|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
4th Meeting (AM)
PEACEBUILDING COMMISSION’S INTERIM REPORT ON BURUNDI’S STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK FINDS
MUCH SUCCESS, BUT SAYS OVERCOMING STABILITY RISKS REQUIRES FIRMER COMMITMENTS
Chair of Configuration Says Report Marks ‘Another Milestone’ in Process;
External Relations Minister Describes Progress Meeting Several Goals Set in 2006
The Government, the Peacebuilding Commission and other stakeholders had made considerable strides in Burundi, but overcoming the remaining risks to stability there required firmer and more continuous commitments, according to the first interim report on the Strategic Framework for Burundi’s recovery from its decades-long civil war, which was adopted by the Burundi configuration of the Commission this morning.
“Today marks another milestone in the peacebuilding process in Burundi,” Johan Lovald of Norway, Chairperson of the configuration, said, noting that the report, contained in document PBC/2/BDI/L.2, highlighted the assessments of commitments that had the aim of facilitating the dialogue between the Government and its partners. He said that the Government had taken the lead in tracking progress, which was necessary for the integrity of the process.
Risks noted by the report include manipulation of the dialogue framework for propaganda, discrediting of Government institutions, stalling of negotiations due to counter-constitutional claims, regional threats if the Accord was delayed, demobilized soldiers turning to banditry, rearmament of the civilian population due to insecurity, time conflicts between elections and transitional justice, tolerance of gender-based violence due to impunity and corresponding delays in action on essential laws and human rights.
Other risks pointed out by the report are related to land ownership issues, including confrontation between repatriated refugees and current owners, disintegration of the social fabric of communities and worsening poverty. In order to overcome each risk, the report lays out the actions that should be taken in concert by the Government, the Commission, civil society, the United Nations system and bilateral and multilateral partners.
Introducing the report, Burundi’s Minister of External Relations, Antoinette Batumubwira, said progress had been made in fulfilling several goals first laid out in a plan of action in December 2006, particularly in fostering dialogue between various national actors. As a result, a draft bill submitted by the Government to revise the nation’s criminal code was adopted by the National Assembly, resulting in a stronger basis for dealing with gender-based violent crimes and corruption.
In addition, a ceasefire agreement concluded between the Government and the opposition Palipehutu/FNL in June reflected a new and promising dynamic. Although the national consultative process had met with some administrative difficulties, those obstacles had largely been resolved with assistance from the Peacebuilding Commission. While relations amongst the public authorities still needed improvement, it was to be hoped that dialogue frameworks between political bodies would be set up with assistance from the Peacebuilding Fund. In the meantime, professionalization of the army and police forces would help bolster security and improve the rule of law.
If the ceasefire was not properly implemented, however, it would cripple security and threaten progress on rule of law, she said, noting that the legal framework for the country’s election process could only take place after opposition groups had been successfully integrated into national political institutions.
Meanwhile, overpopulation, the inefficient use of agricultural land and contested land-ownership could easily lead to conflict between citizens and returning exiles. Such circumstances -- taking place amid rising oil and food prices; the prevalence of devastating diseases; and the need to rehabilitate the “war-wounded” -- made clear that partners must rapidly honour their pledges, made as recently as May 2007, so that the Strategic Framework for consolidating peace in Burundi could be implemented.
Liberata Mulamula, First Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, expressed wholehearted support for the priorities of the Strategic Framework and the interim report, but added that the entry into force of the Nairobi pact on the Great Lakes that came out of her Conference, and which had recently come into force, should be considered as a strong foundation for peacebuilding in Burundi and the entire region.
The pact, she said, was “a living tool for conflict resolution” and for applying best practices to meet other challenges, she said. She pledged to work closely with the Commission on making peace and prosperity flourish in the region. “We need the commitment of all to make that happen,” she concluded.
Even as they commended the Government of Burundi for progress made, members of the Commission were careful to note that challenges still remained in terms of reforming the security and justice sector, resolving land issues, ensuring the political integration of FNL and the disarming of ex-combatants. All speakers noted the scarcity of funding in meeting those challenges, which led many to call for a rapid disbursement of funds.
The representative of Norway announced his Government’s recent decision to allocate $20 million to consolidating peace in Burundi, as a demonstration of its confidence in the “historic outcome” of peace talks in South Africa between previously warring factions. Japan’s delegate added that international assistance could only benefit a country if its Government took ownership of its recovery and if that ownership was respected by the international community, in turn. It was the Commission’s task to advocate for the support that Burundi needed.
Also welcoming progress in Burundi and recommendations of the report and calling attention to remaining challenges were the representatives of Pakistan, Brazil, Belgium, United States, United Kingdom, Jamaica, Angola, France and South Africa, along with the Observer from the European Community.
Also this morning, Assistant-Secretary-General Carolyn McAskie, who is about to retire from the Peacebuilding Support Office, praised the accomplishments of the Commission and the country of Burundi, saying that the efforts of all partners were now adding up to more than the sum of their parts. In addition, Mr. Lovald, in his last statement as the Chairperson of the Burundi configuration, expressed his hopes for continued success.
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