4776th Meeting (AM)
SECURITY COUNCIL, REACTING TO GUINEA-BISSAU’S FRAGILE POLITICAL SITUATION,
URGES PURPOSEFUL EFFORT TO PUT PEACE-BUILDING AGENDA ‘BACK ON TRACK’
Presidential Statement Appeals for Credible Elections, without Violence;
Joint Council, ECOSOC Advisory Group Mission Will Visit Country Next Week
The Security Council this morning, reacting to the fragile political situation in Guinea-Bissau in anticipation of its mission to the country next week, urged the country’s leaders and the international community to work more purposefully together to ensure that the development, humanitarian and peace-building agendas were “quickly put back on track”.
In a presidential statement read by Council President Sergey Lavrov (Russian Federation), to be issued as S/PRST/2003/8, the Council appealed to the President and Government of the country to ensure the transparency and credibility of forthcoming legislative elections, scheduled for 6 July, which it expected would be carried out in the presence of international observers and with no violence and intimidation directed at political candidates.
The Council expressed its hope that, following those elections, the Government would show further proof of its commitment to democracy and the rule of law by promulgating a new Constitution and electing the President and Vice-President of the Supreme Court. The Council also called on the Government to facilitate a constructive dialogue with the international community and Bretton Woods institutions, and take measures to improve the human rights situation.
The Council’s mission to the country will be conducted jointly with members of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau, and will be the first stop for the Council in an overall mission to West Africa.
Prior to the adoption of the presidential statement, the Council was briefed by the Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Peace-building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS), David Stephen, and the Chairman of the ECOSOC Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau, Dumisani S. Kumalo (South Africa), who was representing the ECOSOC President.
Members of the Council were told that amid political and institutional instability, electoral uncertainty had continued to generate tensions, as the question of the promulgation of the revised Constitution remained unresolved.
Mr. Stephen informed the Council members that, earlier this month, an electoral needs assessment mission of the Department of Political Affairs had determined that it was not technically feasible for the elections to be held on 6 July, as planned, and urged the authorities to undertake the planned electoral census with a minimum of delay. While President Koumba Yala had concurred with the view that the polling date could not be maintained, the Government had yet to announce publicly that elections had been postponed.
Overall, the situation in the country had worsened, he said. The opposition continued to accuse the Government of restrictions of civil liberties; and donors had conditioned financial support for the elections on the creation by the Government of conditions propitious to credible elections. The “caretaker” Government continued in office, while the National Assembly remained dissolved. Judicial institutions continued to be weak.
Mr. Kumalo agreed, adding that the upcoming joint visit to Guinea-Bissau would offer an opportunity to engage the authorities in finding a way out of that situation. ECOSOC’s objectives were: to promote a dialogue with the authorities of Guinea-Bissau; to appeal to the internationally recognized and representative Government to take measures to prepare for the forthcoming elections; to promote better understanding between Guinea-Bissau authorities and the donor community; and to address the humanitarian situation in the country.
Participating in the discussion were representatives of Guinea-Bissau, Gambia (in his capacity as Chair of the Group of Friends of Guinea-Bissau), Angola, Germany, United States, Guinea, China, Chile, Mexico, Cameroon, Syria, France, Pakistan, Bulgaria, Spain, United Kingdom and the Russian Federation.
The meeting started at 10:43 a.m. and adjourned at 12:33 p.m.
The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Guinea-Bissau, for which it had before it a report of the Secretary-General on developments there and on the activities of the United Nations Peace-building Support Office in that country (document S/2003/621).
The report recalls that the Council, at its consultations on 8 July 2002, had asked the Secretary-General to submit a written report every six months. In his previous report of 13 December 2002, the Secretary-General had noted that the political, economic and social situation in Guinea-Bissau remained of great concern. The present report covers developments since then, focusing, in particular, on conditions in the country in advance of early legislative elections scheduled for 6 July 2003.
