The situation in the Great Lakes region- Security Council, 8884th Meeting

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20-Oct-2021 03:51:10
Security Council presidential statement on Great Lakes urges concerted efforts against armed groups’ illicit funding from pillaged natural resources.

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Through a presidential statement, the Security Council urged signatory states of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as regional organizations and the international community, to coordinate their efforts to undercut the economic lifelines of armed groups that benefit from the illegal exploitation and trade in natural resources, and to prevent the exploitation of women and children in the trade of these resources.

By the text (document S/PRST/2021/19), presented by Kenya, Council President for October, the 15‑member organ stressed that there is no purely military solution to the threat posed by armed groups, and that their elimination will require an integrated and regional approach by Governments in the region, with the support of United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and the Special Envoy of the Secretary‑General for the Great Lakes Region.

It condemned continued illicit exploitation of and trade by armed groups and criminal networks in natural resources in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region, particularly in so-called “conflict-minerals” like tin, tantalum, gold and diamonds as well as cocoa, timber and wildlife. As well, it condemned the negative impact of armed conflict on protected natural areas, which undermines lasting peace and development for the Great Lakes Region. Further, it recalled that individuals and entities involved in destabilizing activities through the illicit exploitation or trade in natural resources in the Democratic Republic of the Congo may be designated by the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1533 (2004).

Huang Xia, Special Envoy of the Secretary‑General 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/2021/836). He noted that, despite progress, challenges remained, including an upsurge in attacks by armed forces that were destabilizing the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Such violence exacerbates the already fragile humanitarian situation, he said, adding that the armed groups are financed by the illegal exploitation and trade of natural resources.

Putting an end to the activities of these negative forces is “an old question that haunts everyone interested in the region”, he observed. However, despite such persisting challenges, countries in the region remain committed to peace and development, he said, highlighting a workshop recently co-organized by his Office in Khartoum, which helped generate 31 recommendations “both ambitious and realistic” geared towards ending the link between the smuggling of some high-value minerals and the financing of armed groups.

Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee, Assistant Secretary‑General for Africa, Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, while shedding light on the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the heavy toll on civilians, particularly women and children, also spotlighted the commitment by the authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to provide adequate resources for the disarmament, demobilization, community recovery and stabilization programme that was recently established. Success of this national programme will contribute tremendously to sustainable peace and security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she said, calling on international partners and donors to also support these efforts.

João Samuel Caholo, Executive Secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, pointed out that peacekeeping missions in the region have a fundamental role in reducing the criminal exploitation of natural resources and contributing to stability and economic recovery. Such missions, he said, should participate in joint security efforts to dislodge rebel and militia groups from mining sites where armed groups use such revenues to finance conflict, and entrust those sites to Government institutions, rather than national security forces.

Speakers throughout the meeting expressed concern over an upsurge in violent attacks in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Many emphasized the need to tackle the root causes behind the conflict — the illegal exploitation and trade of natural resources — which fuels the activities of armed groups, thereby destabilizing the region and worsening the humanitarian situations.

Tunisia’s representative, who was one among many voicing such concerns, stressed that the region’s wealth should become the driver of development, not a source of funding for the armed groups.

Meanwhile, the representative of France underscored the need for tighter regulation and monitoring of the exploitation of gold, stating that the Security Council should sanction individuals and entities involved in the exploitation of natural resources.

In a similar vein, Colm Brophy, Minister for Overseas Development and Diaspora of Ireland, pointed out that “competition for control of resource-rich areas fuels hostilities and violence.” Such challenges were further exacerbated by climate change, population displacement, extreme poverty, socioeconomic inequality and a lack of opportunities for young people.

Téte António, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Angola, noting that his country assumed the Presidency of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region in November 2020, drew attention to the high-level diplomatic initiatives to strengthen cooperation in security matters. A Contact and Coordination Group has been established by Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda with the task of coordinating the implementation of non-military measures to complement military operations against negative forces in the region, he said.

Niger’s representative, along with other delegates, commended the increase in diplomatic efforts among leaders in the Great Lakes region to address issues ranging from the exploitation of natural resources to the flow of refugees. Encouraging the Central African Republic to increase the transparency of its disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation plans, he applauded the recent ceasefire declaration, calling it “an act of political courage”.

The representative of Burundi, for his part, commended all the efforts that resulted in the removal of his country from the Council’s agenda, stating that his Government, elected in 2020, has devised a National Development Plan focussing on good governance, economic growth, social protection and national reconciliation. However, economic development in the region is hobbled by a lack of funding, which if unaddressed may in turn undermine peace efforts, given the negative impact of climate change on development, he said.

Claude Ibalanky Ekolomba, High Representative of the President and Coordinator of the National Monitoring Mechanism of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, outlined steps his Government has taken to stabilize the conflict in the eastern provinces to better implement its commitments under the Framework Agreement. The state of siege imposed in Ituri and North Kivu earlier this year enabled progress in stabilizing the region, including the dismantling of networks that resupply the groups, and the release of hostages, among others.

He urged countries in the region and the international community to adhere to the Framework Agreement in order to tackle the root causes of conflict, including through the combat of illegal exploitation of natural resources and arms trafficking. Towards that end, President Félix Tshisekedi Tshilombo has forged economic cooperation with Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda, he pointed out, adding that he hoped the upcoming meeting of the Regional Oversight Mechanism on 8 December in Kinshasa will not be an “empty ceremony”, but will instead lend new momentum to the Agreement and spur participants to adhere to their commitments.

Also speaking today were ministers, senior officials and representatives of Kenya, Norway, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Mexico, Estonia, Russian Federation, Viet Nam, the United States, India, the United Kingdom, China, Uganda and Rwanda.

The meeting began at 10:09 a.m. and ended at 1:25 p.m.

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