Remarks by Ambassador Schulz during the Security Council VTC Meeting on the Great Lakes Region April 22, 2020

22.04.2020 - Speech

Check Against Delivery

First let me thank the Special Envoy for the briefing and the report. We share the overall assessment of certain positive political trends in the region as outlined in the report, in particular with regards to regional agreements that aim at cross-border cooperation and which hopefully contribute to decreasing tensions in the region.

We commend enhanced regional cooperation which aims at implementing the PSC Framework, such as the positive outcomes of the Quadripartite Summits. We further welcome the strengthening of cooperation on judicial matters within the region.

Yet at the same time big challenges obviously remain, especially regarding the security situation in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, repeated cross-border security incidents. The fight against armed groups needs to be continued. The socio-economic development and integration remain challenging as well.

As we discuss this today, a new concern is obviously the potential impact the COVID-19 pandemic could have on stability and peoples’ lives in the Great Lakes region.

Concerted efforts and close collaboration among the countries of the region are needed now more than ever, supported by regional organizations such as the ICGLR and the African Union. This is also an opportunity to convert the positive regional rhetoric and dynamics into concrete and constructive action in the fight against the pandemic.

We call on the international community to support these efforts. The UN and in particular the WHO have our full support in their efforts to fight the pandemic. We have learned from this pandemic: if the virus remains active somewhere, we cannot be safe anywhere. We must therefore strengthen health infrastructure to contain and mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic on development and security situation in the region.

In this regard, it is important to promote correct and accessible information about the pandemic as well as to provide guidelines and effective counter-measures. We encourage the Special Envoy with his presence in the region to support such efforts.

Mr President, as the Special Envy has reminded us, we should not forget that the fight against Ebola is not over yet. The same is true for the continued outbreaks of measles that have cost the lives of more than 6,000 children last year. Massive investments in critical health infrastructure are therefore needed.

Mr. President, before closing, let me make three additional remarks.

First, concerning the violations of human rights and continuing reports about sexual and gender-based violence that the SG’s report lists. The numbers of IDPs and refugees in and outside the DRC continue to be staggering. The advent of COVID-19 endangers the most vulnerable even further. We therefore fully support the Secretary General’s call for a stop to all fighting and hostilities to avoid a further surge in humanitarian needs.

It is also crucial to underscore that any efforts to fight and contain the pandemic must not be used to serve as a pretext to limit or curb human rights or allow for impunity in cases of human rights violations. 

Secondly, a short remark on the situation in Burundi: we have taken note of the ongoing preparations for the elections in May. We remain, however, concerned about the possible impact of COVID-19 on the elections. Need to take all necessary measures to ensure inclusive, credible and safe elections without health risks for the general public. We feel that Burundi needs to be supported on that path and all actors must cooperate with the WHO and the humanitarian organizations.

Last but not least, on the new strategy for the region: Germany fully supports the development of a new peace and security strategy for the Great Lakes region. We understood from the SG report that various activities in that direction have been conducted and we now strongly encourage the Special Envoy to continue in this direction and complete the process.

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