In the first visit of its kind, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to support a recent peace deal and promote economic development in the long-troubled region.
"This is a critical moment for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes region," Mr. Ban told reporters in the capital, Kinshasa, following a meeting with President Joseph Kabila.
The "unprecedented" joint visit is in support of the UN-brokered peace agreement, which was signed in February by 11 African leaders and aims to end the cycles of conflict and crisis in the eastern DRC and to build peace in wider region.
"We believe it offers the best hope for peace in a generation," Mr. Ban said. "But that agreement must translate into concrete actions. A peace deal must deliver a peace dividend for people.
Coinciding with the visit, the World Bank Group today announced $1 billion in proposed new funding to help countries in the Great Lakes provide better health and education services, generate more cross-border trade, and fund hydroelectricity projects in support of the peace deal.
"We made extraordinary efforts to secure an additional $1 billion in funding because we believe this can be a major contributor to a lasting peace in the Great Lakes region," Mr. Kim said.
"This funding will help revitalize economic development, create jobs, and improve the lives of people who have suffered for far too long. Now the leaders of the Great Lakes region, by restarting economic activity and improving livelihoods in border areas, can boost confidence, build economies, and give new opportunities for millions of people."
In addition to meeting with President Kabila and other Government officials, Mr. Ban and Mr. Kim will also meet parliamentarians and representatives of civil society. As part of their visit, both men will travel tomorrow to the eastern city of Goma.
Recent days have witnessed renewed clashes between rebels from the 23 March Movement (M23) and the DRC national armed forces in Goma, which was the scene of intense fighting late last year.
In March, the UN deployed an intervention brigade within the existing peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) to bring added stability and protect civilians in eastern DRC. The brigade is authorized to carry out targeted offensive operations, with or without the Congolese national army, against armed groups that threaten peace in that part of the country.