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CORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 1133-i
House of COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE the
International Development Committee
Working with Fragile and Conflict-Affected States: DRC, Rwanda and Burundi
TUESDAY 12 julY 2011
Chris Underwood, SophiA Swithern, Jennifer Miquel and David Mepham
Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 39
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
1. This is a corrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.
2. The transcript is an approved formal record of these proceedings. It will be printed in due course.
Taken before the International Development Committee
on Tuesday 12 July 2011
Malcolm Bruce (Chair)
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Chris Underwood, Head of Communications, International Alert, Sophia Swithern, Humanitarian and Conflict Policy Adviser, Oxfam, Jennifer Miquel, Technical Adviser, Women’s Protection and Empowerment, International Rescue Committee, and David Mepham, London Director, Human Rights Watch, gave evidence.
Q1 Chair: Good morning and thank you very much for coming in. Sorry for the slight delay in starting. You will appreciate this is effectively the last week of the parliamentary term, which puts Members under a high degree of pressure because Committees are all trying to get things done, so we are also slightly thin on the ground, which does not mean we are any the less interested in what you have to say. Given that there are four of you and I know at least David has to be away at 12, I do not want to inhibit your replies, but if you can try to keep them fairly concise and perhaps not everybody answer every question, that keeps things moving around. I wonder first of all, although I recognise some of you, if you could introduce yourselves for the record.
David Mepham: I am David Mepham. I am the UK Director of Human Rights Watch.
Jennifer Miquel: I am Jennifer Miquel, Women’s Protection and Empowerment Technical Adviser from the International Rescue Committee-IRC.
Sophia Swithern: I am Sophia Swithern, Humanitarian Policy Adviser from Oxfam GB.
Chris Underwood: I am Chris Underwood, Head of Communications from International Alert.
Q2 Chair: As I say, thank you very much. You will appreciate that we are looking at the increased commitment of the Department for International Development to operate in fragile and postconflict states. Our concern is with how you can do that, what the risks are, what the challenges are and how you can deliver it. In the context of that, again you will probably be aware the Committee visited three of those states in the last couple of weeks, namely Rwanda, eastern Congo and Burundi. I suppose the first and most obvious question is, if that is the Department’s commitment, is it a good idea to put more resources in more and more difficult places? If so, which states would you feel that they ought to prioritise in terms of their needs and also DFID’s capacity to make a difference?
David Mepham: Thank you, Chair. Human Rights Watch would argue that yes, if the world is going to make progress in relation to the Millennium Development Goals, and the countries of the Great Lakes, which are the focus of this inquiry, are going to make progress, there needs to be a more sustained effort to tackle the specific challenges that are posed by fragility, weak governance and so on. Human Rights Watch’s particular concern, which we flagged in our submission to the Committee, is that DFID and arguably the UK Government as a whole is not giving enough attention to issues around human rights, the rule of law and responsive government. We feel that what is described as state building is very focused on the technocratic dimensions of building up state capacity, and there has not been sufficient attention to whether the Government is upholding human rights, whether it is respecting the rule of law and whether it is allowing journalists to operate freely. We think more resource needs to be put into those things and more attention needs to be given to those things if the development process is to proceed effectively.
Jennifer Miquel: Just very briefly to complement, I think IRC would agree with that. DFID has really made an impact in the fragile states that it does work in, for example in the health sector and in its approach and so on, but I would argue that, for example in eastern DRC, a lot of donors do put money into working on violence against women issues but a lot more could be done. Certainly with the scale of the problem, not enough is being done there.
Sophia Swithern: Oxfam would agree with both the previous witnesses. Speaking specifically on DRC, the scale of the need does justify the scale of the response and the increase in funding. I think the devil will be in the detail as to how well DFID can achieve its results.
Chris Underwood: Our perspective as a peacebuilding organisation might be not uncomplementary but slightly different in the sense that we would just sound a warning. Not to say that putting money in is a mistake but, for example, to think of the DRC as a state in the context of the state building that we heard about earlier I think would be a mistake. When you were in eastern Congo, you may have noticed that the country has the apparatus of a state but it does not function in the way that anyone would understand a modern state to be. There are risks inherent in putting in large amounts of resources into a very fragile and conflict-prone environment. The way to manage those risks, of course, is having a very thorough and ongoing understanding of the context in which you are working. What, for example, is the political economy? Who is fighting whom and over what? Without that bottom-up understanding, the risk is run of not being as effective with our aid as we might otherwise be and potentially more besides. So we would just place emphasis on understanding the experiences of people on the ground, rather than seeing everything through the lens of a state, which, in eastern Congo’s case, would be a mistake.
Q3 Chair: Coming to Congo, the UK moved into the DRC some years ago, a francophone country with which we have no historical connections. Overall, DRC gets $35 a head in aid, but the UK is a major donor within that. Are we right to be exposed in that way? Are others following suit? Indeed, I have just come from a meeting in which one of the DFID Ministers said effectively other EU states and donors, for example, are happy to let DFID step up to the plate, and in one connection-I will not say which country, but you can probably guess which it is-say, "Well if you want to be fool enough to do that, we ain’t going to follow you." So the real question is: is DFID right to take the lead and indeed is DFID a good agency to be doing it, given that it does not look as if anybody else will do it if we do not?
Chris Underwood: Perhaps conversely, given what I have just said, I think DFID actually is right to take the lead and to put the resources in. But the question, as I think a number of us have said, is how it does that. It is the how; it is not the how much. Unsurprisingly, the focus is on how much money is going in, but perhaps not as much focus is on how it will be used. I think we would say that there needs to be a far greater emphasis on building peace at the outset, rather than the traditional way that has characterised interventions from both DFID and other donors, which is to put the peace after what is conceived of as the development-so the more technocratic approaches to water sanitation, to building up security forces and to investing in education-all of which is absolutely critical, not least given the framework of the MDGs. But without peace and that emphasis on building stability, those sorts of investments risk not having the impact that they were intended to have. So yes, it is right-we commend DFID for taking this lead-but we just hope that that emphasis on peacebuilding is there from the outset.
David Mepham: One of the things that is interesting and I know the Committee wants to look at are these new Operational Plans that DFID has produced-the two for DRC and Rwanda were published in May of this year-which set out, as I suspect the Committee will have seen, the range of indicators by which DFID’s performance in those countries is going to be assessed and judged. Interestingly, both with the DRC, which we are focused on now, and Rwanda, they are very focused on what we might call service delivery. It is about kilometres of roads rebuilt or upgraded; the number of people who register to vote-that is an interesting one; and the number of girls and boys supported in primary school. There is less, as Chris was saying, about political space, about peace and about whether women and girls feel safe from violence. Those things are sometimes harder to measure, but it seems to us that if you are going to get progress in places like the DRC, you need to give equal emphasis-indeed arguably more emphasis-to those kinds of indicators and metrics rather than an over-focus on service delivery outcomes.
Q4 Chair: We will come to those a little later on. The only comment one would make is that, for example, when we looked at the roads that DFID was reconstructing in Congo, one of the benefits that was unanticipated was that it improved security, which was counterintuitive because people thought it might have had the opposite effect. So there were some peace benefits from road building.
David Mepham: Don’t get me wrong, Chair; I am not suggesting building roads is not important. I suppose the question is about the comprehensiveness of the indicators that DFID has.
Q5 Richard Harrington: I must just push you again on this, Mr Mepham. From a first visit to the DRC, etc.-I cannot claim the kind of expertise that the panel have-it does seem to me that on the huge and phenomenal scale of the problems, with communications, education, health, and so on, I cannot accept that the state building side, which I am not saying is unimportant, can be treated as a priority, when people are hungry, dying young, being raped, and all the rest of it. I think perhaps we will just have to agree that there is a difference of opinion on that, but if you or anybody else could comment on that, I would appreciate it.
David Mepham: Can I come back on that? You are suggesting I am making a particular comment. I am certainly not saying that progress on health, education and infrastructure are not important things.
Richard Harrington: I know you are not.
