UNITED NATIONS-- The United Nations says successful elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are crucial for peace and stability in the wider Great Lakes region of Central Africa.

Credible and inclusive elections in the DRC, followed by a peaceful transfer of power, will have a positive effect on peace, stability and development in the wider Great Lakes region, speakers said here Tuesday as the UN Security Council debated regional developments, including humanitarian concerns and the activities of armed groups.

Said Djinnit, the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, urged the Council "to remain united" in its support for the implementation of the Dec 31, 2016 political agreement among Congolese political leaders under which elections would be held on Dec. 23, 2018 to pick a successor to President Joseph Kabila.

"The Great Lakes was among Africa's most volatile and complex regions, but it was also one that could make a meaningful contribution to the continent's stability and development," said Djinnit, who encouraged the Council to keep urging the parties concerned to work toward the common goal of peace, stability and sustainable development for the region and its populations.

Ignace Gata Mavita wa Lufuta, the permanent representative of the DRC to the UN, said the country was undoubtedly "the nerve centre" of the Great Lakes region, adding that the task at hand is to help that country regain stability so it could become a catalyst for lasting peace in the wider region.

In that regard, he added, the international community must mobilize around regional efforts with strengthened co-ordination and co-operation.

In the ensuing debate, which followed the Council's renewal on March 27 of the mandate of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), several speakers drew a link between the forthcoming elections and improving the lives of millions in the wider Great Lakes region.

Many drew attention to other challenges, too, including human rights abuses, the humanitarian situation in the eastern part of the DRC and the flow of refugees and internally displaced persons.

French Permanent Representative to the UN Francois Delattre emphasized the importance of elections in the DRC and a peaceful handover of power, stating that regional stability is at stake.

Respect for human rights and the electoral calendar is key, he asserted, underscoring the role of regional organizations as well as the need to confront armed groups and the illicit trafficking in natural resources.

Also speaking were representatives of Britain, Russia, China, Cote d'Ivoire, Kazakhstan, Sweden, Kuwait, Netherlands, Bolivia, Poland and Peru.