About the Author: Eythan Sontag is a member of the Active component of the Civilian Response Corps, and lead for S/CRS’s Africa Regional Coordination Team.Interagency Assessment Teams Working on the Ground To Better Inform and Strengthen U.S Policies
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s August 2009 trip to Africa demonstrated the Administration’s commitment to the continent and to a number of countries in particular. One of those is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where, during her trip, five priority areas for collaboration with the Government of the DRC were identified: Economic Governance, Anti-Corruption, Agriculture and Food Security, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Security Sector Reform.
The Civilian Response Corps is playing a major role in bringing rapidly deployable sectoral and generalist skill sets to the overall assessment effort, which ultimately seeks to help strengthen U.S. policies in the DRC toward the goals of promoting peace, stability and prosperity for this important central African country.
Upon returning to Washington, the Secretary and the U.S. Ambassador to the DRC requested the support of the Coordinator for Reconstruction & Stabilization (S/CRS) to assist in the coordination of interagency assessment teams to address these areas in conjunction with other U.S. Government (USG) stakeholders. Working in close collaboration with the State Department’s Africa Bureau and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), S/CRS led the coordination process in identifying interagency assessment teams, assisting in refining scopes of work initially proposed by the U.S. Embassy to the DRC in Kinshasa, arranging logistics and providing personnel and funding assistance for travel. These sectoral assessments are intended to enhance the United States’ engagement in the DRC through a whole-of-government approach.
Operating under the authority of the Chief of Mission, the teams will clearly identify ongoing programs, initiatives, and actors in their respective sectors, and any gaps that may exist. Teams are expected to provide recommendations that enhance diplomatic engagement in the five priority areas and develop initial indicators to track progress, leverage existing resources for “quick wins,” and propose initiatives or possible funding streams for additional or complementary activities.
This effort is a significant opportunity for S/CRS to deploy interagency teams in support of a reconstruction and stabilization (R&S) mission at the request of the U.S. Embassy in the DRC. In collaboration with the U.S. Embassy, various State Department bureaus, USAID and other agencies participating in the Civilian Response Corps, S/CRS helped build teams with a strong mix of qualified U.S. Embassy/USAID Kinshasa staff, Civilian Response Corps and non-Corps personnel, including several private sector experts. Nearly a dozen of the Corps’s Active component members from six different federal agencies (the Departments of State, Agriculture, Justice, Health & Human Services, Treasury, and USAID) are participating in the assessment teams, as well as representatives from the Department of Defense. Teams range in size from 5-7 individuals, with a total number of roughly 33 personnel directly participating in the teams’ efforts on the ground in the DRC.
S/CRS is coordinating the logistical support for all Civilian Response Corps officers as well as a number of other USG and non-USG team members. A senior S/CRS officer will serve in Kinshasa as coordinator for the teams. S/CRS will staff this position for three months, during which time the coordinator will focus on expediting logistical, substantive and technical issues, serving as a focal point for the assessment teams and identifying other points of assistance for S/CRS and the interagency in the DRC. The interagency assessment teams and the U.S. Embassy-based coordinator are supported by a Washington, D.C. reach-back team that provides supplementary analytical, policy, logistical, or technical assistance. The team is comprised primarily of staff from S/CRS, State Department’s Africa Bureau, USAID’s Africa Bureau and other members of the interagency – particularly when relevant assessment teams are in the field.
As part of the pre-deployment process, S/CRS, in collaboration with State Department’s Africa Bureau and USAID, convened a number of meetings for team members, provided templates, read-ahead books and references, organized intelligence briefings and coordinated with the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), which provided a comprehensive 3-day seminar covering political, security, humanitarian, social, economic and cultural issues that successfully expanded team members’ knowledge of the DRC context. This FSI program was groundbreaking for the African Studies Division in its focus on a specific country rather than a wider region.
Teams are deploying in three phases for two-weeks. The Economic Governance and Anti-Corruption teams arrived concurrently in country on December 5, 2009. The other teams are scheduled to deploy in middle and late January 2010. Teams will conduct assessments in Kinshasa and other areas of the DRC, such as in Katanga Province or in the Kivus, and will provide initial findings and recommendations to the U.S. Ambassador prior to departing the DRC. The teams will subsequently draft more comprehensive sectoral reports and will provide briefings in Washington on their assessments.
Working closely with the State Department and USAID as well as with other U.S. Government agencies, S/CRS is fulfilling its mandate under National Security Presidential Directive-44 and Reconstruction and Stabilization Civilian Management Act of 2008 to help connect the expertise of both traditional foreign affairs agencies and domestic departments in support of an R&S mission in a country of strategic importance to the U.S.