As the ongoing conflict in the Great Lakes countries, especially Zaire, has shown, the central African sub-region, a vast swath of territory lying strategically in the heart of the African continent, is one of the most volatile and tumultuous parts of the Continent.
Although it is potentially one of Africa=s richest sub-regions with large deposits of various types of minerals and other natural resources, central Africa=s socio-economic development has been constrained to a large extent by the prevalence and destructive nature of violent conflicts.
The Governments of the countries of the sub-region have increasingly sought to resolve current crises and to prevent future ones in order to help create and enhance an environment for sustainable peace and progress. To that end, central African states, in 1991, sought the assistance and support of the United Nations General Assembly for the establishment of a mechanism for dialogue and confidence-building.
Pursuant to General Assembly resolution 46/37 B of 6 December 1991, the United Nations Secretary-General established on 28 May 1992 the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Question in Central Africa to promote confidence-building measures, ease regional tensions and thus further disarmament, non-proliferation and development in the central African sub-region. The Committee consists of eleven United Nations Member States (Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe and Zaire) that are also members of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
The Committee undertakes the elaboration and adoption of specific confidence-building measures which member States are called upon to implement. At its first session, held in July 1992, the Standing Advisory Committee adopted a programme of work which includes immediate and long-term measures. These measures cover the fields of preventive diplomacy, peace-building, peacemaking and peace-keeping, and include the training of military and security personnel of member States in the areas of good governance and peace operations.
The Committee meets at least twice a year or more often as warranted by events: on each occasion, it meets first at the expert level, with senior military and civilian officials participating, and then at the ministerial level, with ministers of defense and/or foreign affairs participating. It also meets at the level of heads of State and Government, when appropriate. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) participates in the Committee=s meetings as an observer. Other United Nations Member States, international and non-governmental organizations, research institutes and individuals concerned with promoting peace and security may also participate as observers upon request and with the agreement of the Bureau of the Committee.
The Committee=s main achievements, since its establishment in 1992, have included the following:
(a) Agreement on a Non-Aggression Pact designed to prevent future armed conflicts and strengthen confidence among the States in the sub-region. The Pact has been signed, so far, by nine States members of the Committee: Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe and Zaire.
(b) Agreement on a typology of sources of conflict at the internal and interstate levels in the sub-region, thus making it easier to focus on preventive efforts.
(c) The convening, on 8 July 1996 in Yaounde, Cameroon, of the first summit conference of Heads of State and Government of States members of the Committee. At the conclusion of that meeting, the central African leaders adopted a Final Declaration in which they undertook, in general, to implement specific measures to promote and enhance prospects for confidence-building and sustainable peace and progress in the sub-region.
(d) The organization in September 1996 in Yaounde, Cameroon, of the first training seminar on peace operations for central African states to enhance the capacity of the states concerned to participate more actively in future United Nations and/or OAU peace operations in the region.
(e) The convening in December 1996 in Brazzaville, Congo, of an extraordinary summit meeting of Heads of State and Government of member states of the Standing Advisory Committee to examine the critical situation in the Great Lakes and especially in eastern Zaire.
Future projects of the Committee for 1997 may include: (a) a sub-regional conference on democratic institutions and peace in central Africa; (b) the establishment of an early-warning mechanism in central Africa; (c) a joint meeting of ministers of defense and interior of member States of the Committee to elaborate measures to control the illicit proliferation of arms in the subregion; (d) a joint meeting of the chiefs of staff of the armed forces and of heads of police forces of member States of the Committee to outline concrete measures to control arms and drug trafficking; (e) a disarmament, demobilization and conversion programme for Central Africa to retrain and reintegrate former soldiers into civilian life; (f) the organization of training programmes on governance and human rights issues for security forces; and (g) the organization of a second training seminar on peace operations to enhance the capacity of central African States to participate in future peacekeeping, humanitarian and other peace operations, especially in the sub-region.
In March 1996, the Secretary-General, pursuant to General Assembly resolution 50/71 B of 12 December 1995, established a trust fund for the Committee and invited Member States and governmental and non-governmental organizations to contribute to it. The trust fund is used to support the Committee=s work, including the execution and implementation of its programmes and activities. Contributions to the Committee to support any of the projects described above, should be forwarded to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.