Democratic Republic of Congo

Beni Peace Forum

Beni Peace Forum is a network of local organisations focused on human rights, development and peacebuilding in Beni, North-Kivu, a province in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Since 2016, Peace Direct has worked in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with the North-Kivu based Beni Peace Forum (BPF), a network of 16 peacebuilding and human rights organisations operating across the province.

BPF supports an early warning, early response network through the formalisation of 16 Local Protection Committees (LPCs) –composed of elected members of the community (of which at least one woman in each, and with considerations for ethnicity and indigenous groups).

Rooted in the community, the EWER network supported by the LPCs allowed BPF to share reliable and real-time information with key security and administrative actors operating in eastern DRC, including the Armed Forces (FARDC), the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), police, and local and provincial government. BPF has responded to specific risks by convening ‘peace dialogues’: bringing together possibly conflicting parties to deescalate tensions, with a view of preventing violence. In one instance, the Forum was able to prevent violence and hold security forces accountable by bringing together activist youth groups threatening violence in protests (in response to the killing of a comrade during a peaceful protest).

More recently, the next phase of work focused on strengthening collaboration with and between civil society actors and communities, and with key local and provincial decisionmakers. With new funding, Peace Direct, BPF and RISD co-designed this phase to address two main challenges that have resulted in inefficient or inadequate conflict prevention efforts: 1) gaps in local conflict analysis at the community/micro level in Beni Territory, and 2) gaps around the coordination and collaboration of conflict prevention and peacebuilding actors. 

To respond to a pre-identified gap, we reinforced the LPCs’ data collection and analysis skills to better capture local conflict dynamics through research, as a way of increasing the timeliness and relevance of early response. Findings culminated in a local conflict analysis (LCA) report highlighting the drivers of violence and conflict among communities in different municipalities across Beni region and were shared in community gatherings.

To address gaps around lack of coordination of actors in Beni Territory, we brought together representatives from LPCs, local governments, civil society (including women, youth, ethnic minority and indigenous groups) and security actors to discuss obstacles to effective coordination among conflict prevention actors. Informed by the LCA report, participants identified actionable recommendations to improve their coordination. This led to five activities being piloted in communities, in which these were evaluated by the same participants. The next steps will be for the participants to improve and adapt those pilot initiatives.

The methodology that underpins this process is Participatory Action Research (PAR) which supports a learning loop that builds on existing mechanisms (LPCs) and centres local actors as the key stakeholders to determine the priorities to improve collaboration on conflict prevention in their communities. Halfway through the project, the positive results of this approach are already evident in the levels of engagement of diverse representatives in the workshop and of participation in the pilot activities, which are establishing or reinforcing information sharing mechanisms with the aim of restoring trust and collaboration among community members and representatives of local authorities and security forces.

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