Janosch Neil Kullenberg

Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BIGSSS)

Janosch Neil Kullenberg
Staff Page: www.bigsss-bremen.de

Open Coordination and Inherent Competition: Interaction between Protection Actors in the Case of DRC

This project investigates the interaction between United Nations (UN) protection actors in the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). More precisely, it poses the question: when do inter-organizational dynamics between UN peacekeepers (DPKO), the Humanitarian organization (UNHCR) and the UN’s coordination agency (OCHA) lead to (i) complementary and (ii) contradictory behavior in executing their mandate to protect civilians. An actor-centered approach is chosen that focuses on the organizational behavior and decision-making. Interaction is assumed to be strongly framed by structural factors, such as context incentives, and culture. At the same time, structural factors are themselves received, reproduced and shaped by actors during the implementation process. Particularly in the case of ‘protection’, actors on the ground have considerable leeway in translating the concept into practice.

Formerly a term for specific humanitarian action, protection has become an umbrella concept causing ample confusion about what it means and who is responsible for it. The proliferation of organizations, continuous broadening of their mandates and connected discourses on protection have increasingly led to institutional overlaps between protection actors. Through overlapping mandates, activities, needs, etc., international organizations influence each other’s work, leading to complementary and contradictory outcomes. This complexity and interdependence has caused demands for more coordination and led the UN to increasingly engage in managing these overlaps. According to the UN’s Integration policy all multidimensional peace operations are supposed to be integrated. However, as the debate on humanitarian space highlights, coordination can also have negative impacts. Integration is therefore supposed to be implemented on a case-by-case basis according to the individual context. There thus exists considerable latitude for designing the ways that UN entities are supposed to interact.

Congo is an interesting case in point because the peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) is widely recognized to be the “laboratory of protection”, developing ways of how protection can be implemented in the field that are increasingly mainstreamed into other peacekeeping missions. Accordingly, the project does not only investigate how different organizations interact horizontally (between each other), but also looks at the vertical coordination (between different levels) of the same organization. The project thus foresees extensive fieldwork consisting of expert interviews and participant observation in coordination meetings from headquarters (NYC), to the national (Kinshasa), to the provincial (Goma, Bukavu), to the territory level (e.g. Rutshuru, Uvira) and field levels (e.g. Kitchanga, Mutarule).