25 July 2013 - Security Council - Ministerial meeting: The Great Lakes Region and the Democratic Republic of Congo - Statement by Mr. Pascal Canfin, Minister Delegate for Development, attached to the Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Secretary of State,
Mr. President of the World Bank,
Madam Special Envoy,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would first of all like to thank Secretary of State John Kerry for taking the initiative to organize this high-level meeting devoted to the situation in the Great Lakes Region and notably in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This meeting comes at the right time. While the humanitarian situation remains tragic, with more than 2.6 million displaced persons in the DRC and 450,000 refugees in the neighboring countries, the last few weeks have been marked by renewed hostility on the part of the M23 and other armed groups against the Congolese armed forces.
This renewed fighting is a test for the international community since the M23 and the other armed groups are quite simply trying to derail the political process under way aimed at putting an end to this tragedy which has been going on for far too long. A test because certain actors could be tempted to abandon the commitments that they’ve undertaken.
Our message is clear: the countries bordering the DRC must stop supporting the armed groups as they promised. The message of unity and firmness now being sent by the international community will help to support the efforts of the actors who are genuinely committed to achieving lasting peace in the Great Lakes Region.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We’ve made a great deal of progress in recent months. We now have a coherent framework, which will finally allow us to look forward to putting an end to the tragedy that the Great Lakes Region has been enduring for more than 20 years now. This framework is based on two pillars.
The first pillar is the Framework Agreement signed on February 24 by 11 countries in the region, on the initiative of the Secretary-General, whose action and determination I applaud. It’s now up to the states signatories to this agreement to implement their commitments. We’ve seen several encouraging signs in recent weeks.
• The adoption by the Congolese government of a national mechanism to monitor the commitments. This marks the start of essential reforms to the Congolese army and police. Significant measures must now be swiftly taken. The Congolese army must also serve as an example on the ground and the atrocities committed by Congolese soldiers – which cannot be excused – must be effectively and severely punished by this country’s justice system.
• At the regional level, an initial meeting focusing on the regional mechanism to monitor the commitments on May 26 on the sidelines of the African Union summit brought together the majority of the heads of state and government of the region. This mechanism must, first of all, ensure that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states in the region are preserved, starting with the DRC and also ensure that their security is not threatened.
The action of Ms. Mary Robinson, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region will be key to the coordination and evaluation of the national and regional efforts to implement the commitments that have been undertaken. Madam President, I would like to assure you of France’s resolute support alongside you.
The second pillar in this new context is UNSCR 2098, unanimously adopted on March 28.
• MONUSCO’s core mandate remains unchanged: the protection of civilians. However, in order to help achieve this objective, the resolution authorizes, for the first time, the deployment of a Rapid Reaction Force within MONUSCO. This force has a mandate to neutralize the armed groups that are continuing the violence and threatening the civilians. France would now like this force to be operational as soon as possible.
• Another key aspect of resolution 2098: the issue of sexual violence. Sexual violence is still widely used as a weapon of war, very often with impunity. We applaud Mary Robinson’s initiative to hold, along with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), a conference specifically devoted to the role of women in the process to implement the framework agreement. We know that in this region the bodies of women are all too often used as a battleground for men. Like President Kim, this task weighs on our conscience.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before I conclude, I would like to raise the issue of development.
As Special Envoy Mary Robinson, said, it is now time to consider the “peace dividends” for the entire Great Lakes region.
I want to applaud President Jim Yong Kim’s personal commitment to resolving this crisis, and the World Bank’s recent promise to provide financing, which will facilitate the implementation of the commitments undertaken by the DRC when the Framework Agreement was signed. France and the European Union will also stand ready to help with the region’s development.
Reviving the region’s economy in a way that benefits local populations will also entail transparency when it comes to the exploitation of natural resources. The opacity that currently exists with regard to the exploitation of mineral resources must give way to transparency. As you know, at Great Britain’s behest and with France’s full support, early this month the G8 countries adopted an action plan to bolster transparency in the extraction industries. We also intend to provide full political and technical support for the DRC’s efforts to establish a mechanism to certify minerals mined in this region. All these instruments will help combat poor practices and increase benefits to the local population from the exploitation of the region’s natural resources.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
With the M23 carrying out new offensives around Goma, it is crucial to do everything we can to thwart those who are threatening peace and to revive the political dynamic that began with the Framework Agreement. To institute a lasting peace, it is now time for cooperation among actors throughout the region to prevail over violence and looting. Then and only then will the Framework Agreement lead to a concrete improvement in the security situation and living conditions in the Great Lakes region. In the name of the millions of dead who have plunged this region into mourning for so many years, today we have the collective obligation to succeed.
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