CHALLENGES FACING BURUNDI, REQUIRING INTERNATIONAL HELP, INDICATED AT COUNTRY-SPECIFIC MEETINGS OF PEACEBUILDING COMMISSION
Seeking to bridge the “relief-to-development” gap and ensure recovery of Burundi after more than a decade of violence, the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission today identified numerous challenges that could be tackled with support of the international community, with several speakers stressing the need to prioritize and “sequence” them to achieve best results.
(PressZoom) - On the second day of its substantive work, the Commission –- the new intergovernmental advisory body aiming to help prevent war-ravaged countries from lapsing back into conflict –- held two country-specific sessions on Burundi, focusing on the topic of “Consolidating Peace –- Critical Issues” in the morning and “National Action –- International Support” in the afternoon.
Among the key priorities, where a lack of progress could obstruct further consolidation of peace, speakers listed good governance; strengthening the country’s capacity, socio-economic recovery; security-sector reform; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants; human rights; implementation of the ceasefire agreement; fighting against impunity; justice; unemployment and assistance to vulnerable persons. The Government Emergency Programme, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, the United Nations Common Action Plan and Development Assistance Framework provided the basis for action that reflected Burundi’s extensive needs. The participants also expressed appreciation for the role played by the Regional Peace Initiative, comprising Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, South Africa and others, with support from the African Union, the United Nations and the international community.
The Chairman of the meeting, Johan L. Lovald ( Norway), expressed optimism about sustaining peace in Burundi, despite all the challenges. The presence today of Burundi’s Foreign Minister and Vice-President underlined the Government’s political will to engage in peacebuilding and emphasized that success hinged on ownership by the Government. For its part, the Peacebuilding Commission, while not a panacea to resolve every outstanding issue, did offer a great opportunity “to do better, to do more, and to do it in a well coordinated and coherent manner” for the benefit of the people of Burundi.
Participating in the meeting through video-conferencing was Burundi’s Vice-President, Mduwimana Martin, who said that he had high expectations for the work of the Commission and stressed his Government’s commitment to peace, as well as the essential contribution of the United Nations. While doing everything within its ability, his Government would also ask for financial, technical and material help from the international community.
Burundi’s Foreign Minister, Antoinette Batumubwira, said that today’s meeting presented an additional opportunity to sustain peace and provide dividends to all Burundians. The Peacebuilding Commission was a novel institution, which could help to find novel solutions for Burundi.
Outlining the country’s development strategies and the main challenges to consolidating peace, she said that Burundi was now enjoying security, in spite of “sporadic banditry”. Among the achievements were a new constitution, free and fair elections and the signing of a Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement between the Government and the Front Nationale de Libération. Dialogue was under way with leaders of political parties and representatives of civil society. The Government had prepared an emergency programme to address the population’s urgent needs, while waiting for the implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers. A round table with donors would be held at the end of 2006.
The Government expected the Peacebuilding Commission to play its role in positively mobilizing Burundi’s partners, she said. If the main priorities were not addressed in time, the country could be destabilized. Since December 2005, Burundi had established a National Aid Coordination Committee to work with its partners to increase the delivery rate in disbursements of assistance.
The Commission also heard expert presentations from Nureldin Satti, acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Burundi; Pedro Alba, the World Bank’s Country Director for Burundi and Norbert Toe, Deputy Division Chief, African Department, International Monetary Fund.
Mr. Satti singled out the 7 September Ceasefire Agreement and the finalization of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers as significant recent milestones. The United Nations had consulted the Government to identify the peacebuilding components of the United Nations Action Plan for Burundi for 2007-2008. Peace consolidation was a long-term process, and the dynamics required sustained international support. Preparations were under way for the United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi, which would take over from the peacekeeping mission there.
The World Bank’s priorities for Burundi included assistance to war-affected individuals and communities and helping to restore the foundations for poverty alleviation and growth, the Bank’s representative, Pedro Alba, said. The donors’ engagement was paying off, but major challenges remained. In particular, no external disbursements had been provided as of September 2006, although two thirds of the Government’s 2006 budget depended on external funding. With prospects for 2007 no better, the failure to pay salaries, or a drastic rise in prices, could put the economic and political stability of the country at risk. The Peacebuilding Commission could bring donors together around specific thematic areas to ensure coordination of efforts, targeting of resources, and monitoring of progress. It could also mobilize donors not currently involved in Burundi.
Mr. Toé, of the International Monetary Fund, also stressed the need to reinforce donor coordination, warning that delays in receipt of financial support jeopardized Burundi’s hard-won gains. The Government’s reform agenda deserved strong donor support. For its part, the Fund had provided some $26 million to Burundi within the framework of its Emergency Post-Conflict Assistance programmes and some $130 million in the peace-consolidation phase. Burundi would be eligible for debt relief under the Enhanced Initiative for Highly Indebted Poor Countries in late 2007 or early 2008. Priorities for the continuation of reform included shifting toward more pro-poor spending and improving public financial management.
