|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6489th Meeting (AM)
Secretary-General’s Representative, Briefing Security Council on Guinea-Bissau,
Reports Progress amid ‘Complex and Tenuous’ Political, Security Situation
Prime Minister, Chair of Peacebuilding Commission
Configuration Describe Efforts against Impunity, Illicit Drug Trade
Guinea-Bissau had made progress towards emerging from the political turmoil of the past few years, including the approval of a road map for security-sector reform, but deep concerns remained, representatives of the Secretariat and the Peacebuilding Commission told the Security Council today.
“There has been progress in the political and security environments, although the situation remains complex and tenuous,” said Joseph Mutaboba, Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), as he presented the Secretary-General’s latest report. Joining him in briefing the Council was Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti (Brazil), Council President for February, who spoke in her capacity as Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Guinea-Bissau Configuration. Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior also addressed Council members.
Mr. Mutaboba underscored the particular importance of jumpstarting the security-sector reform programme in accordance with the road map developed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP). The National Steering Committee, co-chaired by the Minister for Defence, had expressed its full support for the road map, he said, adding that on 6 December, the National Popular Assembly had endorsed a $30 million bilateral agreement with Angola in support of security-sector reform. The first group of Angolan military and police officers would be deployed to Guinea-Bissau by the end of February.
He said the United Nations would be in a better position to report on progress in the Secretary-General’s next report, following the deployment of a joint assessment mission of the United Nations, ECOWAS and CPLP. However, positive signals given by the military leadership included confirmation by the Chief of General Staff following National Heroes Day that the military would continue to stay out of politics and support the Government throughout the rest of its term and that of the current legislature.
Mr. Mutaboba went on to say that progress had been made in recent weeks, with the support of UNIOGBIS, on the national dialogue process, expected to culminate in a national conference in mid-2011. The next step in the process would involve consultations with the diaspora, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). In addition, he reported on progress made in the debate on a possible constitutional review, for which purpose UNIOGBIS had organized a series of debates. In the course of 2011, the mission would continue supporting the review process by facilitating political dialogue between Parliament and major constituencies, and collecting views on the best law-making arrangements, principles and political options for lasting security, democracy and development.
Despite those advances, however, much more progress was needed in the fight against impunity, drug trafficking and organized crime, he cautioned, noting that in spite of his best efforts, both the Government and the Office of the Prosecutor-General had not yet disclosed the status of the investigation into the 2009 assassinations of President João Bernardo Vieira and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Tagme Na Waie. On the fight against drug trafficking, he welcomed the closure of an air strip in northern Guinea-Bissau as well as regional cooperation, growing numbers of drug seizures and a decree specifying the competence of the judiciary police in drug-related cases.
Turning finally to regional and international partnerships, he noted that Guinea-Bissau had reached the completion point for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative in December 2010. However, there was continuing concern among international partners about the remaining triggers for instability, as shown by the 3 February decision by the European Commission and the Council of the European Union to launch consultations under the Cotonou Agreement. The Government had taken positive steps to address those concerns, sending delegations to several European capitals to prepare for the consultations, which demonstrated that the leadership seemed ready to address in earnest the concerns that had prompted the suspension of European support.
Prime Minister Gomes underlined his appreciation for the Security Council’s work in promoting stability and peace in his country, adding that the beginning of consultations with the European Union represented an important moment in Guinea-Bissau’s history. In preparation for the consultations, the Government had promoted civil society discussions, he said, adding that he had visited Senegal to learn from the experiences of others. Recent legislative activity had been hampered because of the 2009 assassinations, but thanks to the Government’s determined efforts, the impact of those events had been reduced, although the democratic process was not entirely consolidated. Credible constitutions and elections were not enough to ensure the rule of law, he stressed.
The Prime Minister said his Government could not answer all the questions facing Guinea-Bissau on its own. There was a consensus on the need for security-sector reform and for dialogue among all actors, but those processes had been hampered by a lack of financial resources, and aid conditionality. It was Guinea-Bissau’s responsibility to conduct reform and the country must not be subjected to unsuitable conditions, he emphasized. The professionalization of the military and police was advancing through the creation of a regularized pension fund, the rehabilitation of barracks and other measures. A training centre established for police provided special programmes on community policing and combating drugs. The lack of resources for such programmes had been partly relieved by assistance from Angola, ECOWAS and CPLP, but funds were still lacking for further work.
Regarding the fight against impunity, he said the Government had done everything it could for as long as there had been enough resources, and requests for the provision of support for investigations had yet to be answered. Plans had recently been approved for the independence of the judiciary, he added. Concerning the use of Guinea-Bissau as a transit point for illicit drugs, he affirmed that the Government had made strong efforts to fight such crimes and did not profit from the trade. Guinea-Bissau was not a narco-State and lacked the resources to combat illicit drugs, he stressed, noting, however, that the destruction of landing strips, drugs and ammunition had been effective, but needed resources. The fight against drugs must be linked to the struggle against terrorism, he stressed, adding that, considering the risk of terrorist infiltration, Guinea-Bissau needed special attention from the international community.
