Speech/00/503 Speech by Mr Poul Nielson

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Speech by Mr Poul Nielson

European Commissioner for Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Aid

Conférence des Donateurs pour le Burundi

Conférence des Donateurs pour le Burundi

Paris, 11 December 2000

I remember talking to President Mandela a couple of years ago at the Durban Conference on small business promotion. We discussed mediation. I asked him, “Everybody wants you to deliver miracles, the risks and expectations are in some cases too high, and too many impossible cases exist. How do you decide where to get involved?” He answered, “If there is some structure, some basic framework to relate to, it is possible – otherwise we have to decline”. In the case of Burundi, there was structure and you didn’t decline. We thank you President Mandela for that. This case is not a miracle. The people of Burundi have waited too long for peace. This conference gives us - the donors - an opportunity to show our concrete support for the efforts made to bring peace and a better life to the population. This conference will have an impact on the future of Burundi. Each one represented here should be aware of the responsibilities we have towards making it a success.

All of us wish that this Conference will be a turning point in the history of Burundi – a history that has been marked by a succession of conflicts and ethnic massacres causing the death, exodus or displacement of thousands and thousands of people.

Burundi has made very important progress to consolidating peace during the last months.

The decisive involvement of Mr. Mandela, following the death of Mr. Nyerere, as the Facilitator to the Peace Process has made the signature of the Peace Agreement a reality. His ability to mobilise support from Burundi and abroad, made the signature of the Arusha Agreement possible, for the Implementation Monitoring Committee to be set-up and for this Conference to be convened today.

This conference is a follow-up to the technical meeting hosted by the European Commission in Brussels last September. The Brussels meeting concluded that donors support for the Peace Agreement is a priority which should be based on three main components:

  • Putting in place measures on disarmament, demobilisation and the return to civil life of combatants from the army and other belligerent groups;

  • Continuing and increasing humanitarian emergency operations, especially in relation to internal victims, the voluntary return of refugees and the starting of income generation activities;

  • Restarting progressively budget aid and strengthening development activities while taking into account security conditions and the progress in the peace process.

The expression of these priorities in terms of a programme of development that will improve the quality of life of each and everyone of the population must be seen as a fundamental pillar of the peace process. Consequently, the Implementation Monitoring Committee (IMC) represents a substantial step towards finding a peaceful solution to the Burundi crisis. I am convinced that the implementation of the Peace Agreement by a forum in which all sides in Burundi are represented has tremendous importance for the population as a confidence building measure. I am, therefore, pleased that the European Union has been chosen as the representative of the donor community to the Implementation Monitoring Committee.

This gives the Commission opportunity to provide more than moral support to the search for peace. We hope that the evolution of the internal situation will enable all the political leaders to return to Burundi, in order to repatriate the peace process as soon as possible. All the Burundis must now commit themselves to the implementation of the Agreement. Burundi should disentangle itself from the conflict in DRC and the DRC should disentangle itself from the conflict in Burundi.

The European Commission is ready to support the process both politically and financially. This Conference will be an opportunity to discuss in concrete terms an increase in external assistance to Burundi. This should now shift from humanitarian to rehabilitation and long-term development.

A new development model based on fair distribution of the benefits of progress is essential for the future of the country. It is only now possible because the Burundians themselves have already reached a basic agreement which demonstrates both their willingness and their genuine commitment to peace and reconciliation and their dedication to work for the sustainable development of their country.

In my view, the role of development co-operation is to help ensure that Burundi is able to lay the foundations for economic recovery and diversified growth, aimed at combating poverty. Moreover, the effective management of the co-operation and the fair distribution of its benefits must be guaranteed. This set of objectives will have to be included in a programme of reforms which should establish clear priorities and guidelines for public spending, and which must also include measures concerning the transparent management of public finances. Short-term macro-economic reforms will be required to encourage growth and bring inflation down.

The European Commission will continue to support the peace process and the implementation of the peace agreement. This will require significant financial assistance, because the needs are enormous in all the sectors.

In response to these needs, a Strategy Paper, which encapsulates the framework for long term European Commission co-operation with Burundi has been approved. A National Indicative Programme of 65M€ is to be discussed and signed. It will support the implementation phase of the Peace Agreement by contributing to the economic, physical and political reconstruction of the country. Furthermore, 43M€ STABEX funds will be a complement by re-launching the rural economy – this is what has been signed here today between myself and the Burundian authorities

Moreover, as I announced in Geneva last October, we intend to support in concrete terms the repatriation of refugees to Burundi with a contribution of € 25 million to the UNHCR plan – which is intended to cover the cost of the repatriation of 350,000 refugees who fled to Tanzania after the crisis in 1993. Our humanitarian assistance, provided through ECHO, - will of course, be continued.

In summary, in order to assist the peace process and to respond to the socio-economic needs of the population, the European Commission has earmarked more than € 150 million for commitment in 2001.

However, this contribution would only be effective and have its required impact on poverty reduction if it is used efficiently. This is a responsibility to be shared by the Government of Burundi and the donor community. Strong adherence to agreed conditions and strong co-ordination will be needed.

The Burundians have proved that they are committed to the political settlement of their conflict. This meeting represents an opportunity for the International Community to give a strong political signal that it supports the progress made and that it supports all those who are committed to the political rather than the military option. We know that, even if the hostilities and the violence have not yet stopped, you will do the best to bring to the peace process to embrace also those who are not yet part of it. This is the only way to facilitate the social, physical and political reconstruction of Burundi and to lay a new foundation for its long-term development. What we are now witnessing is not a miracle. Just like war, peace was also man made.

Thank you.

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