Mr President,

I would like to thank the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and the Executive Secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and Mrs Malimukono for their briefings. I would also like to welcome the representatives of the States of the region and thank the Peacebuilding Commission for its written opinion.

It is undeniable that peace in the Great Lakes requires the cooperation of the entire region. We encourage Special Envoy Xia to continue his efforts to advance dialogue between all parties and to ease regional tensions. For it is only together that we can achieve the common objectives of peace, security and cooperation set out in the Addis Ababa Framework Agreement, which is currently being revitalised.

I would like to highlight three points:

Firstly, regional diplomatic and political initiatives must remain the main means of resolving conflict. This is why we urgently appeal to halt the violence and incitement to hatred which can close the pathway of dialogue. Switzerland reaffirms its support for the Nairobi and Luanda processes. We welcome the adoption of the common framework at the recent Quadripartite Summit and call on all actors to work towards the harmonisation and coordination of regional mechanisms. To ensure their success, it is imperative that all the commitments made are implemented and that women are able to participate in a meaningful and effective way. In particular, it is essential that all actors, especially the DRC and Rwanda, cease their support to certain armed groups.

Secondly, the root causes of conflict must be addressed if lasting peace is to be achieved. This means strengthening the rule of law, good governance and creating economic and social opportunities. Switzerland recognises the considerable potential of the Great Lakes region in terms of sustainable development. For several years now, we have been involved in projects aimed at strengthening human rights, combating misinformation, promoting vocational training and creating jobs. There is also an urgent need for responsible management of natural resources, which constitute a source of prosperity for the people of the Great Lakes region. The illegal exploitation of and trade in natural resources by armed groups, particularly in the east of the DRC, are jeopardising peace and development in the region.

Switzerland also supports the Congolese authorities in advancing the Disarmament, Demobilisation, Community Rehabilitation and Stabilisation Programme (P-DDRCS). We have noted the adoption by the Congolese Senate of the law establishing a reserve military force. We encourage the authorities to ensure that this does not lead to the de facto integration of members of armed groups into the FARDC. This would go against the spirit of the principles set out in the national strategy for the Implementation of the P-DDRCS.

Thirdly, respect for international law is essential if lasting peace is to be achieved. As armed groups continue to attack civilians, Switzerland calls on all parties to respect their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law. As communicated by the Quadripartite Meeting of the Chiefs of Defence earlier this month, humanitarian corridors must be established to facilitate rapid and unimpeded humanitarian assistance to the population.

Switzerland attaches particular importance to respect for the rights of women and girls, given the alarming number of verified cases of sexual violence in eastern DRC. We are concerned about the high levels of systematic sexual exploitation in and around camps for displaced persons, particularly in Goma. We therefore encourage the states in the region to take all necessary measures to protect the civilian population and combat impunity.

Mr President,

While advancing regional initiatives remains crucial, it is imperative to ensure the implementation of commitments already made and to tackle the root causes of conflict. In a context of growing insecurity and regional tensions as well as the ongoing transition of MONUSCO, Switzerland calls for restraint and respect for international law by all parties.

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