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12/06/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/06/2021 16:05

All Stakeholders Must Focus on Advancing Reforms to Consolidate Hard-Won Gains in Democratic Republic of Congo, Mission Head Tells Security Council

Delegates urged international partners to continue helping the Democratic Republic of the Congo implement its programme of action for 2021-2023, as the Security Council examined today the forthcoming mandate renewal for the United Nations peacekeeping operation in that country.

Presenting an overview of the Secretary-General's latest report (document S/2021/987), Bintou Keita, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), said that as the country looks ahead to elections in 2023, all political stakeholders must focus on taking forward the key reforms needed to consolidate the hard-won stabilization gains and overcome the remaining challenges, particularly in eastern provinces.

Noting that on 30 November, the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and the Ugandan army began joint military operations against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), she underscored the need to set up operational cooperation mechanisms to enable MONUSCO to continue its support for FARDC in protecting civilians and neutralizing armed groups. To that end, on 2 December, MONUSCO's Force Commander went to Kampala to define the practical modalities of this tripartite coordination. On 7 December, the Force Commander will be in Kinshasa to meet with FARDC military leadership to continue this dialogue.

Turning to the implementation of the progressive, responsible and conditions-based drawdown of MONUSCO, she said the Mission, the United Nations country team and the Government continue to coordinate the operationalization of the joint transition plan presented last October to the Council. MONUSCO and the United Nations country team are employing the humanitarian-development-peace nexus approach in Tanganyika, where the security situation continues to improve. In anticipation of MONUSCO's drawdown from the province by June 2022, the Mission's senior leadership, together with officials of the United Nations entities, recently led field visits to jointly assess progress towards the implementation of the exit strategy and enhance coordination with provincial and local authorities.

Meanwhile, in the Kasai region, the United Nations system remains focused on continued efforts to sustaining peacebuilding gains, following the withdrawal of MONUSCO, she said. The international community, represented by the Partners Coordination Group, has continued to show its commitment to a responsible and sustainable transition process. In October, the Group undertook a field visit to Kasai and Kasai Central provinces to review the implementation of nexus-related projects and the provincial coordination mechanisms.

Given the overall situation, she asked the Council to renew its support to MONUSCO and provide adequate resources to enable the Mission to fulfil its mandate for the benefit of the Congolese people.

Marie-Madeleine Kalala, women's rights activist and member of the African Women Leaders Network, said that the issue regarding the appointment of the Independent National Electoral Commission is a matter of concern, as it is incomplete due to a lack of consensus with the opposition. It is essential for all stakeholders to agree on the process so that it can be truly consensual, transparent and peaceful.

Insecurity in the east of the country remains a scourge, she said, noting that people must "displace themselves" if they are not to be killed, and there continues to be pillaging of natural resources, complicity with multinational companies, massacres of populations and the rape of women. Women's rights continue to be violated, she said, noting that in the Secretary-General's report of 2021, such violations have increased by 131 per cent. The number of displaced people in the country has exceeded 5.7 million, of which 51 per cent are women.

On MONUSCO's withdrawal, Congolese women, through the African Women Leaders Network, have been involved in the transition plan. The withdrawal of the Mission should be carried out while recognizing all the problems she has referred to today, as the security situation remains fragile. "Violence against women is a matter of concern throughout the country," she said, noting that such aggression will delay development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Condemning the increase in hate speech and tribalism, she emphasized that "these backwards mindsets will not enable our country to develop and move forward."

Abdou Abarry, Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1533 (2004) concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also addressed the 15-member organ about the Committee's work since his last briefing in October 2020.

In the ensuing discussion, France's representative said the implementation of the Government's programme of action for 2021-2023 will be essential to meeting measurable indicators to guide the reconfiguration of the United Nations presence. Support by international and regional partners will also need to increase to achieve the objectives set by MONUSCO's transition plan.

The United Kingdom is keen to see further consolidation of MONUSCO's presence in Ituri, and North and South Kivu, its delegate noted, expressing support for a gradual, sustainable withdrawal of MONUSCO, guided by an end state, rather than an end date.

Mexico's representative recognized the role of the Congolese Government in its drafting and implementing of the transition plan and welcomed initiatives to establish a national transitional justice strategy. He also underscored the need for enhanced capacity-building to better address the threats posed by the deviation of small arms and light weapons, as well as improvised explosive devices. Ahead of MONUSCO's mandate renewal, he called for the full involvement of national and local actors, as the transition process is complex.