David Mepham: What Human Rights Watch is saying-and I suspect there will be some sympathy for this among the panellists here-is that DFID and the UK Government need to give comparable emphasis to addressing some of the underlying causes, which in the DRC case are about the dysfunctionality of political institutions, about impunity and about the fact you have got a bunch of warlords wandering round the east of the country and not being held to account for their crimes. If you push that to one side and don’t deal with it, I suspect you won’t make the kind of progress on development that we would all like to see.
Sophia Swithern: If I could add in on that from Oxfam’s experience, to take security-sector reform as a pillar of what we call state building, it is an essential part of helping people not to be hungry and not to be pushed into IDP camps where there may be cholera outbreaks. These life-saving mechanisms are very much linked to people’s safety. I think there are two elements to state building. One is the intervention at a high level-at the political level and technical level-and the other thing is building community capacity so that they can create local change and engage with those who are supposed to be providing security services to them. To give you an example, somebody might be going hungry because they cannot go to market without paying $5 at each of the five checkpoints for the 10 km it takes for them to get to market. Enabling them on the local level-the bottomup approach-to engage with those who might be manning those illegal checkpoints, largely police and army, to get those checkpoints out of the way, at the same time as the high-level interventions that DFID is engaged in with the police reform, is all part and parcel of helping people to meet Millennium Development Goals: not go hungry, not go thirsty and feel safe.
Q6 Chris White: We all recognise that delivering services in countries like DRC is going to be costly and difficult. In your view, do you think DFID’s spending on healthcare is going to represent value for money?
Jennifer Miquel: I guess the straightforward answer is yes. I think DFID, certainly in DRC, has had a really big impact on people’s health. The DFIDfunded health programme, if I am correct, provides medical services to about 1.4 million people right now. Certainly from IRC’s point of view, the approach that DFID has is a good one-training healthcare professionals, rebuilding health centres, providing the equipment to the health centres and so on. It has also advocated with IRC to provide free services to children under five, pregnant women and survivors of sexual violence. That has really increased the uptake of services by people from 0.37 to 0.7. That really is quite beneficial and we would advocate that it would be good to also try to provide free services for all reproductive health services; I think that would really increase the uptake and also be beneficial to people’s health. I also think the approach that has been taken has built the confidence a little bit more in the Government structures. Respect is not the word I want to use, but people just believe a little bit more in the system and working through the Ministry of Health.
Q7 Chris White: Can you comment on the high level of maternal mortality rates and what is being done to start bringing those figures down?
Jennifer Miquel: If you provide free reproductive health services, that would probably have an effect on maternal mortality rates.
Q8 Chris White: Are you seeing any shift in the numbers?
Jennifer Miquel: I am not sure about that right now. I don’t know if my colleagues are.
Q9 Chris White: If I can move on a little bit, in your collective view, does DFID have appropriate systems for measuring outcomes accurately and assessing the impact of its interventions?
Chris Underwood: As an overall observation, what we would say is that the MDGs are useful for many things, but they are not particularly useful for measuring progress in conflictaffected and fragile states, eastern DRC and Burundi being very good examples of that, for some of the reasons that I have given in earlier answers. If you are talking about measuring progress in an area where violence occurs, either of the sort that Mr Harrington was talking about in terms of rape or actual armed violence between groups, then progress needs to be measured in terms of equipping those societies to manage the roots of those conflicts without recourse to violence. That is the single most important measure of progress at that point in those communities, because the spin-off effects of those conflicts carrying on relates to some of the issues that we have just been talking about in respect of maternal mortality, lack of access to basic services and basic life expectancy. So we would say that impact and measuring progress needs to be far more about looking at the political context of those societies rather than the technocratics like how many kilometres of road have been built and how many other services have been delivered.
DFID itself, to give it credit-and in fact to give the last Government credit as well as this one-has started moving towards a position of starting to do that. We have recently seen the recruitment of what seems like lots of conflict advisers to be based in the Great Lakes region and others to carry out precisely that sort of context-led analysis. It is certainly our hope that measuring impact and progress in those ways that are more relevant to the local context is something that DFID can take forward.
Q10 Chris White: Finally, and perhaps this is a more formal way of asking Richard’s question, do you think the right balance is being struck between humanitarian assistance and longterm development?
Sophia Swithern: We are all aware that there is not a simple dichotomy between humanitarian and development, and that there is a huge area in between, which is sometimes referred to as transitional. Looking particularly at DRC, you have got 22 million square kilometres with highly localised settings. I remember doing community assessments in eastern DRC and going to two villages within 10 km of each other, one of which was in what could be described as a conflict setting with a high need for humanitarian assistance and the next which was asking for development assistance and was ready for that. It is highly localised and highly fluid as well, with the movement of armed groups and the movement of threats. Similarly in the west, which might be framed as a development setting, there is now a cholera outbreak in the Kinshasa area. So I think there is a need to think in a much more nuanced way than humanitarian/development.
We would say there is a need to continue with humanitarian assistance and to continue with that humanitarian assistance based on, as Chris was saying, a very clear context and needs analysis rather than a chronological or a macro narrative that says, "The country has now moved on; let’s do development assistance." There is also a need for DFID to help to bridge the gap and provide flexible and longterm funding that is able to deal with the bits in between humanitarian and development assistance in a nonpoliticised way.
Chair: I do not claim to be an expert at all, but having been in Bukavu five years ago and again three weeks ago, the situation had changed for the better. Although I would say that, having not been in Goma five years ago, Goma does not seem to be doing so well. Of course there are a lot more people there. So the impression that we get is that it is patchy. DFID is making a difference; the question is whether or not, as you say, it is strategically contributing to the longterm peace. That brings me on to the question I was going to ask Anas Sarwar to ask.
Q11 Anas Sarwar: Good morning, everyone. I just wanted to follow up on the point about governance and state building and the elections coming up. You mentioned the figure of 31 million people they are hoping to have on the electoral register by the 2011 elections, and we know that over £50 million has been going from DFID to the UNDP to support those elections and democratic institutions. I just wonder what you feel people’s expectations are of the elections that are coming up.
David Mepham: I think there are a number of points about the elections. One is it is an interesting indicator about enrolment; clearly enrolment is important but perhaps the most critical thing is the elections are free and fair, and there may be some concern and scepticism about whether that will happen. I think there is also an issue about whether the UN mission in DRC-MONUSCO-is going to be appropriately equipped and mandated to provide the sort of protection for civilians that is going to be necessary in the run-up to the election. One of our concerns is that the period between now and the elections, which are scheduled for November, may see a further upsurge in violence in various parts of the country. Is MONUSCO equipped to deal with that and protect civilians?
They are the two issues that we particularly flag around the elections, but a third point that is critical is not to think that elections are the be-all and end-all of state building and stability. They are important and they have a critical role in terms of the accountability of a Government to its people, but if we put too much emphasis on elections and we neglect other critical aspects of state building, including the rule of law, dealing with impunity and protecting human rights, then we are missing something very important. I would argue that in the DRC in particular, there has been a failure on the part of the international community, including the UK Government and DFID, to give appropriate priority to dealing with impunity.
You talked about Goma. There is a guy called Bosco Ntaganda; there is an ICC arrest warrant out for him. He walks around eastern Congo not being arrested or apprehended. He is responsible for various serious human rights violations, and his presence and the presence of the forces around him is a major source of instability in that region. So alongside credible, free, fair and impartial elections, we need actions to deal with people who are responsible for war crimes as well.
Chris Underwood: Agreeing with all of that, we would add that elections take place at three different levels in DRC. They take place at Kinshasa level-national; then there are regional, provincial parliaments; and then there are the local elections-at a very local level themselves. The last time there were elections in DRC, the central ones at the national level took place, as did the provincial parliamentary ones, but the local ones never did. Back in 2006 they just did not happen. I think that gets across something about the lack of a culture of political accountability that characterises much of eastern DRC. It might be helpful to bear in mind what it is that DFID’s objectives might be in supporting those elections. Is it a technocratic, "Elections are a milestone along the way towards state building," or is it more about empowerment, inclusion and drawing groups in that traditionally are not represented in these power-broking elites? The results are there to be seen.
For example, women are highly under-represented. They actually went down in the last election from 12% to 8% in the national Government of DRC. A lot of Alert’s work in eastern Congo is with women, with the idea of empowering them politically, both to come through as potential candidates and to stand at each of those three levels. There is not a great deal you can do when the elections themselves don’t happen at all, but we would certainly want to see donors in particular thinking about creative ways to start bringing through those under-represented groups in those elections, as well as thinking about the potential consequences of holding the elections, in terms of violence or instability.
