What's In Blue

Great Lakes Region Resolution Adoption

On Friday (8 December), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution on the Great Lakes region. Egypt, along with Ethiopia and Senegal, initiated the resolution in order to mark the upcoming five-year anniversary of the Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Region, signed on 24 February 2013.

During the negotiations, Egypt made clear that the draft resolution was put forward after consultations with regional actors, including during the meeting of the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the PSC Framework Agreement in Brazzaville on 19 October, which was attended by the Egyptian Chair of the DRC Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta. The draft resolution takes a regional approach, rather than focusing only on the DRC and the implementation of the PSC Framework. In addition to countries of the region, the initiative to adopt the resolution was supported by guarantors of the PSC Framework which were consulted during the negotiations, including the AU, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). (The UN is also a guarantor of the agreement.)

The draft resolution touches upon several issues of regional concern, including political processes and the holding of elections, the humanitarian situation in the region, and the illicit trafficking of natural resources. Council members are generally supportive of the role of regional actors in solving the issues facing the region. However, some Council members felt that by providing an overview of regional issues—and by touching only lightly on matters such as human rights and the holding of free, fair and timely elections—the initial draft text did not reflect the actual approach the Council has taken in its consideration of country-specific situations and the proper balance between various aspects of these situations. In order to facilitate a compromise, language was added to the draft resolution, calling on the regional countries to comply with their obligations under international law, including international human rights law and international humanitarian law; stressing the need for the DRC military to carry out its operations in strict compliance with international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law; and on sexual violence and gender inequality.

With respect to the PSC Framework agreement, the draft resolution reaffirms that the PSC Framework remains an essential mechanism to achieve durable peace and stability in the DRC and the region, and stresses the importance of the 11 signatories fully implementing their national and regional commitments under the PSC Framework. It encourages enhanced cooperation among the guarantors of the PSC Framework and the core signatory countries of the Framework.

The draft resolution invites the Secretary-General to engage with the signatory states and guarantor institutions of the PSC Framework, as well as key regional and international partners, “to assess the progress, challenges and shortcomings in the implementation of the Framework, and to present his vision, supported by concrete recommendations, to the Council in his next report,” which is due by 31 March 2018.

One issue that was discussed during the negotiations was the role of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, Said Djinnit. On 4 October 2016, the Secretary-General recommended in a letter to the Council (S/2016/891) that the role of the Special Envoy be expanded beyond issues relating to the PSC Framework. In response, the Council said that it looked forward to further discussion on the recommendations (S/2016/892), as several Council members felt that further elaboration of the financial and organisational ramifications of the recommendations was required. Ultimately, the Council did not follow up on the recommendation to expand the Special Envoy’s role, as some members did not see any advantage in expanding Djinnit’s office or the justification for greater expenditures. These members made it clear that they would not now accept a text that potentially expands the Special-Envoy’s role, despite the fact that other Council members feel that this idea warrants consideration.

An issue that delayed the adoption of the resolution, originally planned for late November, concerned language underscoring the need to address violence and discrimination against women in the Great Lakes region, taking into account the link between peace and security and women´s participation in decision-making, and supporting the implementation of the ICGLR’s 2011 Kampala Declaration on ending impunity for gender-based crimes. This was agreed language from a presidential statement adopted by the Council on the Great Lakes on 31 March 2016 (S/PRST/2016/2). However, the reference to the Kampala Declaration and accountability for gender-based crimes was opposed by Russia and China, with the support of others, who felt that the language was overly negative and did not reflect improvements and efforts by the regional countries on this issue. Other member states, particularly the US and Sweden, insisted on maintaining this reference, while opposing an amendment commending the regional countries for their commitment and efforts on ending impunity in this context. In the end, the agreed language from the 31 March 2016 presidential statement was retained.

Another issue arose with respect to language regarding the responsibility of the DRC in establishing state authority and the accountability of its security forces. The initial draft circulated by Egypt noted the importance of operations conducted by the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) against armed groups. At the request of the US, language was added calling on the DRC to take specific actions. This included calling on the DRC to make progress in implementing its commitments under the PSC Framework, with respect to the consolidation of state authority, reconciliation, tolerance and democracy. The proposed language further called on the DRC to remain fully committed to protecting the civilian population through the swift establishment of professional, accountable and sustainable security forces, and through the consolidation of the rule of law and the promotion and protection of human rights, based on agreed language from resolution 2348 on the DRC.

These amendments were taken out of a later draft put under silence by Egypt, after consultations with the DRC, which viewed this text as unbalanced, going beyond its obligations in the PSC Framework and taking away from the regional dimension of the resolution by focusing particularly on the DRC.

As a compromise, the text in blue calls for all signatories of the PSC Framework to abide by their commitments to not interfere in the affairs of other states and support armed groups, while also calling on the DRC to make further progress in in implementing its commitments under the PSC Framework, in particular with regard to security sector reform, consolidation of state authority, reconciliation, tolerance and democratization. Language stressing the need for the DRC “to protect the civilian population, including through professional, accountable and sustainable security forces” was added elsewhere in the draft.

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