Kenya's representative, speaking also for Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, welcomed Democratic Republic of the Congo President Félix Tshisekedi's efforts to ensure timely, inclusive, transparent, credible and peaceful elections in 2023 in line with the constitutional timelines. Urging the international community and financial donors to help the country strengthen its capacity of national security, justice and economic institutions, he also called for support for the Government's programme of action. The Secretary-General should conduct a regular strategic review of MONUSCO, he said, expressing support for a renewal of the Mission's mandate.

Viet Nam's representative called for unity in bringing back stability in the country's east as well as focusing on development, including through the implementation of the Government's programme of action. Noting that peace and stability will continue to elude the people in the affected regions if the underlying causes of instability and violence are not fully addressed, he called for new and advanced strategies that will ensure the protection of civilians, restore State authority, deal with illegal activities relating to natural resources, promote reconciliation among communities and address hate speech.

The representative of the United States said sexual abuse in peacekeeping must end, pointing out that there had been 20 new allegations in the past year alone. Such cases undermine the Mission's effectiveness and endanger the populations peacekeepers are meant to protect, she said, urging all countries to take prevention seriously and to hold those responsible for such acts accountable.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo's representative said that the political situation is calm. At the national level, discussions have been dominated by the upcoming elections in 2023. At the regional level, the Head of State continues his contacts with other leaders to improve cooperation and has signed agreements with several countries in the economic and security spheres. Holding the presidency of the African Union, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has promoted the topic of "positive masculinity" to prevent violence against women and girls. The President is determined to continue to fight against armed forces in the eastern part of the country and has also decreed a state of siege, which remains in effect. On the progressive drawdown of MONUSCO, he said the withdrawal will be conducted in parallel with a temporary strengthening of the police component of the Mission. In September, the President requested the lifting of the requirement for his Government to provide prior notification to the Committee for any import of military equipment. The Government has also requested sanctions against mafia networks in transit and destination countries, he added.

Also speaking were the representatives of China, Norway, Ireland, Estonia, India and the Russian Federation.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 11:53 a.m.

Briefings

BINTOU KEITA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), presented an overview of the Secretary-General's latest report on the country (document S/2021/987), which covered the period from 18 September to 30 November. She said challenges regarding the protection of civilians in the country's eastern provinces still exist today. It is in this context that on 30 November, the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) began joint military operations with the Ugandan army against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). Ground operations continue to neutralize enemy combatants in the shelling zones. Noting the decision by the two States to carry out the joint military action, she underscored the need to set up operational cooperation mechanisms to ensure the security of United Nations peacekeepers and to enable the Mission to continue to support FARDC in protecting civilians and neutralizing armed groups. To this end, on 2 December, MONUSCO's Force Commander went to Kampala to define the practical modalities of this tripartite coordination. On 7 December, the Force Commander will be in Kinshasa to meet with FARDC military leadership to continue this dialogue.

On human rights, she said MONUSCO will continue to monitor and report any violations committed on Congolese territory. The Congolese authorities declared last May a state of siege in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, and it has been extended for the thirteenth time. She welcomed recommendations made to the Government by a committee of the National Assembly that assessed the state of siege. The challenges in implementing the state of siege highlights the limits of military measures for protecting civilians and neutralizing armed groups. The humanitarian situation continues to worsen in the east due to insecurity, epidemics and limited access to basic services. The number of internally displaced people stands at nearly 6 million, with women accounting for 51 per cent, she reported, calling for doubling down on support for the response plan, which is only 34 per cent funded. On disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, the Government established a joint working group to ensure the coordination between the United Nations and the Congolese authorities towards operationalizing a programme, she said, expressing hope that this group will serve to galvanize international support.

Turning to the implementation of the progressive, responsible and conditions-based drawdown of MONUSCO, she said the Mission, the United Nations country team and the Government continue to coordinate the operationalization of the joint transition plan presented last October to the Council. MONUSCO and the United Nations country team are employing the humanitarian-development-peace nexus approach in Tanganyika, in anticipation of the Mission's drawdown from the province by June 2022. In recent weeks, the Mission's senior leadership, together with officials of the United Nations entities, led field visits to jointly assess progress towards the implementation of the exit strategy and enhance coordination with provincial and local authorities.

