While these previous national and international initiatives have contributed to a climate of relative peace and stability in large parts of the region, the eastern DRC has continued to suffer from recurring cycles of conflict and persistent violence by armed groups.
These continue to exact unacceptable consequences on the civilian populations, particularly, vulnerable women and children, who are often victims of callous weapons of warfare, including, sexual and gender-based violence, gross human rights abuses and massive displacements.
Against this background, I felt humbled, yet compelled, to accept Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s request to serve as his Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, in order to contribute my modest efforts to support the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework for the DRC and the region. Building on the efforts already under way by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the PSC Framework represents a core element of a comprehensive approach that aims to address the root causes of conflict in eastern DRC and build confidence and trust among member states in the region. The PSC Framework includes the establishment of national and regional oversight mechanisms to follow up implementation of the commitments of the signatories.
Recent progress has been made, following the adoption by heads of states and governments in the region (the so-called “11+4”), of the regional benchmarks and indicators of progress for the implementation of commitments made in the PSC Framework. My role will be to lead and co-ordinate support, as well help the signatories to monitor the implementation of this crucial framework. I am convinced that we can reach durable solutions through a multi-track implementation plan that allows the convergence of all initiatives in support of peace, security and development. Indeed, I see the PSC Framework as the “framework of hope”. In this regard, and in view of the unspeakable torments, yearnings and aspirations of affected communities, it is imperative to speed up processes that will bring immediate tangible benefits and empower people through the provision of and access to basic education and the promotion of income generating and livelihood activities, particularly for women and young people. This would have the added advantage of discouraging the teeming youths in the affected areas from getting involved in further armed conflict.
While several previous interventions have essentially focused on a “top down” approach in the DRC and the region, I believe that an effective combination of “top down” and “bottom up” approaches will be essential to achieve immediate and sustainable progress in conflict reduction, stability and development. Efforts to build trust between leaders and governments in the region through the strengthening of bilateral and multilateral relations must continue, while ensuring that engagements with civil society and grassroots initiatives feed into, and add value to national and international interventions for maximum benefit. In addressing the range of development needs at the last round table on the Millennium Development Goals held in Maputo, Mozambique in May 2013, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon identified key enablers, including women and children. He also stated the readiness of the UN and the World Bank to work closely with the government of the DRC and the Great Lakes region to foster peace and accelerate development. It is also noteworthy that at its first meeting in Addis Ababa, the Regional Oversight Mechanism (ROM) of the PSC Framework underscored the role of civil society, taking special note of the potential and central role of youths and women in jumpstarting economic development.
As a first step I, together with Femmes Africa Solidarité, organised a forum of consultation in Bujumbura in July 2013, which helped chart a road map for women’s engagement in the peace process. Such informal women’s platforms are instrumental to the implementation of the PSC Framework, and to ensure that the process remains inclusive and that women’s voices are heard. I look forward to promoting similar regional meetings with youths.
Indeed, I intend to work with all relevant actors to support efforts on the ground, through the development and implementation of quick-impact projects at local and regional levels that target women and youths in particular. These will be carried out in close collaboration with the African Development Bank (AfDB), the World Bank and UN agencies’ funds and programmes, following up the recommendations of the Addis Ababa meeting on “Regional Approaches to Development” in May 2013. I strongly believe that in any society, peace and development can only prosper where there is an integrated approach with proper mechanisms at the local, national and international levels. Sadly, this has not been the case in the past in the DRC and the region in general. The PSC Framework, or the “framework of hope” as I prefer to call it, provides a window of opportunity to involve all stakeholders at diverse levels to find a safe exit from perennial conflict. If well utilised, this prospect is laden with a promise to chart the course and lead the entire region to new, sustainable peace and productivity.
However, minimum levels of safety and security are required to enable a gradual and sequenced approach to long-term sustainable development. Hence, priority must be given, first and foremost, to removing any threats to security in the DRC and the region; all efforts must be geared to ensure that the ongoing talks in Kampala, between the government of the DRC and the M23 rebel movement, conclude with meaningful agreements, and a united resolve for timely implementation. This will prevent the resurgence of armed violence that so often exacerbates tensions and disrupts cooperation in the region.
Our efforts in the days ahead must also focus on the prioritisation of activities based on the benchmarks recently developed by the technical support committee of the PSC Framework. The committee’s mandate is to draw up a detailed plan of action for the realisation of the benchmarked targets of the framework. I shall continue to provide support to this work.
I have met several leaders, including civil society representatives, who are all committed to fostering peace, security and cooperation. I will continue to lead and co-ordinate the international community’s support to these commitments as well as the implementation of the PSC framework, and will continue to work with governments to help strengthen peace and enhance regional co-operation. The protection of civilians in eastern DRC remains an utmost priority, and I will continue to work closely with the United Nations mission and other UN entities in the DRC to sustain momentum for ongoing actions and initiatives in this regard.
The support of relevant international partners, in particular, bilateral and multilateral donors, the World Bank, the European Union, and the AfDB, through the funding of specific programmes and projects, including those identified in the newly endorsed benchmarks, are critical to sustainable peace and development in the DRC and the region. That is why efforts to launch an international donors’ conference for the Great Lakes region deserve strong support and encouragement.
Similarly, regional initiatives particularly, of the African Union (AU), ICGLR and SADC, as well as capacity building for these institutions, should be vigorously supported and encouraged for sustainable progress. Moreover, in the midst of several international crises we must ensure that the Great Lakes region remains high on the international agenda and that common messages with regional partners continue to be disseminated for maximum impact.
I look forward to continuing my collaboration with the OECD, which has been in the forefront of efforts to resolve resource-driven conflicts, and, most importantly, to ensuring that governments and companies uphold human dignity in the exploitation of natural resources.
Also see http://www.oecd.org/dac/incaf/