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British Embassy Kinshasa celebrates the Queen’s Birthday

On 16 June the British Embassy celebrated the Queen’s Birthday

Ambassador Graham Zebedee delivering his speech

Ambassador Graham Zebedee delivering his speech

Her Majesty’s Ambassador Graham Zebedee addressed the assembled guests as follows,

‘’It is my pleasure to welcome you to the British Embassy this evening to celebrate the official birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

This evening I would like to briefly speak about three documents.

The first concerns the Magna Carta. Yesterday was the 800th anniversary of the signing of this document, in England, between the King and the nobles. It is considered to be the first constitution of any country in the world. It guaranteed the rights of ordinary people and limited the powers of the King. It laid the foundation for the rule of law and democracy in my country. It has influenced the systems of government in many, many countries since then.

Why do I mention this? Because the principles of the Magna Carta are as important now as they were then. Every country requires a system to ensure power is used correctly. Democracy in Great Britain has matured over the 800 years since the Magna Carta. We say that “Rome was not built in a day”, and neither was London.

Congolese democracy is developing much more quickly. The next cycle of elections are almost upon us. Amongst these, the third election for the office of President of the Republic is scheduled to take place in November 2016, and according to the current constitution there will be a transfer of power.
Therefore, next November, President Kabila will be able to look back on what he has achieved during his time in office. The stabilisation of the country from the state of war which existed at the time he became President. Constructive relations with all of Congo’s nine neighbours. A very impressive level of macroeconomic stability. Economic growth which has averaged 6.7% over the last ten years – one of the highest in the world. And, most importantly, a significant reduction in the percentage of those living in extreme poverty.

President Kabila reiterated to me and other Ambassadors last week that his intention is for peaceful, fair, credible elections conducted with full respect for the Constitution. We strongly welcome this message. Such elections will consolidate the stability of this great country and assure the legacy of the President. And they will send the strongest signal possible that the DRC is a country in which everyone can invest for the long term.

The second document is Debout Congolais, and in particular the following line: O peuple ardent, par le labeur, nous bâtirons un pays plus beau qu’avant, dans la paix. I have only recently arrived in Kinshasa, but it is already evident that the Congolese are a passionate, hard-working, peace-loving people. This evening, I will briefly describe how Great Britain is helping the Congolese people build “an ever more beautiful country”.

Firstly, the UK is working with the DRC, including with the Prime Minister, to improve the business environment. DRC’s recent economic growth has been impressive, but there is potential to do much more. This means taxes and regulations which are fair, applied to all, transparent and predictable. Too often we hear of investors who have been discouraged from investing and creating jobs by the current system. But the fact that the World Bank identified DRC as one of the most improved countries in its Doing Business Report shows what progress can be made. Increased and much more diversified private sector activity in DRC can do much more than aid to develop this great country. Harnessing activity in the minerals and hydrocarbons sectors is vital to improve the living standards of Congolese people, but it is not sufficient.

The benefits of this economic growth need to be felt by far more people across the country. The UK is helping, on the one hand, to improve the management of public finances, so that the budget is fully spent, and resources are allocated to the priorities which have been agreed and, on the other, to limit the opportunities for corruption by ensuring that the process is transparent and accountable. This is just one way in which the UK is helping to strengthen state institutions, at national and provincial level.

The UK is also working to more directly meet the needs of the poorest. We are working with Government and NGO partners to help improve service delivery and to strengthen Government systems in health (including malaria prevention), education, water and sanitation and nutrition. So for example in water and sanitation, over 1.5 million Congolese million men, women and children are improving their hygiene practices whilst benefitting from increased access to drinking water and improved sanitation. And in health, since 2011, we have supported 400,000 births with the support of nurses, midwives and doctors and distributed over 4.6m treated malaria bed nets. Our new education programme, delivered jointly with USAID, will provide access to a primary schooling for 450,000 children and improve reading outcomes for almost 1.4 million grade 2 and 4 students in their local language or French.

