20/11/2003
Press Release
SC/7927



Security Council

4865th Meeting (AM)


SECURITY COUNCIL APPEALS TO INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO SUPPORT


PROPOSED INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON GREAT LAKES REGION


After it heard from Secretary-General Kofi Annan, along with other principal actors, on preparations for an international conference on the Great Lakes region of Africa, the Security Council today appealed to the countries in the area and the international community to provide political, technical and financial support to that event.


Through a statement (document S/PRST/2003/23) read out by its President, Ismael Abraao Gaspar Martins of Angola, the Council stressed the importance of the participation of all States concerned to ensure the success of the conference, which was being organized under the aegis of the United Nations and the African Union.  The Council also encouraged the States in the region to reach early agreement on participation in the conference.


The holding of the proposed conference would help build on the progress made toward peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi, according to the statement.  The Council expressed hope that it would also help achieve stability for all countries in the region, through the full normalization of relations and the implementation of confidence-building measures, and lead to a climate conducive to development.


The meeting was opened this morning by the Secretary-General, who said that the conference was an old idea that had been revived by the situation on the ground.  Internal problems in the region tended to spread because of the close social, economic and cultural links of the inhabitants of the entire region.  That was why a regional approach was needed.


Recounting the history of the conference’s inception, he noted that the meeting held in Nairobi in June of this year had been important because the core countries -– Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda -- determined the need for an action-oriented approach and African ownership of the process.


In that context, he said that the African Union would be a full partner of the United Nations in every stage of the process.  Equally vital was strong international participation at all levels, to offer the promise of a better future for the long-suffering people of the Great Lakes region.


Speaking on behalf of the African Union, Francisco Madeira, Minister in the Presidency for Parliamentary and Diplomatic Affairs of Mozambique, expressed satisfaction that the United Nations and its partners had adopted a global approach to the situation in the Great Lakes region and were developing strategies that would address the reality of the Great Lakes in all its perspectives.


On the status of preparations, the Special Envoy of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for the Great Lakes region, Keli Walubita, stated that much had already been achieved as all countries concerned had agreed to proceed, to appoint national coordinators and establish preparatory committees.  The preparatory process had started with three terms of reference -- peace and security, good governance and regional integration.  A fourth cluster, on social and humanitarian affairs, had been added to address issues such as human rights violations, displaced persons and refugees.


Abdulkader Shareef, Deputy Foreign Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania, speaking on behalf of the countries of the Great Lakes region, said the conference would be judged successful if it produced concrete measures for a comprehensive safeguard against a resurgence of violence, genocide and instability, as well as a containment of cross-border criminality.  The conference should also result in some kind of “Marshall Plan” for regional recovery and reconstruction.


The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, Ibrahima Fall, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the conference, which described the organization of the conference, as well as its dynamics and the specific role of the United Nations.  The involvement of the Security Council was particularly important because the conference was about the most important kind of security -- human security.


Italy’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said he saw the conference as the beginning of a process of normalization rather than as a one-time event.  In addition to the priority issue of security, he stressed the importance of the normalization of legitimate trade, calling for the integral participation of the private sector.


In the discussion that followed, Council members strongly supported the conference, agreeing that a regional approach was essential to address the fundamental problems affecting the Great Lakes.  Most stressed the importance of clear and realistic objectives, as well as African ownership and international partnership.  Chile’s representative saw the initiative as a sign that Africans were determined to generate African solutions to African problems.


At the same time, many also agreed with the representative of the Russian Federation, who said the productivity of the conference would depend on how consistently the core players implemented various agreements, including those on the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi, and dealt with such questions as impunity for crimes against humanity and exploitation of resources.


The Council President, speaking in his national capacity as the representative of Angola, noted that his country was one of the most affected by conflict in the region, and said that the conference could help create mechanisms for reinforcing the traditionally friendly relations among States in the region.  Angola was ready to play its part in the preparatory process along with the other States of the region.  The assistance of the international community was also pivotal, and, without it, it would be difficult to successfully bring peace, security and development to the region.


At the outset of the meeting, the President also read a short statement, on behalf of the Council, strongly condemning today’s terrorist acts in Istanbul, Turkey, and expressing sympathy over the lives lost, a sentiment that was echoed by all members who spoke.