The Secretary-General observes that the situation has worsened. There is now a consensus that Guinea-Bissau, which had seemed so promising following the ending of the 1998-1999 armed conflict and the holding of free and fair general elections, is now once against embarked on a downward course. Every effort should be made by the country’s leaders, therefore, to ensure that the rehabilitation and peace-building agendas can be put back on track.
The forthcoming legislative elections are widely seen as a crucial test of Guinea-Bissau’s young democratic process, the report states. At the request of President Koumba Yala, the United Nations is currently providing technical assistance to the National Electoral Commission and would be prepared to coordinate international observation. As the Secretary-General had informed the President, however, should the United Nations determine that conditions are not conducive for free, fair and credible elections, the Organization should reconsider its assistance. In that regard, he has decided to dispatch another electoral mission to Guinea-Bissau to review the situation.
Amid political and institutional instability, electoral uncertainty has continued to generate tensions, as the question of the promulgation of the revised Constitution remains unresolved, the report says. President Yala has continued to argue that, since the National Assembly is not functioning, it is not possible either to make progress on the constitutional issue or to hold elections for the post of President and Vice-President of the Supreme Court of Justice until a new National Assembly has been elected.
The lack of progress in the constitutional and electoral spheres has been mirrored by a “general deterioration in the political climate”, the report finds. Opposition leaders have continued to accuse the Government of arbitrary executive decisions, restrictions imposed on independent media, harassment of political opponents by security officials, the imposition of travel bans on prominent personalities, and limitation of access to the mass media by political parties. Meanwhile, preparations for the elections rescheduled for 6 July have been “extremely slow”.
Regarding military and security aspects, the report states that the situation along the border with Senegal continues to be calm, and the security measures put in place two years ago have been largely successful in preventing incursions into Guinea-Bissau’s territory by armed elements of the separatist Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC). In a gesture of good-neighbourliness and to promote peace and stability in the subregion, President Yala has indicated his willingness to hold in Bissau consultations involving faction of the MFDC at the request of President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal.
The report also covers human rights and economic and social aspects. It states that the former has become more fragile, reflecting and, at the same time, adding to the general instability. There have been frequent cases of intimidation of political opponents and several prominent personalities have been prevented from travelling abroad. The monopoly of national radio and television broadcasting facilities by the ruling party and the Government has engendered the opposition’s frustration and mistrust. At the same time, the private media have been subjected to repressive measures.
In addition, the report states that the worsening social and economic situation of the population has continued to sharpen political tensions. With accumulated salary and wage arrears owed by the Government now amounting to approximately $11 million, public dissatisfaction and frustration has resulted in periodic strikes by public sector workers. In the absence of financial resources, the Government was forced to pay some workers in rice, with one 50-kilogram bag being distributed to civil servants and two bags to members of the armed forces.
The report notes that the United Nations Development Programe (UNDP) has been assisting and supporting the preparations of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, an essential component of further dialogue between the Government and the development community. In the second half of 2002, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ended attempts to revive the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility, which has remained off-track, and suggested the formulation by the authorities of an alternative staff-monitored programme to provide the framework for the donors to decide on the effectiveness and continuation of their assistance. But, further discussions have been postponed until after the elections.
The political will of the international community to provide support to Guinea-Bissau and its people is palpable, the report says. This is evidenced, for example, by the creative instruments and programmes of the Bretton Woods institutions to help alleviate the most pressing needs of the population. The Secretary-General welcomes their continued engagement and encourages other international partners to be equally engaged. The country’s elected leaders have a “sacred responsibility” to put the people’s needs above all other considerations and create basic conditions for democratic governance, peace and stability, the Secretary-General says.
Briefing the Council, DAVID STEPHEN, Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Peace-building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS), said that the report before the Council was the fourteenth report on the developments in Guinea-Bissau and activities of the Office there. Following his last briefing in March, the Council in a statement to the press had expressed concern at the political instability in the country and appealed to the Government to ensure that the forthcoming legislative elections –- scheduled for 6 July --were conducted in a transparent, fair and credible manner.
