Democratic Republic of the Congo: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation condemns killing of six guards in Virunga National Park

The Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, today (April 10, 2018) condemed the deadly attack perpetrated on 9 April against the staff of the Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, during which six guards and their driver lost their lives.

“I condemn this deadly attack on six guards of the Virunga National Park and their driver. I call on the Democratic Republic of the Congo to take all the necessary legal measures to put an end to these repetitive attacks,” said Ms Azoulay.

This is the third attack this year against the staff of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation in the Virunga Park, and follows similar acts on other World Heritage sites in Central Africa, in Dja and Sangha Tri-National. Since 1996, attacks in the Virunga National Park have claimed over 175 victims.

The Director-General calls on the international community to help the Institute ensure the safety of local people and staff. With the support of the European Union, UNESCO has been investing for several years in strengthening human capacity and resources of World Heritage Sites in the countries of central Africa that are facing security challenges.

The Director-General pays tribute to the courage of the guards who risk their lives to ensure the protection of this heritage.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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Pursuing peace and stability in the Great Lakes region

Statement by Ambassador Karen Pierce, UK Permanent Representative to the UN, at Security Council meeting on the situation in the Great Lakes region:

Thank you very much indeed Mr President.

I wanted to take the floor because we are at an important point in this region, but I also wanted to welcome the SRSG back to the Council, and through him, to thank the UN mission for everything they are doing. It is also extremely helpful to have the update from the Ambassador of Congo.

I would like to start by saying to my good friend, the Ambassador of Equatorial Guinea, that it isn’t a modest contribution that his country makes, it is much more than that.

Mr President, its been five years since the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF) was signed. It has proved to be a crucial framework for pursuing peace and stability in the Great Lakes region. But as the SRSG and the Ambassador from Congo have spelt out the DRC has always been at the centre of the framework. The situation in the DRC, the nerve centre, effects the stability of the region. As this Council has discussed in recent days, we are now at a critical juncture. What happens in the DRC over the next few months could be a defining moment in greater regional stability. We have a choice, Mr President, between seeing the situation improve or being overturned.

The United Kingdom, for our part, remains committed to supporting the implementation of the PSCF and we support free, fair and credible elections in DRC in December. We welcome the progress that has been made in the five years since the signing of the framework and I’d like to highlight the increase in the participation of women and a commitment to greater regional and international cooperation in the course of advancing peace and security.

That said Mr President, we are concerned that implementation of key elements has not made progress and this includes the repatriation of foreign combatants. As the Ambassador from Congo highlighted, we welcome efforts to reinvigorate the framework and urge all signatories to implement the framework in full, and we are very supportive of what the SRSG had to say on judicial issues. We are also concerned by the continued proliferation of violence in DRC, particularly in North and South Kivu, Tanganyika, Ituri and the Kasais. The results of this instability has indeed been devastating. 4.5 million Congolese have fled their homes and communities. There are more internally displaced people in DRC than anywhere else in Africa. And over 13.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. So we support the other calls in the Council, Mr President, for regional players to come together in the interest of stability in the coming months. And I would like to endorse what the French Ambassador said about the importance of that regional cooperation.

Mr President, I’d like to conclude by talking about elections. Credible and constitutional elections are the only way to end the political crisis and achieve stability in DRC and we urge the signatories of the framework to ensure that peaceful and credible elections can take place in December 2018. This means that the electoral calendar needs to be respected and key milestones must be met and the confidence building measures of the 2016 December Agreement need to be implemented in full. This critically includes the freeing of political prisoners and the opening of political space and peaceful demonstrations. It is a region Mr President that is in all our interest and the United Kingdom pledges to work together with partners to achieve progress.

I have some other remarks, Mr President, on some other aspects of the region and framework but I will save those for consultations.

Thank you.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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Pursuing peace and stability in the Great Lakes region

Statement by Ambassador Karen Pierce, UK Permanent Representative to the UN, at Security Council meeting on the situation in the Great Lakes region:

Thank you very much indeed Mr President.

I wanted to take the floor because we are at an important point in this region, but I also wanted to welcome the SRSG back to the Council, and through him, to thank the UN mission for everything they are doing. It is also extremely helpful to have the update from the Ambassador of Congo.

I would like to start by saying to my good friend, the Ambassador of Equatorial Guinea, that it isn’t a modest contribution that his country makes, it is much more than that.

Mr President, its been five years since the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF) was signed. It has proved to be a crucial framework for pursuing peace and stability in the Great Lakes region. But as the SRSG and the Ambassador from Congo have spelt out the DRC has always been at the centre of the framework. The situation in the DRC, the nerve centre, effects the stability of the region. As this Council has discussed in recent days, we are now at a critical juncture. What happens in the DRC over the next few months could be a defining moment in greater regional stability. We have a choice, Mr President, between seeing the situation improve or being overturned.

The United Kingdom, for our part, remains committed to supporting the implementation of the PSCF and we support free, fair and credible elections in DRC in December. We welcome the progress that has been made in the five years since the signing of the framework and I’d like to highlight the increase in the participation of women and a commitment to greater regional and international cooperation in the course of advancing peace and security.