Meanwhile, in the Kasai region, the United Nations system remains focused on continued efforts to sustain peacebuilding gains, following the withdrawal of MONUSCO, she said. The international community, represented by the Partners Coordination Group, has continued to show its commitment to a responsible and sustainable transition process. In October, the Group undertook a field visit to Kasai and Kasai Central provinces to review the implementation of nexus-related projects and the provincial coordination mechanisms.

Underscoring the need to address the illegal exploitation of natural resources, which is a major driver of conflict, she welcomed the Government's efforts to reform the mining sector and reiterated the Mission's readiness to support these efforts. The process of democratic consolidation presents both challenges and opportunities. Noting the recent meetings between the Presidency, the Prime Minister and the Presidents of the Senate and National Assembly with the leadership of the Catholic and Protestant churches, she said those dialogues helped reduce tensions arising from the disputed appointment of the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission. MONUSCO will continue to use its good offices to help build trust among all stakeholders, she pledged, adding that a national consensus on the reform of the electoral law will be critical in this regard. As the country looks ahead to elections in 2023, all political stakeholders must focus, over the next 12 months, on taking forward the key reforms needed to consolidate the hard-won stabilization gains achieved so far and overcome continuing challenges, particularly in the east. She then asked the Council to renew its support to MONUSCO and provide adequate resources to enable the Mission to fulfil its mandate for the benefit of the Congolese people.

ABDOU ABARRY, Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1533 (2004) concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo, briefed the 15-member organ about the Committee's work since his last briefing in October 2020. That included an overview of his visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo between 6 and 10 November, which he undertook to obtain first-hand accounts on the effective implementation of the measures imposed by resolution 2360 (2017) from the Government and representatives of MONUSCO, among others. During the visit, fruitful discussions were held with Congolese authorities, including the Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Special Adviser to the President in charge of Youth, Gender and Violence against Women, aside from interactions and briefings by MONUSCO representatives, the United Nations Mine Action Service, and civil society organizations. A meeting was also held with the senior official of the Follow-on Mechanism on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who was travelling to Kinshasa with one of his technical experts. The discussions covered the security situation in the eastern part of the country, including armed group activity; the impact of the state of siege in North Kivu and Ituri; the diversion of weapons by armed groups; the use of improvised explosive devices by suspected members of the Allied Democratic Forces; human rights violations committed by all actors, including sexual violence in conflict; and the illicit exploitation of natural resources.

He noted that many interlocutors encouraged the Committee to consider imposing additional sanctions on individuals and entities engaged in acts that undermine the peace, stability or security of the country. He said the eastern part of the country continues to be plagued by insecurity and human rights violations, expressing concern about the risks of intercommunal conflict in Ituri and by reports of instances of hate speech and violence against the Banyamulenge community in South Kivu, as well as the continued recruitment and use of children by all armed groups. Similarly, the continued diversion of weapons and illicit exploitation of natural resources by armed groups remains of great concern. However, he said the Government's willingness to address the multiple challenges facing the country, including its commitment to tackle the issue of sexual violence in conflict, is encouraging. He hoped that diplomatic efforts launched by Democratic Republic of the Congo President Félix Tshisekedi to normalize relationships with neighbouring countries will lead to a decrease in the illicit trafficking of weapons and natural resources along the country's borders.

MARIE-MADELEINE KALALA, women's rights activist and member of the African Women Leaders Network, said that the country is still facing difficulties. The issue regarding the appointment of the national electoral commission is a matter of concern, as it is incomplete due to a lack of consensus with the opposition. It is essential for all stakeholders to agree on the process so that it can be truly consensual, transparent and peaceful. Insecurity in the east of the country remains a scourge, she said, noting that people must "displace themselves" if they are not to be killed, and there continues to be pillaging of natural resources, complicity with multinational companies, massacres of populations and the rape of women. The social situation has not improved much, despite the efforts of the President to put an end to corruption. Women's rights continue to be violated, she said, noting that in the Secretary-General's report of 2021, such violations have increased by 131 per cent. The number of displaced people in the country has exceeded 5.7 million, of which 51 per cent are women. This is the greatest number of persons displaced within their own country within Africa, she said, underscoring that the weakness of the judicial system means it cannot sanction those responsible. Against that backdrop, she expressed her support for the appeal from civil society regarding setting up a transitional justice mechanism.

