|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on High-level Event ‘Addressing
Central African Republic’s Peacebuilding Needs’
A high-level event on the Central African Republic to be held later today was aimed at re-energizing international support for the country’s emergence from strife and poverty, officials involved in that effort said at Headquarters this afternoon.
“The [Central African Republic] has been kind of a forgotten country, so this kind of event will definitely put it on the bigger screen of the international community,” Sahle-Work Zewde, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Support Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA), said at a press conference.
Ahead of today’s event, scheduled for 5:15 p.m. and entitled “Addressing the Central African Republic peacebuilding needs”, Ms. Zewde was accompanied by Jan Grauls (Belgium), Chair of the Central African Republic configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, and Mary Barton-Dock, the World Bank’s Country Director for the Central African Republic.
They said President François Bozizé of the Central African Republic would attend the event, to be held on the margins of the Millennium Development Goals Summit, as would high-ranking officials from the World Bank, other development officials and “quite a number of bilateral partners at the ministerial level”.
Ms. Zewde said that the daunting challenges facing the Central African Republic, which experienced a cycle of political-military uprisings from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, included the holding of postponed elections, and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, in addition to a range of peacebuilding and development tasks.
Mr. Grauls added that the event, co-organized by the United Nations and the World Bank, had the potential to become a model of cooperation between the two institutions, recalling that, until a few years ago, it had seemed as though the Central African Republic “had been erased from the map”, with donor activity very limited. Two years ago, however, “the Central Africans decided to turn the page,” he said. The country had been placed on the agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission, and shortly afterwards Government and opposition groups had signed the Libreville Agreement, begun regular dialogue and produced recommendations that had been integrated into a plan of action.
He said that since then, he had encountered, in his work with the Central African authorities, a growing sense of national ownership of the country’s efforts for progress, which had been accompanied by new initiatives on the part of the World Bank. Today’s event was the first outcome of those efforts, he said, expressing hope that it would get the international community to look at the Central African Republic “with new eyes”, in light of its change for the better.
Mr. Grauls went on to say that he had himself been “very active” in resource mobilization, having procured some $21 million in donor commitments for elections; and additional commitments for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration totalling some $60 million. In both projects, the Central African authorities were contributing their share, he stressed, adding that if DDR was a success and the elections took place, he intended to organize a conference in the spring of 2011 to consolidate donor support.
Ms. Barton-Ross said the World Bank saw today’s event as an opportunity to underscore the importance of consolidating progress in order to avoid an unravelling of the situation, while signalling the Bank’s commitment and transmitting the country’s needs to the donor community. Over the past three years, the Bank had been working with the authorities on a number of reforms, which had progressed fairly rapidly. For that reason the Central African Republic had completed the entire debt-relief process for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Debt Initiative (HIPC) in two years.
Reforms continued, with information being put up on Government websites, and the creation of new codes for mining, forestry and procurement, she continued. However, the country lagged badly in meeting development goals and had enormous infrastructure needs, she added, warning that without adequate assistance, it would be very difficult to move ahead.
Responding to questions, Ms. Barton-Dock said there was indeed a significant scandal this year relating to the management of the Central African Bank, but the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had acted quickly to ensure the existence of adequate standards at the Central African Bank before development money was channelled through it.
Asked about allegations of nepotism and the hiring of a mercenary at BINUCA, Ms. Zewde pointed out that the previous mission, the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA) was transitioning into BINUCA and everyone was going through the recruitment process which, hopefully, would be completed in the next few weeks. She declined to comment on specific persons mentioned by a correspondent.
Questioned as to whether the donor figures he had cited included the $15 million requested by the World Food Programme (WFP) to cover shortfalls, Mr. Grauls said they did not. Humanitarian assistance was separate from peacebuilding aid but would have to continue as long as the Central African Republic was plagued by hunger and other problems. Agriculture was important for employing ex-combatants, he noted.
Ms. Barton-Dock added that funding for food assistance must be found each year until the agricultural sector could return to full operation. The key was to get the Central African Republic to produce its own food, which could not happen if instability returned, she said.
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