The benefits of growth need to reach more women and girls. The UK is committed to advancing gender equality at home, and around the world. This is why, in July 2014, we enshrined in law our promise to ensure all our programmes do all they can to improve the lives of women and girls and contribute to reducing gender inequality.

No society or economy can ever succeed where 50% of the population face great obstacles to achieving their potential. Women and girls have little influence over decision-making in the home and in their communities as well as in the public sphere, including at the national level. Harmful beliefs and practices, such as sexual and gender-based violence and early marriage and early pregnancy, further discriminate against them by restricting their choices.

We work to tackle the causes of gender inequality. This year we launched our new programme, La Pépinière, which will work to increase the potential for the economic empowerment of women and girls. It will work to ensure women and girls have increased agency and voice, and in doing so will reduce their vulnerability to sexual and gender-based violence. Through our governance, basic services, humanitarian and peace and stability work, we seek to respond in a gender-sensitive way to the causes as well as the consequences of conflict and human rights abuses, to ensure a joined-up approach to preventing sexual violence in DRC as well as providing improved services for survivors. Finally, our contribution towards lasting peace in the whole country involves tackling the root causes of conflict, inequality and corruption. Where incentives remain to take up arms, we cannot just demobilise the combatants. We have to work together, in coordination, to address the reasons why individuals resort to violence and once and for all agree on what is needed for peace and stability to last.

In all of the above areas the UK works in partnership with other donors, the DRC authorities, civil society and the private sector, in support of the DRC’s agreed development priorities. There are sectors where all of these players work well together. However, too often we see duplication of effort, fine words not translated into actions and commitments not being met. We all – including the UK – need to improve in this area if the DRC is to realise its potential.

Every nation has its own fundamental values. Britain’s values are tolerance, democracy and respect for human rights and the rule of law. We will always work in line with these values.

The third document is an email I received just two weeks ago. The sender, a student here in Kinshasa, had seen that Great Britain is the second largest donor in DRC, with a bilateral programme of $230m per year, without forgetting contributions to multilateral organizations such as the World Bank, African Development Bank and the European Union. Why, she wondered, is Great Britain so engaged in the DRC?

The answer is that we are here because we have a development partnership with the DRC and a deep affection for this country and its people. Successive British Governments have made international development one of their biggest priorities. The Government led by Prime Minister David Cameron has re-committed itself to spending 0.7% of the Gross Domestic Product of the United Kingdom on official development assistance. This is a source of great pride for the British people.
Our aim is nothing less than the eradication of extreme poverty. And about 5% of those people in extreme poverty in the world are, according to the World Bank, in the DRC. So our development partnership with DRC is vital to achieving that aim.

It is absolutely undeniable that the DRC has made a great deal of progress in the last 13 years. However, the DRC will not meet any of the Millennium Development Goals. And its GDP per head, despite strong economic growth, is one of the lowest in the world. It is at or near the bottom of various human development indices. Therefore, it is equally clear that there is still a mountain to climb. But with the support of Great Britain, and other partners, the DRC does not have to climb this mountain alone.

And finally, we are here, as a Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council, to support MONUSCO to fulfill its mandate and to ensure that it does so. A vital element here is the stabilisation of eastern DRC, with an end to the armed groups who are making daily life terrible for so many Congolese people. This requires an integrated military, political and development strategy. This can only happen if the UN and the Congolese government work together, and indeed when they do work together, the results are excellent. And as soon as this has been achieved, it will be time for MONUSCO to leave. No member of the Security Council wishes them to stay a day longer than is necessary.

To conclude, consider the mighty River Congo, on whose banks we are tonight. It is obvious that such a great river belongs to a great nation. And a great nation will surely have a great future. This future is for the Congolese people to decide. But the UK will support them however we can.

And finally, I propose a toast – to His Excellency President Joseph Kabila Kabange, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II!

Long live the United Kingdom!

Long live the Democratic Republic of Congo!

Thank you very much.’’

Published 23 June 2015