In terms of MONUSCO's withdrawal, Congolese women, through the African Women Leaders Network, have been involved in the transition plan. The withdrawal of the Mission should be carried out while recognizing all the problems she has referred to today, as the security situation remains fragile. "Violence against women is a matter of concern throughout the country," she said, noting that such aggression will delay development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She noted that the increase in hate speech and tribalism must be condemned, emphasizing that "these backwards mindsets will not enable our country to develop and move forward."

Statements

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) expressed support for President Tshisekedi's initiatives to strengthen engagement with neighbouring States. Operationalization of the Contact and Coordination Group on non-military measures will further consolidate trust. The next meeting of the monitoring mechanism of the Addis Ababa framework agreement will also contribute to strengthening dialogue. France calls for the holding of credible, transparent, inclusive and peaceful elections in 2023. The preservation of democratic space is essential for this. The engagement of the United Nations remains essential. MONUSCO and United Nations entities must increase the number of joint programmes. The implementation of the Government's action plan will be essential to meeting measurable indicators to guide the reconfiguration of the United Nations presence. Support by international and regional partners will also need to increase to achieve the objectives set by MONUSCO's transition plan. For its part, France contributes to strengthening the country's institutions, including the modernization of the Congolese Armed Forces through the Military Academy of Kinshasa.

MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya), speaking also for Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, welcomed President Tshisekedi's efforts to ensure timely inclusive, transparent, credible and peaceful elections in 2023 in line with the constitutional timelines. Urging the international community and financial donors to help the country strengthen its capacity of national security, justice and economic institutions, he also called for support for the Government's programme of action for 2021-2023. Expressing concern about the humanitarian situation in the eastern provinces, he stressed the need to ensure freedom of movement for the populations and zero tolerance for sexual and gender-based violence. He went on to urge international partners to enhance support for the 2021 humanitarian response plan and reinvigorate assistance for refugees and their host countries. Military means are not sufficient to neutralize armed groups, he emphasized, calling for development and implementation of a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. In that regard, he noted the importance of MONUSCO's engagement in operationalizing such a programme. He also urged the Special Representative to redouble her efforts to ensure protection of civilians through the deployment of the Mission's intervention brigade. The Secretary-General should conduct a regular strategic review of the Mission, including its performance, mandate and reconfiguration. Based on the principle of subsidiarity, cooperation with regional organizations is imperative, he stressed, expressing support for a renewal of the Mission's mandate.

JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) said the Council must call on the various political actors to avoid polarization, to bring about inclusive political dialogue and to ensure the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in all aspects of political life. He expressed concern about the worsening security situation in the eastern provinces, noting that the surge of violence has led to a regrettable toll on civilians, and new displacements, over the past three months. Against this backdrop, he said MONUSCO's mandate to protect civilians is crucial. Such violence affects humanitarian staff and their operations on the ground, he said, noting that five workers had been killed between January and October. He condemned the attacks and called for strengthened protection of humanitarian activities. Given the recently launched joint operations by the Ugandan and Congolese armies in Ituri and North Kivu, it is crucial to ensure full coordination with MONUSCO so it can carry out its mandate of protecting civilians and the Mission's staff, he said. Turning to the transition plan, he recognized the role of the Congolese Government in its drafting and implementation, and welcomed initiatives to establish a national transitional justice strategy. He underscored the need for enhanced capacity-building to better address the threats posed by the deviation of small arms and light weapons, as well as improvised explosive devices. Ahead of the renewal of MONUSCO's mandate, he noted that transitions are complex processes which call for the full involvement of national and local actors; the transition plan will be a primary tool to help with the process. On impunity, he welcomed the sentencing of Chance Muhonya Kolokolo for crimes against humanity, as well as the recruitment of children and their exploitation in the illegal extraction of natural resources, one of the root causes of conflict and destabilization in the region, and called for the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for acts of sexual violence, including members of FARDC and the Congolese National Police.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) welcomed improvements in the security situation in Tanganyika, noting, however, that the situation in North and South Kivu remains dire. The use of hate speech must be stopped immediately. The United States will closely watch the recently announced joint military operations with Uganda. She welcomed efforts to face threats posed by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - Democratic Republic of the Congo and ADF, and urged Kinshasa and Kampala to include MONUSCO in planning and coordinating their operations, to better ensure international humanitarian law compliance and communication with civilians. In addition, she called for the implementation of a robust civilian protection mandate and hoped the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes region will help efforts to lower tensions and address the funds generated through illegal activities to recruit armed groups. Turning to the renewal of MONUSCO's mandate and the eventual drawdown, she said it will not be easy; fortunately, progress has been made in key indicators of the transition plan. She urged the Government to devote resources to implementing a disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration programme. Further, sexual abuse in peacekeeping must end, she said, pointing out that there had been 20 new allegations in the past year alone. Such cases undermine the Mission's effectiveness and endanger the populations peacekeepers are meant to protect, she said, urging all countries to take prevention seriously and to hold those responsible for such acts accountable.