Statements were also made by the representatives of France, China, United Kingdom, Syria, Mexico, Bulgaria, Spain, Pakistan, Cameroon, Germany and Guinea.


The meeting opened at 10:25 a.m. and adjourned at 1:45 p.m.


Presidential Statement


Following is the full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2003/23:


The Security Council recalls its Presidential Statement of 24 April 1997 (S/PRST/1997/22) and its other relevant statements and resolutions calling for the holding at an appropriate time of an international conference on peace, security, democracy and development in the Great Lakes region of Africa, with the participation of all Governments of the region of the Great Lakes and Central Africa and all others concerned, to be organised under the aegis of the United Nations and African Union, with a view to achieving a sustainable peace, security and stability for all countries in the region, in particular through the full normalization of their relations and the establishment of confidence-building measures and mechanisms.


The Security Council considers that the holding of the proposed conference will help build on the progress made in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi peace processes to achieve lasting peace and promote the national reconciliation processes in all countries concerned in the region.


The Security Council welcomes the progress made towards the convening of the proposed conference, expresses satisfaction at the fact that the countries of the region have launched the preparatory process of the conference with the first meeting of their national coordinators, held in June 2003 in Nairobi, and considers it now crucial to follow up this initial step with intensified efforts.  It takes note with appreciation of the briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes region, Mr. Ibrahima Fall, and welcomes the offer made by the Government of Tanzania to host a summit during the year 2004.


The Security Council encourages the governments concerned, with the support of their civil societies, their neighbours and development partners, to continue their efforts to bring about a successful conference, based on a regional, all-inclusive and action-oriented approach.  It stresses the importance of the participation in this conference of all States concerned, in particular those neighbouring the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Burundi, and encourages the States in the region to reach early agreement on participation in the conference.


The Security Council emphasizes the relevance to the proposed conference of the Solemn Declaration of the Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA) adopted by the Organization of African Unity Lomé Summit in July 2000, of the Maputo Decision adopted by the Executive Council of the African Union in July 2003, and of the Declaration of Principles on Good-Neighbourly Relations and Cooperation adopted by the Governments of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda in New York on 25 September 2003, as well as of the framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).


The Security Council appeals to the countries of the region and to the international community to provide sustained political and diplomatic support, as well as adequate technical and financial assistance, so that the conference is well prepared, timely, and that effective follow-up actions are taken.  It commends the active partnership between the United Nations and the African Union in all aspects relating to the preparation of the proposed conference, and welcomes the appointment of Mr. Keli Walubita as Special Envoy of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for the Great Lakes region.


The Security Council calls on the countries of the region and the members of the international community to support the efforts of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes region and the Special Envoy of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for the Great Lakes region, and expresses its gratitude to the Secretary-General for keeping it informed of developments in the region and requests him to continue to do so on a regular basis.


Background


When the Security Council met this morning, it had before it the report of the Secretary-General on preparations for an international conference on the Great Lakes region (document S/2003/1099).  The core countries of the Great Lakes region of Africa include Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.  The conference is to take place under the auspices of the United Nations and the African Union.


According to the report, the Council had called for such a conference on various occasions, starting in 1994, recognizing that the people of the Great Lakes region are so interlinked socially, economically, culturally and linguistically that instability in one country could quickly spread to the entire region, and that solutions to conflicts and instability in each of the countries can be effectively addressed only within a regional framework.  The Secretary-General observes that there is a new momentum in the region on which it is important to capitalize:  establishment of a Transitional Government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; progress in the Burundi peace process; and the general elections which have been held in Rwanda.


In order to take the first concrete steps towards organizing the conference, the Secretary-General asked his Special Envoys in the region in 1996 and 1997 to explore the possibility of convening an international conference on peace, security and development in the region.  In 1999, he appointed a Special Representative, based in Nairobi, who, in close partnership with the African Union, consulted with leaders of the region.  As a result, and based on a concept paper, the core countries agreed to the proposed international conference in 2001 and launched the preparatory process at the Meeting of National Coordinators, held at Nairobi on 23 and 24 June 2003.