Since his March briefing, he continued, the overall situation in the country had worsened. The opposition continued to accuse the Government of restrictions of civil liberties. Donors had conditioned financial support for the elections on the creation by the Government of conditions propitious to credible elections. The “caretaker” Government continued in office, while the National Assembly remained dissolved. Judicial institutions continued to be weak.
He said that, at President Yala’s request, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had continued to provide technical assistance to the National Electoral Commission. His own Office would be prepared to coordinate international observation, should conditions on the ground be conducive for free and fair elections. To reassess the electoral preparations on the ground, an electoral needs assessment mission of the Electoral Assistance Division of the Department of Political Affairs had visited the country in June. It had determined that it was not technically feasible for the elections to be held on 6 July and urged the authorities to undertake the planned electoral census with a minimum of delay. While the President had concurred with the view that the polling date could not be maintained, the Government had yet to announce publicly that elections had been postponed. However, some progress had been made in launching voter registration.
It was encouraging that the country remained peaceful, but, regrettably, the economic situation remained critical, he said. Non-payment of salaries by the Government had raised the level of social frustration. The Government had, however, told the trade unions that it intended to pay the wages soon. Since the report had been completed, there had been new cabinet changes. This month, the former Minister of Defence and President Yala’s political adviser, detained since April, had been provisionally released.
To conclude, he highlighted the observations section of the report, saying that every effort should be made by the country’s elected leaders to put the country back on track. To regain the confidence of the donor community, concrete measures needed to be taken to ensure the holding of credible legislative elections and to guarantee respect for the civil rights and liberties of the population. The people of the country needed support of the international community.
Despite concerns about setbacks in peace consolidation and economic recovery of Guinea-Bissau, he said the United Nations mechanisms, including the Bretton Woods institutions and the United Nations country team on the ground, needed to remain engaged. The Ad Hoc Working Group of the Security Council on conflict prevention and resolution in Africa, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Ad Hoc Working Group on Guinea-Bissau and the Group of Friends continued to explore ways to help the country. The forthcoming mission of the Council to the country was a welcome initiative. The Secretary-General hoped that the mission would further encourage a productive and constructive dialogue between the Government and the international community.
DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa), Chairman of the ECOSOC Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau and representing the ECOSOC President, said it was significant that there would be a joint visit by members of the Council and of the ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau next week. That would convey a collective message that there was a wish to strengthen the confidence between the country’s people and their international partners. Emerging from conflict, Guinea-Bissau three years ago had received post-conflict assistance from donors and the Bretton Woods institutions and was among countries that had benefited from the enhanced Heavily-Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. However, the country might be sliding back towards chaos and even conflict.
At present, he said, Guinea-Bissau existed in a gray area and presented the international community with a unique challenge. Council instruments employed to maintain international peace and security did not apply to the country, he said, and the country did not qualify for the instruments that donors and the Bretton Woods institutions provided to countries in the post-conflict phase.
For several months, Guinea-Bissau had awaited a parliamentary election that had already been once postponed, he continued. Support for the elections was provided, although the conditions for holding free and fair parliamentary elections appeared to be missing. However, the fact that a national election had been held a few years ago that was declared free and fair was encouraging. He urged the international community to give the necessary support for a credible election. As long as Guinea-Bissau did not have a parliament, the questions of governance would remain discouraging donors from providing desperately needed assistance.
He said the humanitarian situation in Guinea-Bissau was worsening all the time. Hundreds of children died from hunger and preventable diseases, and civil servants had not been paid for months. He was encouraged that the Bretton Woods institutions continued to send missions to help create systems under which the country could receive and manage international aid. Despite signs of willingness by the international community to assist the country, the world expected more from the Government. The uncertainty of the political situation had an impact on addressing humanitarian needs.
The upcoming joint visit to Guinea-Bissau would offer an opportunity to engage the authorities in finding a way out of that situation, he said. ECOSOC’s objectives were: to promote a dialogue with the authorities of Guinea-Bissau; to appeal to the internationally recognized and representative Government to take measures to prepare for the forthcoming elections; to promote better understanding between Guinea-Bissau authorities and the donor community; and to address the humanitarian situation in the country.
