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The Situation in the Great Lakes region: Supporting the Great Lakes Framework

UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL

 

Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

 

 

Thank you, Mr President, for the United States’ leadership in convening this debate, and to Secretary Kerry for his presence. I also thank the Secretary-General and Special Envoy Mary Robinson for their sustained engagement and leadership. And all of the briefers for their insightful remarks.

 

As the attendance of all of these people today indicates, we are at a pivotal moment in the search for durable peace and security in eastern DRC and the Great Lakes. We should be shamed by the staggering toll of the conflict: the lives of more than 5 million people, displacement of millions more and the subjection of countless men, women and children to horrendous human rights abuses. Today, the DRC is languishing at the bottom of the UN Human Development Index.

 

The Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework provides the best opportunity to definitively break the cycle of violence and instability. We are at a moment of hope because of the leadership and efforts of regional governments and organisations, working in close cooperation with the United Nations and the Secretary-General himself. And now, with the World Bank.

 

The potential genius of the Framework is that for the first time all relevant parties have made clear commitments to integrate political, security and development efforts – a nexus that is essential to tackling the root causes of instability.  The recent joint visit by the World Bank President and the Secretary-General reflects what should be a crucial impetus for the region.

 

There have been encouraging early signs of follow-up on the PSC commitments, but also stark reminders of the sobering challenges ahead. Attacks by the M23 and fighting with the FARDC near Goma are ongoing; and just last week attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in Kamango forced more than 65,000 refugees to flee into Uganda. We note Foreign Minister Kutesa’s warnings this morning about the ADF.

 

Mr President,

 

The immediate priority must be to ensure that all signatories take practical steps to implement their commitments under the PSC Framework.And, where they fail to live up to these commitments, they must be held to account – by their own citizens and civil society; by their regional neighbours; and by the broader international community, including this Council.

 

Australia welcomes initial efforts by the DRC government to initiate key reforms. The establishment of the DRC’s National Oversight Mechanism is an important step. As was the inaugural meeting of the Regional “11+4” Oversight Mechanism and the establishment of the Technical Support Committee.

 

The implementation of tailored, realistic benchmarks will, however, be fundamental to the success of the PSC. It is imperative that broad agreement is reached on the specific benchmarks and how these will be taken forward by the next meeting of the Regional Oversight Mechanism in New York in September.

 

All signatories have committed under the Framework not to interfere in the affairs of neighbouring countries and to neither tolerate nor provide assistance or support of any kind to armed groups. Any collaboration between the FARDC and the FDLR must cease, as must any support to the M23. There can be no peace so long as such support continues.

 

Mr President, turning briefly to some particular key challenges and priorities ahead.

 

Persistent reports of grave human rights abuses and widespread sexual violence by armed groups and the FARDC obviously undermine the foundations for any lasting peace. At an event Australia co-hosted this week, we heard first-hand the impact of the use of rape as a tool of war to destroy communities in the DRC.  Impunity cannot be tolerated – it is critical that serious action is taken to prevent such atrocities, and to investigate and prosecute such crimes. The efforts of the ICC deserve our full support.

 

It is also critical that security sector reforms are intensified. Ultimate responsibility for security rests with the DRC Government. A professional and effective army is central to this. The FARDC’s capabilities, discipline and cooperation with the UN mission, including the Intervention Brigade, will be critical to the success of efforts in the Kivus.

 

Disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration must – finally – also be given genuine priority. The unregulated flow of small arms and failure to implement effective reintegration strategies are themselves root causes – and drivers – of conflict.

 

Women’s participation and leadership in both the SSR and DDR processes is essential to long term peace. So too is their direct engagement in the implementation of the PSC. Special Envoy Robinson’s work to ensure their full and effective participation, including through the recent Bujumbura Conference is long overdue, prospective and reassuring.

 

Mr President,

 

In concluding, Australia reaffirms our strong support for MONUSCO and the deployment of the Intervention Brigade, and expresses our appreciation to the Troop Contributing Countries.

 

The Intervention Brigade cannot, of course, be seen as a panacea, or a substitute for the DRC’s own responsibilities. What the Brigade can do – and what this Council intended it to do – is to act as a circuit breaker, to create the space for the DRC government to implement the necessary reforms and tackle underlying issues of the conflict.

 

The Brigade’s creation was an historic and risky decision by the Council – born out of frustration certainly, but more so from necessity.  The DRC and its neighbours have provided the essential enabling environment for a new start.  But implementation will obviously be decisive.

 

The council itself must continue to give incisive – and consistent – attention to the DRC to reinforce the incentives for change – to break the cyclical patterns of the past. We all know this is a genuinely critical moment. We must ensure it becomes transformative.

 

I understand there is a Congolese saying that “no matter how hard you throw a dead fish in the water, it still won’t swim”. This “Framework of Hope” is very much alive.  And we must ensure it is able to swim.

 

Thank you.

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