The United Nations today called on the international community to provide critical additional aid to the Central African Republic (CAR) to prevent a resumption of conflict in an impoverished country that is a prime target of UN efforts to consolidate peace in once violence-torn nations.
“Long-term stabilization and sustainable development require renewed commitment from the country’s regional and international partners,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a high-level event at UN Headquarters in New York on the margins of a summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
For the past two years CAR, which has seen significant ethnic conflict in its north as well as an overflow of violence from neighbouring Chad and Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region, has been on the agenda of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, an intergovernmental advisory body of UN entities and Member States, international financial institutions and others set up in 2006 to coordinate the world community’s aid in post-conflict countries.
CAR has been “a kind of forgotten country,” Mr. Ban’s Special Representative Sahle-Work Zewde told reporters.
“So this kind of event will definitely bring the CAR on the radar screen. It’s a post-conflict country with daunting challenges,” she said, citing delayed elections, now scheduled for next year, and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) progress that seeks to consolidate peace in a country that has been torn by civil war, ethnic fighting and political crises. “At this juncture it’s very important to have a renewed international interest.”
Mr. Ban stressed that in particular the reintegration component of the DDR programme needed to be developed fully as soon as possible to consolidate the peace accords between the Government and former rebels. “Both demobilized fighters and host communities affected by conflict need incentives and positive prospects for life after disarmament,” he said.
He noted that while in some parts of the country, the northwest in particular, DDR was under way and completion of the verification process there was an encouraging sign, there were still considerable security and political obstacles in the north and east.
CAR has already received tens of millions of dollars from the Commission’s Peacebuilding Fund to support security sector reform, economic revitalization and the rule of law.
“I think it has the potential of becoming a good story,” Ambassador Jan Grauls of Belgium, head of the Commission’s efforts for CAR, told reporters. “Up to a couple of years ago, nobody talked about the CAR, it is as if it had been erased from the map. It had become a kind of forgotten emergency.” But then peace accords were signed between the warring parties.
“The Central African Republic deserves to be looked at with other eyes,” he said. “It’s not the Central African Republic any more [that] it used to be, that’s in our memories, but it’s changing and it’s changing for the better, and it deserves the support of the international community.”
If the elections and the DDR are completed successfully, a donors’ conference will be held next spring, he added.
Those attending today’s event included CAR President François Bozizé, and high-level representatives of the World Bank, existing and potential donor countries, and regional organizations.