H.E. Ambassador Choi Young-jin, Permanent Representative, at Security Council
1. Let me express my delegation’s appreciation to you for convening this open debate and circulating a concept paper on the topic. Also, I would like to express my delegation’s condolences for the loss of eight Guatemalan peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Monday.
2. The Great Lakes region has for decades been the scene of many violent conflicts, reaching an unprecedented crisis in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Over the past year, however, peace processes in the region have made significant progress. In Burundi, a new government was established through peaceful and democratic elections, concluding that country’s transitional period. Meanwhile, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the referendum on the draft constitution was held successfully, creating a solid foundation for the elections to be held this year.
3. Despite these positive political developments, the region is still faced with daunting challenges. Burundi needs to further consolidate peace and reconciliation. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it is critical that free and democratic elections be held before the end of the transitional period in June. In addition, foreign armed groups operating in the country must be disarmed and repatriated to their home countries.
4. In our view, there are three issues that are most relevant to the achievement of durable peace, security and sustainable development in the Great Lakes region: firstly, taking a regional approach, secondly, focusing on the peacebuilding process, and thirdly, addressing the root causes of conflicts.
5. First, conflicts in the Great Lakes region need to be seen from more of a regional perspective. The people of the Great Lakes region are ethnically, culturally and linguistically interlinked, which means that an insecure situation in one country directly affects other countries in the region. For example, foreign armed groups operating in one country threaten the security not just of that country, but of neighbouring countries as well, because they operate across borders. Accordingly, ensuring peace and security in one country necessitates close cooperation with its neighbours.
6. We believe that regional problems can be best solved through regional organizations, which have comparative advantages in leading peace processes at the community level. In this regard, we welcome the increasing assumption of responsibility and leadership by the African Union (AU) in maintaining peace and security in Africa, playing a role that is complementary with UN efforts. We urge that the cooperation between the UN and the AU be further developed and institutionalized.
7. Second, peace and security in the Great Lakes region requires a focus not just on peacemaking and peacekeeping, but also on peacebuilding efforts. Even after a new government is established through democratic elections, a country emerging from conflict is likely to remain fragile for some time because of the many challenges it faces, such as strengthening national institutions and eradicating poverty. The abrupt disengagement of the international community at this stage can trigger the re-emergence of conflicts. Burundi, for instance, is currently at this stage, which means that peacebuilding efforts must be pursued vigorously in the coming years. In this regard, we look forward to the early operationalization of the Peacebuilding Commission.
8. Third, alongside with these short- and medium-term approaches, it is critical to address the root causes of conflicts in order to prevent their recurrence and maintain durable peace over the long term. These root causes include chronic poverty, a fragile private sector, a lack of strong national institutions based on the rule of law and good governance, and prevailing impunity. Although resolving conflicts peacefully is crucial, it is far better to prevent conflicts in advance. In this regard, it is necessary for the countries in the region to implement long-term economic and social development strategies with the assistance of the international community.
9. The Republic of Korea has actively joined international efforts to assist the implementation of development strategies by African countries. We plan to double our official development assistance by 2009. With this increased aid, we will step up our efforts to support African countries, including those of the Great Lakes region, in addressing the root causes of conflict and achieving sustainable development, with a focus on the fields of medical service, human resource development and information technology. For this year, we will provide US $3.4 million for development projects in the Great Lakes region. In addition, we welcome opportunities to share with African countries our experiences in implementing successful development strategies and in strengthening good governance.