In Africa’s Great Lakes region, UNCTAD helps build peace through cross-border trade

25 January 2018

UNCTAD Deputy Secretary General Isabelle Durant joins UN partners to pledge political and logistical support to formerly warring central African countries.

Cross-border trade between nations in the Great Lakes region is crucial to sustaining peace and security in central Africa, UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Isabelle Durant said at a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, on 23 January.

Ms. Durant was representing UNCTAD at a management board meeting of the United Nations Great Lakes Regional Strategic Framework which helps build peaceful links between Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda after years of unrest and instability.

“With our trade and development contribution, we must join forces and support such a beautiful, diverse, fertile area, where, unfortunately, political crises and severe conflicts continue to shake the region with unprecedent consequences for its population,” Ms. Durant said.

Conflicts in the region have triggered the displacement of millions of people within countries and across borders, and extreme violence and poverty is experienced daily, especially by women and children.

“Many of the challenges are regional and demand cross-border collaborative solutions,” Ms Durant added.

Among activities currently underway is returning hundreds of thousands of refugees to Burundi from Tanzania. More than 400,000 people fled Burundi in 2015–2017.

Speaking in this week, Melina Nathan, Peace and Development Advisor, United Nations Development Programme, said: “Thankfully we have women peacebuilders, as well as the local committees that they have helped put in place, to finding peaceful ways of mediating and finding solutions to these challenges.”

Transport and logistics

UNCTAD assistance can help governments increase opportunities for people living near regional borders such as smallholder farmers and other traders by improving rural agriculture transport and logistics services.

“Improvements in rural logistics help farmers to harvest and market crops more efficiently; and by improving rural transport access, they serve to expand the markets for agricultural products and lower transport costs,” Ms. Durant said.

Developing rural transport and logistics networks can result in effective and efficient transport and distribution channels between national and regional markets while improving the quality and value of agricultural products.

Among other things, UNCTAD provides support to the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL) on systems and processes to address trade and non-trade barriers.

UNCTAD also contributes to UN efforts to:

  • Promote economic integration

  • Promote regional private sector access to finance and other support services

  • Promote border communities’ access to agricultural technology

  • Provide capacity support for increased agricultural productivity and output

  • Build regional resilience to climate-related shocks and conditions

Aligning the work of many United Nations bodies under the aegis of Said Djinnit, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, the United Nations Great Lakes Regional Strategic Framework has taken a development approach to normalizing relations between the neighbouring states since it was formulated in 2015–2016.

UNCTAD is the latest agency to participate in the regional trust fund set up to support the framework and will use its leading role in the UN Inter-Agency Cluster on Trade and Productive Capacity to help the framework team to further broaden their work on economic development and trade.