Great Lakes Region - Security Council VTC Briefing

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12-Apr-2021 01:43:26
Special Envoy updates Security Council on new strategy for consolidating peace, preventing conflict in Great Lakes region.

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Speakers Express Concern about Ongoing Violence, Illicit Flow of Natural Resources

A new strategy to prevent conflict and consolidate peace in Africa’s Great Lakes region will bring fresh support to leaders working to end violence by armed groups, especially in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council during a videoconference meeting today, while describing diplomatic relations across the region as being broadly “on the right track”.

Huang Xia, Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, presented the Secretary-General’s latest biannual report on the implementation of the 2013 Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region (document S/2021/306). He also updated Council members on progress towards drawing up an action plan to implement the new United Nations Strategy for Peace Consolidation, Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution in the Great Lakes Region, which his office first submitted to the Secretary-General in late 2020. That plan seeks to draw on the best of the United Nations various offices and agencies in support of the region’s humanitarian-development-peace nexus, he said.

Noting that leaders of the Great Lakes region countries — especially President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda — have continued to demonstrate their commitment to the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, he said they are working together to find lasting solutions to ongoing violence being committed by armed groups in some parts of the region, namely eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Among other things, the Framework’s guarantors — which include the United Nations, the African Union, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) — plan to convene the first meeting of the Contact Coordination Group established to oversee the non-military measures to assist in the neutralization of armed groups next week.

Welcoming the commitment demonstrated recently on that front by Angola upon taking up the helm of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, he praised the region’s political will and pledged the United Nations support. The recent period saw a range of positive diplomatic developments, including encouraging gestures between leaders of Burundi and Rwanda, which have planned meetings on such crucial issues as securing the border area and ensuring the return of refugees. He also hailed several exemplary verdicts handed down against the head of armed groups in recent months by national courts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and by the International Criminal Court. However, he noted with regret that some of the region’s recent elections were tarnished by violent incidents. “It is not impossible to dream of a Great Lakes region free of electoral violence,” he insisted.

Emphasizing that many of the region’s challenges have been exacerbated by COVID-19, he recalled that nearly 2 million cases have been reported among the signatory countries to the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework over the last year. Governments have shown resilience and determination, and thanks to the global COVAX facility they have been able to administer over 1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to date. Concluding, he promised to support the many ongoing efforts towards rapprochement under way across the region and pledged support for the development of an action plan for the new United Nations Peace Consolidation strategy. He also called for a new approach to addressing the illicit flow of natural resources, announcing that his office plans to convene a high-level workshop aimed at drawing up a three-year action plan on that crucial issue.

Mohamed Fathi Ahmed Edrees (Egypt), briefing the Council in his capacity as Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, spotlighted the latter’s recent engagement with regional actors in support of the Special Envoy’s mandate. Since its first meeting on the Great Lakes region in November 2017, the Commission has emphasized the importance of mobilizing support for peacebuilding and regional cooperation initiatives in the broader context of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework. During a more recent meeting, in June 2020, it discussed ways to support regional socioeconomic cooperation among the countries of the Great Lakes region as a key component of building and sustaining peace and fostering sustainable development.

Stressing that such support has been rendered even more crucial amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the continuing challenges posed by Ebola, he warned that those health challenges risk deteriorating regional macroeconomic indicators, disrupting economic activities and increasing pressure on national budgets — thereby affecting national capacity to address peace and security challenges. He recalled that, among other things, the Commission’s engagement has supported strengthening the role of women in peacebuilding and development, especially amid the pandemic. Small and medium-sized enterprises, particularly those owned by women, have seen the worst impacts of the crisis, compared to larger businesses. Meanwhile, informal cross-border trade — another important source of income for many women — has also diminished amid the coronavirus.

Outlining the Commission’s close collaboration with international financial institutions and regional actors, he said it also stays abreast of the World Bank’s regional and country-specific support to the Great Lakes region. The Bank’s Great Lakes initiative, with total commitments of approximately $1 billion in support of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, aims to promote peace, stability and economic development through economic cooperation and regional integration. At the Commission’s June meeting, the Bank also presented additional resources to support country responses to COVID-19. He went on to welcome and encourage continued contributions by the Peacebuilding Fund, recalling that its past and ongoing support amounts to $167 million and covers Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda.

Going forward, he said, the Commission also plans to work with the Special Envoy and countries of the region to help implement the new United Nations Strategy for Peace Consolidation, Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution in the Great Lakes Region. Among other things, he said, the Commission could assist with mobilizing support for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants; promoting the upcoming Kigali Investment Forum, organized jointly by the Special Envoy’s office, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the Rwanda Development Board; and further building its partnership with international financial institutions, including on instruments to support a coordinated response to COVID-19 and post-COVID recovery.

As Council members took the floor, several speakers voiced support for the Great Lakes’ longstanding Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, describing it as the cornerstone of efforts to build lasting stability across the region. However, many echoed the briefers’ concerns about ongoing violence, reports of human rights violations and the impact of COVID-19, especially on women. Some also voiced regret that the region’s leaders have not been able to successfully eradicate the illicit exploitation of and trade in natural resources, which among other things degrades the environment and provides funding to dangerous armed groups.

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