LUZERIA DOS SANTOS JALO (Guinea-Bissau) said the creation of the Advisory Group on Conflict Prevention in Countries Emerging from Conflict had been a welcome development. Guinea-Bissau was one of those countries. The political, economic and social situation in the country remained of great concern. The report had some very positive recommendations. She appealed to the international community not to give up on helping the people and Government to find their way out of the profound crisis.
Among positive aspects mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report were those of the military and security, she said. The World Bank had begun to help the Government find ways to feed the children. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) was promoting a programme for early childhood development and food assistance. She was aware of the fact that the Government had to do more to improve security, in order to move to development and peace, and appealed to the international community to support those efforts. There was a problem -- if one waited until everything was in place for elections, the country would continue to suffer in the meantime. She thanked Italy, Japan and other countries that had helped in the emergency situation.
CRISPIN GREY-JOHNSON (Gambia) said that he was speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Group of Friends of Guinea-Bissau. Today’s meeting was yet another opportunity for reflection on a post-conflict phenomenon that the case of Guinea-Bissau had come to represent. It was a country that, for all intents and purposes, was still stuck in transition to full democracy, even though some years back it had been able to conduct multi-party elections that were deemed to be free and fair. The country’s institutions were extremely weak and the political culture that would allow for a meaningful operation of a multi-party parliamentary system was still in the making.
It was to the credit of the Council that it had come to realize that in the transition of soft States from conflict to democracy, there were many gray areas, he continued, and difficult periods through which the country in question needed to be assisted and guided. Hence, the joint effort with the Economic and Social Council to work out appropriate courses of action through the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau. Having participated in the work of the Advisory Group, he shared its frustration at the difficulty of bringing its work to a meaningful conclusion.
Although the temptation was to hastily place the blame for the lack of progress at Guinea-Bissau’s feet, everybody knew that, in making certain demands, the Council might be asking the country to shoulder certain responsibilities that were clearly beyond its strength. Countries emerging from conflict had severely reduced capacities, and Guinea-Bissau fell within that category. Yet, because Guinea-Bissau had been able to hold multi-party elections that were deemed to have been free and fair, the international system expected it to demonstrate similar strengths in other key areas.
Furthermore, he continued, the country was penalized for failing to perform to expectations. In that way, Guinea-Bissau had suffered under an unofficial regime of sanctions over the last several years. Development support had all but trickled to a halt, in the context of a severe economic crisis. The social situation remained dire. The UNICEF had informed the ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Group that 1,000 children under the age of five died each month in Guinea-Bissau, which had a total population of 1.2 million. By any standard, that was unacceptably high. And why was the international community allowing that outrage to continue? Because it wanted to punish a country it felt was not playing by the rules. However, could it be that the country could not play by the rules?
He hoped the international community would eventually come to be of one mind on that issue, and then begin the process of empowering a country in need, showing more of a carrot and less of a stick. When that happened, he hoped the appropriate response would be forthcoming in the form of emergency humanitarian assistance, development support, capacity-building programmes and so on. He sincerely hoped that the forthcoming Council mission to Guinea-Bissau would provide another opportunity to reconsider the parameters of the approach to peace-building and conflict management in countries with severely weakened capacities.
ISMAEL ABRÃAO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said that national reconciliation was key to political stability in the country. The situation in Guinea-Bissau deserved attention of the international community, and the forthcoming mission of the Council to the country was a well-timed initiative. Concrete and urgent steps were needed by both the Government and the international community. The political message of the Council should focus not only on the commitment of the Government, but also on keeping up the interest of the international community to address the fragile situation in Guinea-Bissau and the political crisis there.
