3 November 2011
Security Council
SC/10434

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

Security Council

6648th Meeting (AM)


Guinea-Bissau Entering Decisive Phase of Reform Leading to ‘Sensitive’ Electoral


Process in 2012, Security Council Hears in Briefing by Special Representative


Speakers Echo Secretary-General’s Recommendation to Extend United Nations

Presence in Country by One Year Following Expiration of Mandate in December


Strong international support was crucial as Guinea-Bissau approached decisive phases in the reform process leading to a “sensitive” electoral process in 2012, the United Nations top political advisor in that country told the Security Council today, as he presented the latest Secretary-General’s report on recent developments there.


At this “critical juncture” consolidating stability and creating conditions for long-lasting development in Guinea-Bissau required “strong international coordinated support for the reform process, as well as the political backing for elected authorities”, said Joseph Mutaboba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau.


Highlighting new developments, including the opening of the country’s first model police station and significant work to operationalize the road map of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries for fast-tracking security-sector reform, he stressed the need to build upon recent political and security gains.


Joining Mr. Mutaboba in briefing Council members were Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti ( Brazil), Chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission; Maria Helena Nosoline Embalo, Minister for Economy, Planning and Regional Integration of Guinea-Bissau; and Gaspar Martins ( Angola), who spoke on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries.


Mr. Mutaboba said delays in disbursing global financial aid to implement the road map, including the $63 million pledged by ECOWAS, were a serious impediment to activating the pension fund scheme for retired military and security personnel.  Operational delays in creating capable law enforcement agencies had also hampered progress in judiciary reform.  Despite steps to develop justice system actors and create good practices of information-sharing, the 2009 high-profile political cases and related investigations were not yet concluded.


Internal and external political and technical factors were stymieing the fight against the consistent scourge of drug trafficking, as was the lack of reliable data on the actual quantities of drugs transiting through the country, he said.  Bolstered international aid and commitment by partners was crucial to win that fight. 


Sustained international support was needed, he said, adding that the Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau was supporting the constitutional review process and would give technical and financial support to grassroots efforts nationwide to ensure national ownership and popular buy-in to the new draft constitution.  The Peacebuilding Office was also advising the national authorities on how to ensure that the constitutional review process remained non-partisan, particularly in the light of upcoming legislative elections, scheduled for 2012, and helping them to develop follow-up mechanisms to ensure continuity in the country’s reconciliation efforts, as Guinea-Bissau prepared for its national conference in December.


The Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2011/655) included a request that Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau’s current mandate, set to expire at the end of 2011, would be extended for one year, a message that was echoed during the meeting.


“We have created the conditions — once considered major challenges,” Ms. Embalo said, “for the establishment of the special pension fund and the beginning of the demobilization process.  We now call for a greater engagement by all in these efforts.  Otherwise, we risk endangering the significant efforts made so far.”


Ms. Viotti said since her last visit, the West African country had indeed been making considerable efforts to implement key peacebuilding priorities, including macro-economic improvements, fiscal discipline and infrastructure development, with the political situation being the most stable since 1997.


“Stability taking root is, of course, contingent upon achieving other peacebuilding priorities, notably upholding the rule of law, expanding job creation, and combating organized crime, including illicit drug trafficking,” she said.


Many viewed stability in the country as “fragile”, with the full implementation of security-sector reform being one of the highest priorities, she said.  Guinea-Bissau’s national authorities and international partners must work towards a deeper relation of mutual commitment and trust, geared towards sustainable peace and development for the country and the subregion. 


The international community should rise to the challenge of supporting the country’s maintenance of political stability and economic progress in the past few years, she said.  “We must take advantage of this positive momentum and persevere in our collective efforts to support Guinea-Bissau.”


Mr. Martins called for continued international support, seeing that Guinea-Bissau was rising to the challenges in many areas.  However, he cautioned that the dimensions of peace and security, economic recovery and rule of law were intertwined, and that poverty reduction efforts, for example, could simply not be put into second place.


In view of the recent successes, he said, the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries was convinced that the international community must remain engaged in the process of peacebuilding in Guinea-Bissau.


The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 11 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 (UNIOGBIS) (document S/2011/655), which discusses progress on major political, security and socio-economic developments there since 17 June 2011. 


In his report, the Secretary-General recommends that the mandate of that Office, set to expire on 31 December 2011, be renewed for another year to enable the mission to continue implementing its integrated peacebuilding agenda aimed at supporting national long-term stability efforts.  The Secretary-General also recommends that the Council change from four months to six months the frequency with which he is obliged to report to it on developments in Guinea-Bissau, so that he will be able to provide more focused reporting on meaningful, measurable progress.


The Secretary-General says the forthcoming national conference, at which all stakeholders will engage in broad-based dialogue, offers at a “timely and historic opportunity” for the people of Guinea-Bissau to create a brighter future based on genuine national reconciliation and unity and ultimately, long-term stability.  He urges the Government to consolidate gains made over the last three years in public finance and administration reforms as it begins to tackle challenges to defence and security-sector reform, as well as efforts to create an enabling environment for private-sector development.