The purpose of the conference is to reach an agreement on a set of principles such as good-neighbourly relations, stability, peace and development, as well as to articulate and launch selected programmes of action to end the cycle of conflict and ensure durable peace, stability, security, democracy and development in the whole region.  The objective is to establish a regional framework around the thematic areas of peace and security, democracy and good governance, economic development and regional integration, and humanitarian and social issues.  Participants in the process will consist of the core countries, observer countries from neighbouring and other African countries, as well as bilateral and multilateral partners.


The conference’s preparatory process will involve meetings of national preparatory committees and a regional preparatory committee, as well as a set of thematic meetings (subregional organizations, women, youth), culminating in two summit meetings:  in June 2004 to adopt general principles and directives, and a second one on a date to be determined.


In order to ensure the conference’s success, the Secretary-General urges the core countries to focus on the priorities of the conference to formulate concrete and feasible policies and programmes in the four proposed thematic areas.  He intends to seek the political commitment and financial support of the international community.  It is important, he observes, that the Council renew its engagement and its full political support to the conference; urge all other actors with related initiatives in the region to work and coordinate closely with his Special Representative; and to invite development partners to assist in providing the required political, diplomatic and financial support.


Statements


KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that the Great Lakes conference was an old idea that had been revived by the situation on the ground in the region.  Internal problems in the region tended to spread because of the close social, economic and cultural links of the inhabitants of the entire region.  That was why a regional approach was needed.


Recounting the history of the conference’s inception, he said that the June 2003 Nairobi meeting was essential in that the core countries -– Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda -- determined the need for an action-oriented approach and African ownership of the process.  The African Union would be a full partner of the United Nations in every stage of the process.  Equally vital was strong international participation at all levels.


There was a new dynamic in the region, with a new awareness to address peace, security and development regionally to consolidate advances made in national peace processes.  There would be a relationship between the success of the conference and further progress in the peace process of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi.


The challenge of the core countries would be to find a way to go further than they had in addressing in detail the substantive issues of the conference.  He invited the international community to work closely with his Special Representative in support of the conference, to help meet that and other challenges and help provide necessary technical, financial and human resources for the success of a conference that was long overdue and that held the promise of a better future for the long-suffering people of the Great Lakes region.


FRANCISCO MADEIRA, Minister in the Presidency for Parliamentary and Diplomatic Affairs of Mozambique, on behalf of the African Union, said that the present was a time of hope in the Great Lakes region.  The region had, until recently, witnessed the worst situations that individuals could inflict on each other, including aggression and genocide, as well the subjection of the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


He said that important strides had been made, however, and the people in the region were reclaiming their sovereignty and identity and creating the conditions for development.  The Lusaka Peace Agreement was decisive in creating a new deal for the Congolese people and the region, agreeing on the withdrawal of foreign forces and, at the same time, ensuring the security of the other countries affected.  Reason had prevailed and the Congolese leadership became determined to set their nation on a new and more stable course.


The African Union and the international community must continue to give its advice and support to the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said.  There were still risks, and the situation would remain precarious until the process was owned by the Congolese people themselves.  Previous leaders in the country had come to power through the support of foreign entities, and the population had been alienated.


In addition, he said that other countries must refrain from profiting from the Congo’s problems.  However, events in the Congo affected all other countries in the region and vice versa.  The crisis became a common denominator of the entire region.  However, occupation of another country set a very dangerous precedent and should not happen again.  The security concerns of the country’s neighbours were real, but must be worked out through political processes.  Interactions with the Democratic Republic of the Congo must be carried out in a peaceful, sustainable and harmonious way.


He said that Rwanda’s recent elections were a crucial step forward in peace and reconciliation in the region.  Every Rwandan should be able to return home and go about their lives.  Also, the agreement signed last Sunday on Burundi was another step in the right direction.


A priority of the African Union was to work hand and hand in earnest with the African Commission to ensure that the Protocol relating to the establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union was signed, ratified and quickly acceded to by the largest possible number of member States, he said.  The Peace and Security Council could be a valuable tool to resolving conflict situations.


Finally, he expressed satisfaction that the United Nations and its partners had adopted a global approach to the situation in the Great Lakes region and were developing strategies that would address the reality of the Great Lakes in all its perspectives.  The regional conference represented a great challenge and a unique opportunity to shape a future of stability and hope.