The role of the Government was important in organizing the elections, he said. At the same time, the donor community should provide its assistance to the people of the country. It was important to keep in mind the specificities of the country, which faced not only political, but also social and economic problems. The issue of specific conditions had been recognized by Bretton Woods institutions, which had recently reclassified Guinea-Bissau as a low-income country in need of assistance. Due to the urgent needs of the country, flexibility was needed to facilitate moving the classification from theory to practice.
It was clearly stated in the report that public dissatisfaction and frustrations resulted in periodic strikes, he said. That could lead to a cycle of violence, which could cost more to the international community in the long run. It was important for the country to have the Council’s political support. Guinea-Bissau constituted a test of the post-conflict management capacity of the Council. In order to extend that experience to other post-conflict situations, success there was needed. Involvement of regional players was also important. As Chairman of the Organization of African Portuguese-speaking countries, Angola was participating in efforts to resolve the crisis in the country. He also commended the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in that respect. The joint mission should focus on key issues, and the implementation of its recommendations would be important.
GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany) said Guinea-Bissau stood on the brink of total State collapse. The economic situation was desolate, good governance was absent. All efforts of the international community to engage the President and Government in a constructive dialogue had yielded no results, so far. The IMF had withdrawn and World Bank projects would not continue to be financed as planned. Yet, the donor community was fully prepared to assist Guinea-Bissau, if that country did its part.
He said the first problem that must be addressed was the need for a functioning elected National Assembly. Yesterday, the European Union had issued a statement with conditions for free and fair elections. Provided that principles for free, fair and democratic elections were adhered to, the Union was willing to fund the electoral process. Human rights must be respected. Germany, a member of the Group of Friends, was prepared to support a sustainable solution that would help Guinea-Bissau overcome its crisis. However, solutions must be based on the full respect for human rights and the principles of good governance.
The separation between the executive, judicial and legislative powers in Guinea-Bissau must be restored, he continued, and the budget must be handled in a responsible and transparent way. He hoped the Council visit to the West African region would be able to impress on the authorities that adherence to those basic principles of good governance were a prerequisite for the return of the country to democracy and development that would benefit its people.
JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) said that he was very concerned about the fragile human rights, economic and social situation in the country. All that was contributing to potential instability, and the situation was not conducive to holding the elections on 6 July. The United Nations should make its assistance conditional on the Government ensuring free, transparent and fair elections, as it was important not to provide legitimacy to unlawful actions. Guarantees were needed so that the opposition could participate in elections without harassment and with equal access to media. The Government also needed to engage in a constructive dialogue with the international community to restore donor confidence.
Continuing, he said that four years ago the Council had served as an emergency room when it addressed the conflict in Guinea-Bissau. Today, the country was still in intensive care. The international community would provide its assistance, but the Government itself should make efforts to create basic conditions for democratic governance, peace and stability in the country. Doing so would help to restore confidence and trust within the country and improve relations with the country’s international partners. His delegation supported the presidential statement that the Council was working on.
BOUBACAR DIALLO (Guinea) said the upcoming mission would provide an opportunity to evaluate pending problems and enable a frank and constructive dialogue with the authorities of Guinea-Bissau. The situation in the country was still of concern and had deteriorated since the last general elections. Major problems confronted the authorities in establishing democracy. Among aspects that had contributed to the bleak picture were slow implementation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes and the fact that the economy was solely dependent on the mahogany harvest. The international community had not massively intervened in the country to stabilize the peace process.
He was convinced of the vital necessity for the Guinea-Bissau authorities to take courageous measures, but those measures must go hand in hand with adequate financial support. The holding of free elections justified that request. He appealed to the donor community and the Bretton Woods institutions to have a more flexible attitude towards the country.
ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that the report of the Secretary-General was very comprehensive, providing a wealth of timely information for the Council. He agreed with the Secretary-General assessment of the situation in Guinea-Bissau. That country, which had seemed very promising a while ago, now found itself at a critical juncture. Within the country, all the parties concerned should put the needs of the people ahead of all other considerations. The international community should pay greater attention to the situation in Guinea-Bissau and help it to resolve its crisis. He commended international efforts to promote peace and stability in Guinea-Bissau. Donors should complete and increase their assistance to the country. He hoped the Council’s mission would help to move Guinea-Bissau towards stability.