Q12 Anas Sarwar: I was going to go on and ask about the risks-I think you have already answered it-in terms of whether there will be free and fair elections, whether there will be an upsurge in violence and whether MONUSCO is properly equipped to deal with any violence that comes forward. I was also going to ask you about whether you think DFID places too much emphasis on elections as being the catalyst for change all the time. I think you partly answered that question in what you said. I just wondered what you think donor communities can do-not only DFID but working with other donor communities alongside the UN organisations-to make sure that you have got an inclusive political settlement that, yes, creates an environment for doing all the fantastic health projects, education projects and poverty reduction projects, but also does the things that Chris is talking about in terms of empowerment and making sure there is equal access for all, irrespective of their background, gender and what part of the country they are from. What more do you think donor communities can do working together to achieve that?
David Mepham: If I could flag two things-I touched on one of them a moment ago-I do think this impunity issue is really important in the DRC. It is an extraordinary place in the sense that huge numbers of crimes have been committed by people over decades now and very few people have been brought to account for the crimes that they have committed. There is an old debate about peace versus justice and people sometimes say, "Well you have to trade justice to get peace." I think in the DRC that is emphatically not the case; the fact that these guys have committed abuses and committed them again and carried on committing them and never been held to account is part of the problem in the DRC. So I think a really big push by DFID, alongside the Foreign Office and other sympathetic Governments, to try to tackle this problem is a very important part of trying to get the DRC into a better space.
I touched on this guy Bosco Ntaganda, who certainly needs to be arrested by the DRC Government. I think another critical issue in terms of civilian protection is the role of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which is a Ugandan rebel group that has a presence in the north of the Congo and probably has been responsible in the last year or so for a larger number of killings than any of the other groups. There are killings going on all across the east of the country, but they are in the north. I mentioned the role of MONUSCO, the UN mission. Human Rights Watch and many others do not feel that enough attention is being given by that UN mission to tackling the killings and the atrocities that have been committed by the LRA. Giving more emphasis to that and giving that more support is an important way of trying to stabilise that critical part of the country.
Q13 Anas Sarwar: It is clear that without justice there will not be peace in the region. I think to say, as you quite rightly said, that you can have one or the other is simply not true. Should DFID and the UK be using their position as a large donor to gain influence with the Government to press them to do these things, or does the Government not have the capacity to do these things, or, further, does it have the capacity but the corruption and injustice themselves are so ingrained in terms of its own organisation and its own people that it does not want to do it, no matter what pressure comes?
David Mepham: Others will want to come in, but I do think that DFID and the UK Government have leverage both with the DRC and certainly with Rwanda-it has lots of leverage with Rwanda, which we are going to come on to. So yes, I think they should be exerting that leverage more proactively to address issues around impunity and some of these other questions that we have talked about.
Chris Underwood: Does DFID have leverage? Yes it does. So does the UK Government as a whole. On the point I was making about women earlier, there is already a line in the DRC’s constitution that talks about parity-in fact, 50% representation for women-at each of those three levels of Government that I was just talking about. But it has sat there and nothing much has happened since 200506 when that was sent to the President following the national elections. There are now protests in the streets of Kinshasa led by women’s groups, both from the east and from other parts of Congo, trying to pressurise the Parliament of Congo into pushing that principle of parity into electoral law, making it mandatory to have that sort of inclusive representation at political level. I think the UK Government can very well use leverage, because that is a political decision. That is not really anything to do with capacity; that is a political decision that could and should be taken.
Just to illustrate some of the context, because sometimes it is a very abstract discussion, there was a woman who stood, unsuccessfully, in those last elections to be mayor of Bukavu. She was a very impressive candidate, but she was characterised by some of the institutions around there, namely the church, as being first of all a prostitute and then a mistress of Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda. If you can understand the politics, as you do, that is a particularly serious charge to make on someone and, unsurprisingly perhaps, she did not win that election. Several years after that, however, that same woman was coopted into being mayor of Bukavu because the incumbent who did win that election had to stand down.
That tells you two things. First of all, there is a lack of inclusion inherent in that region, which is perhaps responsible for the lack of inclusion in the political system, but it also tells you that there are people there who do not go along with that. Using that leverage to bring about those more inclusive political settlements is something that the UK is, I think, beginning to think about doing and could do more of. We would very much support them in that endeavour.
Sophia Swithern: In terms of the UK’s influence, there are probably five things the UK can do. One is this leverage, which we have already touched on. Another is to lead by example. Although you were saying that other donors may be regarding DFID as foolhardy, I think there is something to be said that where DFID goes, others will follow. There is also a role around coordination; as such a big donor, DFID can have a role in bringing other donors together. Previously piecemeal or scattered initiatives, to again take the example of security-sector reform, can be brought together to be more effective and DFID can have a role in that. To take the example of the LRA, on the one hand DFID’s assistance can tackle it at the political level and, on the other hand, road building in the LRAaffected areas will reduce the isolation of those communities, and therefore help them to be safer and more protected.
Then, as Chris was saying, the issue of civil society has been touched on. Not just to represent and to put political pressure on itself, but to build civil society to have its voice heard itself. I think this is a theme of all of our interventions. There are plentiful examples of where civil society can hold the Government to account. To take an education example, a coalition of Congolese education NGOs interrogated the education budget after the IMF debt relief and through parliamentary debate held the Minister to account. One of the participants said, "After 20 years, this is what it feels like to confront and hold power to account." I think this civil society bolstering is a key component of what DFID can do programmatically as well as politically.
Q14 Richard Harrington: Leading on from that, I know we want to go on to talk about the Rwandan human rights situation, which we will, but we have mentioned human rights in the context mainly of the DRC. I would just like to put a view to you that was given to me by the European Union ambassador in Burundi. Sam Gyimah and I had lunch with him when the others were immersing themselves in Burundi. He has been around a long time; he was first posted there 15 years ago. I cannot remember his surname-Stéphane something or other. He is Belgian-a very well-acknowledged person. His view on human rights was as follows. He said people like the President of Burundi "could not care less about human rights; they have no interest at all. We have no leverage whatsoever on them, because they are quite happy for us to do whatever aid we want"-presumably because they get their cut in different ways through budget support and everything like that-"and we have to work around it." It was a cynical view and he said you cannot understand the mentality of people who have no interest in human rights or how people live. I have to accept his view on that. It was an experienced one; it was not like we would get from a Daily Mail reader here. But he then went on to say how important he felt everything that we do is in Burundi. He was just talking about Burundi obviously, but I am sure there are parallels to what we have been talking about today. I must say, I went along with that, because DFID does seem, as with many of the other agencies, to be doing a lot of very good work in Burundi.
It brings me back to what we were talking about before, about your view collectively, which seems to be that we have to do the nation building and the civil society stuff in parallel to it. But I get the impression that we can only do what we can do in the DRC, and the fact is we met people that I am sure have been involved in rapes and they put on a suit and they have their Montblanc pens and all this kind of stuff, but the office does not give them the respectability that it would command in a nonfragile state. I would like to drill down on this leverage thing. To what extent do you really believe that DFID or the entire community have leverage, like you have said it has leverage, when we are dealing with regimes who have shown that all this human rights stuff is of no real interest to them? I am sure they are quite happy to let everything proceed; they would rather it worked than it didn’t work. But I cannot understand how you feel, given that context of these dictators, that we can really exert leverage. If you could give me an example of one thing in Burundi, DRC or Rwanda where you think the leverage of the international development/aid community has made one difference, I would feel a lot happier about running that line of argument.
David Mepham: Could I answer that, Chair, with reference to Rwanda? I don’t know whether you want to move on to Rwanda yet.
Richard Harrington: I was going to then move on to Rwanda.