He welcomes finalization of Guinea-Bissau’s second-generation Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and encourages the Government to convene its planned donor round table to secure the necessary funding to implement it.  He also calls on regional and international partners to make good on their pledges to support security-sector reform, which is essential to bridge the country’s funding gap.


Further to his report, the Secretary-General welcomes the national authorities’ steps to finalize preparations for demobilizing and reintegrating military and police personnel poised to retire.  The Government’s initial $200,000 contribution to the pension fund account and its commitment to increase contributions by year’s end are signs of the country’s readiness to rapidly jump-start security sector reform.  It’s recent inauguration of the first model police station, set up with United Nations support, illustrates the national resolve to rapidly restore State authority and re-establish adequate public security.


The Secretary-General, however, underscores that conditions are not in place to ensure the investigation process into the 2009 political assassinations in Guinea-Bissau are impartial and credible.  He calls therefore on the authorities to bolster efforts to carry out a thorough, credible investigation, as well as implement commitments thus far to introduce overall judicial reforms. 


Briefings


JOSEPH MUTABOBA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau, presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2011/655), stressed the need to build upon the recent political and security gains as the country approached critical phases in the reform process that required strong international support and embarked on a sensitive electoral process in 2012. 


He said that the Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau continued to support security sector reform in order to ensure full civilian control of the military.  He noted significant work to operationalize the road map of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries for fast-tracking that reform.  The Government, ECOWAS and the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries were expected to sign a memorandum of understanding in the coming weeks to implement it. 


Delays in disbursing global financial aid to implement the road map, including the $63 million pledged by ECOWAS, was a serious impediment to activating the pension-fund scheme for retired military and security personnel, he said.  The Government had already contributed $200,000 to the pension fund and had committed to give another $300,000 by year’s end.  It was the only contributor to the fund thus far.  He welcomed efforts by the Peacebuilding Commission’s Country-Specific Configuration for Guinea-Bissau to hold a high-level event to raise awareness on and seek financial help for the pension scheme as a matter of urgency.


He pointed to substantial progress in police reform, saying the first phase of the vetting and certification process to root out personnel with unfit behaviour had been completed with the support of the Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau.  The first model police station in Bissau was now operational.  A total of $3 million of the $16.8 million recently approved by the Peacebuilding Fund would be used to build 12 more model police stations throughout the country.  That move would significantly help modernize the country’s police and institutionalize the rule of law for the first time in recent history. 


But there were operational delays in creating capable law enforcement agencies, he said.  Despite steps to develop the justice system actors and create good practices of information-sharing, the 2009 high-profile political cases and related investigations were not yet concluded.  Recent changes in the upper ranks of the judiciary police and the subsequent replacement of the Prosecutor-General, while a positive step toward de-politicizing the judiciary system, had created inevitable delays.  The Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau also played a significant role in ensuring that recent peaceful public demonstrations by the opposition political parties did not lead to further episodes of tension among key political and military actors.  


Turning to the national conference scheduled to be held between 15 and 18 December, he said its preparatory process, which comprised a series of eight sessions for the defence and security sectors, two conferences for the Guinea-Bissau Diaspora in Africa and Europe, and 12 regional conferences, concluded at the end of October.  An in-depth analysis and drafting of its results was under way.  The Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau would help national authorities develop follow-up mechanisms to ensure continuity in the country’s reconciliation efforts. 


He said that the Office had also continued supporting the constitutional review process and would give technical and financial support to grassroots efforts nationwide to ensure national ownership and popular buy-in to the new draft Constitution.  The mission would also advise the national authorities on how to ensure the constitutional review process remained non-partisan, particularly in the light of upcoming legislative elections, scheduled for 2012. 


Drug trafficking and organized crime remained a constant threat to the fragile stability enjoyed in the country in the past 18 months and could compromise major reforms, including security-sector reform, he said.  Internal and external political and technical factors hampered the fight against those ills, as did the lack of reliable data on the actual quantities of drugs transiting through the country.  Yury Fedotov, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), had discussed that aspect during his 27 October visit to Bissau.  Bolstered international aid and commitment by partners was crucial to win that fight.


Finally, he pointed to the “critical juncture” in efforts to consolidate stability and create conditions for long-lasting development in Guinea-Bissau.  “Increasingly, strong international coordinated support for the reform process is required, as well as the political backing for elected authorities,” he said.  He stressed the Pension Fund’s cross-cutting dimension and the progress that even a limited amount of funding could have on efforts to advance security-sector reform and achieve collective stability, especially in the run up to the 2012 legislative elections.  


MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil), Chair of the Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said since her last visit, the West African country had been making considerable efforts to implement key peacebuilding priorities, including macro-economic improvements, fiscal discipline and infrastructure development, with the political situation being the most stable since 1997.


