Great Lakes Region: Ministerial-level Debate*
Tomorrow (20 October), the Security Council will hold a ministerial-level debate on the Great Lakes region. Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Raychelle Omamo will chair the meeting. The expected briefers are Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations (DPPA-DPO) Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region Huang Xia, and Executive Secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) João Caholo. A civil society representative may also brief. Several countries from the Great Lakes Region are expected to participate under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.
A presidential statement proposed by Kenya is an anticipated outcome of tomorrow’s meeting.
Kenya prepared a concept note ahead of tomorrow’s debate, which it considers one of the signature events of its Council presidency. According to the note, the meeting’s objective is to encourage the Security Council to reaffirm its support to countries in the Great Lakes region in addressing the root causes and drivers of conflict in the region. The meeting will also serve as a platform to discuss ways to curb the illegal exploitation and trade of natural resources, which is one of Kenya’s priority areas.
At tomorrow’s meeting, Xia will brief on the Secretary-General’s latest biannual report on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region (PSC Framework), which was issued on 30 September and covers the period from 16 March to 15 September. He may note that there were enhanced diplomatic initiatives aimed at strengthening cooperation among countries of the region during this period, including several high-level visits between states in the region and the conveyance of confidence-building messages. For example, the Secretary-General’s report notes that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda “demonstrated their continued commitment to strengthen bilateral relations”, with the latter having opened its borders to Congolese citizens who were evacuated following the 22 May eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano near Goma, DRC.
Council members may want to hear updates from Xia on the implementation of the PSC Framework. The Secretary-General’s report indicates that consultations are ongoing on the holding of the tenth high-level meeting of the Regional Oversight Mechanism (ROM)— the main oversight body under the PSC Framework— which is expected to be hosted by the DRC in December. (The tenth high-level meeting of the ROM was initially supposed to take place in late 2019, but was postponed several times, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.) Xia may speak about the UN Strategy for Peace Consolidation, Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution in the Great Lakes Region and the workshop that was held in Kinshasa on 9 and 10 June to develop an action plan for the implementation of the regional strategy. The workshop was attended by countries of the region, guarantor institutions of the PSC framework, international partners, civil society organisations and UN entities.
The security situation in the region is another likely focus of tomorrow’s meeting. The Secretary-General’s report indicates that the security conditions along common borders in the region remained relatively stable during the reporting period. However, it notes a deterioration in the security situation in eastern DRC due to the activities of armed groups. In his briefing, Xia may report that the Contact and Coordination Group (CCG) became operational in May. It is composed of representatives of the intelligence and security services of countries bordering conflict-affected areas in the region. The CCG endorsed an action plan at its fourth meeting— which took place in Bujumbura in July— that includes “the disarmament and repatriation of negative forces; the disruption of their supply of weapons, combatants and funding; the strengthening of national [D]isarmament, [D]emobilisation and [R]eintegration (DDR) programmes; and the strengthening of cross-border economic cooperation”.
The humanitarian and human rights situation in the region may also be discussed at tomorrow’s meeting. The Secretary-General’s report notes that approximately 15 million people remain displaced in the region. It further says that armed groups operating in eastern DRC continue to commit gross human rights violations and use sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war, with 178 cases of conflict-related sexual violence reported as at 31 August. Xia may describe the work conducted by his office to find a durable solution to the issue of forced displacement and the voluntary return of refugees in close cooperation with the ICGLR and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). He may also reiterate his continued advocacy for the promotion and protection of human rights and the fight against impunity, including through the implementation of the Nairobi Declaration on Justice and Good Governance, which was adopted by regional countries in May 2019.
Some speakers may also highlight the promotion of sustainable and transparent management of natural resources as a means to address the root causes and drivers of conflict in the Great Lakes region. The office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, together with the ICGLR and the Sudanese government, hosted a high-level workshop in Khartoum from 31 August to 2 September, which provided an opportunity for regional countries to discuss ways to enhance their cooperation to curb the illegal exploitation and trade in natural resources.
The concept note for tomorrow’s meeting proposes several questions to help guide the discussion, including:
- How can Security Council members support the implementation of the UN Strategy for Peace Consolidation, Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution in the Great Lakes Region and its action plan?
- What can peacekeeping missions and special political missions which operate in resource-endowed countries do to prevent the illegal exploitation and trade in natural resources?
- What can regional countries and the international community do to strengthen cross-border security and support the fight against trans-border crime and terrorism, and how can they support the strengthening of the capacity of key state institutions to ensure the effective control and management of natural resources?
A draft presidential statement proposed by Nairobi is expected to be adopted at tomorrow’s debate. Kenya circulated a first draft of the text on 5 October and convened two rounds of negotiation, one on 7 and a second on 14 October. The negotiations appear to have gone smoothly and the text garnered the support of Council members. The presidential statement was put under silence on Friday (15 October) and passed the silence procedure today (19 October).
The draft presidential statement recognises the progress made in the implementation of national and regional commitments under the PSC Framework and urges the signatory states to remain committed to its full implementation. It welcomes recent positive political developments, including improved bilateral relations and cooperation between regional countries, and encourages regional leaders to build on this momentum to make progress towards promoting regional peace and development. The draft text also reiterates the Council’s full support to the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region and his good offices in addressing the remaining challenges to the implementation of the PSC Framework.
The draft text expresses deep concern regarding the humanitarian situation in eastern DRC and strongly condemns the destabilising activities of armed groups in the region. It reiterates the need to end the culture of impunity and hold accountable those responsible for serious violations of human rights. It also calls for a non-military solution to the challenges posed by these negative forces through “an integrated and regional approach”. In this regard, it welcomes the UN Strategy for Peace Consolidation, Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution in the Great Lakes Region and calls on the international community to support the implementation of the strategy and its action plan.
The text also highlights the need to address the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the DRC and in the region. It indicates that individuals and entities involved in these destabilising activities may be designated by the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee. It welcomes the measures taken by regional countries to implement the OECD Due Diligence Guidelines by adopting the Regional Certification Mechanism of the ICGLR into their national legislation. The draft press statement also contains language on small arms and light weapons (SALW)—a priority area of several Council members, including Kenya and Mexico—which recognises the link between the illegal exploitation and trade in natural resources and the illegal acquisition and trafficking of SALW.
*Post-script: On 20 October, the Security Council issued a presidential statement (S/PRST/2021/19) recognising the progress made in the implementation of national and regional commitments under the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, and urging the signatory states to remain committed to its full implementation.