Kabila's election decision, Oxfam's safeguard policy, and North Korean aid: This week in development

Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by: © European Union 2010 PE-EP / CC BY-NC-ND

Oxfam regrets an overdue policy change, the United States backs easier aid to North Korea, and the Democratic Republic of Congo catches a glimpse of a new political beginning. This week in development:

President Joseph Kabila will not seek reelection after 19 years as leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Attention now turns to the Dec. 23 elections, and to the question of whether the country can undergo its first peaceful transfer of power in history. Kabila’s term in office officially expired at the end of 2016, but the president has repeatedly postponed elections, citing concerns about voter registration, which many have seen as a pretense to maintaining power. In announcing that he will not seek reelection, Kabila threw his support behind an ally, former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. International observers have welcomed Kabila’s announcement, while cautioning that it does not guarantee that the elections will go forward on schedule, nor that they will be free and fair. While the United States has worked for years — through a special envoy to the region — to convince Kabila to step down, many observers credit diplomatic pressure from other African nations for his decision. Meanwhile, DRC is currently facing its second outbreak of the Ebola virus in the last month, with the latest flare-up in the eastern part of the country that is in the midst of ongoing conflict.

On Monday, the United Nations Security Council approved a U.S.-backed proposal to expedite the delivery of humanitarian assistance to North Korea. Humanitarian groups and U.N. officials have argued that even though sanctions on North Korea do not apply to humanitarian assistance, the import of life-saving commodities to the country where 40 percent of the population is in need of humanitarian aid is still hampered by delays. The new guidelines are meant to ease the process of exempting humanitarian shipments from the ongoing sanctions regime, which officials from the U.S. and other countries emphasized will remain in place as efforts to bring about North Korea’s denuclearization continue.

Oxfam Great Britain did not ban staff from paying for sex until last year, Devex reported this week. “We updated the Code of Conduct in February 2017, as we believed that it should explicitly prohibit staff from engaging in any kind of transactional sexual behavior,” a spokesperson for Oxfam GB told Devex. Past versions of the internal policy guidelines reportedly did not ban staff from engaging in transactional sex out of concern for violating employees’ civil liberties. Sources with knowledge of the situation told Devex that members of the charity’s safeguarding team had lobbied for years to have this policy changed, but faced internal resistance. Oxfam remains at the center of a sexual assault scandal that has shaken the aid community, and drawn harsh criticism and financial retribution from donor governments. Devex reporters Molly Anders and Sophie Edwards surveyed 10 nonprofits with a major humanitarian footprint and significant DFID funding, and found that nine of the 10 organizations prohibit their staff from engaging with sex workers in the field — yet only one organization pursued disciplinary action in the past two years. Here's more.

Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile, will become the next U.N. high commissioner for human rights. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres made the announcement on Wednesday, prompting predictions about how the new human rights chief will relate to President Donald Trump’s administration, which has been highly critical of the role and its current occupant. Bachelet was herself a victim of human rights abuses, imprisoned and tortured under Chile’s right-wing dictatorship. She will succeed Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, a Jordanian diplomat who has not shied away from criticizing countries for human rights abuses, including the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their families at the southern U.S. border.

About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.