That said Mr President, we are concerned that implementation of key elements has not made progress and this includes the repatriation of foreign combatants. As the Ambassador from Congo highlighted, we welcome efforts to reinvigorate the framework and urge all signatories to implement the framework in full, and we are very supportive of what the SRSG had to say on judicial issues. We are also concerned by the continued proliferation of violence in DRC, particularly in North and South Kivu, Tanganyika, Ituri and the Kasais. The results of this instability has indeed been devastating. 4.5 million Congolese have fled their homes and communities. There are more internally displaced people in DRC than anywhere else in Africa. And over 13.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. So we support the other calls in the Council, Mr President, for regional players to come together in the interest of stability in the coming months. And I would like to endorse what the French Ambassador said about the importance of that regional cooperation.

Mr President, I’d like to conclude by talking about elections. Credible and constitutional elections are the only way to end the political crisis and achieve stability in DRC and we urge the signatories of the framework to ensure that peaceful and credible elections can take place in December 2018. This means that the electoral calendar needs to be respected and key milestones must be met and the confidence building measures of the 2016 December Agreement need to be implemented in full. This critically includes the freeing of political prisoners and the opening of political space and peaceful demonstrations. It is a region Mr President that is in all our interest and the United Kingdom pledges to work together with partners to achieve progress.

I have some other remarks, Mr President, on some other aspects of the region and framework but I will save those for consultations.

Thank you.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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International Monetary Fund Staff Completes Visit to Niger

  • Staff-level agreement was reached with the authorities on economic and financial policies that could support completion of the second program review
  • Economic activity expanded by 4.9 percent in 2017, with growth of 5.2 percent expected for 2018.
  • Performance in implementing the government’s program supported by the IMF under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) remains satisfactory.

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff team led by Christoph A. Klingen visited Niamey from March 28 to April 10, 2018 to conduct discussions on the second review of the program supported by the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement. [1] Niger’s program was approved by the IMF Board on January 23, 2017.

At the end of the visit, Mr. Klingen issued the following statement:

“The Nigerien authorities and the IMF team have reached a staff-level agreement for the completion of the second review of the ECF-supported program. IMF Executive Board consideration is tentatively scheduled for June 2018.

“Niger’s overall macroeconomic performance remains strong and reforms, together with support from technical and financial partners, open a window of opportunity for the years ahead. Despite security challenges, unfavorable uranium prices, and a less-favorable-than-expected crop year, real GDP grew by 4.9 percent in 2017, helped by a rebound in oil production and strong activity in the construction and telecommunication sectors. Real GDP is expected to grow by 5.2 percent in 2018, driven mainly by energy and service sectors, and construction activity related to preparations for the 2019 African Union Summit. It should rise further over the medium run, as reform efforts and the absorption of foreign assistance pay off. Inflation came to a moderate 2.4 percent in 2017, notwithstanding an uptick in the last quarter. During 2018, it is expected to recede rapidly from the current transitory levels to its well-contained historical norm, in part thanks to the sale of cereals at moderate price under the government support plan for vulnerable people.

“All quantitative performance criteria for end-December 2017 under the government’s economic and financial program have been observed. The overall fiscal deficit declined significantly, while spending on poverty reduction was protected. Targets for net domestic financing and the reduction of domestic payment arrears were met by a large margin. However, revenues fell well short of expectations, reflecting in part the reduction in telecommunications taxes, delayed sales of telecommunications licenses, and adverse economic circumstances outside the control of government. The strong revenue performance in the first quarter of 2018 signals a turn-around though, with the envisaged revenue for the full year well within reach.

“For the remainder of 2018, the basic fiscal balance is set to improve to 4 percent of GDP, firmly putting Niger on the path to reaching the WAEMU convergence criterion for the overall fiscal deficit of 3 percent of GDP by 2021, while providing space to absorb the scaling up of external financial support pledged for the PDES 2017-21. Achieving these objectives is predicated on the continuation of the encouraging revenue performance in early 2018, backed by a strong push to systematically strengthen tax and customs administration, guided by performance plans, fighting petroleum smuggling, and collecting tax arrears. Other fiscal structural reforms will also be advanced, including the strengthening of debt management, fully harnessing program budgeting, digitalizing fiscal payments, and implementing the treasury single account.

“The authorities and the team also discussed policies to develop a strong private sector and address fast population growth. They agreed that progress on both fronts is essential for a sustained improvement of living standards and poverty reduction. Commendable strides have been made to improve the business environment and leaning against population growth. Deepening the financial sector and improving access to finance are key items for the reform agenda going forward.

“The team met with President Issoufou Mahamadou and Prime Minister Brigi Rafini. It also met with Minister of Finance Massoudou Hassoumi, the President of the Court of Accounts, Ministers in charge of Planning, Agriculture and Petroleum, the Minister Delegate for the Budget, the National Director of the BCEAO, as well as other senior government officials. Staff also met with representatives of civil society, the private sector, and the donor community.

“The team would like to thank the authorities for their hospitality and for the constructive discussions.”

[1] The Extended Credit Facility (ECF) is the IMF’s main tool for medium-term financial support to low-income countries. Financing under the ECF carries a zero interest rate, with a grace period of 5½ years, and a final maturity of 10 years.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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