Building Dialogue Between Citizens and the State: Six factors contributing to change in the Within and Without the State programme in DRC | Oxfam | Marriage

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This case study reflects on progress of Oxfam’s Within and Without the State (WWS) programme in the Équateur Province of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following a visit by the WWS Programme Coordinator in March 2016. Despite the project being relatively new in DRC, signs of change are already being seen. This case study outlines six key contributing factors to constructive engagement between civil society and the state, using examples and testimonies from community members involved in the project. It keeps two questions in mind: What does this change look like? And how is this change happening?
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  OXFAM CASE STUDY JUNE 2016 www.oxfam.org  Protection committee, DRC, December 2014. Photo: Eleanor Farmer/Oxfam BUILDING DIALOGUE BETWEEN CITIZENS AND THE STATE Six factors contributing to change in the Within and Without the State programme in DRC This case study reflects on progress of Oxfam’s Within and Without the State (WWS) programme in the Équateur Province of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following a visit by the WWS Programme Coordinator in March 2016. Despite the project being relatively new in DRC, signs of change are already being seen. This case study outlines six key contributing factors to constructive engagement between civil society and the state, using examples and testimonies from community members involved in the project. It keeps two questions in mind: What does this change look like? And how is this change happening?  2 INTRODUCTION Within and Without the State (WWS) is a five-year global initiative (2011– 2016) funded by the Department for International Development’s Conflict, Humanitarian and Security Department. 1  In each country context that WWS operates, it takes a unique approach to enhancing the social contract between civil society and local or national government, tailored to the local context and civil society space and using appropriate methods of engagement with local authorities in a non-confrontational way. The social contract model promotes constructive engagement between citizens and state; encourages both parties to respect each other’s rights and fulfil their responsibilities; and promotes mutual accountability. The social contract model is particularly appropriate in a fragile context, where government may be nervous about the role of civil society and where there is little tradition of political engagement or experience of effective governance. 2  Having previously reported on the different approaches of our Afghanistan and South Sudan projects, 3  noting some similarities despite very different contexts, this paper builds on that and discusses the approach of the DRC team and assesses the progress of the project given its relatively recent commencement in communities in October 2015. In the DRC protection model, 4  community protection committees identify protection issues and work between communities and government or armed groups to broker peaceful solutions. Promoting a process of non-confrontational dialogue and strengthening women's voices within it has had tangible results in reducing abuses, improving gender equality and developing more positive relationships between citizens and those in power. WWS has adapted this approach as a pilot for governance work in the west of DRC, renaming the structures ‘community development committees’ in recognition of their role in raising wider issues beyond protection threats. As much of the international community’s focus has been on the east of the country, which has a long history of conflict, the presence of NGOs is limited in the west, despite the high rates of poverty and endemic issues of fragility and weak governance. This case study reviews the positive impact that WWS has had so far in the DRC and reports on the changes being seen already. It keeps two questions in mind: What does this change look like? And how is this change happening?  3 1 BUILDING ON EXISTING STRUCTURES USING CLEAR PROGRAMMING GUIDELINES Activities in communities started in October 2015. Yet despite a relatively short start-up time, the community structures and local governments visited in March 2016 had good momentum and were well aware of their roles and responsibilities and the different entry points for mutual engagement. There are two reasons for this: (1) the existing presence Oxfam has in the target communities means that they have been able to build on previous projects and community structures, which has supported the local team’s context analysis and understanding, and (2) as a result of the maturity of the protection approach in DRC (which started in 2008), Oxfam has learned a lot about what works in terms of facilitating engagement with authorities and ultimately supporting longer term impact. Clear protection guidelines and toolkits have supported the staff and communities to quickly understand the process of establishing forums of interaction; embedded in these guidelines are tools to support power and gender analysis, which has ensured that the project is adapted to the local context in order to ensure effectiveness. Protection committee, DRC, December 2014. Photo: Eleanor Farmer/Oxfam  4 2 HAVING SEPARATE SPACES FOR WOMEN In all WWS projects, project teams have learned that gender inequality and dominant negative cultural and gender norms can not only be a result of conflict and fragility, but more crucially also a causal factor. However, it has been observed that in a wide range of contexts, the process of meaningfully engaging women in collective decision making in community structures remains a challenge and teams across the world are still learning through trial and error how best to achieve this. In parallel with tackling issues around transparent and accountable governance, WWS in DRC has sought to transform the attitudes and role of women in local communities. Issues of gender inequality are very visible in Équateur and in particular within marginalized ethnic groups such as pygmy people. Through ensuring that women have a separate space to meet (e.g. women’s forums), they are able to have a safe space in which to discuss the unique risks they face in their lives and build confidence to speak publicly in front of male community members and local authorities. Members of the women’s forums agreed on how crucial it was to have this separate space. Protection committee, DRC, December 2014. Photo: Eleanor Farmer/Oxfam ‘We wouldn’t feel so comfortable to talk if we didn’t have the women’s forum, it empowered us and we feel free.’ ‘Before we had the women’s forum we didn’t have power to talk in front of our husbands.’ Members of women’s forums in Bikoro, Équateur, March 2016
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