GUINEA-BISSAU ADDED TO AGENDA OF PEACEBUILDING COMMISSION; BRAZIL ELECTED CHAIR OF COUNTRY-SPECIFIC CONFIGURATION

19 December 2007
PBC/26

GUINEA-BISSAU ADDED TO AGENDA OF PEACEBUILDING COMMISSION; BRAZIL ELECTED CHAIR OF COUNTRY-SPECIFIC CONFIGURATION

19 December 2007
General Assembly
PBC/26
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Peacebuilding Commission

Organizational Committee

5th Meeting (AM)

Guinea-Bissau added to agenda of peacebuilding commission;

 

brazil elected chair of country-specific configuration

 

Acting on recommendations contained in an 11 December letter from the President of the Security Council, the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission today established a country-specific configuration to consider the situation in Guinea-Bissau, making the African nation the third country to come under the newly-established body’s purview.

The Committee elected by acclamation Brazil as Chair of the configuration, and decided that initial membership would consist of the Organizational Committee.  Consultations on additional members would be held at a later date.

In the letter to the Commission, the Security Council President conveyed the Council’s acceptance of a request from the Government of Guinea-Bissau to be placed on the Commission’s agenda.  By conveying its acceptance of that request, the Council invited the Commission to provide advice on the situation in Guinea-Bissau.

Joining today’s meeting by video-link from Bissau, Guinea-Bissau Minister of Defence Marciano Silva Barbeiro said his country was proud to be on the agenda of the Commission, and was following the evolution of its commitment in Burundi and Sierra Leone.  The most attractive aspects of its work involved respect of “the national process”.

Speaking in Portuguese, with a United Nations staff volunteer in Bissau providing consecutive interpretation, he explained that the situation in Guinea-Bissau remained fragile, due to difficult economic circumstances, budgetary problems and threats linked to drug trafficking, organized crime, and lack of capacity to control territorial space.  Such circumstances had led his country to conclude that it needed international support.

Nonetheless, the new Government, which had come to power in April, was making progress, he said.  It had started immediately to create political stability by setting up social and economic programmes.  The Political Stability Pact, created in March among the three major parties, was giving the Government needed support for implementing reforms, while the Parliament last November had approved the budget for 2007-2008.

In June, the Government had prepared a framework to evaluate security sector reform, which included, among other commitments, a $2 million provision from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to train 30 military officials.  Other initiatives involved the launch of the financial stabilization programme and ratification of both the United Nations Convention on Organized Crime and the Convention against Corruption.

Notwithstanding those successes, his Government understood that inclusion on the Commission’s agenda would place it “under the spotlight”.  The Government must continue addressing its reform process and tackling ongoing challenges.

Adding to those comments in New York, the representative of Guinea-Bissau underlined his country’s commitment to working with the Commission.   Guinea-Bissau had fought for independence and was now fighting for stability and development.  “We are ready to play our part,” he said.  “The Government is doing its best to be responsible before the people who elected it and before the world.”

The representative of Brazil, in accepting her country’s new role as chair of the country-specific configuration, thanked Guinea-Bissau for giving her country its trust.  Indeed, the two nations shared a common historic and cultural heritage, which would at once enhance their friendship and help to implement the Commission’s mandate.   Brazil supported an integrated strategy for Guinea-Bissau and, in that regard, urged the Commission to take into account the Security Council’s suggestions.

She had listened carefully to Defence Minister Barbeiro’s concerns, and noted his interest in quick-impact projects to consolidate peace.  A mapping exercise was essential, she said, as was the Government’s participation throughout such a process.   Brazil also advised counting on Guinea-Bissau’s neighbours, ECOWAS, and other partners that had been active in the International Contact Group for Guinea-Bissau.

Taking up that thread, the representative of the United States encouraged a focus on quick-impact projects, saying Guinea-Bissau’s internal resources were limited and its problems “short-term in nature”.  Referring to the Security Council letter, he said it was premised on the Council’s decade-long engagement in Guinea-Bissau on security issues.  If the Commission was to make a difference, the letter would be helpful in moving work forward quickly.  He encouraged all to see it as “a reasonable and sensible approach” to fostering quick-impact solutions for Guinea-Bissau’s people.

To that point, however, the representative of Pakistan said the Commission had gained some clarity on the issues and priorities in Guinea-Bissau from the Defence Minister’s presentation.  His list was very important, as it expressed his Government’s perspective, which had sometimes been forgotten in the work of the Security Council.  Such a perspective could be seen in contrast with the letter from the Security Council.