Speakers in the ensuing debate stressed the need to identify the most challenging threats to peace in Burundi, with the representative of the African Development Bank cautioning that the list of necessities was very long. To deal with the situation, it was important not only to recognize the critical priorities, but also to “sequence” them, she said.
Denmark’s representative agreed that the Commission should not “load its plate too full,” focusing on the most important needs and defining future strategies instead. It was important for the delegations to leave today’s meeting with a sense of direction on the next steps, the benchmarks for future progress and “our respective homework for the next meeting”, she said. Member States owed it to the people of Burundi to do that homework, establishing “not grand plans on paper, but concrete progress on the ground”.
Introducing an interactive session this afternoon on national action and international support were Burundi’s Foreign Minister; the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Burundi; Fernando Valenzuela of the European Commission and Alice Mugwa, Senior Political Affairs Advisor at the African Union.
Foreign Minister Batumubwira elaborated on Burundi’s national efforts, saying that today the country pursued inclusiveness, with participation of different parties, ethnic groups and women. Both the party in power and opposition parties were learning their roles in a democracy. It was important that the civil society and media realized their role in the development of the country, as well. “We have a common venture here,” he said, emphasizing the need for all parties to cooperate.
A great deal was being done to reduce the number of weapons in people’s possession, she said, outlining the Government’s efforts requiring international support. Quotas were being introduced to promote women’s participation. The country also needed resources to achieve good governance and ensure respect for human rights.
Acting Special Representative Satti said that, while “everything” seemed to be a priority in Burundi, he believed the main priorities included democratic governance, security reform, justice, and economic recovery. He also mentioned that an information-sharing forum for partners was meeting regularly to support the Government’s priorities. The United Nations intended to continue its consultations with the Government to present concrete proposals to the Peacebuilding Commission.
Discussing how the Commission could add value to the peace process in Burundi, Mr. Valenzuela said that it could help to ensure political support, define strategies and broaden the knowledge base. It was also important to stay the course. The regional dimension could bring both risks and possibilities and that should be kept in mind when discussing the strategy for the country. Youth employment, access to resources and environmental challenges should be considered among the cross-cutting issues. Investment in institutions could have a multiplying effect. Donor engagement in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration was of great importance.
Ms. Mugwa called on the Peacebuilding Commission to recognize and support the special needs arising from conflict, such as lack of resources to finance basic elements, including salaries. Once the Commission had determined the main priorities, the entire African Union would fall behind it. Among other things, the Union was creating a standing committee to coordinate all peacebuilding activities with the Commission.
Speakers in the debate also addressed the need to ensure the culture of peace in Burundi, stressing that reconciliation had to be discussed in parallel with economic and social development. “Peace must become a civilians’ peace,” the representative of El Salvador said. Priority should be given to reinsertion of ex-combatants, who must return to productive life. Canada’s representative also emphasized the need to include women in the country’s peacebuilding efforts.
The chairman of the Peacebuilding Commission, Ismael Abraão Gaspar Martins ( Angola) said that while peacebuilders faced a set of similar problems in various countries, it was necessary to take into account the specific situation of Burundi, particularly the conditions in the Great Lakes region. He also emphasized the role of civil society, which should be part of the dialogue. Once clear priorities had been identified, it was important to undertake concrete actions to start delivering peace dividends for Burundi. There was also an urgent need to build confidence, not only among the people of the country, but also among the main stakeholders.
Among other issues discussed today were victim empowerment, quick-impact projects, the need to establish a national truth and reconciliation commission, health, education, the link between land disputes and return of refugees, the role of the media and the virtues of restorative justice as opposed to justice of retributive nature. Several speakers also stressed the importance of budget support to the Government.
Participating in the dialogues today were representatives of South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, the Netherlands, Belgium, China, Bangladesh, Germany, Japan, Nigeria, Guinea Bissau, Rwanda, Egypt, India, Ghana, the United States, Croatia, United Kingdom, Sri Lanka, France, Pakistan, Brazil, the European Commission, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Organization Francophonie, as well as a representative of civil society organizations in Burundi.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Commission decided to advise the Secretary-General that Burundi should be considered eligible for funding from the newly established Peacebuilding Fund. The Chairman expressed his intention to call for a second round of discussions of the Burundi configuration as the Commission in December. In the meantime, the Commission intended to continue working closely with the Government.
This news item was released on 2006-10-16. Please make sure to visit the official company or organization web site to learn more about the original release date. See our disclaimer for more information.
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