21 November 2003


Addressing Security Council, He Emphasizes Need

For Regional Approach to Consolidate National Peace Processes

NEW YORK, 20 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s statement at the meeting of the Security Council on the Great Lakes today, 20 November:

You have before you my report on preparations for an International Conference on the Great Lakes region -- a long-standing idea that has been given new impetus by the recent positive developments in the region.

As we all know, conflict and instability in one country in the Great Lakes, even if they are generated by internal causes, seldom stay internal for long.  They tend to spread quickly, as a result of the close social, economical, cultural and linguistic connections among the people of the region.  For that reason, the interlocking root causes of the region’s conflicts need to be tackled in a comprehensive manner.

That is why, ever since its Presidential statement on Rwanda of 14 October 1994, this Council has supported an International Conference on the Great Lakes.  This support was reiterated in numerous subsequent statements and resolutions, including the Presidential statement of 24 April 1997 on the Great Lakes region, and, earlier this year, in resolutions 1457 and 1493 on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

The first exploratory steps towards the organization of such a Conference were taken between 1996 and 1997 by my Special Envoy for the Great Lakes.  To expedite the process, in 1999 I appointed a Special Representative based in Nairobi to consult with the leaders of the region on the objectives and organization of such a Conference.

These consultations were undertaken in close partnership with the African Union, on the basis of a concept paper which I submitted to them.  As a result, the core countries -- namely, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda -- agreed to the proposed international conference, and the preparatory process was launched in June 2003 in Nairobi.

The Nairobi meeting was essential in determining the future direction that the Conference would take, and in defining its objectives, themes, structure, composition, and tentative timetable. 

The core countries stressed that the Conference should be action-oriented and focus on specific themes:  peace and security; democracy and good governance; economic development and regional integration; and humanitarian and social issues.

The core countries also stressed the principle of regional ownership. To this end, they have established national preparatory committees.  In addition, the African Union has been, and will remain, a full partner of the United Nations in every stage of the process.

Equally vital is the need for international partnership.  While the governments of the region bear responsibility to consolidate peace in their countries, the international community has a duty to assist them at all levels, as it has done and is doing in other parts of the world.


Indeed, the Conference requires wide and sustained participation, not only from the governments of the core countries, but also from civil society, neighbours and friends in the region, subregional organizations, and international development partners.

There is a new dynamic in the region, and we must capitalize on it.  People are becoming more aware of the need to address peace, security and development issues regionally to consolidate advances made in national peace processes.  This has helped set the stage for the preparations of the Conference to proceed as planned. 

So too did the meeting held during the general debate in September, when the Declaration of Principles on Good-Neighbourly Relations and Cooperation was adopted among countries of the region.

Obviously, there will be a relationship between progress in the peace processes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi and progress in the Conference.  And there will also be a relationship between our ability to meet certain challenges and the success of the Conference.

One challenge is for the core countries themselves to find a way to go further than they have to date in addressing in detail the substantive issues of the Conference.  Another is to ensure that adequate financial, technical and human resources are made available, including for the Office of my Special Representative for the Great Lakes region.

To meet these challenges, I invite all involved to work closely with my Special Representative in support of the Conference. I also encourage all development partners to assist in providing the necessary support and resources to the effort.

       And I look forward to the strong support of this Council for the Conference -- a Conference that is long overdue, and that holds the promise of a better future for the long-suffering people from the countries of the Great Lakes region.

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