David Mepham: In Burundi, arguably we have less leverage because, for example, the aid programme is being closed down. DRC a little bit less; I think we still, for the reasons given, have considerable leverage there too. But certainly in relation to Rwanda, I think the UK has a very significant amount of leverage, because along with the United States, it has probably been the Government in the last 20 years that has been most supportive of Paul Kagame’s Government in Rwanda. It has been consistently championing the Rwandans in the UN Security Council. We give a very large amount of development aid to Rwanda. We give about £70 million a year currently; it is due to rise to £90 million in five years’ time. Our critique is not that suddenly we should say, "We are not giving any of that," overnight, but there should be a much more hard-headed, tough conversation with the Rwandans about what they are doing with the resources we provide them.
Q15 Richard Harrington: I understand that. I was going to move on to Rwanda. Rwanda is comparatively easy to answer. I do know about DFID’s leverage, and that is why, in the context of Burundi and DRC, I was asking more about the leverage of the whole international aid community and not just DFID, because I do understand the position in Burundi with DFID. If it is possible to comment on DRC or Burundi and then we will move on to Rwanda, I would appreciate it if anyone has anything to say on that. One example of any leverage that the entire international aid effort has had in changing Governments’ views towards human rights, governance and everything like that would be most useful.
Chris Underwood: It is difficult to give a specific example. I am not trying to dodge your question; you must challenge me if you feel I am.
Richard Harrington: We are politicians; we are used to that. In fact, it is compulsory.
Chris Underwood: You said the thing I couldn’t. If you are talking about fundamental change, particularly somewhere as physically large, let alone the size metaphorically of the challenges, of DRC, you have to consider what sort of timescales you are talking in. Are you, for example, talking about examples of leverage exercised in six months or six years? If you look at the World Development Report, which was a game-changer of a report brought out by the World Bank only a few months ago, you will see that they talk about change taking place over generations-over decades. One of the reasons why I gave the shocking example that I did from Bukavu was to illustrate where we are now. You do not change situations like that overnight. I know you are not suggesting that we do, but if we are serious about tackling progress and measuring impact, as Mr White was talking about, we have to take those sorts of timescales. We have to take the political economy, who is fighting who and over what, what some of the social inclusion or exclusion issues are-including the human rights abuses that may very well take place-and over what timescale we can affect a fundamental change. We would argue that it is a very longterm endeavour. Perhaps your question might be better phrased, "Over the next 20 to 30 years, what sort of fundamental change are we serious about bringing about in eastern DRC?" From our point of view, you simply cannot look at it in any other way.
Q16 Richard Harrington: I think that is a reasonable answer. Should we move on to Rwanda? It is probably better. We were told in everything we read before we went there about the concern for human rights in Rwanda. Perhaps for the sake of the Committee and the record, it would be possible just to go through what you feel these concerns are in terms of things that have happened and then what DFID should be doing that it is not doing to develop civil society.
David Mepham: I am very happy to kick off on that one, because we devote quite a lot of attention in our own submission from Human Rights Watch to the Rwanda example. Just to frame this in the recent history, everybody on this Committee and, I suspect, watching these proceedings remembers the 1994 genocide. That is embedded in people’s memories-that extraordinarily shocking event where the world stood back and failed to prevent the killing of between 500,000 and 800,000 people in 1994. But I think probably quite a lot of the history after that is not so well known. Human Rights Watch and many other human rights organisations and UN bodies have been documenting human rights abuses that have taken place, both within Rwanda and in eastern Congo, involving the Rwandan army and others supported by the Rwandans, and tens of thousands of people were also killed in that period.
One of the interesting things that came out in this UN mapping report that was published at the end of 2010-this was a report produced by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; it looked at what had gone on in the Congo between 1993 and 2003-was it identified a whole range of actors who had been responsible for very serious human rights abuses, for war crimes and for crimes against humanity, including the Rwandan army and groups affiliated with the Rwandan army. It describes tens of thousands of people being killed inside the Congo in that period; it also describes significant numbers of people being killed within Rwanda between 1994 and 1999. So this is not a new story. In a way, human rights abuses have been occurring on a very large scale since 1994 and I do not think that has been given the kind of attention that it deserves. The UK Government and DFID have had a very close relationship with the Rwandans since the mid1990s and I am not sure that the human rights abuses that have been committed by the Rwandan army have featured sufficiently in that dialogue with the Rwandans, given the human rights abuses that were taking place.
To bring it up to the current day, if you think back to the 2010 elections that took place in Rwanda, none of the three candidates from the opposition parties were allowed to meaningfully participate in the presidential election. Various obstructions were put in their way: two were detained; the vice-president of a third party was murdered, his body was mutilated. The President won the election with 93% of the vote on a 97% turnout. I do not think anybody objectively looking at that would regard it as a free and fair election.
I suppose the question that we would pose is: what were the consequences of that? Was that really raised at the highest levels between DFID, the UK Government and the Rwandans? Did they talk through what that meant and what was going to be done to address it? Across the whole range of issues, whether it is political space, the right of opposition parties to operate meaningfully, or the rights of journalists to report on what is going on. Again, there has been a huge clampdown on the press in Rwanda; it is very difficult now to write critical stories about the Rwandan Government and what is going on in the country. There is a very strange law, called the Law of Genocide Ideology, which is illdefined and vague and allows the Government of Rwanda to arrest people on grounds of threatening national security in ways that I think we would all regard as being unacceptable. There are also serious infringements on the capacity of civil society to operate. All of these things suggest to us that the human rights situation within Rwanda is very grave and this ought to be reflected to a significant extent in the dialogue that DFID is having with the Rwandans.
Yet what we appear to have is a commitment that has just been made in the five-year Operational Plan to increase the budget in Rwanda from £70 million a year to £90 million a year. Interestingly, there are four objectives that are described in that Operational Plan that DFID has set out for the Rwandans. Three and four are good ones. It says, "Increased accountability of the state to citizens and empowerment of women, girls and the extreme poor," and number four is a "transition to more open and inclusive politics and enhanced human rights". I think we would all be very supportive of that. But then you look at the eight or so indicators that DFID has set itself for its programme in Rwanda, and these kinds of issues around political space, freedom of expression and the rights of civil society do not feature. What we would argue, to make it very concrete, is there ought to be some concrete benchmarks-some indicators-that DFID is pushing for and promoting and supporting in terms of its programme in Rwanda rather than appearing to turn a blind eye to very serious human rights abuses that are taking place.
Q17 Chair: Certainly when we met human rights groups, they commented that they felt that in Rwanda this topdown repression was creating a pressure-cooker effect. Nobody was predicting what would happen, but they say that somewhere, somehow, it could break out in a pretty negative way.
David Mepham: What is often said-and there is clearly some truth in it-is that Rwanda has made an extraordinary amount of progress since 1994 and things in relation to some of the MDGs have progressed very well. But I think you are right, Chair, that underneath that there is a great deal of fragility in Rwanda; there is a lot of political fragmentation and a lot of discontent that does not often get articulated openly because people are fearful of the consequences of that. I think if we ignore that or suggest that it is not happening, the longterm stability of Rwanda is also imperilled, quite apart from concerns about human rights in the short term. Just to give one example about media, Reporters Without Borders, which is a body that looks at media freedom, ranks Rwanda bottom of the list in Africa in terms of the ability of journalists to honestly report on what is going on in the country. I suppose the question for this Committee is: what kind of development is it if independent journalists are not able to report honestly about what is going on? Isn’t that an essential component of a functioning society, a functioning democracy and successful development?
Q18 Richard Harrington: I think we would all agree with what you said. The fact is that the lives of the majority of people are fundamentally better in Rwanda than they were in the previous period that you were talking about. That is why it is spoken of a lot as being, to the likes of us, a successful example of what development aid can do. It comes back to this leverage argument, doesn’t it? We must find out more about it. It is very hard for those not there to know.
David Mepham: I know others will want to come in, but can I share just one example? I know at some point soon you will be having the Secretary of State or one of the Ministers here to give evidence before the Committee. In 2006, the UK Government and the Rwandan Government signed this thing called the Memorandum of Understanding. It was a 10-year MoU that set out mutual responsibilities and rights of the two sides, and how they were going to work together. It talked a lot about human rights and responsible government and accountability and so on. I think it would be very interesting to ask the Minister what has happened to that. Has that been jettisoned? Does that still exist? It talked about an honest dialogue between the development partner and the UK Government, addressing these kinds of questions. It is not referenced at all in the five-year Operational Plan. It would be interesting to know whether the UK Government and DFID are raising these kinds of questions at the highest levels with the Rwandans on a regular basis.
