|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6281st Meeting (AM)
Relative Stability, Growing World Attention Signal Potential Turning Point,
Top United Nations Official in Guinea-Bissau Tells Security Council
Guinea-Bissau was experiencing a relatively stable political environment and growing international attention, which offered the country an unprecedented window of opportunity that should not be missed, the senior United Nations official in the country told the Security Council today.
Briefing the Council, Joseph Mutaboba, Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), said 2010 could be a turning point for the country as its Government continued to re-engage international partners while pursuing its reform agenda. The pace of fiscal reforms had improved and, for the first time since 2004, the Government was up to date with current salaries, Mr. Mutaboba said, adding that the country was approaching the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative completion point, which would result in debt relief amounting to $700 million, about half its total debt burden.
Conditions were now in place for political stability and tangible improvements in people’s lives, he said, emphasizing that security-sector reform remained at the centre of Guinea-Bissau’s stabilization and development agenda. The legal framework for reform was now before the National Assembly, and the majority of the UNIOGBIS security-sector reform team was now in place to coordinate international efforts in that regard, he noted, saying UNIOGBIS would take the lead role in supporting national efforts to reform internal security institutions, focusing on the police, developing integrated strategies to implement holistic security-sector reform programmes and mobilizing resources.
Turning to recent developments, he recalled that on 11 February, President Malam Bacai Sanháhad taken the positive step of appointing former President Kumba Yalá, leader of the opposition party, to the Council of State. At the request of the opposition, the National Assembly had set up parliamentary commissions on revision of the Constitution and on local government legislation.
Guinea-Bissau and neighbouring Senegal had agreed to review and update their 1975 bilateral Security and Defence Cooperation Agreement, he said, adding that, following tensions over border markers, both countries had agreed that a joint commission to manage border issues would meet in March.
Highlighting other developments, he said that at the end of February the Judiciary Police had submitted two reports resulting from investigations into the February 2009 assassinations of former President João Bernardo Vieira and former Chief of General Staff Batista Tagme Na Waieto the Office of the Public Prosecutor.
He said UNIOGBIS was in its third month of operations, and the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2010/106) outlined the progress made in establishing the Integrated Office as well as the remaining challenges to peace, stability and development. The United Nations system, including UNIOGBIS and the United Nations country team, was finalizing a joint framework for peace and development that would contain specific benchmarks for measuring progress in consolidating peace.
Stressing that Guinea-Bissau’s journey towards peace, democracy and prosperity was taking place in a difficult regional environment, he pointed to worrying signs in West Africa, including military coups, ethnic and interreligious conflicts and political intolerance, in addition to growing threats from international crime, illicit drug trafficking, smuggling, unfair exploitation of natural resources and illegal fishing. Given the interdependence of the subregion’s countries, those factors could threaten Guinea-Bissau’s stability, he warned, pointing out, on the other hand, that a successful and peaceful Guinea-Bissau could have a positive influence on developments in the wider region.
Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti ( Brazil), Chairperson of the Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the Peacekeeping Commission, said it was crucial to seize the opportunities provided by those positive developments by stepping up support for stability and development. It was particularly important to combine security efforts with measures aimed at job creation, especially among the youth, and to promote revitalization of the economy, she said. In that regard, it was necessary to ensure that the agencies implementing the projects financed by the Peacebuilding Fund were given adequate human resources to complete them.
She said the time had come to expedite approval of a second tranche of Peacebuilding Fund resources for Guinea-Bissau in order to consolidate gains and make more progress at the present crucial stage, she said. It was important in that regard to work around issues of absorptive capacity so as to take full advantage of the Fund’s ability to reinforce the work Peacebuilding Commission’s work in a country that had been considered an “aid orphan”. Coordination remained more important than ever, she said, pledging the Commission’s support to the Government in its planning for a donors’ round table that would prioritize security-sector reform.
Welcoming bilateral and multilateral action against drug trafficking, she said she looked forward to full implementation of the regional anti-drug plan of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), adding that the launching of the West Africa Coast Initiative by the United Nations, ECOWAS and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) was a major step forward. She expressed appreciation for the strengthening of the United Nations presence in Guinea-Bissau through the new Integrated Office, as well as hope that UNIOGBIS would fill all its new positions and be fully operational as soon as possible.
Alfredo Lopes Cabral ( Guinea-Bissau) said his country had come a long way and made substantive progress towards consolidating democracy and promoting a culture of dialogue. Policies of austerity and good governance, including careful monitoring of fiscal income, would form the basis for development. For the first time since 2004, the Government could ensure the regular payment of salaries, which was necessary for the creation of a State in which people could live decently. The President’s invitation to a State Council for the opposition leader was evidence of the Government’s intension to promote a policy of inclusion, he said.
All stakeholders, including the Government and civil society, were playing their part in organizing a national reconciliation conference that should lead to lasting political stability and development, he continued. Reform of the security sector was the foremost priority, but broader reform should also take place in the public administration sector, he said, noting that mechanisms were being put in place to make the public sector “scrupulously” transparent in order to generate trust in the Government among the people. Thanks to reforms in the justice sector, progress had been made in combating drug trafficking, he said, noting that the Judicial Police in particular now had more resources to tackle a scourge prevailing throughout the region.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 10:45 a.m.
The Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on developments in Guinea-Bissau and on the activities of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in that country (document S/2010/106), covering the period between 22 October 2009 and 15 February 2010 with a focus on efforts to normalize the functioning of State institutions to promote reconciliation. It says the reporting period was relatively calm as State institutions endeavoured to put Government reform programmes in place, pervious efforts having been hampered by various political and military crises that have also undermined efforts for economic growth.
According to the report, a smooth transition from the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS) to the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office (UNIOGBIS), effective from 1 January 2010, has been ensured by the close collaboration between the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Field Support. A public information campaign targeting officials, civil society organizations and the media was launched in December 2009 to promote wider public understanding of the new integrated United Nations presence.
Preparations for implementation of the new mandate centred on policing and internal security matters in the wider context of security-sector reform, the report states, adding that work on a unified strategy document for all United Nations components, for both peacebuilding and national development priorities, is ongoing. In addition to security-sector reform and the rule of law, primary objectives for 2010 include governance, democracy and political dialogue; economic revitalization and poverty alleviation; as well as delivery of basic social services and protection of the vulnerable.
According to the report, the Government’s focus on economic and fiscal reform as a national priority is encouraging, and recent developments bode well for collaboration with international financial institutions, the Peacebuilding Commission and other international partners. Further progress in that area will help Guinea-Bissau qualify for debt relief, it says, encouraging the Government not to lose momentum in working closely with its partners to reach mutually agreed benchmarks.
It is also encouraging that the national authorities are paving the way for the establishment of the legal framework within which to implement crucial security-sector reforms, the report states, urging the authorities and their international partners not to lose sight of the holistic nature of such reforms, and to ensure that international assistance addresses, in addition to defence, the security and justice sectors.
Appealing for donors’ generosity in supporting the country’s efforts to create a security sector capable of meeting present and future challenges, including the fight against organized crime and drug trafficking, the Secretary-General says the United Nations is expanding its support to police reform and other security matters, and urges all partners to coordinate well and “deliver as one” in this critical area.
The Secretary-General urges the Government and the National Assembly to continue “to foster synergies for national dialogue” among all levels of society, and to support ongoing preparations for a successful national conference for that purpose. Since the rule of law is of utmost priority, he looks forward to a swift resolution of the matter concerning Rear Admiral Bubo Na Tchuto, former Navy Chief of Staff, who has taken refuge within United Nations premises in Bissau.
* *** *For information media • not an official record