ABDULKADER SHAREEF, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, speaking on behalf of the countries of the Great Lakes region, said he was appreciative that a consensus had been reached on convening the international conference after a decade of intensive consultations.  The proposal was coming at a time when all signs indicated that conflicts in the region were nearing an end.  The conference would consolidate national achievements, particularly progress in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Burundi peace processes.  The partnership between the United Nations and the African Union would be crucial for success.


On issues of peace and security, he said the conference would be judged successful if it produced concrete measures for a comprehensive safeguard against a resurgence of violence, genocide and instability, as well as a containment of cross-border criminality.  The conference should result in some kind of “Marshal Plan” for regional recovery and reconstruction.  An appeal was going out to development partners to provide resources enabling the region to achieve development goals and develop programmes for regional cooperation and integration in line with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).  Also, national committees needed to be supported to oversee and coordinate intergovernmental consultations, and non-governmental organization and civil participation, since the involvement of grass-roots stakeholders in the preparatory process was a key to a successful conference outcome.


Emphasizing that point, he said the Nairobi Meeting of National Coordinators had left each country to fend for itself in preparing for the conference.  Preparations at the national level were not satisfactory.  Measures must be taken by the United Nations and through bilateral initiatives on an urgent basis since the first regional preparatory meeting was to have been held in October.  Simultaneously, countries of the region must assume ownership of the process as outlined by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative.


KELI WALUBITA, Special Envoy of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for the Great Lakes region, said the African Union was doing everything to answer the challenges of organizing the conference.  Much had already been achieved as all countries concerned had agreed to proceed, to appoint national coordinators and establish preparatory committees.  The preparatory process had started with three terms of reference:  peace and security; good governance; and regional integration.  A fourth cluster, on social and humanitarian affairs, had been added to address issues such as violations of human rights, displaced persons and refugees.


He said the neighbouring countries of the Great Lakes region had also been consulted, and all had agreed to go ahead with the preparatory process.  The participation of Zambia and the Republic of Congo still needed to be clarified.  The first conference of national committees in Nairobi, Kenya, had provided a road map and a time-frame for certain activities.  However, as members of certain national preparatory committees had not yet been named, it might not be possible to hold regional preparatory meetings by the end of the year.  He assured the Council that the Union’s partnership with the United Nations was crucial and would continue.  The Union would continue to be active partners in the process.  There was also a meeting in the pipeline for subregional groupings such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and others by the end of December.


He said there should be no interference with the ongoing peace processes in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Union was monitoring the situations and hoped the two peace accords could mature before the conference.  A number of meetings had already been planned.  By May, he hoped the first meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs could take place to prepare for the first summit meeting in the United Republic of Tanzania.  Kenya had indicated its willingness to host the second summit.  He added that the process required logistical and financial support from the international community.


MARCELLO SPATAFORA (Italy), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Great Lakes area had become a major focus of European Union foreign policy as a test case of Africa’s ability to become master of its own destiny.  The conference could provide the framework for ensuring a regional approach to the Union’s support for the consolidation of peace and development in the region.  A fundamental element of a successful conference would be the consolidation of the peace process in the region.  The Union had demonstrated its commitment to the region, including through a major post-conflict programme of assistance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Union would continue to support the African mission in Burundi, deployed by the African Union.  As the long-term sustainability of that force was open to question, a transfer of authority to the United Nations should be considered to ensure peacekeeping in Burundi.


He said African ownership was critical to the success of the conference, which he saw as the beginning of a normalization process rather than as a one-time event.  Success would depend primarily on the common political will of the involved countries to achieve shared objectives.  Clear and realistic objectives attainable in the agreed time-frame should be set.  The conference should not just establish principles but result in concrete operational agreements or projects.  Coordination and consistency with existing processes, including NEPAD, was important as was the need to avoid duplication.  The full and effective participation of all regional countries, as well as neighbours, was crucial to the conference’s success.  A “Group of Friends” would provide a valuable forum to discussing and coordinating international support.


While peace and security were central issues to be addressed, he expected the conference to play an important role in promoting trade, investment and economic cooperation and integration within the region.  The conference would also provide an opportunity for the region’s countries to address crucial issues such as good governance, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.  The advancement of those principles would help restore confidence between governments and their people.  There should also be a thorough discussion of transitional justice and the need to end impunity.  A main theme should be the breaking of the link between conflict, trafficking and illegal exploitation.  The African Union and NEPAD provided the framework for tackling those issues.


