28 June 2011
Security Council
SC/10300

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6569th Meeting (AM)


Briefing Security Council on Guinea-Bissau, Top Official Cites ‘Uncertain

 

Commitment’ to Fighting Impunity, Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime

 


Ministers, Chair of Peacebuilding Commission

Country Configuration Report on Security-sector Reform, Other Efforts


Painting a picture of a country at a crossroads, the top United Nations official in Guinea-Bissau told the Security Council today that, while all basic conditions for genuinely advancing national dialogue and reforming the security sector were in place, durable progress was being hampered by the authorities’ uncertain commitment to addressing impunity, drug trafficking and organized crime, despite their potentially devastating impact on stability.


“The increased stability and improved political climate in Guinea-Bissau remains fragile, and consolidating them must continue to be the focus of our efforts,” said Joseph Mutaboba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS).  His wide-ranging briefing highlighted, among other things, the joint Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP) road map for security sector reform in Guinea-Bissau, and detailed new developments in that country’s efforts to overcome years of political instability and jump-start national reconciliation.


Joining Mr. Mutaboba in briefing Council members were Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti (Brazil), Chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission; Aristides Ocante Da Silva, Minister for Defence of Guinea-Bissau; and Manuel Domingos Augusto, Secretary of State for Political Affairs of Angola, who spoke on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries.


The Special Representative said the current context in Guinea-Bissau was mixed:  on the one hand, the political and security situations were improving, but on the other, economic reforms had yet to be bolstered by other reforms, notably in the defence and security sectors.  He urged the national authorities to remain mindful of their obligations, with a view to sustaining the longer-term commitment of international partners “in support of the initial and timid steps” taken so far.


The authorities should also demonstrate their ownership of the process by addressing key outstanding issues that rendered the progress already made vulnerable and reversible, he continued.  “We believe that only firm commitment at this stage by the national authorities to address key issues such as the rejuvenation and restructuring of the army, including its leadership, as well as the fight against impunity, will trigger a more flexible stance for all international partners.”


Ms. Viotti said that, since her last briefing to the Council, the configuration had continued to follow political developments in Guinea-Bissau closely, and had worked to create synergies that could be instrumental to security-sector reform.  It had also worked on consolidating the rule of law and combating drug trafficking and impunity, as well as on social issues and job creation.  Further, a task force had been formed to oversee the implementation of security-sector reform, and the basic legislation setting the structure of the Armed Forces had been approved.


Launching a pension fund for the military was a main priority in that area, she emphasized, highlighting a recent announcement by Defence Minister Da Silva that the Government would allocate $4.5 million to the fund, and welcoming a pledge, made during the ECOWAS Summit, of $63 million for security-sector reform.  She welcomed the approval by the Peacebuilding Fund Joint Steering Committee of a revised 2011-2013 Peacebuilding Priority Plan for Guinea-Bissau, saying that up to $16.8 million in support of security-sector reform was expected.


Also focusing on the security-sector reform effort, Minister Augusto said the Portuguese-speaking States were committed to multilateral implementation of the road map, namely through the effective subordination of the Armed Forces and other defence and security institutions to political power.  At the bilateral level, they had taken tangible actions in contributing to the road map’s goals, with emphasis on the important political and diplomatic roles of Cape Verde, Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe in promoting dialogue with a view to national reconciliation in Guinea-Bissau.  In February, Angola had installed the Mission to Support Security and Defence Sector Reform in Guinea-Bissau to provide military support and technical assistance in that area, he said.


Still, he cautioned that Guinea-Bissau faced challenges in combating impunity and drug trafficking, subordinating the military to civilian authorities, and the demobilization and renewal of Armed Forces staff.  In that regard, he stressed the importance of quickly making the Armed Forces Pension Fund operational, saying it was a “key step” in the security-sector reform process.  There was also a need to mobilize additional international and bilateral resources for the successful implementation of national poverty-reduction strategies and the joint security-sector reform road map.  It was imperative that Guinea-Bissau’s partners not isolate or alienate the country, he emphasized.


Minister Da Silva hailed his country’s fruitful cooperation with UNIOGBIS, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), regional organizations and the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries in working to ensure development and stability.  The Council of Ministers supported the joint security-sector road map, he said, adding that national institutions and senior political officials, including the President, had reaffirmed their commitment to upholding their obligations regarding ongoing consultations with the European Union, “our most important economic partners”.


Noting that there had been progress beyond the significant strides made in security-sector reform, he cited positive changes in public administration aimed at streamlining civilian and military payrolls while improving transparency and efficiency.  “We have defined a national strategy for the next five years, but we are counting on international partnerships,” he said, expressing hope that a donor conference for Guinea-Bissau could be held in the near future.  The Government was always open to advice from concerned actors that would help the country maintain the real momentum under way.


