A high-level conference of Burundi's development partners concluded today at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, where more than 400 public and private representatives from a range of countries from the United States to the United Emirates, UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes, the European Union, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and African Development Bank met for two days to identify ways to support the country's continued progress in reducing poverty and ensuring sustainable livelihoods.
The Government of Burundi had hoped to mobilize $1.1 billion to support its development plan, "but we ended up with more than $2 billion registered commitments at the conference," said Pamphile Muderega, permanent secretary of the National Aid Coordination Committee. "This represents a doubling of our already optimistic expectations."
The normalization of political life has been a remarkable achievement in Burundi, said Rosine Sori-Coulibaly, United Nations Resident Coordinator and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General in Burundi. Burundi's remarkable development achievements are coming just seven years after the civil war ended, in which ethnic violence between Hutus and Tutsis resulted in more than 200,000 deaths, forced 48,000 refugees into Tanzania, and displaced 140,000 others internally. With support from the United Nations, free, fair and peaceful elections took place in 2005 and 2010 and safety and security has been reinforced across the entire national territory.
"Burundi is now out of the post-conflict period and is truly committed to the path of development," said Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza. "Economic growth has risen from -1.2% in 2003 to 4.2% in 2011; and indicators of maternal and infant mortality have declined significantly."
Nkurunziza said Burundi is a country rich in talent, natural resources and economic opportunities, armed with a determined and hardworking people. "I cannot say it enough, the citizens of my country show an intangible desire to move towards a better future," he said.
Despite these achievements, Nkurunziza said Burundi remains one of the poorest countries in the world and has faced considerable challenges linked principally to the breakdown of social cohesion, the slowing down of economic development and an increase in poverty.
To address these challenges, vice president Gervais Rufyikiri said his government is seeking support for the implementation of its second Poverty Reduction Strategy which focuses on growth, job creation and the development of a dynamic private sector, with agribusiness, tourism and mining in particular showing strong potential as key drivers of economic growth
"The strategic plan estimates that US$ 2.1 billion is needed to achieve the objectives of the CSLPII. The Government will pay 48% of this amount and it is expected that as a result of the Geneva Conference, development partners will support the remaining 52%," he said.
Jordan Ryan, Assistant UNDP Administrator and Director of the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, said Burundi stands at a critical crossroad in its history, energized by the progress made so far, but conscious of the many challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. "The Government, supported by civil society, projects a sound, clear vision of equitable economic growth that is socially, environmentally, ecologically, and financially sustainable in the medium and long term," he said.
UNDP, which supported the organization of the Geneva Conference, will be actively involved in the implementation of CSLPII, said Xavier Michon, UNDP Burundi Country Director. "UNDP has been heavily involved in recent years in supporting the transition from crisis to development," he said. "UNDP will continue to plan an active role in mobilizing the international community, supporting aid coordination, strengthening good governance and reducing corruption."
Also present at the conference were more than 30 private sector and non-profit organizations offering creative solutions to poverty reduction in Burundi through, for example, employment creation. Greg Stone, Executive Director of Rwanda Partners, said his organization has created tens of thousands of jobs in Rwanda and Uganda, linking them with markets in the United States. "Our primary sales channel is the 66.5 million customers of Costco, which has 608 stores worldwide. We now seek to include Burundi in our business model, which - as a non-profit- channels all profits back to human development in Africa."