Council conclusions on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Great Lakes Region

By European Council
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Council conclusions on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Great Lakes Region

BRUSSELS, Kingdom of Belgium, December 16, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Council adopted the following conclusions:

"1. Recalling its Council conclusions of 22 July 20131, the European Union (EU) confirms its commitment to the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement for the DRC and the Region (PSC Framework) and to promoting stability and development in the Great Lakes Region. The EU notes a number of significant developments since July, in particular the progress achieved by the DRC in recovering full sovereignty on its territory and in restoring state authority in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the end of the M23 rebellion and the conclusion of the Kampala talks. The EU commends the Ugandan mediators for their commitment in working towards this positive outcome. The EU further expresses its appreciation for the efforts of the national authorities of the DRC, for the active involvement of regional leaders and organisations, for the work of the Group of Special Envoys for the Great Lakes2, and for the crucial supporting role of the United Nations Organisation Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), including its Intervention Brigade.

2. The steps which have been taken in recent months open up a unique opportunity for the region, with the support of its international partners, to tackle the fundamental problems it faces. The EU calls on all stakeholders of the PSC Framework to implement their national, regional and international commitments and remains committed to supporting this process.

The EU welcomes recent progress in operationalising those commitments and in identifying benchmarks to measure progress as a focus for the efforts of all stakeholders.

Mrs. Mary Robinson, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region;

Mr. Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the DRC and Head of MONUSCO; Mr. Russel Feingold, United States Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Regionof Africa and the DRC; Mr. Boubacar Diarra, African Union Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region; Mr. Koen Vervaeke, EU Senior Coordinator for the Great Lakes Region.

3. The EU reiterates the focus in the July Foreign Affairs Council conclusions on good

neighbourliness and regional integration – this includes systematic and continuous political dialogue between all countries of the Great Lakes region to increase mutual confidence in order to address the root causes of the instability. Based on its own experience, the EU will continue to invest in regional cooperation in addition to its continued support to each country in the region, including in the areas of peace and security, environment and economic integration.

4. The EU deplores the suffering engendered by the different armed groups in the eastern DRC which has resulted in a significant loss of civilian life, as well as of MONUSCO peacekeepers' lives, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians. The EU reiterates its insistence that special attention is paid to supporting the most vulnerable victims, especially child soldiers and the victims of sexual violence, and to the fight against impunity: perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity must not be allowed to avoid justice and should be held responsible for their actions.

5. In accordance with United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions 2076 (2012) and

2098 (2013), the EU looks forward to the swift disarmament and demobilisation of the M23 ex-combatants, with the assistance of MONUSCO, conducted in line with international human rights and humanitarian law and the Kampala talks outcome. At the same time, and as requested by the UNSCR 2098 (2013), the importance of neutralising other armed groups present in eastern DRC, including in particular the FDLR and ADF-NALU, by the FARDC supported by MONUSCO is emphasised. Furthermore, the EU urges the Government of the

DRC to finalise the development of a comprehensive DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration) and DDRRR (Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement) plan, including proper vetting procedures, and with special emphasis on children associated with armed groups. The EU welcomes the DRC's commitment to exclude perpetrators of human rights abuses from being eligible to integrate the national security forces. It underlines its readiness to take advantage of recent developments, and to build on its active support for stabilisation efforts in eastern DRC.

6. The EU welcomes the results of the recent Congolese "concertations nationales". In follow-up it encourages reconciliation and dialogue against which a comprehensive reform programme can be effectively implemented, boosting the state's authority, improving democratic and economic governance, protecting human rights and fighting against impunity.

7. The EU welcomes the priority given to Security Sector Reform (SSR) by President Kabila. It will remain actively engaged in support of SSR, with a view not least to maintaining and building on the gains of its two CSDP missions, EUPOL and EUSEC. In this regard, the EU looks forward to a sustained commitment of the Congolese authorities to implementing SSR and underlines the importance of synergies with other actors involved, in particular with

MONUSCO, who has the lead in coordinating international support to the reform.

8. The EU notes that the planned electoral cycle in DRC offers an opportunity for further

democratisation. It calls upon the Government of the DRC to ensure that previous recommendations, such as those formulated by the EU's own electoral observation mission, are taken into account, that set timelines are respected and that the necessary resources are allocated.

9. As discussed by EU Development Ministers on 12 December 2013, the EU will continue to pursue a comprehensive approach to its engagement with the Great Lakes Region including the use of both short term and long term instruments. It is committed to ensuring that the ongoing processes of national and regional programming of the European Development Fund, taking into account the recommendations of the European Court of Auditors, as well as the programming of assistance by EU Member States, should contribute both to the stabilisation of the Great Lakes region, and to its long term development. Programming of EU and

Members States assistance, in full partnership with the countries and regional organisations concerned, will include the field of SSR. In this context, the Council encourages a further strengthening of donor coordination. Welcoming the steps taken by the DRC to fulfil the commitments taken, the EU calls for the establishment of a mutual accountability mechanism, based on the New Deal process, that ensures swift progress, and the monitoring of progress through a strengthened political dialogue.

10. Coordination, where possible, between development and humanitarian interventions will be pursued in view of reinforcing the resilience of the population in the DRC. The EU remains concerned by the overall humanitarian situation in eastern DRC. The number of conflict related internal displaced people and refugees has not reduced and the population continues to face acute humanitarian needs. Safe and unhindered access in accordance with international humanitarian principles must be enabled.

11. In addressing the root causes of conflict and looking forward to longer-term development prospects, the EU draws particular attention to the issue of natural resources, including the link between conflict minerals and armed groups, protection of the environment and the region's biodiversity, which remains a serious challenge. The EU reiterates its active support to the adoption and implementation of the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible

Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas. The EU underlines the benefits of certification mechanisms for minerals.

12. The EU underlines that stability in the region as a whole depends upon the internal stability and development of each country. Besides DRC, the EU will continue to engage with Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and other countries of the region, in support of accountable government, an open society respectful of the fundamental rights of all people and the rule of law.

13. The EU underlines in particular the importance of an inclusive process in the run up to the

2015 elections in Burundi taking into account the fundamental elements of the Arusha peace agreement. The EU supports a continued UN role in this respect.

14. The EU recalls the wish of the United Nations Security Council for all signatories to fulfil promptly, fully and in good faith their respective commitments under the PSC Framework.

The EU undertakes to continue to work closely with the United Nations and its Special

Envoy, the African Union, the ICGLR, SADC and other relevant international and regional

organisations and partners towards the implementation of the PSC Framework.

15. The Council invites the High Representative/Vice President to report as early as possible on the implementation of the Council conclusions of July and December 2013."