To the Council’s recommendation that the Commission start work within 90 days, he expressed his delegation’s belief that such a deadline was out of place.  There had been a sense of urgency on the part of Guinea-Bissau in its request to be placed on the Commission’s agenda.  Yet for some reason, it had taken the Council some months -- over 150 days -- to refer the request to the Commission.

In response, Mr. Barbeiro said by video-link that he had noted the unanimity among the statements, and felt the international community was showing its commitment to aid Guinea-Bissau in overcoming its challenges.  His country did not want to be a matter of concern for the world.  It wished to join forces with those seeking solutions to global problems.  In its decision to place Guinea-Bissau on

its agenda, the Commission was already supporting Guinea-Bissau in combating its problems.

In other business, the Organizational Committee agreed to allow the representatives of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission to have two seats behind a single “European Community” nameplate during future country-specific meetings.  Under that arrangement, those representatives would act and speak as one delegation.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Chile, Ghana, Angola, India, Egypt, Norway, South Africa, Nigeria, Indonesia, Jamaica, Bangladesh and France.

The Peacebuilding Commission will reconvene on Monday, 15 January.

Statement by Guinea-Bissau Minister of Defence

Speaking by video-link, the Minister of Defence of Guinea-Bissau, MARCIANO SILVA BARBEIRO, addressing the Commission on behalf of his Government and people, said that on 11 July, his country’s Prime Minister Martinho Ndafa Kabi had addressed a letter to the Secretary-General asking for the country’s inclusion in the Peacebuilding Commission’s agenda.  On 11 December, the Security Council members agreed to that idea.

Guinea-Bissau was proud to be a member of the Commission, and was following the evolution of that body’s commitment with Burundi and Sierra Leone.  Indeed, the most attractive aspects of that commitment involved respect for the national process.  It was with satisfaction that his Government noticed that the Security Council had finally decided to invite the Commission to take up Guinea-Bissau’s situation, and he asked the Organizational Committee to support that invitation.

He said that, while much progress had been achieved, the situation in his country remained fragile, due in part to difficult economic circumstances, budgetary problems and threats linked to drug trafficking and organized crime.   Guinea-Bissau did not have the capacity to control its territorial space, and such circumstances had led the Government to conclude that it needed international support.

The new Government had been established in April this year, and had immediately started to achieve political stability, notably through socio-economic programmes, he said.  It also had launched a financial stability programme, and had established good working relationships with international financial institutions.  Moreover, the Political Stability Pact, set up in March among the three major parties, was giving the Government the necessary support to implement reforms.  Guinea Bissau’s Parliament was democratic and pluralistic, and could guarantee stability, he continued.  Last November, it approved the budget for 2007-2008.

He noted that in June, the Government, working with international partners, had prepared a framework to evaluate security sector reform. Based on that programme, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) would provide $2 million to train 30 military officials.  The European Union was providing technical assistance, in addition to €7.7 million.  €8 million had been guaranteed by the European Development Fund, to be used as of next year.

Guinea-Bissau understood that inclusion on the Commission’s agenda had implications, he said, noting it would put his country “under the spotlight” and help attract more assistance from donors.  The Government would need to address economic, financial, administrative, and security sector reform, as well as the problems of drug trafficking, organized crime, and control of its territorial space, where traffickers had increased their activities.

Detailing the Government’s work since April, he said in May, it had launched its finance stabilization programme, and in July, it ratified the United Nations Convention on Organized Crime and the Convention against Corruption.  In August, the Government launched a plan to tackle drugs, and in June, implemented the security sector reform programme, which had led to a plan of action in September.  Further, a sensitization campaign was currently under way in military centres to inform people of a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-financed census to be carried out among the Armed Forces, and an international conference in Lisbon on drug trafficking that was also taking place.

In that context the Government expressed its satisfaction on being included in the Peacebuilding Commission’s agenda.  It would work with that body to identify priority areas in which the Commission’s assistance was needed and then develop a structure to consolidate peace.

For its part, he said that, if his country was included on the Commission’s agenda, the Government would implement the quick-impact initiatives in many areas that would promote peace.  The last report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council on the situation in Guinea-Bissau had provided some interesting aspects on that area.

