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Don’t give up on the Central African Republic

21 September 2013
by Guest author
International Peace Day

Click to find out more about International Day of Peace

To mark UN International Day of Peace, today’s article is by Donata Garrasi of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding

In the words of the UN Security Council, there has been “a total breakdown in law and order” in the Central African Republic (CAR) following the March overthrow of the government by the Séléka rebel group. UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos reported that CAR faces “a complex emergency characterised by violence, acute needs and grave protection issues.” According to Amos, all 4.6 million CAR citizens have been affected and 1.6 million people are in dire need of food, protection, health care, water, sanitation and shelter. Amos’s words were echoed by EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs, Kristalina Georgieva when she exposed the gravity of the situation of CAR to the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and called for greater international attention to what she described as a “forgotten crisis” and a country at risk of disintegration, in a region characterised by high levels of instability.

Is the international community giving up on CAR? Other countries have recovered from conflict, insecurity, and serious humanitarian crisis. A decade ago, few people would have guessed that Sierra Leone and Liberia would become – as they are today – peaceful countries with a hopeful future. Even fewer would have predicted that Somalia would establish a government. Many would have categorised these countries as “intractable cases” – and they would have been wrong. Why, then, ignore CAR today, and wait for the next big and costly disaster to happen?

CAR has good agricultural land, extensive forests and natural resources, hydropower potential and a young population.  What it doesn’t have are accountable, inclusive institutions that perform their core functions effectively and respond to citizens’ expectations. No humanitarian aid, development assistance or foreign direct investment can substitute for the absence of political settlement and functioning institutions. Only an inclusive political process can lead to a political settlement agreed by all parties. Only an inclusive political settlement can lead to peace.

The good news is that CAR is not alone. As a member of the g7+ forum of fragile countries and of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, CAR can draw on the experiences and support of a range of countries that have embarked on successful peace and state building processes and of development partners. It can also take advantage of international agreements, like the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States, a framework that guides national and international actors’ cooperation in situations of conflict and fragility, which was endorsed by over 40 countries and organisations in 2011.

What should development partners do? According Ms Georgieva from the EU, Mr Chataigner from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and DAC Chair Mr Solheim, development partners must act together now and for the foreseeable future to support a peaceful transition in CAR.

First, the UN Security Council and the international community must continue focusing political attention on the situation of CAR and the broader region.  Support to CAR, including peacekeeping capacity, must be increased if any improvement is to be seen. Regional partners must be brought into a coalition for change in the region.

Second, development partners should join up efforts and find ways to apply the principles of aid effectiveness and of the New Deal in CAR in support of a country-owned and country led-transition. This means, stepping up coordinated support for the New Deal peace and state building goals of an inclusive political dialogue, security and justice, and economic revitalisation and services. This work can start now, and should be aligned to the current plans for political transition in CAR.

Third, humanitarian needs of the population must be met and humanitarian space must be protected.

The risks of engaging in CAR are great, but the risk of not engaging even greater.

Useful links

OECD Work on the Central African Republic

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