PHAM HAI ANH (Viet Nam) encouraged efforts to settle differences through dialogue and ensure inclusive participation in the political process, including the 2023 elections. Unity is vital to bringing back stability in the country's east as well as focusing on development, including through the implementation of the Government's programme of action for 2021-2023. Insecurity, socioeconomic difficulties, epidemics and displacement continue to strain the humanitarian situation in the country. Noting that peace and stability will continue to elude the people in the affected regions if the underlying causes of instability and violence are not fully addressed, he called for new and advanced strategies that will ensure the protection of civilians, restore State authority, deal with illegal activities relating to natural resources, promote reconciliation among communities and address hate speech. The role of MONUSCO in assisting the country and its people continues to be crucial, he stressed, expressing strong support for the continuation of its presence on the ground.

DAI BING (China) said that for some time, recovery in the Democratic People's Republic of the Congo has been accelerating, and its President has made important contributions to the promotion of unity in Africa. However, many challenges remain to achieving lasting peace and security, he said, noting that it is necessary to have inclusive dialogue as well as a greater focus on national development and people's livelihoods. The security situation in the country continues to deteriorate, with frequent armed violence as well as the kidnapping and killing of civilians. In that context, the Government has imposed a state of siege in the eastern region and has also joined with the Government of Uganda to take action to combat armed groups. He expressed his hope that MONUSCO will maintain its cooperation with the Government to continue to protect civilians. The root causes of conflict must be addressed to break the cycle of violence, he said, underscoring that the new action plan for the Great Lakes region will address such issues.

ODD INGE KVALHEIM (Norway) expressed deep concern about the security situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the humanitarian crisis facing the country. Despite the state of siege, the threat from armed groups persists, he noted. Calling for an end to the indiscriminate attacks against civilians in the country, including from ADF, he also voiced concern that current operations by FARDC and Uganda to address cross-border threats from ADF may lead to further escalation of violence and threats against the civilian population. Highlighting the contribution of Congolese women to peacebuilding, he stressed that they must be included at all levels and in all political and conflict prevention processes, such as electoral reform, in the 2023 election and in the further transition of the Mission. Pointing out that the implementation of the transition plan requires the full attention of the Congolese authorities, the whole United Nations system and relevant partners, he underscored that as MONUSCO exits the country, the benchmarks and the situation on the ground in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu must guide that operation in a responsible process, which will most likely take longer than originally envisaged in the transition strategy.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) expressed deep concern about the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in the eastern part of the country, pointing out that the state of siege - introduced as an extraordinary and provisional measure - was renewed 13 times. The National Assembly's assessment of the state of siege raises concerns about its long-term impact, concerning the responsibility of members of the security forces who collaborate with armed groups. Corruption and impunity are never acceptable, she said, stressing the need to ensure civilians are protected during joint military operations with Uganda. She also condemned the deeply worrying reports of gender-based violence and other serious human rights violations and abuses in the country, including by State actors. MONUSCO's work to document such acts and support survivors is essential. Turning to the 2023 elections, which could be a pivotal moment for the country, she took note of the significant appointment of 12 members of the Independent National Electoral Commission, including four women, adding that tensions around such appointments are regrettable. MONUSCO should engage with actors to promote timely, inclusive, transparent and peaceful political processes. She went on to welcome the publication of MONUSCO's conditions-based transition plan, particularly in its inclusion of women's voices and perspectives, noting that the plan must be sufficiently flexible to allow for setbacks and challenges. Finally, she welcomed the positive evaluation of the performance of MONUSCO and its police components. She also condemned cases of sexual exploitation and abuse within United Nations operations, and welcomed MONUSCO's implementation of preventive and disciplinary policies to help eradicate such behaviour.

SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) underscored the positive results of the Congolese Government in maintaining the political stability and further commitments in facilitating electoral reforms ahead of the 2023 elections. During his country's membership on the Security Council, the level of insecurity in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has not shown improvement, despite the declaration and regular extension of the state of siege in North Kivu and Ituri for the last seven months. He highlighted human rights violations and abuses, accompanied by the conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence in the country, perpetrated by both armed groups and State agents. Expressing hope that the first trial in South Kivu involving charges of recruitment and use of children gives further impetus in addressing the accountability and fight against impunity, he stressed that the implementation of the transitional plan should ensure equal opportunities for all stakeholders, including humanitarian actors, civil society, women and youth.

RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India), condemning November terror attacks in Kampala, expressed concern over the expanding terror network in Africa. Joint operations against ADF in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are a welcome development. While military action against armed groups is important, progress in security-sector reform and in the implementation of the programme for disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and community stabilization cannot be ignored. He encouraged MONUSCO to support the Government in both processes, also highlighting the need to minimize intercommunal conflicts. Noting efforts towards a steady transition and the benchmarks agreed upon by MONUSCO and authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he emphasized that assessment of progress made towards such benchmarks should be realistic. Strengthening of State authority, security organs and justice institutions remains paramount, and MONUSCO's transition and eventual exit must be gradual, responsible and orderly. He also said that the stabilization of conflict-affected provinces will depend on curbing the illegal exploitation of mineral resources.

ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA(Russian Federation) expressed concern about the difficult situation in the eastern and north-eastern parts of the country, where the uptick in violence and civilian casualties is alarming. ADF continues to be one of the biggest threats to security. The Russian Federation is closely following developments in Ituri and North Kivu, where a state of emergency has been in effect since May, and hopes the Government will regain control over the situation, making it possible to strengthen State institutions on the ground, improve the humanitarian and socioeconomic situation, resolve intercommunal conflicts and implement, with the assistance of MONUSCO, a programme for the disarmament, demobilization and social reintegration of ex-combatants. However, she said, the illegal exploitation of natural resources by militants to fund their operations remains an acute problem; order and transparency in this area must be restored. She commended the exemplary interactions between MONUSCO and Congolese security forces. Turning to the humanitarian situation, which is concerning, she expressed consternation that only 34 per cent of the budget for the United Nations humanitarian response plan has been funded, against the backdrop of an increase in internally displaced persons. Steps must be taken to combat the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as occasional outbreaks of Ebola. She welcomed steps by President Tshisekedi to normalize relations with neighbouring countries and called for an expansion of cooperation between countries to strengthen security and coordinate actions, taking into account the presence of peacekeepers on the ground.

JAMES PAUL ROSCOE (United Kingdom) stressed the need for effective information sharing and coordination between the Uganda People's Defence Force, FARDC and MONUSCO on any military action, including location, nature and objectives, and with humanitarian actors to enable access to those likely to be displaced. He also underscored the necessity of conducting all operations with respect of international human rights and international humanitarian law, and in strict compliance with the United Nations Due Diligence Policy on Human Rights. Acknowledging FARDC and MONUSCO efforts against armed groups in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he voiced concern over persistent armed group activity, and consequent civilian death, injury and displacement. In this context, he called on the Government to ensure the state of siege is transparent and implemented with respect for international humanitarian and international human rights law. The United Kingdom is keen to progress implementation of MONUSCO's transition plan and wishes to see further consolidation of the Mission's presence in Ituri, and North and South Kivu, he noted, expressing support for a gradual, sustainable withdrawal of MONUSCO, guided by an end state, rather than an end date.

PAUL LOSOKO EFAMBE EMPOLE (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that the political situation is calm. At the national level, discussions have been dominated by the upcoming elections in 2023. At the regional level, the Head of State continues his contacts with other leaders to improve cooperation and has signed agreements with several countries in the economic and security spheres. Holding the presidency of the African Union, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has promoted the topic of "positive masculinity" to prevent violence against women and girls.

The President is determined to continue to fight against armed forces in the eastern part of the country and has also decreed a state of siege, which remains in effect. On the resurgence of COVID‑19 and the discovery of the Omicron variant, the Government has taken new measures in order to ensure the protection of its people. It is increasing vaccine access for target groups, he said. On the progressive drawdown of MONUSCO, he noted that a reference document outlines a joint strategy between the Government and the Mission. The withdrawal will be conducted in parallel with a temporary strengthening of the police component of the Mission. On 21 September, the President requested the lifting of the requirement for his Government to provide prior notification to the Committee for any import of military equipment. His Government has also requested sanctions against mafia networks in transit and destination countries.