Remarks at the United Nations Security Council Ministerial on the Great Lakes Region

SECRETARY KERRY: The 7,011th meeting of the Security Council is called to order. The provisional agenda for this meeting is: “The Situation in the Great Lakes Region: Supporting the Great Lakes Framework.” Without objection, the agenda is adopted and it’s my pleasure to warmly welcome the distinguished Secretary General, the ministers, and the other distinguished representatives in the Security Council chamber. I think everybody’s participation here is an affirmation of the importance of the subject matter that is under discussion.

Under Rule 37 of the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure, I invite the representatives of Belgium, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda to participate in this meeting. It is so decided.

Under Rule 39 of the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure, I invite Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the President of the World Bank, to participate in the meeting. It is so decided.

On behalf of the Council, I welcome Dr. Kim, who is joining today’s meeting via teleconference from Washington. And under Rule 39 of the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure, I invite Mrs. Mary Robinson, Special Envoy of the Secretary General for the Great Lakes region. It is so decided.

Under Rule 39 of the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure, all of these rules which I’m obviously enormously familiar with – (laughter) – I invite His Excellency Mr. Ramtane Lamamra, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union, to participate in this meeting. It is so decided.

And under Rule 39 of the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure, I invite Mr. Pierre Vimont, Executive Secretary General of the European External Actions Service, to participate in this meeting. It is so decided.

The Security Council will now begin its consideration of item two of the agenda. I want to draw the attention of the Council members to document S/2013/387, the report of the Secretary General on the implementation of the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region. I also wish to draw the attention of Council members to document S/2013/394, a letter dated 3 July 2013 from the chargé d’affaires at the interim of the United States Mission to the United Nations, addressed to the Secretary General. And before you is a statement by the President on behalf of the Council, and the subject of today’s meeting.

I want to thank all the Council members for their very valuable contributions to this statement. And in accordance with the understanding reached among the members of the Council, I take it that the members of the Security Council agree to the statement, which will be issued as a document of the Security Council under the symbol S/PRST/2013/11. It is so decided.

Now it is my privilege – and I mean that, an enormous privilege – to make a statement in my capacity as the Secretary of State of the United States of America. I begin by saying how genuinely honored I am to be able to join you at the United Nations, presiding over the Security Council in our role for this period as the Secretary of State. And it’s also a privilege to chair the Security Council on a subject, a challenge that is central to the mission of this vital organization – that is, realizing the promise of peace.

For far, far too long, far too many lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the broader Great Lakes region have been ravaged by targeted, grotesque violence. They have been subjected to human rights abuses and the region has been disrupted by dangerous instability. The crisis that we witness today underscores what we already know. It is a stark reminder of what fills the vacuum in the absence of good governance, basic dignity, and in the absence of firm leadership that holds accountable those who violate basic standards of decency. It reminds – or it ought to remind – all of us of an obligation that we all share – not only to end the killing, the raping, the forcing of children into combat, the devastation and the fear, but the obligation to establish a lasting peace and the climate of development, and in doing so, we can create the space for productivity and partnerships, for greater opportunity for the citizens of the D.R.C., and for the birth of a new generation of stability and of hope.

We can actually prove to the world that all of us working together, and I might add, prove it at a time where many people are doubting the capacity of institutions to function and where they doubt the capacity of political leadership to solve problems. Well, we have the ability to prove to the world that together, we actually can make a difference. The seeds of this promise have already been planted, but our job doesn’t end with the creation of the framework. It continues in the cultivation of the seeds in making sure that we implement the framework, that we create a vigilant, accountable, and cooperative effort in order to see those seeds grow into a full-blown peace that is sustainable.

I want to recognize our partners in that effort. First, I thank the Secretary General for his personal engagement. I thank World Bank President Kim for the same kind of engagement and for their partnership. President Obama and I are very grateful to both leaders and the institutions that they lead for the very novel UN-World Bank partnership that has been created, which provides incentives for political progress through projects that create stability and improve infrastructure. Clearly, boosting regional commerce in the short term is one path to realizing stability and security in the long term. And I think that we’re all very hopeful that this approach can succeed in the Great Lakes region, and perhaps even serve as a model for other areas like Mali and through the Maghreb and beyond.

Regrettably, we have no dearth of locations where we are challenged and could use this kind of model today. I’d just say parenthetically that in the Middle East, in the West Bank and Palestine, we are beginning to look at a similar kind of model in hope that we can combine our efforts over the long term to find new ways to build sustainable peace.