However, most interlocutors viewed stability in the country as “fragile”, with the full implementation of security-sector reform being one of the highest priorities.  “Stability taking root is, of course, contingent upon achieving other peacebuilding priorities,” she said, “notably upholding the rule of law, expanding job creation, and combating organized crime, including illicit drug trafficking.”


All interlocutors had stressed, during her visit, the urgency of focusing on security-sector reform, with launching an Armed Forces and security forces pension fund being the most important instrument.  The joint Economic Community of West African States/Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries road map was another relevant tool, she added. 


Instituting the Pension Fund Follow-up Committee, revamping the security sector reform National Steering Committee, and drafting a tripartite memorandum of understanding for the road map’s implementation were some of the requested measures taken by the Government, she said.  During her stay, the Government had also deposited $200,000 as the first part of its initial contribution to the pension fund.  With the Government fully committed to reform efforts, it was essential that the international community provided timely and steady support, she said.


Progress in combating drug trafficking included the Government’s adoption of an operational plan, she said, but continuing international cooperation would be needed to support the transnational crime unit’s activities.


The Secretary-General had allocated up to $16.8 million from the Peacebuilding Fund to implement the peacebuilding priority plan, and the Peacebuilding Commission continued its commitment to a proactive approach, involving improvements in coordination efforts with other actors, she said.


“ Guinea-Bissau national authorities and international partners must work towards a deeper relation of mutual commitment and trust, geared towards sustainable peace and development for Guinea-Bissau and the sub-region,” she said.  “The international community should rise to the challenge of supporting the maintenance of political stability and economic progress that the country has experienced in the past few years.  We must take advantage of this positive momentum and persevere in our collective efforts to support Guinea-Bissau.”


Statements


MARIA HELENA NOSOLINE EMBALO, Minister of Economy, Planning and Regional Integration of Guinea-Bissau, said her Government had, over the last three years, shown perseverance and determination in carrying out its policies.  The long periods of political instability had given way to a more favourable political context, with economic recovery and the revival of confidence in internal and external partners.


The Government was firmly committed to creating a pension fund, implementing security sector reform, and strengthening peace and security, she said.  Those efforts must be appreciated and valued by the donor community, which must demonstrate more flexibility.  “One can only be healed after treatment, and not the other way around,” she said.  “It is thus only reasonable to ask for results after creating the conditions for obtaining them.”


So that the work done thus far was not seen as “a handful of salt thrown into the sea” and so that the Government’s commitments were not reduced to mere rhetoric, she said that objectives needed to be clearer than ever before. 


“We have created the conditions — once considered major challenges,” she said, “for the establishment of the special pension fund and the beginning of the demobilization process.  We now call for a greater engagement by all in these efforts.  Otherwise, we risk endangering the significant efforts made so far and sowing doubts among the beneficiaries of the process with regard to the capacity and interest of some in successfully concluding this process.”


The issue of impunity, however, continued to threaten peace, she said, with, for example, an excessive delay in crime investigation and the lack of State authority and technical and financial capacity to ensure rule of law.  Viewing those problems as challenges, the Government was committed to move forward with its justice-sector reform programme, with achievements including prison system reform, strengthening criminal justice legislation, the creation of the first model police station, and tackling transnational organized crime, including drug trafficking.


The separation of powers, the primacy of the law and the establishment of an independent, technically and culturally able judiciary were the cornerstone of the rule of law that she wished for her country.  “For us, this necessarily implies accelerating and stabilizing the defence and security-sector reform process,” she said.  “Respect for the democratic principles […] will be the main guarantee of stability for our country.”


However, reducing poverty could not be relegated to the background, she said, as Guinea-Bissau still had a low level of human development and faced complex and wide-ranging challenges in terms of poverty.  The Government envisaged five-year-long strategies, programmes and actions that could significantly reduce poverty, but those visions depended on international support to help Guinea-Bissau become a prosperous and exemplary nation.


GASPAR MARTINS (Angola), speaking on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, said Guinea-Bissau was rising to the challenges in many areas, including the demobilization and renewal of the Armed Forces and combating drug trafficking.  The ECOWAS/Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries road map was an indispensable contribution to ensuring stability in the country, including getting the Armed Forces pension fund up and running.  He welcomed the Government’s deposit of $200,000 into that fund, with another $300,000 slated to be paid in before the end of 2011, and encouraged the Peacebuilding Commission Fund to make contributions as well.


Indeed, the road map needed support, including the mobilization of funds, which was an essential component to the sustainability of the ongoing peacebuilding processes, he said.  ECOWAS/Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries support could be used as an example of how cooperation could be successfully applied.  The dimensions of peace and security, economic recovery and rule of law were intertwined.  Poverty reduction efforts, for example, could simply not be put into second place, he said.


With a view of the negative impact of drugs on the country and the subregion, the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries commended ECOWAS efforts to mobilize West African countries against organized crime, including the establishment of transnational crime units in member countries. 


In view of the recent successes, the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries was convinced that the international community must remain engaged in the process of peacebuilding in Guinea-Bissau.


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For information media • not an official record