On October 2nd, IPI, in partnership with the UN missions of Burundi and Switzerland, held a roundtable discussion on Burundi’s strategy for poverty reduction and peacebuilding—a meeting anticipating a forum of development partners in Geneva on October 29-30th, 2012.
The upcoming Partners’ Conference is organized by the government of Burundi with the support of UNDP, the World Bank, the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), Switzerland, and other European countries to present the government’s recently adopted second-generation Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP-2 or CSLP II in French) and mobilize support for it.
Warren Hoge, IPI’s Senior Adviser for External Relations, made opening remarks, and Laurent Kavakure, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Burundi, his high-level delegation, and Paul Seger, Chair of the Burundi Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission and Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations, addressed the wide group of representatives from traditional and non-traditional development partners, the region, UNDP, the World Bank, and NGOs. Participants had an open discussion on the expectations and outcomes of the Partners’ Conference.
The roundtable produced the following conclusions:
1. The Geneva Partners’ Conference will be the opportunity for development partners to reiterate their support to Burundi in order to consolidate its peacebuilding achievements through economic growth and job creation over the next four years. Important reforms in the area of good governance were noted, including the adoption of a National Strategy for Good Governance, the setting up of a single Burundi Revenue Office, and the establishment of an Independent National Human Rights Commission, as well as of an Ombudsman. But in spite of these and progress in education and health sectors, the economic recovery has been slow and poverty reduction remains a major challenge in a context of high population growth and low private sector investments.
2. The Geneva Conference aims at mobilizing financial, material and political support for the implementation of the PRSP-2. It will have the dual objective of reinforcing the strategic partnership with traditional partners (some of which indicated they already or will soon increase their bilateral support to Burundi) as well as of widening this partnership to non-traditional donor countries (some of which already confirmed their interest and upcoming participation in the Geneva meeting). It will also be inclusive of Burundian civil society and private sector, as well as international investors, NGOs, foundations, and development agencies.
3. Partners encouraged Burundi to present in Geneva a smaller number of priority areas requiring the most urgent support in the short term, among the many priorities listed in the four strategic pillars of the PRSP-2. They also suggested that Burundi presents clear ideas of what support in these areas would achieve. Should a final communiqué be adopted at the end of the Geneva conference, some partners suggested it should be a joint communiqué of the government of Burundi and its partners that express mutual accountability.
4. While overall positive and supportive, some partners suggested the upcoming conference will also be the opportunity for Burundi to present a new face, and demonstrate its commitment to democracy and human rights while addressing some of the difficult outstanding peacebuilding issues. While acknowledging important progress, some partners indicated the need for continued progress in areas of justice (including transitional justice) and human rights (including the need to address impunity in the case of extrajudicial killings), and the freedom of press. They also spoke of the importance of implementing the new National Strategy for Good Governance, and of continuing political dialogue and openness with extra parliamentary opposition ahead of the 2015 elections.
5. The importance of the regional and sub-regional partnerships for the economic future of Burundi as a landlocked country but a potential hub was highlighted. Representatives of the region expressed solidarity and support for Burundi which they described as an exemplary partner, and highlighted the importance continued regional cooperation – including through South-South cooperation- and for the international community to remain engaged and build on this regional cooperation. They praised the active role of Burundi in the sub-region, having joined the East African Community (EAC), which it chaired in 2011, and being a member and the host of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), which plays an important role in sub-regional peace efforts in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Last but not least, participants recognized Burundi’s significant contribution to regional peace and the fight against extremism under the flag of the African Union forces in Somalia (AMISOM) since 2007.