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21 March 2016, New York – Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States by Mr. Koen Vervaeke, Managing Director for Africa & Special Envoy for the Great Lakes European External Action Service, at the Security Council Open Debate on Maintenance of international peace and security: Prevention and resolution of conflicts in the Great Lakes Region

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Mr President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EFTA country Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Armenia, align themselves with this statement.

Mr President,

I am very pleased to be taking part, also on behalf of the European High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, in this session on the situation in the Great Lakes. Holding this meeting in the presence of the Secretary General and several Foreign Ministers of the region is a testament to the importance attached to this region. I would also especially like to welcome the impetus given by the Angolan Presidency of the Security Council to this subject, both here at the United Nations, and on the ground – especially through Angola’s role in both SADC and the ICGLR. Allow me also to thank AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui, Special Envoy Said Djinnit and SRSG Maman Sidikou, for their briefings, their commitment and their good cooperation with the European Union.

As you know, Mr President, the European Union has been deeply engaged in the Great Lakes over many years. Our consistent belief has been that a transition from fragility to resilience, and from conflict to peace is achievable, but only with strong local ownership and strong co-operation between the countries of the region. Only once this transition to resilience is achieved will development accelerate and will citizens enjoy the full benefits of the unique human, mineral, forest and wildlife resources of the Great Lakes.

Mr President, looking at the regional challenges of the Great Lakes, we believe that the Peace, Security and Co-operation Framework for DRC and the Great Lakes Region remains the best blueprint for common progress, with clear local ownership and with a clear set of commitments and benchmarks at international, regional and national level. The fulfilment of these commitments must be more closely monitored, and in our view must inform the definition of a clear exit strategy for MONUSCO. In its own way, the PSC Framework addresses all the key obstacles to long-term stabilization, including armed groups, the illegal exploitation of natural resources, the encouragement of good neighbourly relations, gender-related issues, economic aspects and the encouragement of regional integration. We welcome the efforts by SE Djinnit and the recent private sector conference. The EU will be using its own financial instruments, both at national and regional level, to support the PSC Framework in the years ahead. And the EU will continue to support a number of key reforms in the different countries, such as those of the security sector in DRC, which will help to bring this about.

Mr President,

We have to face the fact that there are still serious challenges before us.

In recent years, the Democratic Republic of Congo has made great progress but there are protracted humanitarian and security crisis situations. The problem of armed groups remains a serious threat to stability in eastern DRC – sadly we have seen this during the past twelve months with a number of devastating attacks, despite the efforts and the sacrifices of the DRC armed forces and MONUSCO, and despite an improving co-operation between them which we welcome.

This is also why we support the position taken by the Security Council in resolution 2211 that any future reconfiguration of MONUSCO and its mandate should be based on the evolution of the situation on the ground and, in light of progress, in the protection of civilians, stabilisation and the implementation of the PSC Framework, including national reforms. We welcome in this context the agreement in January to resume military cooperation between MONUSCO and FARDC, and the strategic dialogue between MONUSCO and the Government.

However, the most critical challenge in 2016 will be to organise free and fair elections in order to consolidate gains achieved. The objective should be to achieve the first ever democratic transition in the DRC. The EU firmly believes that a political consensus is urgently needed on seeking a focused set of steps to deliver inclusive and transparent elections within the framework of the constitution. The EU stands ready to support efforts by AU envoy Edem Kodjo to facilitate such a dialogue. The political and financial commitment by the DRC government to take the necessary steps without further delay to ensure that elections take place as planned will create the environment in which the EU can support the electoral process.

Security Council Resolution 2211 in its entirety should continue to guide our work. This includes, of course, the context of elections with focus on the presidential and legislative elections, and the monitoring of human rights and international humanitarian law. The right to protest and peaceful dissent need to be respected. The press and civil society need to be free to speak freely and citizens to listen and debate with them. Above all, human rights need to be fully respected in line with all international obligations.

Mr President,

The EU pursues a coherent approach across the Great Lakes region. The importance of ensuring the right political climate for democracy to work applies to all countries in the region, whether in Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, Congo, Uganda, Gabon, …. Inclusive and open societies, and accountable governments mean stronger societies. Elections are not a panacea, but they are defining moments in any democracy. Resilience depends on inclusive and credible elections, and on democratic transitions to power. But also on what happens the day before, and after elections. And also on respecting constitutions, including on presidential term limits.

The situation in Burundi shows how much is at stake. We strongly condemn the violence, from whichever side, that has cost too many lives and made close to 250,000 citizens flee their country. We are supporting all initiatives of the United Nations, the African Union and the East African Community which could help to lead to a political solution within the spirit of the Arusha Agreements. Highest among these in terms of priorities is the establishment of a functioning and inclusive inter-Burundian dialogue mediated by the East African Community, as set out in UN Security Council resolution 2248. In this context, we strongly welcome the recent appointment of former President Mkapa to assist in this process. We call on government as well as the armed opposition to abandon the logic of violence. The people of Burundi have demonstrated in the past their incredible capacity to transcend divides; all sides should revive that same spirit with determination.

It is also essential that sufficient capacity is given to independent monitoring of the human rights situation in the country, and we especially underline the positive role played by the African Union in this respect. Last week, the European Union adopted a Council Decision ending the special consultations we held with Burundi under the Cotonou Agreement. This decision sets out concrete steps which could help to re-establish the Rule of Law in Burundi and get our relations fully back on track, but they are also specifically designed to support a political solution. First steps have been announced by the Government, they need to be implemented and enhanced.

Mr President,

The state of relations between Burundi and Rwanda, and the impact on the unity of the East African Community, also demands our attention. The solution for Burundi should be found in Burundi, by the Burundians and by peaceful means. External interference will only complicate this goal. We call on all neighbouring countries to contribute to the solution.

Mr President,

the Concept Note shared by Angola rightly notes the need for a number of support measures to ensure effective implementation of the PSC Framework – including financial resources, coordination of efforts, monitoring and evaluation. The EU fully supports this focus and stands ready to support it. We welcome the recent Private Sector Investment Conference in Kinshasa, and will be giving increased attention to the business climate and to the acceleration of regional integration. We will also continue with our support to initiatives addressing the problem of conflict minerals, and especially the work of the ICGLR Regional Initiative on Natural Resources.

By doing so, we should be guided by the aspirations of the men and women in the region. Creating opportunities. The opportunity to live free from fear and persecution. The opportunity to find a job, and a good one. The opportunity to contribute to your country’s public life, through open and inclusive democratic processes.

Thank you for your attention.


* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

Ref: EUUN16-026EN
EU source: European Union
UN forum: Security Council
Date: 21/3/2016

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