His Government agreed on the necessity of configuring the Commission under the leadership of a State Member, which would identify the situation and challenges in Guinea-Bissau.  He welcomed the fact that Brazil had been suggested as chair, but was aware that the decision would depend on the Organizational Committee.  He noted that Guinea-Bissau and Brazil had cultural and historical links, as well as good bilateral and multilateral cooperation.  The latter was already playing an important role in development and aid to his country, he said.

As an example of those good relations, he highlighted the recent visit of his country’s President João Bernardo Vieirato Brazil, which resulted in the forgiveness of Guinea-Bissau’s debt and a commitment to new areas of support for its development.

As soon as the Organizational Committee took the necessary decisions, he pledged to work very closely with the Commission, its Chair and all its members to allow that body to take measures and for the head of the configuration to meet with his Government and take action.

Statements

ALFREDO LOPES CABRAL ( Guinea-Bissau), noting the privilege of hearing from a Minister of his country’s Government, said the situation had been ably described.  He underlined Guinea-Bissau’s commitment to work with the Commission, saying that it was in line with the aims and mission of the United Nations.

The sons and daughters of Guinea-Bissau deserved to live in peace, he said.  His country had fought for independence and was now fighting for stability and development.  It was ready to play its part and assume its responsibility.  The current Government was doing its very best to be responsible to the people it represented and to the rest of the world.  The Government of Prime Minister Martinho Ndafa Kabi was moving forward.

As a member of the Commission, he said Guinea-Bissau would tackle the issues at hand as they came onto the agenda.  In closing, he expressed appreciation for Brazil’s support.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil), thanking the Commission for selecting Brazil to coordinate the country configuration, and Guinea-Bissau for giving Brazil its trust, said the two countries shared a common heritage, which enhanced their friendship and would help in implementing the mandate.

Brazil was among the first countries to recognize Guinea-Bissau’s independence, and that relationship had grown throughout the years.  In a recent visit to Brazil, President João Bernardo Vieira of Guinea-Bissau had discussed with Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva “new avenues” of cooperation.  Aside from its bilateral cooperation in such areas as education and capacity-building, Brazil was cooperating trilaterally to assist the country, and discussing other arrangements.  She had also been in Guinea-Bissau in 2002 as part of the Economic and Social Council Advisory Group, which provided insights that would help coordinate the Commission’s activities.

Brazil supported an integrated strategy, she said.  At the same time, the Commission should take into account the Security Council’s suggestions.  She had listened carefully to Defence Minister Barbeiro’s concerns, and noted his interest in quick-impact projects to help consolidate peace.

Brazil was ready to start organizing the configuration, she said.  A mapping exercise was essential, as was the Government’s participation throughout that process.  Her country also recommended cooperation with Guinea-Bissau’s neighbours, ECOWAS, and other partners that had been active in the International Contact Group for Guinea-Bissau.  She looked forward to productive work, and counted on the Commission’s support.

HERALDO MUÑOZ ( Chile) supported Ms. Viotti’s comments.

EBENEZER APPREKU (Ghana), thanking the Ambassador of Guinea-Bissau for his comments, said the Security Council letter had been the result of consensus, achieved after long negotiations.  Ghana, as a current member of the Security Council, saw it as its duty to ensure that Guinea-Bissau’s request, delivered through the Prime Minister, was not delayed further in that body.  In that context, Ghana had increased communications with Council members.  Noting that the Commission was a “work in progress”, he recalled that last year, the Security Council had referred Sierra Leone and Burundi to the Commission without seeking consultation.

He said that Ghana, in 2006, as Chair of the ECOWAS Mediation Commission, had supported the need for an international contact group to be established for Guinea-Bissau, as the country had previously been “sidelined”.  He was pleased that, through that Group and the Security Council, Guinea-Bissau could finally have a place on the agenda.   Ghana would play its part in forging an appropriate strategy, based on priorities discussed in the Security Council and others forums.

ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola), suggesting that Portuguese was becoming an official language of the Commission, expressed pleasure at Guinea-Bissau’s being placed on the Commission’s agenda.  It was a fitting end to the year and had been done in a timely and inclusive manner.  The presentation of the Minister of Defence had been comprehensive.  His delegation felt the choice of Brazil as chair of the country-specific configuration was appropriate and he pledged firm support to that country.  He stressed that Guinea-Bissau could count on Angola, saying “we are in this together”.

He suggested that, in the new year, the Commission should invite members of Guinea-Bissau’s Government to New York to meet and accurately map the situation there and elaborate the strategy to follow.  The quick-impact projects would instil the confidence the people of Guinea-Bissau needed.  Finally, he again stressed that his country was ready to be part of whatever configuration was created and would do its part to aid Guinea-Bissau.

