I welcome the recent progress in efforts to secure a durable solution to the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In particular, I welcome the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement for the DRC and the Region, which was concluded in Addis Ababa on 24 February, in the presence of the UN Secretary General. This important Agreement was reached by the Government of the DRC and ten neighbouring and regional countries. The co-guarantors of the Agreement are the African Union, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the United Nations. It follows a brutal campaign of violence in eastern DRC by the so-called M23 group, which escalated in April 2012 and which has led to the deaths of many innocent civilians, appalling abuses of human rights and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. I would like to pay tribute to the work of the UN Secretary General and leaders of the countries of the Great Lakes region for their patient, intense mediation and negotiation efforts to try to broker a comprehensive framework for peace in the region.
The adoption of the Agreement was welcomed on behalf of the EU in a joint statement by High Representative Catherine Ashton and Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs. I am in full agreement with the statement which calls on all sides to continue negotiating in good faith and to refrain from violence.
In the UN Secretary General’s own words, a lasting solution requires at least four essential elements. It must be anchored in the political will of the leaders of all countries in the region. It must address the structural causes fuelling instability in the DRC itself. It must respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and legitimate concerns and interests of all concerned countries. It also demands the commitment and long-term support of the international community.
The Agreement contains important commitments from the Government of the DRC, from its neighbours and regional partners and from the international community. However, as the Secretary General has also stressed, it represents the start of the process rather than the end. Lasting peace will only be secured in the DRC if the Agreement is implemented in full and the opportunity it presents is fully grasped by all parties involved.
The UN Secretary General plans to appoint a Special Envoy who, together with the relevant parties, will support the implementation of the Agreement. He is also proposing the establishment within the UN mission, MONUSCO, of an Intervention Brigade to address security aspects of the crisis more comprehensively.
The European Union will continue to play a constructive role, working through political and diplomatic engagement, development cooperation programmes, and support for MONUSCO. The EU is also pursuing security sector reform programmes, through its Common Security and Defence Policy missions in the DRC.
Ireland will also continue to play its part. We are contributing a number of military observers to the UN Mission and over the past year Ireland has provided over €10 million in assistance to those worst affected in the DRC. This assistance has been channelled through the UN, international organisations, and our NGO partners. Last week, we allocated a further €3.8 million for humanitarian relief efforts in the DRC over the coming period.