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10/03/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/03/2019 10:56

Security Council: Situation in the Great Lakes Region

Note: a complete summary of today's meeting will be available after its conclusion.

Briefing

HUANG XIA, Special Envoy of the Secretary‑General for the Great Lakes Region, expressing a note of optimism over recent developments in the region, said that the region is resolutely moving forward towards stability, having made important steps to implement the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region. Notable in that regard was the peaceful transfer of power in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the reaffirmation of the will of other leaders in the region to face challenges together.

After taking office, he said, Congolese President Felix [Tshilombo] Tshisekedi is engaged in working closely with partners to re‑establish peace and security in the east of his country and all the leaders in the region have expressed the will to work towards that goal. He praised Uganda and Rwanda in particular for making strides in rapprochement, and Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for facilitating dialogue in the region, as well as Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda for talks towards strengthening cooperation in countering armed groups. 'There is now a golden opportunity to address the root causes of instability in the region, which must be seized by strengthening regional cooperation to permit the populations to benefit from the region's wealth,' he said.

For that to occur, he said, all stakeholders in the region must focus on accelerating development programmes and regional integration, so it will be able to engage in a proactive approach to stability. Intensified action must be taken against local armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to counter their illicit trade in resources and harm to communities. Justice, greater equity and more respect for human beings must be promoted.

To support these goals, his Office has worked with the guarantors of the Framework Agreement to facilitate cooperation of the various national security services, he said. It is also supporting non‑military measures that could support military efforts, such as reintegration of ex‑combatants and aid to affected communities. Regional cooperation on the issue of natural resources has also made gains.

He called on Council members to support the upcoming conference for the region planned for March 2020 in Kigali, which, he commented, will also require support from the private sector. His Office is also promoting the empowerment of women, youth and society at large, including through joint solidarity missions to boost women's participation in all areas and combat gender‑based violence. Consultations between the guarantors and civil society are being facilitated so that the population has a voice in all such areas.

Statements

NICOLAS DE RIVIERE (France), hailing a 'new momentum' in the region over recent months, said the strengthened will to reduce insecurity has already resulted in tangible progress, including a newly signed memorandum of understanding between Uganda and Rwanda. However, tensions are also escalating in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with armed groups violating basic human rights and humanitarian challenges increasing. Welcoming that Government's announced efforts to strengthening the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and to better manage the country's natural resources, he called on neighbouring States to enact similar measures and to strengthen their borders. He also urged them to redouble efforts to address the root causes of conflict, including by facilitating community reconciliation processes, strengthening human rights and ensuring humanitarian access to all in need. Welcoming disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes already under way in the cases of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and M23 armed groups, he said they must be taken to their conclusion. Warning against allowing any further backsliding into conflict, he stressed that 'time is against us', while calling for stronger commitments to combat Ebola, malaria and cholera in the region.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) agreed with the Special Envoy that economic development is crucial in the region. However, he stressed that it requires respect for environmental sustainability as well as a level playing field for economic development and investment. Calling for increased transparency in the mining and related sectors, he said that would allow international financial institutions to re‑engage. He went on to express concern about ongoing intercommunal violence in parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as outbreaks of Ebola, malaria and cholera that continue to claim many lives. Meanwhile, respect for human rights and the rule of law are essential, and violations continue to occur in parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo - including at the hands of State agents. Welcoming efforts to implement reforms in that country, he said the current proactive attitude should be encouraged and supported by the international community. The support of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), as mandated by the Council, remains crucial. In that context, he pointed out that the Mission's future will be considered before the end of 2019, and called for a concerted approach by the United Nations to the Great Lakes region.

GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d'Ivoire) urged the authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to continue to build on recent institutional momentum in order to satisfy its people's urgent needs. In Burundi, he encouraged all stakeholders to engage in dialogue and pool their efforts to ensure that upcoming elections are fair, peaceful and credible. Welcoming the recent signing of a Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic, he went on to express hope that all those positive developments will contribute to stability in the wider region. Nevertheless, regional States and international partners must not lose sight of ongoing challenges, including threats posed by armed groups - especially in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On the health front, he expressed alarm about the continuing threats posed by the spread of Ebola and called for preventive measures, both in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and along its borders with other States.

JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) joined other speakers in welcoming progress in the region, including in the degree of women's political representation and new commitments towards regional integration. However, his delegation remains troubled by the poor security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which still suffers attacks by armed groups. 'These attacks weigh heavily […] on the region as a whole,' he stressed, urging international partners to help States of the region to stamp out such challenges as the illicit exploitation of natural resources and the recruitment of young people by armed groups. Noting that the climate of insecurity feeds the worrying humanitarian situation on the ground, he cited the increasing number of displaced persons and refugees as one result. In the case of Burundi, some 75,000 refugees have returned home but about 400,000 Burundians remain scattered around the region. Spotlighting a crucial upcoming regional conference on investment and trade, he said a common analysis of the Great Lakes' various opportunities and challenges is needed, as well as stronger support for efforts to address the latter.

The representative of China, noting the potential and challenges of the Great Lakes region, as well as recent positive developments there, expressed support for the mandate of the Secretary‑General's Special Envoy. He called for strengthening of efforts to further build cooperation in the region as well as Council support for such efforts. Priorities are facing the humanitarian crisis, which he said includes food insecurity and epidemics, through increased aid and support for resettling displaced persons. He called on the United Nations and other major players to continue to leverage their mediation roles to strengthen cooperation. He stressed that achieving socioeconomic development is the key to solving all other problems, calling on the international community to increase aid. He welcomed the upcoming conference for that purpose. His country is ready to work with the international community for peace, stability and development in the region, providing military assistance, capacity‑building and supporting peace through development, while building partnerships built on mutual interests.

The representative of Equatorial Guinea, noting progress and persistent challenges in the region, said that cross‑border and regional cooperation is crucial, as is the empowerment of women and nurturing the business sector. Hailing political progress in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he also welcomed the trend towards regional dialogue as well as positive steps in Burundi, the Central African Republic and other countries of the area. He also welcomed recent efforts to ensure women's participation in peace processes. Reaffirming his country's support for the African Union's 'Silencing the Guns by 2020' initiative, he expressed concern about the plight of those who have been displaced by armed groups in the region, as well as the sporadic clashes of the armed forces of States and attacks on humanitarian workers. These issues must be addressed in a coordinated way. He called on regional organizations and international partners to continue to work alongside States of the region to nurture the growing trust among them, so that they could make as much progress as possible towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The representative of the United States, finding encouragement in recent developments in the Great Lakes, stressed the responsibility of all signatories of the region to cooperate with efforts to stem illicit activities and human rights abuse. Her country will continue to work with the region towards greater stability, peace and prosperity. Reminding Burundi of the need to restore freedom of expression and make progress towards free and fair elections, she stressed the need for continued attention on the country from the Council. All such concerns must be comprehensively addressed if the gains made in the past few months are to be built upon, she emphasized.

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom), noting that the Great Lakes region has been historically characterized by internal tensions, welcomed the momentum towards peace - especially the newly signed memorandum of understanding between Uganda and Rwanda, confidence‑building measures and meetings being convened between various security and intelligence actors in the region. Nevertheless, he spotlighted immense challenges that continue to exist in such arenas as development, health and the provision of humanitarian assistance. Joining other speakers in calling for a concerted and collective approach, he expressed particular concern about the ongoing criminal activities of armed groups along the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Noting that the latter will not be resolved solely by military means, he called on regional States and their partners to prevent armed groups from receiving support and to help transform illicit flows of gold, charcoal and other resources into legal, sustainable, responsible supply chains. Drawing attention to alarming restrictions on political space in Burundi - including on media freedoms - he also urged regional States to ensure that the various upcoming elections are free, fair and credible.

PAUL DUCLOS (Peru) also welcomed positive developments in the region, including the potential for rapprochement, increased political dialogue and efforts towards economic integration. Welcoming movement towards a new civilian Government in Sudan, he nevertheless voiced concern about the continued actions of armed groups as well as ongoing intercommunal violence and human rights violations in that country. He called for more joint initiatives to combat these threats, while warning that no improvements have yet been seen in reducing the high numbers of internally displaced persons and refugees. Compounding these challenges are outbreaks of Ebola, measles and cholera. Calling for support from the international community, he went on to welcome regional efforts aimed at neutralizing armed group spoilers and facilitating stronger, more inclusive dialogue processes.