VIKRAM KUMAR DORAISWAMI ( India) extended congratulations to Guinea-Bissau and to Brazil on its choice to lead the country-specific configuration.  His delegation was pleased that the former would contribute its own list of priority areas and was glad that the Council would be sent a letter on the Commission’s intentions that included those contributions from Guinea-Bissau.  He further expressed support for the Chair’s work in the Commission.  He also pledged support for the mapping process and stressed that his delegation would be willing to step forward in terms of resources and not only advice.

ASIM IFTIKHAR AHMAD (Pakistan), congratulating Guinea-Bissau, as well as Brazil, said his delegation hoped the latter would bring its leadership to the work already being done by other countries heading up country-specific configurations of the Commission.  Noting that this was only the first meeting on Guinea-Bissau, he said the Commission had already gained some sort of clarity on the issues and priorities, particularly from the Minister’s presentation.  His list was very important as it expressed the perspective of the Government in Guinea-Bissau.  That perspective should not be forgotten, as seemed to sometimes happen in the work of the Security Council.  He noted that the different perspective could be seen in contrast with the letter from the Security Council.

Noting that the Council had recommended that the Commission start work within 90 days, he expressed his delegation’s sense that such a deadline was out of place.  There had been a sense of urgency on the part of Guinea-Bissau in its request to be placed on the Commission’s agenda.  Yet for some reason, it had taken the Council some months -- over 150 days -- to refer the request to the Commission.  He expressed confidence, however, that the Commission would be able to transmit its advice within the deadline.

MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt) welcoming Guinea-Bissau’s “courageous” approach laid out by Defence Minister Barbeiro, also welcomed recognition of the need for reform and capacity-building in the country.  Noting Guinea-Bissau’s willingness to work with the international community, he called on the Commission, its partners, and donor countries to start work on the mapping exercise and quick-impact projects.  Such work should be done in partnership with the Advisory Group of the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly.

Further, he welcomed the Government of Guinea-Bissau’s intention to present its priorities and strategic plan that would constitute the national ownership component of the peacebuilding process.  Regarding the Security Council letter, he said Egypt could accept Guinea-Bissau for consideration in the Commission, but could not accept other conditions laid out by that letter.

JOHAN LØVALD ( Norway) looked forward to working actively with Guinea-Bissau in tackling pressing challenges.  Today marked an important day for the Commission: its future engagement with Guinea-Bissau would widen the scope of its responsibilities in a timely manner.  He hoped that country’s example would inspire other States to engage in collaborative partnership with the Commission.

CEDRICK CHARLES CROWLEY ( South Africa) said as Chair of the Advisory Group of the Economic and Social Council, his country had worked closely with Guinea-Bissau, both bilaterally and multilaterally, and he hoped to continue that close engagement.  He was particularly proud of the achievements of the Government of Guinea-Bissau since April; the Commission could enhance that work, notably by emphasizing the ownership aspect.  He hoped that would build the basis for placing the country on the path to sustainable peace.  Regarding the Security Council letter, he said issues had been identified in the informal meetings.  In that context, he underlined the importance of national ownership in the peacebuilding process, and he was confident about Brazil’s ability to take that process forward.

KIO SOLOMON AMIEYEOFORI ( Nigeria) thanked the Minister of Defence for his briefing and congratulated Guinea-Bissau for being placed on the Commission’s agenda.  As a member of ECOWAS, his country was pleased with today’s events.  He stressed that Nigeria also continued to participate in the Contact Group on Guinea-Bissau.  The structure for promoting and building peace and development in Guinea-Bissau already existed.  While his delegation appreciated the need to incorporate national ownership into the process, the Commission should proceed quickly to engage with Guinea-Bissau.

DANIEL TUMPAL SUMURUNG SIMANJUNTAK ( Indonesia) said the Commission could provide support to Guinea-Bissau by carrying out quick-impact projects.  Emphasizing that country had asked to be included on the Commission’s agenda five months before, he stressed that there was a sense of urgency.  Priority areas should be drawn up in close cooperation with Guinea-Bissau and new priority areas should be identified and put forward whenever necessary.  He also congratulated Brazil on taking the lead role in the country-specific configuration.  It was his country’s belief that Brazil would draw up a plan for Guinea-Bissau in such a way that the principle of national ownership would be honoured.

