Open Debate on the Great Lakes Region
On Monday (21 March), a ministerial-level open debate on the prevention and resolution of conflicts in the Great Lakes Region will be held, at the initiative of Security Council president, Angola. A draft presidential statement was circulated late Thursday evening (17 March), and members were expected to discuss the next steps for this draft text during “any other business” this afternoon. At press time it was unclear if members would be able to adopt it during the debate on Monday.
The Secretary-General is expected to brief, while Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region Said Djinnit and AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui will be making statements. Vijay Pillai, Adviser to the Vice President for the Africa Region of the World Bank Group, will participate in the debate. The foreign ministers of Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) may also participate.
Angola, which is currently the chair of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region, initiated the open debate with the aim of discussing wider issues affecting and driving the various conflicts in the Great Lakes Region. It sees the debate as an opportunity to discuss current political developments in countries of the Great Lakes Region (of which Burundi, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are on the Council’s agenda), and for the Council to focus on solutions to outstanding issues. In addition, it hopes that the open debate may encourage greater international and national commitments and resources to be directed towards conflict resolution in the region.
The concept note (S/2016/223) circulated by Angola covers the background to the conflicts in the Great Lakes Region and notes that often attempts to end the conflicts and establish peace have failed to comprehend the complexity of the conflicts and to address their driving forces. The concept note recalls that a critical element of the Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework for the DRC of 24 February 2013 was to advance development and economic growth as part of a comprehensive approach towards solving problems in the region. On 17 March, Angola circulated a letter from the Secretary-General transmitting the UN Great Lakes Regional Strategic Framework for 2016 – 2017, which outlines the UN’s development approach in support of the implementation of the PSC Framework for the DRC. The Secretary-General may highlight key aspects of this Framework during his briefing.
One major focus of the concept note is the need to properly manage natural resources in the region. A number of members are expected to address the issue of illegal exploitation of natural resources, and how this is linked to conflict. There may be suggestions for how to move towards sound management of natural resources so that they can become drivers of development. In this regard, some members may highlight the role of the private sector and emphasise the importance of developing the domestic private sector so that it can contribute to the regional development. They may stress the need for greater participation of international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank in regional programmes. Another related area that may be covered by some members is the value of Council-imposed sanctions in checking the illegal exploitation of natural resources.
A number of Council members are expected to cover issues related to countries in the region which are on the Council’s agenda. The threat to the peace and stability of the region from armed groups, and the importance of stable, credible elections are likely to be among the points raised. Some members may also cover cross border issues affecting the eastern DRC, including the illicit flow of natural resources and refugees, as well as activities of armed groups and criminal networks.
Some members may cover the importance of a regional perspective for conflict prevention. These members may cover possible conflict prevention tools that could be used more effectively, including the ad-hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa, the UN Regional Office for Central Africa, and Council visiting missions. In this regard, there may be some references to the Council’s recent visit to Burundi and whether it was useful in getting a better understanding of the root causes of conflict in the region.