Special Collection: Surviving Violence: The Politics of (Self) Protection

From Crisis to Reform: Peacekeeping Strategies for the Protection of Civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

J. Arthur Boutellis


The latest cycle of violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the brief occupation of Goma by the “M23” rebels call for a re-examination of how UN peacekeepers have approached the physical protection of civilians in the DRC over the past 13 years. This article examines how lessons from early protection crises led the UN missions in the DRC to develop a series of innovative tools for a better peacekeeping response based on improved civil-military coordination and enhanced communication with the local population. It analyzes how the need to mitigate the negative impact of joint UN-Congolese military operations led to a progressive shift from a largely UN-centric and troop-intensive approach to physical protection to a greater focus on the Congolese security forces. As the UN peacekeeping understanding of the protection of civilians – and its concomitant bureaucracy – continues to expand, peacekeeping strategies should refocus on strengthening national protection capacities through security sector reform. This article concludes that the 2012 crisis in DRC could serve as a trigger for such a shift, aimed at building legitimate institutions and encouraging the host government to shoulder its primary responsibility to protect its citizens. The new Intervention Brigade together with the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the region could provide the broader political strategy on which to anchor this reform process.

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How to cite: Boutellis, J 2013. From Crisis to Reform: Peacekeeping Strategies for the Protection of Civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Stability: International Journal of Security and Development 2(3):48, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/sta.ci

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This article has been peer reviewed (journal peer review policy).

Published on 24 September 2013.

ISSN: 2165-2627 | Published by Ubiquity Press | Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.