Q19 Richard Harrington: I don’t think any of us would disagree with that; that is very helpful.
David Mepham: I think it would be very useful to press the Secretary of State on that.
Q20 Richard Harrington: I would just like to discuss briefly the community building programme that we saw in DRC, which was run by IRC. I must say it was most impressive, and your colleagues there, led by Ciaran, all of us thought were very impressive. This is the one that one cannot pronounce-Tuganane?
Jennifer Miquel: Tuungane.
Richard Harrington: Tuungane. Well, I didn’t do badly at it.
We saw examples of villages that had got together and had made votes for facilities that were to be implemented. We saw an example of a medical centre that was built; we saw spring water with taps and things. So we actually saw the end product of that. We could see the outcomes measured in terms of DFID’s money being put through IRC, and we saw bricks and mortar and water and heard what people were saying, but one question that we have asked ourselves as a Committee is: do we try to measure the outcomes for the British taxpayer through that or through the actual use of those facilities? For example, we saw a finished medical centre but it then depended very much on the DRC Government to actually run it-to provide the nurses, doctors, and other facilities. I think there is one question on that. I would like to ask as well what tangible results IRC would expect to see in terms of improved governance and social cohesion coming from that.
Jennifer Miquel: Just to clarify, your first question is how do you measure? Do you measure more in terms of the bricks being laid or do you measure it at the end?
Richard Harrington: The real outcomes.
Jennifer Miquel: Are people actually using the health facilities or not?
Richard Harrington: Yes.
Jennifer Miquel: I think the answer would probably be you do both. In Tuungane, as you saw, it is working really well. We are hoping that by 2015 it is going to reach 2.5 million people in 1,800 villages, but as you probably heard when you were there, we are also conducting an impact evaluation with Columbia University on this.
Richard Harrington: Yes.
Jennifer Miquel: We are expecting the results at the end of this year or some time next year. That will help us see whether these facilities have been created and whether people are using them. At the same time, it is going to help measure the social cohesion. Has it improved the governance? Has it improved the transparency? Anecdotal evidence so far reveals that this community development and reconstruction approach does give more than infrastructure, it strengthens the ownership of the communities of all these sorts of structures and increases the transparency and the inclusion in decision making-there is also a gender component to it to try to include women, of course, to play a role. So far the results are really quite positive, I would say.
Q21 Richard Harrington: You have not been excluded on purpose from this, but this is a specific question for Oxfam. What else do you think DFID should be doing in fragile and conflictaffected states that will help the communities hold the Government to account?
Sophia Swithern: Perhaps I can give an example of Oxfam’s protection committees across eastern DRC. We work with groups of 12 people in 33 communities across eastern DRC. There are six women and six men on each committee. Working with local partners, we help them to identify what protection threats they are facing, whom they are facing them from and what they can do to advocate on their own behalf. We are seeing very local impacts of that. For example, in one place where there is a lot of arbitrary arrest by the police, communities have managed to influence for less arbitrary arrest and also when people are arrested, simple things like women and men are held in different cells when the arrest is less arbitrary. There are also issues of checkpoints being dismantled and dialogue with the police and encouraging best practice with the police. In terms of what DFID can to do to help civil society hold service providers to account, it goes back to this issue of flexible funding that allows for engagement with civil society and indicators that are not just quantitative but allow that flexibility for proxy indicators and for more qualitative results.
Chair: The plight of women is central in these areas. I think if women were able to say, "We feel secure and comfortable," you would say you had solved 99% of the problem. Pauline Latham has a number of questions on that, which we need to pursue.
Q22 Pauline Latham: Yes. I apologise for being late; I had an Adjournment debate that I had to attend. In DRC, levels of sexual and gender-based violence are incredibly high. In fact, they are almost the highest in the world, I believe. How do you think DFID can take account of this in its programmes there? Do you think there are sufficient services provided free of charge for women? Do you think they should be standalone services or integrated into primary healthcare? How effectively do you think DFID links its approach to violence against women to its wider education and health strategies?
Jennifer Miquel: Firstly, how should DFID be addressing this? DFID does not fund IRC’s violence against women programmes per se, but I think how DFID has addressed this issue has been through a mainstreamed approach, for example through the healthcare system, ensuring that postrape care and treatment is available for free, and ensuring that the healthcare is free and that the capacity of health providers is there to be able to provide those services. That is great and so mainstreaming is very important, but I would say a standalone programme is also essential. If you really want to look at preventing and responding to violence against women, you have to have a comprehensive approach; you have to look at all the different types of services. If a woman is raped, she needs the healthcare, but she also needs the counselling, the legal support and so on.
So you have that, but you have to try also to look at preventing this violence. That is also very difficult to do-probably the most difficult part of working on violence against women-but there are strategies that you can take, such as working with men or working on empowering women economically, which I think DFID’s Gender House supports as well, which looks at the economic environment of women. IRC has this model called EASE, the economic and social empowerment model, that looks at working through Village Saving and Loan Associations, which help women save some money. Once they have some money saved up, we introduce some business skills so you know how to use that money and you can earn more money. But on top of that, because it is within the structure of these Village Savings and Loan Associations, their spouses are invited to discuss household issues and financial issues-never really talking about violence itself, but we know from an impact evaluation that we have conducted in Burundi, for example, that this reduces this violence. So looking at empowering women and trying to prevent violence that way can also have a real impact, but I think the main message is to try to look at this a little bit more holistically.
I think you also asked about linking it to health and education programmes. The health end I briefly touched upon; all health programmes should try to have a component of addressing the needs of survivors of violence against women. But I think with the education programmes, that can definitely be strengthened. Certainly not enough is done. If we look at studies worldwide, we know that one of the biggest threats to girls is sexual exploitation. We know that we should start reaching and working with these girls by the age of 10, because by 12 it could be too late; they are sexually exploited and you quite possibly go into pregnancies, etc, and then it is very difficult to bring them back into school or to really have any future. So I think that is a very important component.
Q23 Pauline Latham: But also education of boys at a very young age.
Jennifer Miquel: Absolutely, yes.
Sophia Swithern: If I may come in there, I think whilst acknowledging the primacy and the extreme importance of targeting violence against women, there can sometimes be a tendency to have gender being synonymous with violence against women and threats to civilians being synonymous with violence against women, which does two things. It first of all ignores the other threats that people face-men, women and children-and again requires a much deeper context and conflict analysis and an ongoing one that recognises what threats are foremost in people’s experiences and what solutions they suggest.
I think the other thing that it does is it fails often to bring in men. Looking at the differentiated threats to men and to women, for example, men may also be subject to rape-we are seeing increasing incidences of that in DRC-targeted more for forced labour and for abductions and forced recruitments. By addressing those broader gender issues and those broader threats to civilians, it is also an entry point to bring men into discussions about violence against women. If you have committees talking not just about violence against women as their entry point but broadly about the experience of communities, that is an entry point to get men and women together talking about violence against women and how to deal with that in that context.
Chair: I will come back to you, Pauline, but just in passing, one of the liabilities of being Chair of a Committee is that you have to have courtesy visits on local dignitaries. Two contrasting ones: when I asked the education minister of North Kivu what she felt were the issues affecting women and children in this context, her reply was she hoped the international community would solve the problem by "sending those Rwandan rapists home". I had the same conversation with the Governor of South Kivu. He said, "We have to recognise that a significant part of our problem is our own army," so two completely opposite views. The disappointing thing was a woman giving the most absurd political answer and a man who actually understood what the problem was. Putting somebody like that in that position, how are women going to cope if a woman is not standing up and fighting for them? It is a passing comment, but it is kind of depressing.
Q24 Pauline Latham: It is very depressing. Can I also ask what wider gender equality strategies DFID should have in place to attempt to reduce levels of sexual violence? Do you think DFID place sufficient emphasis on the role of women in peacebuilding as suggested by UNSC resolution 1325?