IBRAHIMA FALL, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the conference, which described the structure of the process leading to the conference, the dynamics of the conference, and the specific role of the United Nations.  Some of the priorities were already clear, but their presentation must await the results of the preparatory conferences, he said.


He said that arrangements would be made to ensure the participation of civil society, young people and women.  National preparatory committees made up a regional preparatory committee.  Regional ownership and national partnership were priorities of the preparatory process.  The conference itself was meant to be a process.  There would be an expert phase, followed by a political preparatory phase, in which the expert papers would be transformed by ministerial committees into policy.


Regional ownership, one of the basic conditions of the conference, meant the broadest representation of ministries, parliamentarians, civil society, religious organizations and business organizations, he said.  Regional meetings of women and young people would be organized.  Apart from the core countries, neighbouring countries would be invited to attend the entire conference.


He said that international partnership, another essential element, meant the active involvement of development partners of the region.  That would play a particularly important role at the phase in which the Stability and Development Pact was adopted.  The role of the United Nations included technical support, political guidance, institutional coordination and assistance in mobilizing the international community for the conference.


A steering committee, including all United Nations agencies present in Nairobi, would coordinate the contributions of the system, he added.  There was also an interdepartmental and inter-agency working group at the Secretariat.  It was important that enough resources were provided for those activities.  Security Council involvement was particularly important because the conference was about the most important kind of security, namely, human security.


JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE (France) said that certain conditions must be met to make the conference a success.  Participation in the first round should be open to all neighbouring States of the Great Lakes countries, as ownership by Africans of the conference would only be possible if governments wanting to take part were not excluded.  The priority themes should meet the main concerns of the States involved.  Also, security issues must remain a top priority.  The conference should not be side-tracked into considerations that fell in the competence of other bodies.


Further, he said, the conference should seek to achieve tangible results.  The States concerned had agreed on principles that should guide their considerations.  The conference should also be able to translate commitments into actions.  It was important to use the opportunity provided by progress made in the peace processes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi.  He asked how the participation of the neighbours of the Democratic Republic of the Congo could be guaranteed.  He also asked what actions were envisaged after the summit in June 2004.


WANG GUANGYA (China) said that in the past few years, the situation in the Great Lakes region had had a very negative effect on peace and development.  The problems were influenced by many elements and solving them required coordinated efforts by the countries in the region and the help of the international community, on the basis of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the countries concerned and pursuant to Council resolutions and agreements reached.


He said, thanks to the common efforts of the African countries and the help of the international community, progress had been made in the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi.  He hoped the parties concerned would continue to make efforts to maintain that momentum.  His country had contributed peacekeeping troops to the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).  It supported the initiative for the conference and was encouraged by progress made so far.  He hoped that the conference would be an opportunity to enhance dialogue, solve differences, and promote peace and development.


EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) thanked speakers for their expressions of sympathy for the victims of another “ghastly atrocity” in Turkey.  He went on to say that the Great Lakes region was characterized by conflict and suffering.  The good news was that there had been progress on present conflicts in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda.  The Council’s responsibility was to ensure that the international community supported developments, that should have the full involvement and ownership of the countries in the region.  The international community should better address the problems of Africa.


He said the conference was not a substitute for existing peace processes, but should focus on the aftermath of conflicts.  He agreed with the key themes:  peace and security; economic cooperation; good governance and democracy; and human rights.  Civil society should also play a part in the preparatory processes.  The conference should establish a framework for lasting cooperation, and not be a one-time event.  He hoped the conference would come up with specific plans on how to take forward the shared goals in areas of trade and development, demobilization of armed groups and refugee return.


In preparing for the conference, he hoped a framework would emerge for a coordinated and real contribution by the international community.  If the conference was to bring real value, then the international community would have to support and harness resources in support of the Great Lakes to underpin solutions now being achieved within Africa and by Africans.


ALEXANDER KONUZIN (Russian Federation) said that the problems of the Great Lakes region required multilevelled, long-term solutions.  There had been progress in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi, and with the relations of those two countries with their neighbours.  While great risks still existed in many areas, at the present time, the Great Lakes region was reaching a critical mass of positive factors.