RAYMOND WOLFE ( Jamaica) underlined his delegation’s satisfaction with the decision to place Guinea-Bissau on the Commission’s agenda.  He noted the role played by Ambassador Cabral in creating previous country-specific configurations and his diligent participation in the Commission.  He expressed his delegation’s appreciation to the Minister of Defence for Guinea-Bissau for the presentation on the threats posed by “nefarious” drug traffickers.  Those threats were not unfamiliar to countries like his in the Caribbean.  He suggested that, in tackling those challenges, the issue of youth employment should be considered.  Thus, the Commission should look at creating other socio-economic opportunities to counter interest in drug-related activities, and he expressed hope that the issues would be highlighted by January’s meeting.

He hoped that the decision today would inspire confidence that the international community was taking action on Guinea-Bissau.  He also congratulated the choice of Brazil for leadership and noted it was indicative of the role that country consistently played in the United Nations.  Finally, he stressed that it should be left to Guinea-Bissau to outline the priority areas for action.

DOUGLAS MEURS ( United States) said his delegation was pleased that Guinea-Bissau had been added to the Commission’s agenda, and saw that as beneficial for the country and the Commission.   Brazil’s leadership of the country-specific configuration was a “wonderful choice”.  For the Commission, engagement with Guinea-Bissau would help it develop “new modes” of engagement and methods of work.  Indeed, it was important for that body to show it was moving forward, which would be instrumental in bringing other countries forward in the 2008-2009 time frame.

It was right to focus on quick-impact projects.  Guinea-Bissau’s internal resources were limited and the problems were short-term in nature, he said, noting the problems of arrears it faced in its disbursements.  Such a focus would help the Commission streamline its work, and it was important to keep that in mind, so as to not lose sight of expanding the agenda.   Sierra Leone and Burundi had “really tested us” in the past year, and work in those countries was still needed.  With Guinea-Bissau, the Commission could find new ways to bring tangible impacts on the ground, while not impinging on the conduct of business with others in New York.

The Security Council letter had been based on a decade of engagement with Guinea-Bissau on security issues, he said, and it reflected the obstacles to long-term sustainable development.  If the Commission was to make an impact, the letter would be helpful in moving forward quickly.  A medium-term approach to Guinea-Bissau was also warranted and the Commission should develop a more holistic view of the country.  He encouraged all to see the letter as “a reasonable and sensible approach” to engaging Guinea-Bissau in a way that would lead to a quick-impact solution for the people.

TAREQ MD. ARIFUL ISLAM ( Bangladesh) appreciated the reference to quick-impact projects, as that would help guide the country-specific configuration.  He also noted from the Defence Minister’s presentation the Government’s responsibility in consolidating peace.   Bangladesh would work to help the people of Guinea-Bissau achieve the peace they deserved.

JULIEN DERUFFE ( France) emphasized that the Commission was taking an important, even historic step in adding a new country to its agenda.  That was a significant increase in work.  It was doing so at a time when the urgency to act on Guinea-Bissau had been noted not only by the Security Council, but also by the Secretary-General and by the country’s own officials.  The fact that it was now on the Commission’s agenda was a sign that the international community was determined to focus on Guinea-Bissau.  Yet that decision would amount to words only if the Commission did not take action on the ground.  Thus, speeches should be limited and concrete work should be undertaken.  He said the Contact Group that had been set up by ECOWAS would have a role to play in the Commission’s work and mechanisms for cooperation between it and the Commission should be set up.

Response by Guinea-Bissau Defence Minister

In response, Guinea-Bissau’s Minister of Defence said he had noted the unanimity among the statements.  He felt the international community was showing its commitment to aid Guinea-Bissau in overcoming its challenges.  He expressed appreciation to the United Nations; the Security Council; the community of Portuguese-speaking countries; the Commission; and those who were supporting Guinea-Bissau, where the situation was continually deteriorating.  Noting that the Commission had joined voices with Guinea-Bissau’s own Government to overcome the country’s problems, he welcomed the joint effort that would be made.  He reiterated his statement that his Government would meet the expectations of the Security Council and the Commission.

His country did not want to be a matter of concern for the world and it wanted to join forces with those seeking solutions to global problems, he said.  In its decision to place Guinea-Bissau on its agenda, the Commission was already supporting the country in combating its problems.  The quick-impact projects in particular were sincerely appreciated.  In closing, he said his country was pleased with the choice of Brazil to head up the country-specific configuration.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.