UN and World Bank chiefs tour Great Lakes region to accelerate peace consolidation

24 May 2013

image The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (centre) meets with officials during the three-day Great Lakes tour this week

Kampala/New York – During an unprecedented high-level visit to Africa’s Great Lakes region, the United Nations and the World Bank have joined forces to inject “hope” and change the face of conflict in the region.

Leading a delegation on a visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda was United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon and the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim accompanied by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, Mary Robinson, and the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) Director of the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, Jordan Ryan.

The three-day visit, which wrapped up today, sought to strengthen the shared commitment of the UN and the World Bank to improving the security and humanitarian situation in the Great Lakes by turning public a series of measures that can change the face of conflict in the coming years.

This commitment also involves publicly sharing project information so that partners can see where the World Bank and UNDP are working. A pilot mapping of these projects in DR Congo and Uganda has been completed as part of the Open Aid Partnership.

During the visit, the Secretary-General met with the region’s leaders to announce measures to kick start the implementation of a new groundbreaking agreement “Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the region”. The Secretary-General called this accord “the region’s best chance for peace and economic development in many years”.

The agreement, signed in February by the UN and 11 countries in the Great Lakes region, is a comprehensive plan to tackle violence and create conditions for peace and development.  Labeled a “framework of hope”, it includes oversight mechanisms to ensure benchmarks are met.

The Secretary-General urged all parties involved to work hard and emphasized that “a peace deal must deliver dividend”, and for the Great Lakes this means “health, education, jobs and opportunity”.

During the regional tour, the UN chief also visited and helped launch a community-based project supported by UNDP. One of these programmes, in DR Congo’s troubled eastern city of Goma, aims to provide medical support and empower women and girls who suffer from fistula after enduring rape.

The Secretary-General made empowering women and girls one of the pillars of his second mandate. His visit to Goma coincided with the UN International Day to End Obstetric Fistula. Programmes like this are crucial as sexual violence is still being used as a weapon of war in many parts of the region, and a lack of medical care and early pregnancies also contribute to fistula.

In Rwanda, the Secretary-General highlighted the dedication of the local government in eradicating violence against women and girls and underlined the fact that the country is one of the biggest contributors of female peacekeepers to the UN. The UN and World Bank chiefs also met with former combatants and were briefed about the country’s efforts to demobilize and reintegrate men and women returning home after years of fighting.

On Wednesday, the first day of the trip, in an effort to boost economic development and promote cross-border trade, the World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, pledged US$1 billion to help foster the region’s economy. According to Mr. Jim, “by restarting economic activity and improving livelihoods in border areas […] and by ensuring that natural resources are managed for the benefit of all, confidence can be built steadily”.

This joint-visit also highlighted the commitment of the two international organizations to fight global conflict and poverty together.