and voice of women in forthcoming elections.
Better opportunities and tools to enable poor people to improve their living conditions
Sweden works for the economic empowerment of women by supporting women's small-scale cross-border trade through International Alert. The programme gives women from DRC, Rwanda and Burundi information about market prices (including through the development of cooperatives) and provides them with training in reading comprehension and trade. In parallel, personnel at border controls (immigration, police, customs, etc.) are given training on women's rights, and the women's husbands are given training on gender equality and positive masculinity.
Sweden also works for environmentally sustainable agriculture and forestry. Contributions focus on increasing productivity and yield, but in a sustainable manner. There is also a need for greater opportunities for the population to find a market for their products.
Better basic health
Sweden is to work for better access to good quality healthcare in DR Congo since this can make a decisive contribution to poverty reduction and improved living conditions. Sweden has a particular focus on increasing access to integrated primary healthcare for the most vulnerable mothers, children and young people.
Health indicators in DR Congo are alarming, and therefore Sweden in the first instance supports basic primary healthcare, with a special emphasis on sexual and reproductive health. Contributions linked to safe pregnancies and childbirth receive particular priority since both maternal and infant mortality are high. This also includes information initiatives to improve sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) for women and men, and particularly for young people.
Swedish development cooperation with DR Congo also focuses on the prevention of sexual violence and gender-based violence and on the support and treatment of victims. Sweden does this with a broad SRHR perspective that includes access to contraception, sex education and a clear link to general work with gender equality.
Sweden has for several years supported a long-term construction of DRC's healthcare system at the same time as Sweden is also a major donor to the fight against acute humanitarian crises, such as outbreaks of measles and cholera. Swedish health support is primarily channelled through UNICEF and UNFPA.
Safeguarded human security and freedom from violence
The lack of human security is a widespread problem in DRC, not least in the conflict-ridden eastern parts of the country that serve as base to around 70 armed groups. At the same time, approximately 110,000 soldiers and 32,000 child soldiers were demobilised between 2004 and 2012. It is estimated that around 4,000 child soldiers remain. Gender-based violence – both conflict-related and men's violence against women in the home – is widespread and normalised. The number of internally displaced persons and refugees remains at high levels, with the risk of further increases due to crises in the region.
For this reason, an important part of Swedish development cooperation in DR Congo is to support peace-building and state-building processes. The focus is on conflict resolution and reconciliation initiatives at the local level, and on the reintegration of children previously associated with armed groups and of refugees.
UN Resolution 1325 on the right of women to co-determination in peace processes plays an important role in this work. A Sida-supported report carried out by the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation and International Alert showed that women's influence in the peace process in 2013 was virtually non-existent. Increased gender equality, equal rights and a greater influence over policy are therefore an important goal of Sida's gender equality work in DR Congo.
The majority of Sida's humanitarian aid to DRC is channelled through the UN system and international non-governmental organisations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Oxfam. There is also a UN administered fund that manages about 11 per cent of the total humanitarian aid to DRC.
Continued work will see Sweden supporting initiatives that aim to link development programmes with humanitarian efforts and reconstruction approaches for crisis response. There are positive examples of where developmental support has decreased humanitarian need, e.g. within health and employment programmes. Sweden also continues to require concrete advances for the improved integration of gender equality and protection at Sida’s eleven partners and within the broader humanitarian community, especially through dialogue on coordination.
Sida supports the humanitarian response in full, through the UN's humanitarian coordination office OCHA, as well as local and international organisations. Several million people in DRC need humanitarian aid, with women and children being the most vulnerable, e.g. due to epidemics and chronic malnutrition.