1st Meeting (AM)
‘We’re Not Moving Back’, Vows Foreign Minister, As Head of United Nations Integrated Office Highlights Country’s Gains
Praising Burundi today for having held peaceful elections in 2010, made “breathtaking” strides in establishing key democratic institutions and, assumed the presidency of the East African Community while still a young member, delegates in the Peacebuilding Commission held the fifth and final review of the strategic framework for the nation, calling it a “milestone” in a process that had begun four years ago.
With its adoption of a draft outcome document of the fifth review, the Commission laid the basis for its renewed engagement with Burundi as it simultaneously scales down its presence in the country. It welcomed the strong will of Burundians to achieve peace, hailing Government efforts to strengthen accountability, assume a zero-tolerance stance against corruption, create an ombudsman’s office and, above all, make progress in disarming civilians.
The Commission also welcomed the financial and political support provided by multilateral and bilateral partners, as well as the work of the Partners Coordination Group as a “privileged” platform for dialogue between the Government, the international community and international stakeholders on how to address outstanding political, institutional and socio-economic challenges. Reaffirming its commitment to continue its support for national peacebuilding efforts, the Commission also envisioned aligning its future engagement with Burundi’s second poverty reduction strategy paper.
Addressing the Commission, Augustin Nsanze, Burundi’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, said the success of the 2010 electoral process was among the best outcomes of peacebuilding efforts. Thanks to a “spirit of dialogue” between the Government and its partners, forged during the implementation of the strategic framework, all stakeholders had arrived at a consensus on the creation of the Electoral Commission and the Electoral Code. That spirit had also inspired the establishment of a forum for dialogue between political parties and the Ministry of Interior.
Dialogue was not confined to the political dimension, he continued, noting that the process of creating a strategic framework to combat poverty, organized between 22 January and 24 February, had included consultations with local authorities, the private sector and civil society. To combat corruption, an awareness-raising campaign had led to the arrest of public enterprise leaders accused of embezzlement, he said, adding that the Government was mobilizing State actors to adhere to its zero-tolerance policy on corruption.
Regarding security, the Minister said a wide-ranging programme for the defence corps and national police had been put in place. It had seen the return to barracks of military personnel, thus ending chances for committing abuses against civilians. Further, efforts to disarm civilians had resulted in the collection of 83,287 weapons and the creation of a legal framework aimed at securing the weapons of public agents, in line with the traceability mechanisms of the Great Lakes Region.
The rule of law also had improved, with the Government now carrying out arrests that had gone unimplemented during wartime, he said. A programme to build the capacity of magistrates was under way and the Penal Code had been modified to introduce serious penalties for violence against women. Importantly, the National Independent Commission of Human Rights had been created, guided by the Paris Principles, and member selection was under way in Parliament, he said, adding that mechanisms for transitional justice would soon be established. Next month, the Government would meet in Geneva with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, he added.
Mr. Nsanze concluded by noting that the strategic framework allowed the Government to take stock of the land issue, a precondition for reintegrating people affected by conflict. A new Land Code had been adopted and a framework created for coordinating institutions, technical and financial partners and civil society organizations. Also, the Government had developed “reinsertion kits” for repatriated people, he said, emphasizing that raising funds on that front remained the most urgent challenge.
Addressing the Commission for the first time, Karin Landgren, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB), said “the drivers of peace consolidation in Burundi are the Government and its people”. By prioritizing equitable growth and sustainable development, Burundi had the opportunity to implement critical reforms, including land reform, reduce its dependence on international assistance, and promote private-sector investment. Recalling that Security Council resolution 1959 (2010) encouraged the creation of space for all political parties and improve dialogue with all actors, including civil society, she said the 2010 elections were an example of success on that front.
Highlighting other gains, she said the Government had taken significant steps towards establishing the National Independent Human Rights Commission, adopting legislation and setting up the ad hoc selection body expected to forward 21 names to the National Assembly. The latter organ would then select seven names from among which the President would nominate commissioners. In the area of transitional justice, the Government had indicated that it expected truth and reconciliation mechanisms to be established during 2011. “We expect strong international support for this area of work,” she said, noting also the creation of a commission to investigate reports of extrajudicial killings.
Turning to governance, she said the zero-tolerance policy on corruption was indispensable to a rosier economic future. In other areas, Burundi’s membership in the East African Community and ongoing formulation of a second poverty reduction strategy paper incorporating major peace consolidation priorities stood out as achievements. For its part, the United Nations “family” would align its strategic planning with that paper, she said, stressing the paramount importance of the Peacebuilding Commission’s advocacy for resources.
In the ensuing dialogue, delegates hailed Burundi’s elections, efforts to combat corruption and establishment of key governance bodies. Several speakers commended the country’s deployment of troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), especially since it was consolidating its own security gains. “ Burundi, in our view, presents a success story for peacebuilding efforts supported by the United Nations,” said Uganda’s delegate, underlining the need to ensure the consolidation of those gains and that Government plans continued to enjoy the international community’s support. Speakers also praised Burundi’s key role in the East African Community, emphasizing the importance of recognizing that the country had regained its rightful role in the subregion.
At the same time, the security situation gave cause for concern, other speakers pointed out, citing reports of an upsurge in violence, extrajudicial executions, and restrictions on civil liberties, in addition to the presence of the PALIPEHUTU-FNL (Parti pour la libération du peuple hutu—Forces nationales de libération) in South Kivu Province of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo. The transitional justice process was also important, they said, encouraging the Government to establish the appropriate mechanisms in that regard.
Pointing the way forward, Kenya’s representative argued in favour of creating a donor trust fund as Burundi moved towards graduating from the peacebuilding agenda, stressing also the importance of ensuring that priority-setting remained a local endeavour.
Responding to some of those comments, Mr. Nsanze said his country was sparing no effort to resolve its challenges and find its true role on the international stage. “We will become a viable country, one that attracts investment,” he said. While Burundi had entered the East African Community as a “poor son”, today it was a partner like any other, and, given the subregional body’s success, there was no doubt that the country would benefit from its membership. “What’s important is that we continue to move forward,” he emphasized. “We’re not moving back.”
Also speaking during the interactive dialogue were representatives of France, United States, United Kingdom, Spain, South Africa, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, China and Japan.
A representative of the Peacebuilding Support Office also made a statement.
The Peacebuilding Commission will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.
For information media • not an official record