He said national institutions were cooperating on all the main issues facing the country. The need for financial reforms had already been recognized and a vast restructuring programme had been taken up in certain sectors. However, development indicators remained low and poverty affected some 60 per cent of the population. For that reason, the Government had approved an economic plan prioritizing modernization and increased access to social services as well as agriculture, tourism and mining. Improving the climate for business and investment was also a priority, he added.
Ms. Viotti said that during the past few months, the Peacebuilding Commission’s Guinea-Bissau Configuration had focused on security-sector reform and the rule of law, combating drug trafficking and impunity, addressing the concerns of youth and women, and supporting institution-building. “We have not lost sight of the importance of job creation and promoting a more vigorous economy as crucial elements of a peacebuilding strategy,” she added.
She went on to highlight the Configuration’s other activities, including its hosting of a 22 November briefing by representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank on Guinea-Bissau’s recent progress in such areas as macroeconomic management and public finance, which had resulted in economic growth, low inflation and increased revenue collection. Following on those discussions, the Boards of those institutions had declared in December that Guinea-Bissau had reached the HIPC completion point, and decided to support debt-relief amounting to some $1.2 billion.
Turning to the Secretary-General’s report, she said key economic and public administration reforms were moving forward as the Government sought to improve fiscal discipline. It was also worth noting that the Peacebuilding Fund’s Joint Steering Committee had approved the 2011-2013 Priority Plan for Guinea-Bissau, which identified priorities such as strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law, revitalizing the economy and reactivating basic social services. As such, the Configuration welcomed the Secretary-General’s recommendation to allocate up to $16.8 million from the Fund for the implementation of that Plan.
“I am encouraged by the progress that Guinea-Bissau has made to reverse the negative effects of the events of 1 April 2010,” she continued, emphasizing that, with their renewed commitment to dialogue and political negotiations, the people and Government were doing their part to overcome the setbacks of the recent past. The Configuration encouraged the country’s leadership to take further concrete steps in fighting impunity, enhancing the rule of law and ensuring civilian control of the military. While security-sector reform was a matter of “fundamental importance”, the fight against drug trafficking was also of grave concern, she said, emphasizing that the latter required functioning State institutions, especially in the areas of justice and security, as well as firm political will.
“We emphasize the importance of a regional approach and the role played by ECOWAS in this regard,” she continued, adding that, collectively and as individual Governments, “we must all do more and better” to support the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan and the West Africa Coast Initiative. Finally, she stressed that efforts to consolidate peace in Guinea-Bissau did not rest solely on security-related concerns. Indeed, the foundations for socio-economic development must be strengthened if peace were to take hold. “At the end of the day, it is a dynamic economy and the creation of job opportunities that will generate the revenues needed for the provision of basic services to the population and allow the State to function in a sustainable manner.”
The meeting began at 10:30 a.m. and ended at 11:24 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/2011/73), covering the period since his report of 25 October 2010 (documents/2010/550).
According to the report, Guinea-Bissau is making progress in reversing the negative effects of the unrest of 2010, and the United Nations is helping to promote security-sector reform following the brief 1 April 2010 detention of the Prime Minister, the Chief of General Staff and other senior military officers by some members of the armed forces. In particular, positive steps have been taken by the national leadership, especially the President and Prime Minister, to demonstrate renewed commitment to resolving contentious issues through dialogue and consultations, and to consolidate State institutions.
Noting the persisting rift between President Malam Bacai Sanhá and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior, the Secretary-General states, however, that compromise over certain appointments, and President Sanhá’s assurance that the Government will serve until the end of the legislative session in 2012, have helped ease tensions. The Secretary-General adds that Joseph Mutaboba, his Representative and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) continued to promote permanent dialogue between the two.
The report goes on to note that UNIOGBIS has been cooperating with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP) to promote defence and security-sector reform. The Secretary-General commends the role played by regional and international stakeholders in encouraging constructive dialogue among the political and military leadership. Together with the Defence Ministry, the mission has organized awareness-raising seminars on the rule of law, human rights, gender, democracy and military justice to enhance the capacity of military officers in consolidating peace and the rule of law, preventing impunity and renewing public trust in the armed forces.
Besides helping with police reform, the mission had also assisted national authorities in promoting dialogue and cooperation among law-enforcement agencies, magistrates and prosecutors, the report continues. UNIOGBIS and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) continue to help the national authorities tackle the growing problem of illicit drug trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse in West Africa, as part of the regional action plan of ECOWAS.
On human rights, the report notes that the mission has joined with the Interior Ministry in organizing sensitization workshops on gender issues in order to promote full respect for the principles of equality within law enforcement, and to prevent, identify and investigate gender-based violence. As for the economy, the report states that despite continuing structural fragility, Guinea-Bissau has continued to pursue important reforms that would enable it to make significant progress in managing its debt burden, thus opening up opportunities for stabilizing the economy and promoting economic growth.
Established in 2010, UNIOGBIS is the successor to the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS), which had been in the country since 1999 as part of international efforts to help its recovery from a civil war in which thousands of people were killed, wounded or forced from their homes. In the intervening years, Guinea-Bissau was plagued by coups d’état, attempted coups and, in 2009, the assassination of President João Bernardo Vieira. Citing the continuing instability last November, the Security Council extended the mission’s mandate until 31 December 2011, and Guinea-Bissau is also on the agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission.
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