I want to particularly also thank UN Special Envoy Mary Robinson, a longtime friend, somebody I have admired for a long time. And I reiterate the United States support for her work with regional leaders in the implementation of the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework. We particularly welcome the priority that she places on including regional women’s groups, local communities and civil society in the framework peace process as we seek to break the cycle of violence and break down the barriers between humanitarian aid and the people who are desperate for it.

The day before President Obama nominated me to be Secretary of State, I met with Denis Mukwege, who just a few weeks earlier had fled the D.R.C. after an attempt on his life. Denis has demonstrated the courage to stand up and protect women and children from the weapons of war, which too often people only talk about in a whisper. The victims of these horrific crimes and humanitarians like Dr. Mukwege who protect and treat those people and all of the people in that region desperately need a voice.

And I know, and I obviously, because he chose her, the Secretary General knows that Mary Robinson is committed to being that voice as the region and the international community address the full range of issues involved in translating the broad principles of the framework into concrete benchmarks for implementation. So thank you, Mary Robinson, for what you’re doing. We’re grateful for your continued public service.

It’s also a great pleasure for me today to introduce all of you and to introduce U.S. Special Envoy Russ Feingold, former Senator Russ Feingold. The suffering in the Great Lakes which we are going to debate and talk about here today is a high-level priority for President Obama and for me, and it is one that we believe must be met by high-level leadership. I had the pleasure of working in the United States Senate for 18 years with Senator Feingold. And there is no one, in my judgment, in the Senate who was more trusted for his expertise in African issues. He brings enormous intellect, passion, and courage to this challenge. And I am very pleased that he has consented to take this on.

I also bring you the greetings of former Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who asked me to give you a warm good morning and hello. And we chatted briefly before coming here, so I could get the latest tips on exactly what to do and what not to do today.

The United States joins every single one of you in welcoming the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework. It is a very important first step, but we also recognize that the progress the region has made since February is extremely fragile, and the key question before all of us today is whether the commitments prescribed in the framework can be kept, will be kept. Will they come to life, or are they only going to be destined to live on paper?

Let me underscore, the United States stands ready to support the signatories and we will work with you with focus and energy and persistence in order to implement the framework. But as President Obama said, there has to be follow-through. I want to make it clear, in that context, the United States is deeply concerned about recent reports of external – resumed external support to M23 as well as of collaboration with the FDLR.

So I want to be emphatic here today. All parties must immediately end their support for armed rebel groups. All governments must hold human rights violators and abusers accountable. We must end the era of impunity and that, unfortunately, has been rampant.

To this end, the United States welcomes the deployment of the intervention brigade and we support its mandate to neutralize all armed groups and protect civilians so that peace can take hold. We believe that it is now time for everyone in the region to exercise restraint and to return to the constructive path that you have set out for yourselves to move forward together so that we can address the root causes of this conflict and end it once and for all.

I believe this is doable. I believe it is the absence of governance and the absence of an international presence that has created the vacuum that has permitted people to act with the impunity they have acted. I know that moving ahead isn’t easy. I know it takes courage. But we have to all accept that this is our responsibility.

So as the chair of this debate and as a representative of a nation that, like all of yours, has a stake in the stability of the Great Lakes, I want to urge all of us around this table to take advantage of the unique opportunity that the framework provides.

The United States challenges, respectfully, all of those who have committed themselves to the framework to respect, in turn, the national sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the D.R.C. We can’t emphasize enough how critical it is that everyone fosters cooperation across borders.

We challenge everyone to finalize the benchmarks that are outlined in the framework and to adopt them during the UN General Assembly in September. We strongly urge everyone to formally include the voices that Special Envoy Robinson has engaged, voices that have too often been excluded, particularly those of women. And we challenge the D.R.C. to continue implementing reforms to its security sector and to reestablish state authority, particularly in the east.

And finally, we pledge to join the Security Council, the D.R.C., regional governments, and the international community to do everything in our power to achieve a comprehensive peace accord.

Every one of us here understands the complex history of suffering in the Great Lakes region. But we all have a responsibility, a universally endowed responsibility, to ensure that a history of violence is not going to be followed by a future of vengeance. The only way to properly honor the millions of lives that have been lost is through peace, and the only way to achieve that piece is for the United Nations and all of the countries in the region and all of the countries with the capacity to step up and help to show the way forward.

So thank you for the privilege of sharing a few thoughts with you. I will now resume my function as president of the Council, and I give the floor to Secretary General, his Excellency, Mr. Ban Ki-moon.