“I know there might be sceptics among you, but we would invite the sceptics to share our optimism about a Guinea-Bissau where peace and stability are taking hold,” he said, noting that the Government was committed to human rights and the rule of law.  Today, Guinea-Bissau had no political prisoners, and its army and security forces were beginning to believe in the reforms under way, he said, adding that the active civil society sector believed in the country’s progress.


The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and ended at 11:30 a.m.


Background


The Security Council met this morning to consider 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/2011/370), which says that the reporting period was marked by positive developments which contributed to overall political stability.  The deployment of an Angolan technical security-sector reform mission and the adoption of the security-sector reform road map developed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP) contributed to advancing the security-sector reform process.  At the same time, the formulation of a common position on the process by the presidency, the Government and the military leadership, as well as civil society organizations, allowed them to present to Guinea-Bissau’s partners a united front in addressing the challenges ahead of consultations with the European Union under the Cotonou Agreement.


According to the report, efforts towards promoting a broad-based dialogue involving all stakeholders in the forthcoming national conference are encouraging.  Preparations for the event are progressing well, although at a slower pace than planned owing to resource constraints.  That is a cause of concern as the national conference will mark the first attempt since 1999 to engage all stakeholders, including at the grass-roots level, in a dialogue on the root causes of conflict and possible solutions.  The conference could also put in place permanent and inclusive dialogue mechanisms, which would strengthen democratic processes, promote reconciliation and help prevent conflict.  “I urge the main political stakeholders in the country to use the event as a legitimate forum in which to address key issues for the future stability and progress of the country,” the Secretary-General says.  “I appeal to Guinea-Bissau’s international partners to continue to extend assistance to enable the holding of the national conference.”


The Secretary-General goes on to commend ECOWAS Heads of State and Government for their commitment to allocate $63 million for the implementation of the ECOWAS/CPLP security sector reform road map, saying it constitutes a critical catalytic measure towards the full implementation of security-sector reform, as international and regional partners have now allocated substantial funds to support implementation of the comprehensive security-sector reform framework approved by the national authorities in 2006.


Annexed to the report is an excerpt from the strategic work plan and benchmarks of the United Nations Integrated Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS).  In 2010, the Strategic Planning Group recommended that outcome groups prepare a new format for a joint strategic work plan that should, in compliance with Security Council resolution 1949 (2010), define relevant benchmarks and indicators of progress.  The United Nations family in Guinea-Bissau endorsed the proposed benchmarks during its annual retreat on 17 March 2011.


The work plan underlines that for the United Nations family to meet the expected results, it must focus on Guinea-Bissau’s main challenges:  governance, democracy and political dialogue; economic growth and poverty reduction; social protection and human development; and security-sector reform and the rule of law.  It says the Organization’s joint vision for the West African country is a stable political, security, social and economic environment, conducive to peace consolidation and the full realization of human rights.


Briefings


JOSEPH MUTOBOBA, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report, said much remained for the national authorities to do in consolidating the gains made since the end of 2010 in terms of political dialogue, economic reforms and improving civil-military relations at the highest level.  However, several encouraging developments had taken place, particularly regarding security-sector reform and regional efforts to help stabilize State institutions.


He said the report explained the joint ECOWAS-CPLP road map, which Guinea-Bissau had adopted and endorsed three months ago.  In line with Security Council resolution 1949 (2010), the report of the joint security-sector reform assessment mission had been presented to the Council at the experts’ level.  Immediately after the conclusion of that mission, the Government had convened a meeting, from 28 April to 3 May, to prepare a memorandum of understanding that would govern the implementation of the partnership between the three entities on the ground.  The next step would be the signing of that document by ECOWAS, CPLP and the Government of Guinea-Bissau in the coming weeks.


Turning to political dialogue, he said UNIOGBIS was focused on preparations for the national conference and high-level dialogue involving the political leadership, and paving the way for a consensus revision of the Constitution.  Following recent conferences in Dakar and Lisbon for the Guinea-Bissau diaspora living in Africa and Europe, regional conferences — the final leg of the preparatory phase — had been launched last week and were expected to conclude in July.  The preparatory conferences would culminate in a national meeting, expected to take place in late November or early December, he said.  UNIOGBIS was working with the national organizing commission to design an appropriate process for the national conference, and a follow-up process to foster a common understanding among all State institutions.  Particularly, the follow-up mechanism would be required to ensure action on the results of the conference.


