UNSC: Open debate on the Great Lakes Conference; EU statement

Statement by H.E. Ms. Kirsti Lintonen, Ambassador, Permanent Representataive of Finland to the UN, on behalf of the EU

New York, 20 December 2006

Mr. President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and the EFTA countries Iceland and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and Moldova align themselves with this declaration.

The European Union welcomes today's open debate taking place at a time when the Great Lakes Region is at an important crossroads. The European Union welcomes the positive outcome of the Second Summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region held in Nairobi last week. The Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region adopted at the Summit, constitutes a cornerstone in the cooperation between the states of the region. The EU now looks forward to the implementation of the Protocols and Programmes of Action included in the Pact through the Regional Follow-up Mechanism. A strong local commitment, including financial contributions, and a sense of ownership by the states in the region, will be required in order to make the Pact succeed. The EU reaffirms its readiness to support the Pact, also notably in the fields of natural resource management and regional cooperation. 

The Summit and its positive outcome mark a new beginning in Central Africa and builds on the important progress achieved over the recent years. Starting over a decade ago, the crisis in the Great Lakes Region, which brought sorrow and suffering to millions of people, overshadowed the whole of Africa. Today, we witness a promising start towards a new positive dynamic, which will hopefully influence Africa's overall development. We hope, in particular, that the powerful lessons of partnership and conflict resolution presented by the Nairobi Pact will inspire efforts to resolve other remaining conflicts in the Great Lakes region, including that in Northern Uganda, which has been of such concern to so many in the international community.

Trilateral cooperation between the United Nations, the African Union and the European Union has become a distinctive trait of conflict prevention in Africa and in the Great Lakes region in particular. Prior to the Nairobi Summit this cooperation had already experienced significant tests, such as the birth of the African Mission in Burundi and its subsequent transformation into a UN-led peace-keeping mission, or the deployment, upon request of the United Nations, of an EU peace- keeping mission in the DRC during the electoral period. Last week’s conference was an additional proof of this cooperation and another important example how real progress can be achieved through effective multilateralism. The EU would like once more to express its special thanks to the Chairperson of the AU Commission, the Secretary General of the United Nations and his Special Representative Ibrahima Fall for their valuable efforts to take the conference forward. The EU would like also to underline the role of its Special Representative for the Great Lakes, Aldo Ajello, who was instrumental in bringing about the idea of the Conference since its very inception.

Building on the Dar es Salaam declaration in 2004, the Pact on Security, Stability and Development defines rightly four major domains of future cooperation in the Great Lakes Region: peace and security, development and good governance, economic development and regional integration as well as humanitarian and social issues. Much has been achieved since Dar es Salaam. From a European point of view, let me recall in particular the following three points:

First, there is the successful conclusion of the transition process in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Two weeks ago we witnessed the historic moment of President Kabila's inauguration in Kinshasa - an auspicious event that constituted the highlight of the first democratic and transparent elections in the DRC in more than 40 years.

There is truly a reason for congratulating the Congolese people, all parties and candidates who participated in the elections for having made this landmark achievement possible. The role of the United Nations has been essential in assisting this process. The EU, too, supported the electoral process and the Congolese people at this historic juncture.

The transition in the DRC clearly shows the fact that security and development are inseparable. In as much as one depends on the other, 'governance' is the key element which provides the basis for progressing in both fields. By taking the governance agenda forward, the DRC authorities and the international community are working closely together on developing a 'shared governance vision', which may in time also take the form of a Governance Compact.

Once again, we hope that our joint efforts in the DRC will increase the momentum for similar developments throughout the entire region; here, in the environment of a post-conflict situation, Security Sector Reform will always be at the heart of governance initiatives. These challenges are of high priority for the future EU cooperation and we are looking forward to soon engaging in consultations with the new elected authorities in the DRC in this respect.

As a second important point I would like to mention the successful transition process which has taken place in Burundi. The peace process initiated in August 2000 with the Arusha Accord, and the political transition that followed, concluded successfully with the installation of a democratically elected government of national unity in August 2005. Progress has been made on the political and security situation. Military demobilization, supported by the Multi-Country Demobilization and Reintegration Program (MDRP) funded by several EU member states, proceeded well. In order to consolidate the demobilisation achieved, a concerted effort needs to be made to ensure that sustainable reintegration of ex-combatants is prioritised in the period ahead in Burundi and throughout the Great Lakes.

The cease fire agreement concluded with the FNL earlier this year opened a window of opportunity for reaching a sustainable and peaceful solution to this conflict. We are all aware of the challenges linked to the implementation of this agreement and the EU follows with much attention all regional initiatives in this regard.

In consolidating these promising developments, the European Union will remain a reliable partner, fully committed to a constructive approach, including in the field of governance, rule of law and further democratisation of the society.  

Finally, let me underline the importance of the improved regional dynamics, in particular in the Great Lakes Region proper. The successful transition in the DRC has only been possible thanks to the new dynamic of good neighbourly relations, which is increasingly visible at regional level. The remaining tensions and the violence in the East of the DRC reflect well the need to foster this development. In other regions we still face enormous challenges in cutting the supply lines for armed rebel groups and in ending cross border violence. In the Great Lakes Region however, we have seen that this plague of violence and impunity can be reigned in, provided that there is efficient and trustworthy regional cooperation, including also the United Nations.

Mr. President,

The signing of the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region is a very important step consolidating the developments towards peace, democracy and development not only in the Great Lakes region but also for the whole of Africa. The commitments undertaken for a policy of non-violence and mutual defence in the resolution of conflicts as much as the emphasis put on co-operation in democracy, good governance, regional integration and the fight against the illegal exploitation of natural resources define a clear way ahead.

On this encouraging path, the European Union will continue to be an active partner supporting the closer cooperation and dialogue within the Great Lakes region.

Thank you, Mr. President.

* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.