Check against delivery
I thank Special Envoy Xia for his briefing and his Office’s efforts to support peace and stability in the Great Lakes region. We welcome the participation of the Chair of Peacebuilding Commission for his informative briefing. The contributions of the Peacebuilding Commission are valuable to the Council’s discussions. I also welcome the representatives of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda in today’s meeting.
Despite the persistent efforts made by the countries of the region to confront internal and regional challenges, the road ahead remains long. As the Special Envoy said today, more efforts must be made to restore good neighborliness, address differences through peaceful means, and deepen cooperation among countries in the region to strengthen regional peace and security.
In light of the developments in the Great Lakes region, I would like to focus my statement today on the following three aspects:
First, the interconnected nature of the challenges facing the region requires a continued focus on regional dialogue and good neighborliness. In this regard, we commend the ongoing regional initiatives, including the Luanda and Nairobi processes, to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation and relations between the countries of the region. We hope that the decision adopted by the joint mini-summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the East African Community will contribute to the convergence of these regional efforts and to help ensure they are complementary. We further welcome the African Union Peace and Security Council’s recognition of the urgent need to revitalize the Peace and Security Framework, and we affirm that political will is the key to achieving this. We also emphasize that the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women throughout the different tracks of regional dialogue and in other peace efforts is a prerequisite for achieving durable agreements.
Second, in the pursuit of sustainable peace and security, we must continue to work to address the security challenges in the region – foremost among them violence – and address the ongoing attacks by armed groups in eastern DRC, including against civilians. As we all know, armed groups all represent serious threats to the people in DRC and across the Great Lakes region. We reiterate: all armed groups must immediately cease hostilities, refrain from targeting civilians or civilian objects, unconditionally lay down their weapons, and respect all relevant ceasefires in the region.
As armed groups continue to finance their criminal activities through the illegal exploitation of natural resources, it is critical to maintain our focus on cutting off these funding sources. The tenth Dubai Precious Metals Conference held last November provided an opportunity to hold important and urgent discussions about the impacts of this illegal trade and ways to address it, including through strengthening regional cooperation, and we are pleased that the Special Envoy and the ICGLR were able to participate. Further cooperation could include capacity-building for states to sustainably manage and protect their natural resources, if requested by national governments.
Third, the humanitarian crisis in the region should not be overlooked. The situation is exacerbated by armed conflicts and climate change and is further complicated by the increase in the number of people who have been forced to leave their homes in search of safety and security. There are approximately five million refugees and more than nine million people displaced in the region, of whom 5.8 million are IDPs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In this context, we appreciate the humanitarian efforts made by the governments of Sudan and Uganda in dealing with this crisis by hosting the largest number of refugees in the region. To prevent further displacement and ensure an effective response to humanitarian needs, we call upon all arms bearers to adhere to international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians and humanitarian workers.
We also stress that we will continue to pay close attention to the health situation in the region, especially given its vulnerability to outbreaks of disease such as Ebola. In this context, we commend Uganda’s tireless efforts to combat the virus and its success in halting its spread within the country.
In conclusion, the UAE reaffirms its commitment to support regional efforts, the United Nations, and all other partners as they work towards obtaining peace in the Great Lakes. The people of the region deserve no less.