Chris Underwood: On that last point, one of the things we are often told in the region in all three countries is that 1325 is absolutely critical and the gender action plans that flow from that are equally so. But it is worth bearing in mind that those plans are but one of lots of plans on the desks of various decision makers at various levels of Government. You have plans of various kinds coming from the international institutions-the IMF and the World Bank-you have donorled plans; you have numerous plans. So the challenge is that one of the things we are told very strongly-and I was certainly told in no uncertain terms by someone from the region to relay to you today-is that what we certainly do not need is another plan. What we do need is action to turn it into reality on the ground.
Pauline Latham: To implement those you have got, yes.
Chris Underwood: Therefore, that brings me to my second point, which relates both to this question and your last, if I may. The issue of violence against women-the sharp end, if you like-needs to be dealt with in two parallel ways. One is dealing with the very obvious physical, psychological and traumatic effects of that. That is dealing with victims. On the other hand, there are the issues that I have been talking about in response to other questions about empowerment and inclusion. If there are female politicians giving those sorts of answers, that rather begs the question why there are not more female politicians giving perhaps a more balanced and nuanced view.
The answer to that question is because they are simply not being allowed to come through, both by things that are actually in, for example, the DRC’s constitution not being put into electoral law, but also by some of the social situations. Before you came in, I was giving an example of a woman who stood to be mayor of Bukavu in South Kivu, who was characterised by, among others, the local church as being a prostitute and a mistress of Paul Kagame. That gives some flavour of the lack of empowerment. From our point of view, that is a critical part of the equation, when you are talking about dealing with a situation fundamentally that permits such things to happen on such a scale. How long will it take to change that? Generations. I think all of those points come into one on that issue of violence against women.
Q25 Pauline Latham: DFID are placing huge emphasis on women and girls. Do you think it is implemented as well as it could be? The answer is probably no, but do you see the implementation of it in the fragile and conflicted states? Is it making progress there, do you think?
David Mepham: Could I add a comment on that? Others may want to come in. I agree with everything that has been said by my copanellists on this, but I think it is incredibly important to link this issue of the terrible level of violence against women and girls in places like the DRC to the broader context around how you reform the security forces. You have got a situation in eastern Congo where you have got the Congolese army committing a lot of these atrocities, you have got the FDLR committing them, you have CNDP-a whole range of different groups with fancy acronyms committing these kinds of atrocities. As I was saying earlier in the session, very few of those people are being held to account for it. There is this big UN mapping report that was done that looked at all sorts of crimes being committed in the DRC over a 10-year period, including lots of crimes of violence and rape against women and girls. What civil society in the DRC was saying was, "Bring these people to justice." It would really change the political context if some of these people who committed these extraordinary crimes were brought to book for them. Very, very few are. I think this question of dealing with impunity is a critical part of the story.
Jennifer Miquel: If I could just complement all this, it is about having a comprehensive approach. It is not just mainstreaming, which is very important, but having standalone programmes that look at all these different issues-impunity, services, prevention, empowerment and advocacy on this-is how you are going to really address it. I know there are a lot of other institutions and donors that do put money into this, but it is not to the scale of the problem. As you know, the eastern DRC is certainly one of the worst places to be a woman. I think a lot more could be done and a lot more could be invested in this issue.
Q26 Pauline Latham: I know you are going to come on to this, Chair, but I think this issue links in quite well here. I asked the question about MONUSCO-because they know who the rapists are-and what they are doing about it. We were told, "Well they are not there to arrest anybody." So I said, "Couldn’t they just keep them until the police arrived, and then hand them over to the police so the police could then take them through the judicial process and they could get prosecuted?" That might stop some of it. But at the moment they cannot even do that. It seems to me that it ought to be written into their new terms of reference that that is something they should do; they should hang on to the perpetrators when they know who they are and then hand them over to the police. Then the United Nations people said, "We must keep our troops safe." But the troops are very often the perpetrators, so they have got a huge problem to be able to change that mindset. They are not just looking after the soldiers; they should be looking after the raped women and holding the soldiers to account and handing them on to the police or whoever can take it forward and prosecute them. Until that happens, the raping is just going to continue and continue and continue. It does not matter what you have in place, the rapes will continue. You can help people afterwards, but we should be trying to stop them in the first place. I think a really important thing for MONUSCO to do is to have it written into their terms of reference that they should not just let them go back into the bush, because it is such a difficult area to police; the police arrive and they have gone.
David Mepham: Could I add one further comment related to your intervention? I have mentioned a couple of times this UN mapping report, which I think is an incredibly important document that you should encourage the Secretary of State to comment on. It was published at the end of last year and it talks about war crimes over a 10-year period in the DRC. The Government of the Congo has said that it welcomes the report and says that it would like to get to the bottom of this. Given the fragility of the Congolese legal system, what is being talked about is some kind of mixed-court system, so you have some international legal expertise combined with Congolese expertise. That strikes me as something quite practical where DFID could really try to help to buttress and strengthen the Congolese legal system to try to address some of these abuses to address the violence against women and girls that you have described.
Pauline Latham: I think that is something we ought to follow up.
Q27 Anas Sarwar: Turning to the security sector and justice reforms, there are many diverse armed groups operating in eastern DRC. How does this affect the work of DFID and other donors?
David Mepham: The short answer is it makes it very difficult.
Sophia Swithern: I suppose the resounding silence from the panellists is because I certainly do not have a geographic map of where DFID’s operations are.
Q28 Anas Sarwar: Give the example of some of Oxfam’s work in the DRC then. How might the fragility impact on some of the work that Oxfam does? DFID would probably have the same problems.
Sophia Swithern: The presence of armed groups in many ways creates the raison d’être for our interventions in the east. It is as a result of the armed groups and the violence that people are displaced, that people are moved away and have limited access to basic services, and that we see health indicators go down. So I think in many ways where there are armed groups and where there is active conflict is where humanitarian intervention needs to be placed. To take the example that David was citing of the LRA, there is insufficient donor attention to the LRAaffected areas, but there is a pressing need. Very few agencies are there. Oxfam is there; MONUSCO has a very small presence in relation to the need. I think about 20% of eastern DRC’s displaced people are up in the LRAaffected areas, but only about 5% of MONUSCO’s troops. So in many ways, looking at where the armed groups are should be part of the conflict analysis that guides where interventions should happen.
Looking at DRC in comparison with many places in the world, the presence of armed groups and the fragility of the situation does not make programming too difficult. Although there has been an increase in attacks against humanitarians, relatively speaking there are fewer targeted attacks against humanitarians. There is not a widespread or a systemic hostility to international presence and international intervention there. There is the peacekeeping force there. So the conditions are there that, with sensible intelligence, risk assessment and good programming, it should not prevent DFID from doing good programming there.
Q29 Anas Sarwar: Are there any specific examples of obstruction that has taken place in any programmes, whether it be a DFID programme or an Oxfamrun programme or any other programmes?
Chris Underwood: To give you an example-and this is not of obstruction to a DFID programme or even our work, but it might give an illustration of what you are talking about-the last time I was in eastern DRC I was giving a training programme to many partners in South Kivu. The training was in advocacy and communications to make their case primarily to MONUSCO in relation to some of the issues that your questions were relating to. The example is that one woman who was taking part in that training programme ran a local human rights organisation. She had started that local human rights organisation, which essentially gathered evidence and tried to prevent human rights abuses taking place by publicising them where they did, in Ituri, which is in the north of the east of the country, but she had had to move four times because she had been threatened successively with death by the FDLR, members of the Congolese army, a militia called the Mai Mai and then another one whose acronym I forget. So that woman had to uproot herself, her family and the organisation. You are absolutely right; thankfully international humanitarians are generally not the targets for this sort of thing, but do not underestimate the impact of these armed groups on local civil society, because it is very profound indeed.
Q30 Anas Sarwar: Given the risks that are in place because of the fragility of the state and the armed militia groups, and given the drive for DFID to focus on results, is there a risk that DFID will concentrate more on the stable parts of the country in order to get those better results? Are there any examples of that?
