My on-going PhD research is on the interaction between protection actors in the case of DRC. Formerly a term for specific humanitarian action, protection has become an umbrella concept which causes quite a lot of confusion about what it actually 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., organizations like UNHCR, DPKO and OCHA 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 and there thus exists considerable leeway for designing the ways that UN entities are supposed to interact.
My research investigates how UN protection actors relate to each other in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and how this impacts protection outcomes. 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, my research does not only investigate how different organizations interact horizontally (between each other), but also look at the vertical coordination (between different levels) of the same organization/ coordination mechanism from headquarters (NYC/ Geneva), to the national (Kinshasa), to the provincial (Goma, Bukavu, Bunia), to the territory level (e.g. Masisi, Uvira) to the field level (e.g. Pinga).