HERALDO MUÑOZ (Chile) regretted that the report spoke of a deterioration of the political and economic situation in Guinea-Bissau. The Council had been warned that the political leadership must take additional steps to prevent a reversal to violence, which included the promulgation of the Constitution, conditions to hold free and fair elections and respect for human rights. That had not happened, so far. Those who had suffered from human rights violations were concerned about that. However, the re-opening of Bombolom Radio was a step in the right direction.
The economic and social situations, and the fact that salaries of public servants were not paid, was also of concern, he continued. Combined with other factors, such as the erosion of governance, those could lead to instability. He called on the donor community and the Bretton Woods institutions not to abandon Guinea-Bissau to its fate and to continue to explore creative ways of assistance. Guinea-Bissau could be an example of coordinated work between the Council and other United Nations bodies, such as the Economic and Social Council, as a multidisciplinary approach was required. He hoped the mission would hold a constructive dialogue with the President, leading to tangible progress.
CARLOS PUJALTE (Mexico) regretted the fact that the situation in Guinea-Bissau had deteriorated in the human rights, political and economic spheres. His delegation was concerned over alleged harassment of political opponents of the Government. Parliamentary elections must only take place when all the conditions were in place to ensure that they were transparent, fair and free. Mexico supported the decision of the Secretary-General to send another electoral mission to consider the situation in Guinea-Bissau. To build peace, the United Nations Peace-building Office should strengthen its disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme for former combatants, and intensify its demining efforts.
“We cannot overlook the fact that the country itself should take measures to ensure respect for human rights”, he continued, as well as promote the rule of law and improve social situation. That would help to restore confidence in the country and create conditions for the international community to respond positively to lending emergency financial aid and political assistance. He hoped that the forthcoming mission would contribute to finding a solution to the crisis. It was a precious opportunity to strengthen the political process in the country and define opportunities for economic and social development. He appealed to ECOWAS and Organization of Portuguese-Speaking African States to renew their mediation among the parties, with a view to finding a constructive settlement to the crisis. The ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau and the Ad Hoc Group of the Security Council on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa should work in a coordinated manner to resolve the crisis.
IYA TIDJANI (Cameroon) said political tensions, radicalization of the regime and deterioration of the human rights situation were factors for instability. Guinea-Bissau had one of the lowest human development indicators. The state of the country required urgent and vigorous action on the part of the international community. It also required the ongoing commitment of the people of Guinea-Bissau.
He welcomed the commitment of the Bretton Woods institutions to meet the urgent needs in the country for a few months. The World Bank had considered the possibility of restoring credits, in order to ease social tensions. Upcoming legislative elections would be decisive in improving the political climate and could show the commitment of the people and authorities to democracy. Free and transparent elections would also restore the trust of development partners. The authorities had committed themselves to organizing free elections, and the international community must assist the country during the electoral process. He welcomed the decision of Portuguese-speaking countries to give financial support and provide observers for the elections, and encouraged other partners to follow their example.
MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) said that the coming period, during which preparations were to be made for free and transparent elections, would be a decisive time for Guinea-Bissau -– a country that needed all possible encouragement from the international community in order to save it from a deteriorating economic, social and political situation. The fact that salaries of the officials had not been paid in the amount of some $11 million was a clear example of the effect of economic conditions on the whole situation in the country.
He said that he appreciated the efforts of the United Nations and the Secretary-General through his representative in Guinea-Bissau. He thanked the Peace-building Office and called on the Government to cooperate fully with the United Nations to produce peace and stability. The forthcoming mission of the Council to Guinea-Bissau testified to the importance the Council attached to normalizing the situation there. It was important to know the areas of concern and find comprehensive permanent solutions to the crisis.