Chris Underwood: I think there is a real temptation to focus on shortterm results. That is an understandable one from the UK Government and, for that matter, any other donor Government. It is very hard to explain to a very hardpressed public the fact that you are spending taxpayers’ money in places that have such profound and deeprooted problems. So the temptation, understandably, particularly from the Secretary of State but others as well, will be to look for the quick wins-to look, perhaps, for some of the more technocratic investments that can be made that you can point to perhaps one or two years down the line: "Those buildings now exist"; "That road is now built"; "Those services are now there". That is not an argument not to do them, but it is an argument to measure progress over the timescale-
Q31 Anas Sarwar: Is that happening in the most fragile parts as well as the more stable parts?
Chris Underwood: Is that happening, did you say?
Anas Sarwar: Yes. In terms of that focus on results and the focus on the programmes. Is it happening in even the most difficult parts of the eastern DRC where there are the militia groups, or is it happening in the eastern DRC but in bits and patches where things are a bit more stable and a bit safer for people that are there doing programmes?
Chris Underwood: I think the temptation is overall, but clearly where you have got the sorts of challenges that we have just been talking about in places like eastern DRC the temptation is ever greater, because it is easier to retreat back into more stable areas and to focus on technocratic results. If you are trying to achieve the fundamental shifts that we have been talking about in this session, you have to be talking about a much longer timescale and talking about things that at first sight are less tangible than buildings, roads or infrastructure. How do you change the political space in which conflicts over land, for example, can be managed without recourse to violence-that there is a system and a culture of law that people have confidence in and that, if they do not get their way this time around, they will live to fight another day? Those sorts of changes take place over a much longer period of time. That is not just us talking; that is what the World Bank are now saying in the World Development Report. So I do not mean to say that DFID is now focusing on being shorttermist, but I think that temptation is there and the pressure will grow.
David Mepham: I think it is a really important question to put to DFID. I think Chris is right; because the Government has set itself this very resultsoriented framework, there is a tendency and all the incentives will be built up to deliver against those indicators, understandably. So I think it is worth pushing how they are going to deal with that potential incentive structure and what the geographical spread of their programming is. Are they going to be going to the easily reached communities or is there going to be a more concerted attempt to get to the poorest, the most marginalised and the most excluded, which is what development is all about? If those people are marginalised and overlooked because they are too difficult, that is problematic.
Q32 Anas Sarwar: Just following on from what Chris said, it is clear that DFID concentrates on the consequences of violence and conflict. Do you think it spends enough time and resource on the causes of the conflict and violence?
Chris Underwood: Unsurprisingly, I would say no, to date, but I would say, in credit to the Secretary of State, I think he gets this, judging by what he has said and some of the country plans that have come out, particularly the DRC’s. There is a recruitment drive at the moment for conflict advisers-people with the skills, the experience and the technical knowledge to undertake the sort of analysis of the local context that needs to be done. So to date no, but that would not be just a criticism you would make of DFID; that would be a criticism I think we would make of the way that the aid industry has worked to date. There is a preoccupation, for example, with the MDGs, which are completely inappropriate for situations in which the primary focus has got to be peace or continued levels of extreme violence.
Sophia Swithern: Just looking at the Operational Plan, it is quite telling that there is a line in there under "Governance and Security" on page 18 that is to "promote stabilisation and conflict prevention focusing on ongoing stabilisation, peace consolidation and civilian protection efforts"-£10 million for a new programme. It says "aid instrument to be decided" and under dates it just says, "Design." So I think it is a very timely moment to be looking at this and clearly in this design phase we trust that DFID will be looking at all these issues raised.
Looking at the Operational Plan, it is an interesting mix between what look like very quantitative, tangible, outputdriven indicators-and you have heard all our comments on those-but also a certain amount of risk taking and innovation. If I remember rightly, it categorises its interventions into three areas broadly: the ones that are tried and tested-the safe ground in DRC; the things that have been tried and tested elsewhere that are probably transferable to DRC; and then the ones for which there is limited evidence-we are not sure about their transferability, but they are essential so we are going to try them. I think that kind of innovation, if it does bear in mind these principles, is to be welcomed and closely monitored.
Q33 Richard Harrington: I would like to return to the subject that Pauline Latham brought up before, and that is the whole issue of MONUSCO, the security side of the United Nations there-the peacekeeping in eastern DRC, where we were. When they gave us a presentation of what they do and their problems, they pointed out that it worked out, I think, at about two and a half soldiers per village in the area. So although 22,000 sounds a lot for the country, it comes down to small numbers on the ground. I would very much be interested to hear your views of how you assess the effectiveness of MONUSCO and what good it is doing and, quite apart from the problem I have said of the shortage of people, what are the main challenges it faces in carrying out its mandate?
Sophia Swithern: You were talking about the two and a half soldiers in each area. I was interested to hear about the half.
Richard Harrington: I think it is just the number of villages divided by-
Sophia Swithern: Yes. Of course in addition to the troops, there is the need for the civilians. What we are hearing again and again from communities is that what really makes a difference, as well as the troops, is the civilian capacity to speak to them to find out what the issues are and to deal with problems at civilian level rather than just troops with guns. In the SRSG’s report, he was talking about the need for at least three community liaison assistants. These are local civilian staff who have that engagement with communities, can map problems and can see where MONUSCO needs to be responding. At the moment, I think we are about 250 CLAs short. They represent a very costeffective way of improving the protection of civilians, which is, under MONUSCO’s Chapter VII mandate, one of its primary objectives.
Another thing that we have touched on that could better respond and implement that protection mandate is the deployment in problem areas. We talked about the LRA and the need to deploy more troops to the LRAaffected areas and to move the bases. At the moment, for example, the base for the LRAaffected areas, which as you know are way up in the north, is in a place called Bunia, which is probably the equivalent of trying to deal with problems in Belfast from Calais. There is a reluctance to move the base up to that area because it is a little bit less comfortable up there. Things like that could make a massive difference.
There is a need for better coordination with other missions in the region around the LRA. Because the LRA is a regional problem-a crossborder problem-MONUSCO needs to be joining up with, for example, the new force in South Sudan. There have been examples of demobilisation of children from the LRA and nobody knows what to do with them. There was one example of a boy who was hanging around with MONUSCO and being moved around the region for longer than he was within the LRA because nobody managed to identify that he was South Sudanese and they needed to be speaking to UNMIS across the border. These kinds of coordination issues are very important.
There needs to be better reporting at the UN level. This is certainly something that the UK can be demanding at the UN. Taking the example of the UN mission in Afghanistan, there is very good, clear reporting on exactly what the mission is doing to address protection threats in quite some detail, rather than just saying, "There was a problem and we did some deployment."
There is lots of good practice that can be replicated. For example, in an area called Kalembe, in Masisi, the South African contingent did foot patrols with the community along the road to market and significantly increased their protection there. These low-cost interventions can be replicated. Of course there is a need, as the new mandate says, for enablers, namely helicopters. MONUSCO is seeing its aerial force reduced as the Indians withdraw their helicopters, and they are the only ones who are able to land in the remote parts of DRC where we are seeing the majority of the problems.
Q34 Richard Harrington: Conscious of the time, could we just move on to the role of MONUSCO in being involved with the reforming and training of the Congolese army? This was mentioned in outline by the Indian general in charge that we met, but not very much. Is it just fanciful? Is it a question of if they get too involved now they are just going to be training up more people that are not part of a cohesive army and who effectively are the problem rather than the solution? Or do you feel that a lot more could and should be done with the Congolese army?
Sophia Swithern: It brings in a broader question, I think, of DFID’s engagement with security sector reform. On MONUSCO specifically, there is a conditionality clause for MONUSCO’s engagement, certainly where it supports operations with the FARDC, and it should not be engaging in operations with those that have been identified as being human rights abusers. That conditionality clause needs better monitoring and better implementation. One would hope that the training would contribute to an army that is less likely to perpetrate abuses against civilians. But it brings in this wider point about coordination for security sector reform that MONUSCO might be doing. MONUSCO has a role and a mandate to coordinate security sector reform but donors are also doing different pieces of the jigsaw and not necessarily joining up. I think there is this need for enhanced coordination of interventions on security sector reform as well as continued pressure on the DRC Government to have a vision and political will to reform the army and what shape that army should take.