The conferences with the diaspora had been important in obtaining significant support for the process from Guinea-Bissau communities abroad, professionals in particular, he said.  The aim was to advance institutional reforms, including the constitutional review process, which the Parliament hoped to undertake before the next legislative election in 2012, with the continued support of UNIOGBIS and other partners, he said.  “The focus of UNIOGBIS […] is to ensure that the national conference is more than an event, and lives up to the promise of bringing about change, reconciliation and national consensus on critical challenges in society.”


Regarding political dialogue at the highest levels of the national leadership, he said that, while there had been recent signs of improvement, “It has yet to be established if the President, Prime Minister and their respective teams and advisers have reached a sufficient level of confidence to address critical aspects of stability, such as how to handle the issue of military leadership and how to fight impunity through decisive measures.”  Such matters were critical for the rule of law, and were also among the benchmarks set by the European Union for the full resumption of assistance within the framework of the consultations under the Cotonou Agreement.


On impunity, he recalled that the Government had recently accepted, and pledged to comply with, the recommendations that had emerged from the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, specifically proposals regarding the need for credible and transparent investigations into the political assassinations of March 2009 and June 2009.  It was regrettable that, despite significant interactions on ways to ensure that investigations were conducted, the Prosecutor-General had recently “rushed” a decision to transfer the case of the June 2009 killings to the Military Court.


That decision had appeared to most observers as an attempt to contravene relevant Security Council resolutions, since the investigative team had not exhausted all avenues in interviewing witnesses, he continued.  It had also been a setback in light of the serious challenges posed to constitutional order by the military in recent years, and the major concerns over the independence and ability of military justice to run and complete the process in a credible fashion.


He went on to say that drug trafficking remained a major challenge to stability, requiring the national authorities to demonstrate a firmer commitment and determination to mobilize the resources to address the menace.  Recent progress on establishing police-coordination mechanisms and launching the Transnational Crime Unit project, as well as further commitment to the West African Coast Initiative, were positive signals that must be built upon and complemented with additional international support.


The Government’s adoption on 15 June of the 2011-2014 National Operational Plan to Combat Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime and Drug Abuse had been yet another encouraging step, he said, adding that United Nations structures in Guinea-Bissau would continue to support the national authorities in their implementation of such plans.  While commending recent initiatives by the G-8 and the Trans-Atlantic Partnership aimed at supporting subregional and national anti-crime strategies, he said specialized agencies should make additional efforts in areas such as information-sharing.


Summing up, he said the increased stability and improved political climate in Guinea-Bissau remained fragile and the context was mixed.  On the one hand, the political and security situations were improving, while on the other, economic reforms had yet to be bolstered by other reforms, notably in the defence and security sectors.  Furthermore, serious concerns remained about the national authorities’ lack of commitment to addressing impunity, drug trafficking and organized crime, despite their potentially devastating impact on stability.


“The country is indeed at a crossroads,” he said, stressing that, with the support of international partners, all basic conditions were in place to genuinely advance the national dialogue, the security-sector reform programme and key socio-economic reforms.  Yet, the national authorities should remain mindful of their obligations, with a view to sustaining longer-term international commitment in support of the “initial and timid steps” taken so far.  The authorities should also demonstrate their ownership of the process by addressing key outstanding issues that rendered the progress made vulnerable and reversible.


He concluded:  “We believe that only firm commitment at this stage by the national authorities to address key issues such as the rejuvenation and restructuring of the army, including its leadership, as well as the fight against impunity, will trigger a more flexible stance for all international partners.”  Such national commitment would also help jump-start major aspects of reform, including the crucial pension fund for the retirement and reintegration of elements of the defence and security forces.


MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil), Chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said that, since her last briefing to the Council, the Configuration had continued to follow political developments in Guinea-Bissau closely, and had worked to create synergies that could be instrumental to security-sector reform.  It had also worked on consolidating the rule of law, combating drug trafficking and impunity, as well as on social issues and job creation.


The situation in Guinea-Bissau had improved in many areas, she said, pointing out that political stability had taken hold, with the most stable and longest-lasting Government since 1997 presently in place.  A task force had been formed to oversee the implementation of security-sector reform and the basic legislation setting the structure of the Armed Forces had been approved.  Launching a pension fund for the military was a main priority in that area, she emphasized, highlighting a recent announcement by Defence Minister Aristides Ocante da Silva that the Government would allocate $4.5 million to the fund, and welcoming a pledge, made during the ECOWAS Summit, of $63 million for security-sector reform.


