Open Debate: Maintenance of international peace and security: prevention and resolution of conflicts in the Great Lakes region.
March 21, 2016
On Monday March 21, 2016, under the Angolan presidency, the Security Council held a ministerial-level open debate under the theme, "Maintenance of international peace and security: prevention and resolution of conflicts in the Great Lakes region." Prior to the debate, Angola circulated a concept note that stressed that often attempts to end the conflicts and establish peace in the region have failed to comprehend the complexity of the conflicts and to address their driving forces. Member States focused their statements on how to resolve outstanding contentious issues, especially the need to definitively neutralize armed groups and the issue of elections and to address the issue of illegal exploitation of natural resources. Highlighting the need to transform natural resources into drivers of the development of the Great Lakes region and the role States must play to ensure the correct and sustainable management of natural resources, the Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon noted in his statement that, “peace and security go hand-in-hand with human and economic development.”. This debate provided an opportunity for Member States to reflect on efforts needed to ensure that objectives set for the peoples of the region in the 2016-2017 Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region will be delivered. Members States also discussed the role of women and the importance of strengthening their capacities as mediators in intercommunal conflicts, namely in areas such as access to land and peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction. In this vein, the representative of Spain highlighted that women are the greatest force for change in the world.
The majority of speakers noted the need to properly manage natural resources in the region. A number of members addressed the issue of illegal exploitation of natural resources, and how this is linked to conflict. In this vein, the representative of Brazil stressed the need to wisely exploit the natural resources in order to prevent the support and development of illegal armed groups. Addressing the link between the issue of illegal exploitation of natural resources and conflict, the Venezuelan representative suggested to strengthening the institutions in the affected countries to ensure the sound management of natural resources. New Zealand, among others, stressed the need for greater participation of international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank in regional programmes. The threat to the peace and stability of the region from armed groups and the importance of stable, credible elections were among the points raised. To do so, the representative of Egypt suggested to create a regional environment that nurtures the peace and security in the region through coordinate efforts. Among these efforts, as the Netherlands and Holy See pointed out, should be directed towards the disarmament and demobilization of militias and armed groups which continued to attack civilians. Finally, 85% of participants spoke about the importance of a regional perspective for conflict prevention. These members may cover possible conflict prevention tools that could be used more effectively, including the ad-hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa, the UN Regional Office for Central Africa, and Council visiting missions.
Out of nearly 50 statements delivered, only fifteen speakers (30%) used a specific gendered language. Many these speakers highlighted the role of women in peace processes as it has been promoted in the UN Great Lakes Regional Strategic Framework for 2016 - 2017 and the Women’s Platform for the Peace, Security and Cooperation. Noting that the Great Lakes region cannot witness peace until a culture of impunity ends and political stability is established, 26% of speakers believed that empowerment of women is possible only when they are given an opportunity to fully participate as citizens in economic, political, and social life. The representative of Sweden, in this vein, highlighted the benefits of women’s involvement in the Rwandan parliament. “Women’s participation is an indispensable foundation for sustainable development,” he added. In the same vein, the reform of Security Sector in the countries of the region mentioned by 26 % of the speakers; however, not all of the countries have seen women as a part of this process. However, the participation of women in peace processes, among previously-mentioned benefits, will assist in shifting regional and national attitudes toward the impunity of crimes of sexual violence. The critical prevalence of the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence was noted by 18% of speakers. During the period of protracted conflict, widespread, systemic violence against women has gained particular prominence as groups vie for political and economic control. Many women fear denouncing sexual crimes because of the norm of stigmatization and rejection by communities, and due to lack of justice. Building on the other statements, representative of Canada suggested that the violence against women is not only a cruel criminal act, “it can have destabilizing effects on the society.” Less frequently, Member States referred to issues related to justice (20%), peacekeeping (16%), protection (16%), and the implementation of the WPS Agenda (14%). Talking about the demobilization and disarmament processes, 10% of representatives suggested that women’s leadership will ensure that these processes are sensitive to gender. Moreover, while discussing the problem of underfunding of conflict prevention methods in the region, Member States failed to acknowledge the need to allocate funding for local and national action plans and, more broadly, for developing sustainable funding solutions for women’s activism in the region.