The regional dimension should not be overlooked, he added. He appreciated the great efforts by neighbouring African countries in that respect. He appealed to the donor community, international financial institutions and the international community as a whole to provide all possible financial and humanitarian help to Guinea-Bissau. It was important to work hard to relieve the country of its accumulated debt, as a negative economic situation led to instability.
MICHEL DUCLOS (France) said a comprehensive approach to the country’s problems was necessary. Unfortunately, the situation in the country was quite disturbing. The political situation remained unstable. Elections had once again been postponed. The political climate was aggressive and violent. France urged authorities to do all they could to ensure that free, just and transparent elections would take place as soon as possible. He aligned himself with the European Union position that the President and Vice-President of the Supreme Court must be elected within three months after the legislative elections.
He said involvement from the international community was also necessary, to guarantee democratic elections and stabilize the political situation, and there was a need to send electoral observers. The human rights situation had not improved, and he called upon authorities to put an end to that situation. The country’s economy had barely begun to improve. The authorities must, therefore, become full partners with the international community and make efforts in the area of good governance. The donor community could only then play its part in rebuilding the country.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said that the importance of post-conflict peace-building, reconstruction and development had been recognized as essential elements for maintaining peace and security. Coordinated efforts of the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council opened the window for further strengthening the United Nations response to complex crises. As his delegation had suggested before, it was possible to establish ad hoc composite committees with the participation of representatives of various bodies in response to complex crises, which required a multifaceted approach.
To prevent Guinea-Bissau from relapsing into conflict, the response of the international community needed to be focused and determined, based on the principle of displaying operational responsibility. While the principal responsibility lay with the Government of the country, he also supported a partnership approach, which, he believed, was a well-considered strategy. He hoped the Government of Guinea-Bissau would seize such an opportunity. In his view, progress could be made if both the Government and the international donor community, including the Bretton Woods institutions, were to place the interests of common people above all other considerations.
Social and economic considerations needed to be addressed simultaneously with political ones, he said. The international community must invest in peace-building in Guinea-Bissau now, rather than spend much more on peacekeeping later on, should the country relapse into conflict. The presidential statement to be adopted today contained a balanced message, which should provide a good basis for further work.
RAYKO S. RAYTCHEV (Bulgaria) said he was concerned at the political and institutional instability in Guinea-Bissau, as well as the worsening economic and social situation. Every effort should be made by the national leadership to make sure that the peace-building process was put on the right track. The forthcoming legislative elections were a crucial test of the country’s nascent democratic process. The importance of organizing timely, free and fair elections could not be overemphasized.
He said respect for the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance were essential for the political and economic development of Guinea-Bissau. He was concerned at the weakening in the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and freedom of expression. Concrete steps needed to be taken at an early stage to address that situation. The human rights situation had become more fragile. While the reopening of the independent Radio Bombolom was a step in the right direction, more must be done to restore a climate of trust and national reconciliation and ensure that human rights and civil liberties were fully respected. Further, he hoped the authorities of Guinea-Bissau would respond positively to the partnership approach defined by the ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Group.
INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain) said that the general situation in the country was a source of concern. He placed particular importance on the holding of elections as soon as possible, as long as the necessary conditions were in place to ensure their fair, free and transparent character. The human rights situation and the worsening of economic situation were also among the priorities that needed to be tackled, with support from international community. He also encouraged regional involvement in the efforts to resolve the problems faced by Guinea-Bissau. Today’s meeting reflected the willingness of the international community to support the efforts of the Government of Guinea-Bissau to deal with the crisis.
JULIAN KING (United Kingdom) said the situation in Guinea-Bissau was very worrying, as the political process appeared stuck. He was disappointed by the lack of progress in promulgation of the Constitution and the increasing likelihood that elections would again be postponed. He was also concerned with increasing tensions in the military and stressed that unconstitutional methods would not be tolerated. He also expressed alarm about the deterioration in the human rights situation.
The President and Government of Guinea-Bissau had the primary responsibility for improvement, he said. The European Union’s declaration on Guinea-Bissau complemented the message of the Council. The Council mission to West Africa would start in Guinea-Bissau. The mission must send a tough message -- the international community was ready to help, but needed the commitment from the Government to fair elections and sound management.