The next step, therefore, should be the holding of the proposed conference, within a time-frame and format agreed to by the States concerned.  The productivity of the conference, however, would depend on how consistently the core players implemented various agreements, including those on the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi.


He suggested that international business be invited to attend, as they had for many years exploited the region’s resources.  They could now assist in drawing investment for an appropriate business climate.  He asked what the African Union could do to combat impunity, as regional and national efforts were falling short in that regard.  In addition, he asked what the African region could do in forcing the Forces nationales de libération (FNL) to the negotiating table in Burundi.


FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) supported regional and subregional peace efforts in the Great Lakes region and elsewhere, but was cognizant of the difficulties to be surmounted for the planned conference to succeed.  He called on the international community to work for its success, appealing to donor countries to provide resources.


He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations to set up specific and concrete plans in the core areas of the conference.  It was hoped that the conference would lead to an improvement in the humanitarian situation in the area and allow the population to finally reap the fruits of peace.


CARLOS PUJALTE (Mexico) said the initiative for the conference deserved the support of the Council, as there was a need to find a regional solution to various conflicts.  Given the nature of the conflicts, there was also a need to involve the Assembly, other organs of the United Nations system, and the Bretton Woods institutions.


He said special attention needed to be given to solve the root causes of the conflicts, particularly the state of underdevelopment and poverty in the region.  The conference should produce some initiatives to solve the problem of underdevelopment.  The conference should also arrive at a system to halt the illegal trade and trafficking of small arms and light weapons.


RAYKO S. RAYTCHEV (Bulgaria) said he welcomed the emerging positive dynamics in the Great Lakes region, which must be sustained and supported through, among other things, a regional approach.  The holding of the conference could be an essential contribution to strengthening the peace processes and could contribute to normalization in all spheres between the countries in the region.


He said African ownership was a key element for the success of the conference.  The Declaration of Principles on Good-neighbourly Relations between Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda had given grounds for hope for normalization of the situation and for the peace processes in the region.


ANA MARĺA MENÉNDEZ (Spain) endorsed the regional approach in addressing issues pertaining the Great Lakes countries.  She said in light of the complexity of the issues under discussion, the conference should be a process, rather than a single event.  The conference had before it a broad range of questions and it was, therefore, important to define principles and goals, as well as concrete initiatives that might lead to developing a plan of action.  For the conference to be a success, it was important to include the actors involved in establishing stability in the area.  There was also a need for the support and cooperation of all countries and institutions relevant to the region.


HERALDO MUÑOZ (Chile) said that regional cooperation was becoming important elsewhere in Africa, citing the centrality of ECOWAS in its region.  He supported the holding of the proposed Great Lakes conference, seeing it as a sign that Africans were determined to generate African solutions to African problems.  He hoped that the timetable, which he called “rather tight”, could be carried out.


MASOOD KHALID (Pakistan) hoped the Great Lakes conference would become a landmark for peace.  Every conflict in the region had cross-border linkages and effects.  Therefore, a regional approach was essential.  He supported the objectives of the conference, including African ownership and international partnership.


At the same time, he called for an expansion of the peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and called for the establishment of one in Burundi.  To make the arms embargo in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo more effective, the sources of the trade in weapons must be targeted more precisely.  In addition, he suggested a composite committee between the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council to address all dimensions of the problems in the region.


MARTIN CHUNGONG AYAFOOR (Cameroon) said progress made so far in the preparatory process of the conference was encouraging.  The importance of holding the conference for the countries and peoples of the region needed no proof.  The success of the conference would depend not only on the political will of the countries concerned, but also on the assistance of the international community.  Therefore, he welcomed the initiative of Canada to establish a Group of Friends to provide support for the preparation of the conference.


He said the conflicts in the Great Lakes region had had repercussions in many countries of Central Africa.  Therefore, governments of Central Africa should be able to participate in the conference.


WOLFGANG F.H. TRAUTWEIN (Germany) said regional and African ownership of the entire process was one of the pillars of the conference.  Only the political commitment of all countries concerned could achieve sustained peace and development.  He hoped all countries in the region who had requested to participate could do so.  The conference could build on many African institutions and mechanisms already in place.  It could also draw on the experiences and resources of NEPAD, the East African Community, the SADC and the African Development Bank.  Support from the international community would come through different forums, one of them being the Group of Friends to be established.  The mobilization and coordination of donor contributions would be one of the objectives of the Group.