She said progress had also been made in fighting drug trafficking and organized crime, with the approval of the 2011-2014 Operational Plan intended for that purpose, as well as in public administration and reforming the public finances.  A growth rate of approximately 4 per cent was forecast in 2011 and progress was being made to reduce the national debt.  She welcomed the Peacebuilding Fund Joint Steering Committee’s approval of a revised 2011-2013 Peacebuilding Priority Plan for Guinea-Bissau, saying that up to $16.8 million in support of security-sector reform was expected.


ARISTIDES OCANTE DA SILVA, Minister for Defence of Guinea-Bissau, hailed his country’s fruitful cooperation with UNIOGBIS, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), regional organizations and the CPLP, in working to ensure development and stability.  The Council of Ministers supported the joint ECOWAS-CPLP road map and had established a task force to take forward implementation on all fronts.  The task force would include multilateral and bilateral partners such as United Nations specialized agencies and the European Union.  National institutions and senior political officials, including the President, had reaffirmed their commitment to upholding their obligations regarding ongoing consultations with the European Union, “our most important economic partners”.


It was also important to focus on the ongoing security-sector reform process aimed at overcoming a raft of challenges, including poor management, lingering tensions after various periods of conflict, and weak infrastructure.  There was a strong connection between security and economic development, and the Government was committed to reforming its military forces, which had been unwieldy at the end of the 1990s.  Indeed, at that time, there had been more officers than soldiers, no real training regime, haphazard leadership/command structures and poor living conditions for soldiers.


The Government had promulgated an “organic law” to address many of those challenges, he said, citing consequent significant improvements such as the establishment of a pension fund, the refurbishment of infrastructure and equipment, and enhanced training for police officers and soldiers.  A bank had been chosen to manage the pension fund, and the reforms were short and medium term.  The Government had also set out a detailed retirement schedule for soldiers, and for the early departure of volunteers.  He acknowledged, however, that there was some difficulty in building a headquarters for the National Guard, pointing out nevertheless that officials were focused on smooth disarmament, demobilization and reintegration activities.


Turning to progress beyond security-sector reform, he cited positive changes in public administration aimed at streamlining civilian and military payrolls and improving transparency and efficiency.  With an economic growth rate of 3.5 per cent in 2010, the Government hoped that increased cashew production and the refurbishment of infrastructure would boost growth by at least another 1 per cent net a year.  The Government also aimed to reduce inflation and maintain a fiscal surplus in the coming years, and planned to bolster social services and make the most of high-growth sectors, he said.


“We have defined a national strategy for the next five years, but we are counting on international partnerships,” he said, expressing hope that a donor conference for Guinea-Bissau could be held in the near future.  The Government was always open to advice from concerned actors that would help the country maintain the real momentum under way.  “I know there might be sceptics among you, but we would invite the sceptics to share our optimism about a Guinea-Bissau where peace and stability are taking hold,” he said, noting that the Government was committed to human rights and the rule of law.  Today, Guinea-Bissau had no political prisoners, and its army and security forces were beginning to believe in the reforms under way, he said, adding that the active civil society sector believed in the country’s progress.


MANUEL DOMINGOS AUGUSTO, Secretary of State for Political Affairs of Angola, speaking on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP), said the group placed particular emphasis on issues relating to security-sector reform in Guinea-Bissau.  The CPLP States were committed to multilateral implementation of the security-sector reform road map, namely the effective subordination of the Armed Forces and other defence and security institutions to political power.  At the bilateral level, CPLP members had taken tangible actions in contributing to the road map’s goals, with emphasis on the important political and diplomatic role of Cape Verde, Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe in promoting dialogue with a view to national reconciliation in Guinea-Bissau.


Brazil was developing a training programme for the security forces, while Portugal was carrying out a basic police training programme covering public security and judicial policing, he said, adding that in February 2011, his own country had installed the Mission to Support Security and Defence Sector Reform in Guinea-Bissau to provide military support and technical assistance in that area.  The Angolan Government had provided $30 million in support of that programme.  In May 2011, the Paris Club of creditors had announced the forgiveness of Guinea-Bissau’s $283 million debit, he said, welcoming also recent commitments by international partners to support implementation of the ECOWAS Plan of Action in the area of drug trafficking and transnational organized crime.


Guinea-Bissau still faced challenges in combating impunity, drug trafficking, the need to subordinate the military to civilian authorities and the demobilization and renewal of armed forces staff, he said, stressing the importance of quickly making the Armed Forces Pension Fund operational.  The Fund was a “key step” in the security-sector reform process.  There was also a need to mobilize additional international and bilateral resources for the successful implementation of national poverty-reduction strategies and the joint CPLP-ECOWAS road map for the reform of the security sector.  It was imperative that Guinea-Bissau’s partners not isolate or alienate the country, he emphasized.


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For information media • not an official record