Speaking in his national capacity, President of the Council SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said that he shared the major conclusions of the Secretary-General’s report and agreed that rectifying the situation directly depended on conducting free, fair and credible elections in the country. He hoped the Government would do its utmost to conclude the preparatory work for the elections and ensure their transparency.
Given the aggravation of social tensions in Guinea-Bissau, it was important for the donor community to provide support, he continued. Like other Council members, he appreciated the efforts of the Peace-building Support Office and the Group of Friends. He considered the Ad Hoc Group of ECOSOC a useful instrument, which allowed ECOSOC, within its mandate, to become actively involved in peace-building efforts. It would be useful to develop the cooperation of the Security Council and ECOSOC, with conflicts coming before the Security Council and ECOSOC addressing the issues of economic and social development and post-conflict reconstruction. There was a pressing need for mutually complementary roles for the two bodies.
Speaking as Council President, he then read the following statement, which will be issued as S/PRST/2003/8:
“The Security Council, recalling its previous statements on Guinea-Bissau, including the statement of its President of 29 November 2000 (S/PRST/2000/37), having considered the report of the Secretary-General on developments in Guinea-Bissau and on the activities of the United Nations Peace-Building Support Office in that country (S/2003/621), and anticipating the Council mission to Guinea-Bissau, expresses its concern with regard to the fragile political situation in Guinea-Bissau, to the persistent economic and social crisis and to continuing disturbing information regarding the human rights situation. It urges the country’s leaders and the international community to work more purposefully together to ensure that the development, humanitarian and peace-building agendas are quickly put back on track.
“The Security Council appeals to the President and Government of Guinea-Bissau to timely and effectively organize the forthcoming legislative elections and to ensure that these elections are conducted in a transparent, fair and credible manner, in accordance with the Constitution and the electoral law. It is the Council’s expectation that candidates, as well as political parties, will not be subjected to violence and intimidation, and that the presence of international observers at these elections will be acceptable to all parties. The Council also expresses the hope that following the successful conduct of the elections, the Government will embark on additional concrete measures to show further proof of its commitment to democracy and the rule of law by promulgating the new Constitution and by having the President and Vice-President of the Supreme Court duly elected without further delay.
“The Security Council calls on the Government of Guinea-Bissau to take the necessary steps to facilitate a constructive dialogue with the international community and the Bretton Woods institutions and to fully endorse the partnership approach defined by the ad hoc advisory group of the United Nations Economic and Social Council on Guinea-Bissau.
“The Security Council appeals to the donor community to contribute financially to the implementation of the political and economical process in Guinea-Bissau, including necessary support for the legislative elections.
“The Security Council expresses its concern with regard to the situation of human rights and civil liberties, and urges the Government of Guinea-Bissau to take the necessary measures in order to improve this situation. It stresses the importance that freedom of speech and freedom of the press be fully respected.
“The Security Council acknowledges the importance of the regional dimension in the solution of the problems faced by Guinea-Bissau and, in that regard, calls on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Organization of Portuguese Speaking African Countries (PALOPS) to further strengthen their involvement and expresses its intention to intensify its cooperation with these organizations.
“The Security Council welcomes the willingness of President Kumba Yala to host negotiations on the issue in Casamance and issue appeals to him to continue to cooperate constructively with the Government of Senegal in order to contribute to a solution of this issue.
“The Security Council recognizes and commends the important role played by the Representative of the Secretary-General as well as by the United Nations country team towards helping consolidate peace, democracy and the rule of law, and expresses its appreciation for their activities.
“The Security Council expresses its full support to the forthcoming mission to Guinea-Bissau, to be led by the Permanent Representative of Mexico, and which will be the first part of an overall mission to West Africa, and looks forward to its conclusions and recommendations.
“The Security Council expresses its intention to keep the situation in Guinea-Bissau under regular review.”
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