He said expectations for the initial stage of the conference should not be set too high.  If the first phase of the conference was to result in agreement on a set of principles and clear benchmarks to assess their implementation, that would be a success.  The conference could help to address and resolve long-term peace and security issues.  The countries of the Great Lakes region had obligations towards their people, neighbours and the international community, including respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, ending the culture of impunity, and the cessation of the illegal exploitation of natural resources and support to armed groups.  All those issues were interrelated.  The agreed actions of the conference should reflect that interconnection.


He asked how the involvement of civil society would be ensured and how concerns from different walks of society would be addressed.  The Council had reiterated that women must be included in all peace-building and development processes.  He hoped that “taking the gender perspective into account” would translate into the participation of women on an equal footing and at all stages of the process.  He added that the Council should address the question of strengthening the weapons embargo for North and South Kivu and Ituri in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Also, should the FNL fail to enter into negotiations with the Government of Burundi, the Council should consider a weapons embargo against the group.  The Council could not allow one militia group to become an obstacle to peace and stability.


ALPHA IBRAHIMA SOW (Guinea) said the conflicts in the region were engendered by both internal and cross-border factors, as well as by population movements, poverty, easy access to light weapons and activities of rebel armed forces.  The conflicts had led to the forced displacement of large numbers of people, who sometimes served as sources for recruitment and as human shields.  Today, in the Great Lakes region, there was a glimmer of hope, however.  He expressed satisfaction at the conclusion of several bilateral and multilateral agreements, which augured well for the conference.


He stressed the need for involving neighbouring States of the core countries in every stage of the conference.  That could lead to consensus on cross-border issues.  In the preparatory process, the assessment of the implementation of previous agreements could contribute to normalizing intra-State relations.  Cooperation on demobilizing armed groups should be addressed.  If security was to be established, a structured disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme was necessary.  He urged bilateral and multilateral donors, the United Nations system, non-governmental organizations and other development partners to give the event the needed support.


ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola), speaking in his national capacity, said that the initiative to hold a conference on the Great Lakes was an effective contribution towards the creation of mechanisms for the reinforcement of the traditionally friendly relations among States in the region.  He welcomed the role being played by the African Union, as well as the partnership between the Union and the United Nations.


Friendly relations were a prerequisite for peace and development in the area, he said.  In that context, Angola had undertaken initiatives to establish and strengthen diplomatic relations between it and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, leading to the creation of the Ituri Pacification Committee.  Angola had been greatly affected by the lack of peace and stability in the region, with many citizens of the region, mostly from Rwanda, having been involved in its own armed conflict.


Angola was ready to play its part in the preparatory process along with the other States of the region, he said.  The assistance of the international community was also pivotal, and, without it, it would be difficult to successfully bring peace, security and development to the region.


Concluding Remarks


Mr. FALL, addressing a question on how neighbouring countries would be fully included in the conference, said that during the Meeting of National Coordinators in June in Nairobi, the issue of Zambia had been raised and that country had been included in the group of core countries.  The same procedure might be followed regarding neighbouring countries.  The question of what concrete action would be put in motion after the 2004 summit would be addressed by that summit itself.


Regarding a question about the involvement of civil society, he said the gender dimension would be addressed.  He was currently recruiting a consultant for gender issues for his office.  As for the involvement of the private sector and other actors, he said he had contacted labour unions and private sector representatives in several countries in the region and intended to involve them.


Mr. MADEIRA, addressing the question of combating impunity, said the African Union adhered to the principles of democracy, good governance and the rule of law.  Democracy could not go hand in hand with impunity.  The Union had striven to ensure that crime did not go unpunished by actively supporting the Rwanda Tribunal and the Special Court in Sierra Leone.  Many African countries adhered to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  Many of the people responsible for genocide had been handed over by African countries to the Rwanda Tribunal.  However, the main problem in Africa was that of poverty and underdevelopment.  If there were no resources, planned initiatives would remain mere words.  The Union would try to make sure that crime did not go unpunished, but that matter also depended on the international community.


* *** *