David Mepham: Can I make a one-minute contribution on that? There has been this attempt, as you know, to try to integrate some of the different groups from the east into the Congolese armed forces. That is clearly hugely important but I do not think it is going very well. One concrete example of that is this CNDP force, which is nominally part of the Congolese army now, but this guy Bosco Ntaganda is effectively operating autonomously and independently; he is not properly under any kind of Congolese Government control and we are very concerned about some of the things that he is doing in terms of war crimes, abuses and human rights violations. So it is hugely important, but I think the process is very messy and a lot of the people that are at senior levels with military responsibility are behaving in a way that is completely inappropriate, including violating human rights.
Q35 Richard Harrington: I have the unique position of being the only person around this table that went to see the Rwanda Revenue Authority. Actually, I saw the Burundi one, but it is run by the same guy that set up the Rwanda Revenue Authority, which is regarded as being a great success in DFID’s circles. Would people like to comment on that? Is it true how effective it has been in Rwanda? Is it the kind of activity that DFID should be doing in other conflict and fragile areas? As I say, I saw it in Burundi.
Chris Underwood: Enhancing the ability of a state to collect taxes is clearly a good thing to do, both for developmental objectives but also this thing about the relationship between a citizen and a state. We all pay tax, but we have a relationship with the state. With those taxes come expectations of how the state is going to behave, how it is going to deliver services and to what extent we can interact with that. From a peacebuilding point of view, it is absolutely critical, but perhaps more for those reasons than the technical side. I have to say I am not aware of the precise measures that were taken in respect of the revenue authority there, but taxation per se is a critical part of that.
Q36 Richard Harrington: Except in Burundi it could quite clearly be argued that all we are doing is raising money to go into the President’s pocket, because it goes into the budget pot and we have absolutely no control whatsoever of the budget pot, which as an aid community we are contributing half to anyway.
Chris Underwood: Which is precisely why I think we have all been saying in different ways that what must not be lost is the idea of civil-society oversight in how that money is spent or not spent, either at central level in the way that you just talked about or at local level. Where you have got infrastructure projects that will contribute to the local infrastructure of villages or regions, it is really critical to have civil-society oversight of the priorities for that spending and how that spending takes place. From that comes accountability.
Q37 Richard Harrington: Except that the tax authority stuff is purely national budget stuff; there is no way of making it local or giving any form of accountability other than through the Government. If the Government itself does not abide by what we would expect it to, it seems to me there is not much we can do. But as a comparatively corruptionfree collection exercise, which of course is what it was intended to be, would you agree that significant improvements have been made in Burundi? They have designed it, for example, with open-plan floors, so that if you are going to bribe someone you have to do it outside of working hours rather than during them.
Chris Underwood: I have to say I am not au fait with the details.
Q38 Chair: In all of this context-you are talking about human rights, the plight of women, illdiscipline in the army, lack of justice and so forth-at the end of the day, what you are trying to do is give people the opportunity to build livelihoods in spite of all of this. So as a final point, how, when you are engaging as a development partner in these very fragile postconflict states, can you help create a successful private sector? Just a couple of points. Yes, in Rwanda there was clear evidence of an ability to do that, and indeed we saw some very impressive examples of it. The reverse in Burundi and DRC. In Burundi, the Second Vice-President said action was being taken to prosecute corruption and people were being arrested, but we also heard from business people when we were in Goma-it was a particular reception with some of the business people-that they were effectively run out of town because they had not bribed the right people or had been on the wrong side of people. We have had the case of Quantum Mining, who have been literally run out of the country and their massive investments are inactive. Is it possible to build a successful private sector? What should a donor like DFID be doing to try to make it happen, if it is possible, and to tackle corruption in the same context?
David Mepham: I shall go first on that, and then, I must apologise, Chair, I have to go to an interview; I have to be in the studio in 15 minutes. I apologise, I have to slip away; that is pretty bad precedent.
Chair: I know; I appreciate you are past your time. We are just coming to the end.
David Mepham: To take the first part of your question, if I may, you talked about trying to improve people’s livelihoods and give them an opportunity and so on in these sorts of contexts. One final comment from me from Human Rights Watch would be I think it is really important for DFID and for the Committee, when we think about development, to think that development is really about helping poor people to realise their rights and to expand their opportunities, their choices and their ability to shape their own lives. Sometimes we talk about rights and say, "That’s the Foreign Office’s business, and we are doing health and education." But what we would argue is that empowering people and giving them choice and the opportunity to exercise their rights is what development is, as Amartya Sen has been saying for 40 years.
I think what we have all said in different ways is, as Chris noted, about empowering civil society. Investing in civil society groups that can hold their Governments to account and that can challenge the Government if the Government is doing corrupt or inappropriate things has got to be a critical element of what DFID invests in, prioritises and raises in its dialogue with the Governments of Burundi, Rwanda and the DRC. It is not to say infrastructure, health and education are not important; clearly they are. But that has got to be complemented by a more assertive attempt to assert the rights of people and for Governments to respect those rights. We would argue, particularly in Rwanda, that that is not being done at the level or with the persistence or consistency that is required given the gravity of those abuses. I have to slip away; I apologise.
Chair: Thank you very much for coming along.
Chris Underwood: One example that might answer your point as well-and I would share the analysis about development being about progress rather than technocratic steps along the way-is in our work in Rwanda, which has been sponsored by DFID, we have run a project that is microfinance based. The aim is to stimulate economic development at local level. But it is a project that combines microfinance with trauma counselling and reconciliation. Those are the three elements of that particular project. So it is dealing very much with the drive for economic development, which is absolutely fundamental. If you compare the levels of money going in from overseas development aid to the private sector, the aid is dwarfed. So we need to see economic development equitably, but we also need to deal with some of the very deeprooted legacies, particularly in Rwanda from the genocide. That is what the project, bringing together local partners who are specialised in each of those three elements, is designed to do.
The example I wanted to give, in part stemming out of that project, is that we know of a woman who has just opened a business. She, as a child, survived the genocide. She has now opened a business with an individual who was imprisoned for being a genocidaire, who took part in that genocide in 1994. If you can try to imagine the journeys that they have both been on in order to be in that position to take those sorts of decisions, it is quite an inspiring story. The point I really want to make is that, from a donor’s point of view, those sorts of projects are not particularly expensive, but in terms of the sort of contribution they make to the society, both on a reconciliation level in dealing with some of the really deepseated traumas and also to the economic development that we all want to see, we would argue that those are the sorts of projects that should really be looked at in greater detail.
Jennifer Miquel: I would definitely concur. You can work at the local level and focusing on the economic empowerment of women can have further positive benefits as a whole and on the reduction of violence. I mentioned this EASE model before. IRC is trying to implement this model in many different countries and so far we have worked with about 3,000 women. These are very poor women, but they have managed to save $50,000, which is a huge sum of money in that context. So if you can build that level of economic empowerment at that level, you can see the benefits. You do not have to choose which child goes to school and you can access your healthcare, and the whole community benefits.
Q39 Chair: Just a final point on corruption. One thing we were told is as soon as you appear to have any money, somebody is around to take it off you. Have those women got themselves into a position where they can challenge the corruption and say, "We are not paying these bribes and we are strong enough together to do it"? That is the best thing, rather than having a law up there that does not get enforced-the people on the ground saying, "We are not going to do this anymore."
Jennifer Miquel: Yes. These things are set up within these Village Savings and Loan Associations that create their own bylaws and everything is done in an extremely transparent manner, which also builds governance and so on. The way they save-there is one person that saves but everything is counted in front of everybody else and so on, so it is done in a quite transparent manner. These women are elected as well.
Chair: Well, huge challenges. The whole point of this inquiry is that the UK Government has really stuck its neck out to say we are going to put more and more of our rising budget into these difficult places. What we have been doing is exploring what all the challenges are and I think you have been very helpful in giving us positives as well as negatives: "You could do more of this. That works. Don’t do that." Once we have digested the transcript, I want to say thank you very much for giving us that diversity of views. We as a Committee want the Government to succeed. What they are trying to do is important. We accept that those are areas where poverty is at its greatest and where the risk of falling back into conflict is at its greatest, and we should be trying to do something to tackle the poverty and prevent that, but it is very, very challenging. In a situation where you have got the British taxpayer saying, "What are you doing in those places?" we have got to be able to help the Government to find answers, and I think you are part of that process. So thank you very much indeed for coming along and giving us the benefit of your experience.