MINUSCA peacekeepers escort a convoy of trucks transporting goods through the Bangui-Douala corridor, May 9, 2017. (UN Photo/Herve Serefio)

The Central African Republic (CAR) is a typical context in which researchers and aid workers find it hard to identify achievements and success stories. In a conflict marked by incessant violence and a lack of political will—armed groups are present in 14 of the16 country’s provinces—United Nations officers often become trapped in a vicious circle of negativity that makes it extremely difficult to apply the new UN “sustaining peace” approach and transform conflict dynamics in a constructive manner.

In particular, the staff of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in CAR (MINUSCA) are showing increasing frustration with the challenge of both working in a constant emergency mode and being mired in basic, daily tasks while working as substitutes for government officials. The UN mission is struggling to undertake realistic analyses and innovative approaches to move toward its objectives. What are some issues that could be tackled to change this all too familiar trajectory?

1. Getting the Narrative Right

Even though CAR had never experienced such large-scale, targeted violence before, a potential conflict between these communities was always latent and only partially contained by existing conflict-resolution mechanisms led by local and/or traditional authorities. Any context-sensitive and realistic analysis needs to recognize the existence of these tensions, and try to overcome them. Therefore, MINUSCA should work to change the faulty narrative—a narrative that is also supported by government officials—that Muslims and Christians, northerners and southerners, cattle herders and farmers were peacefully living together before the current crisis. This is simply not the case. Read more