Political Impasse in Guinea-Bissau Must Be Resolved to Improve Living Conditions, Promote Economic Growth, Top Official Tells Security Council

SC/12497
30 August 2016
7764th Meeting (AM)

Political Impasse in Guinea-Bissau Must Be Resolved to Improve Living Conditions, Promote Economic Growth, Top Official Tells Security Council

Political leaders in Guinea-Bissau must put aside partisan considerations and focus on national interests and the welfare of the suffering population, the Security Council heard today during a briefing on the situation in that West African country.

“The ongoing political impasse can and must be resolved,” Modibo Touré, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) told the 15-member body.

The parties to the current political crisis should be urged to honour their commitment to make the necessary sacrifices and concessions to end the parliamentary standoff, Mr. Touré said, adding that steps must be taken to put the Government machinery back on track.

Ongoing consultations had aimed at breaking the impasse within the People’s National Assembly, which had not yet considered the Government’s programme that had been in place for three months.  Subsequently, the National Assembly President had started a mediation exercise between parliamentary groups of the two main parties and negotiations had begun to reach consensus aimed at finding a solution to the stalemate, Mr. Touré reported.

He went on to say that it was important to underscore, however, that, without public approval of a programme, it would be difficult for the Government to introduce reforms to implement policies and strategies that promoted economic growth and improved the living conditions of people.

Also addressing the Council was Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), Chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, who said the situation had advanced considerably since the coup d’état in 2012.  Nevertheless, the country’s precarious political situation was still a source of concern beyond its borders.  “In a region that has seen great progress in consolidating peace and stability through democratic means, Guinea-Bissau remains a weak link,” he said.

If viable solutions for effective governance were not found soon, he said, it would become harder to steer the country back on track.  An inclusive and fruitful political dialogue would help pave the way to longer-term policies, including a possible constitutional review.

Luis Bermúdez (Uruguay), representative of the Chair of the Security Council Committee establish pursuant to resolution 2048 (2012) concerning Guinea-Bissau, briefed the Council on the Committee’s most recent meeting, noting that the political situation was less encouraging than at the time of the Secretary-General’s previous report.  The crisis did not make it possible to implement significant reforms in Guinea-Bissau and weakened the country’s ability to deal with crime and terrorism, while also dissuading international donors from fulfilling their pledges.

The representative of Guinea Bissau, meantime, told that Council that citizens were aware that the major work for peace and stability remained their primary responsibility.  She went on to express concern that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Security Mission in Guinea-Bissau would be leaving, saying that the international community’s financial support to help alleviate the immediate socioeconomic difficulties on the population was very important and much needed.

The representative Timor-Leste also delivered a statement on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries.

The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 10:48 a.m.

Briefings

MODIBO TOURÉ, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), said that amid the current political crisis, ongoing consultations had aimed at breaking the impasse within the People’s National Assembly, which had not yet considered the Government’s programme that had been in place for three months.  At an initial unproductive meeting, the majority party had decided to suspend the participation of the Standing Commission of the National Assembly.  Subsequently, the National Assembly President had started a mediation exercise between parliamentary groups of the two main parties.  Related activities included a meeting with the President and representatives of international and regional organizations to discuss opportunities for dialogue followed by consultations with various parties to seek national stakeholders’ perspectives on the current situation, with a view to finding a solution to the crisis.

Other steps included a parliamentary correspondence, signed by 57 Members of Parliament, which had been sent to the National Assembly President requesting the convening of a plenary session.  Negotiations had since begun to reach consensus aimed at finding a solution to the political impasse.  It was important to underscore that, without public approval of a programme, it would be difficult for the Government to introduce reforms to implement policies and strategies that promoted economic growth and improved the living conditions of people.

Greatly encouraged by the commitment of all international partners to remain engaged in the events taking place in Guinea-Bissau, he noted the collective commitment by national stakeholders to engage in dialogue.  “The ongoing political impasse can and must be resolved,” he said.  The parties to the crisis should be urged to honour their commitment to make the necessary sacrifices and concessions needed to end the parliamentary standoff and put the Government machinery back on track.  He called on all political leaders to put aside partisan considerations and focus on national interests and the welfare of the suffering population.  Breaking the stalemate should also provide the opportunity for the political actors of Guinea-Bissau to reflect on ways to end the recurrent cycle of institutional paralysis and ensure sustainable stability.

There could be no development without stability, he said, noting that such action required a pragmatic and integrated approach.  In addition to the current focus on achieving stability from the top down, energy and resources should be invested to foster such a development from the bottom up.  In that regard, he called on the donor community to consider allocating more resources to the social sector, including health and education and to programmes that empowered women and created opportunities for youth.

ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil), Chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said developments had advanced considerably since the coup d’état in 2012.  However, the precarious political situation was still a source of concern in West Africa and beyond.  “In a region that has seen great progress in consolidating peace and stability through democratic means, Guinea-Bissau remains a weak link,” he said.  If viable solutions for effective governance were not found soon, it would become harder to steer Guinea-Bissau back on track.  An inclusive and fruitful political dialogue would help to pave the way to longer-term policies, including a possible constitutional review.  In that regard, the Peacebuilding Commission could help by, for example, mobilizing constitutional experts.  However, to tackle longer-term issues, it was up to the Bissau-Guineans to show wisdom and creativity to make their political constitutional model workable and to adapt it to their needs.

International partners must make every effort to support the continuation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Security Mission in Guinea-Bissau, he said.  Not doing so would send the wrong signal regarding the importance of maintaining a safe and stable environment as remaining challenges were tackled.  The Peacebuilding Commission believed that a lack of genuine political will was preventing the enactment of Government measures that would lead to peace dividends.  It urged political parties to work together and resume a constructive dialogue in order to approve the Government’s programme and the state budget.  The international community, including the Security Council, should meanwhile strongly encourage regional diplomatic efforts.  The Peacebuilding Commission looked forward to a high-level mission composed of the Presidents of Senegal, Sierra Leone and Guinea and it would continue to emphasize the importance of all actors upholding commitments made at the Brussels donor round table in March 2015.

LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay), representative of the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2048 (2012) concerning Guinea-Bissau, summarized its meeting of 19 August.  The political situation was less encouraging than it was at the time of the Secretary-General’s previous report.  The crisis did not make it possible to implement significant reforms and weakened Guinea-Bissau’s ability to deal with crime and terrorism while dissuading international donors from fulfilling their pledges.  Some Committee members supported a continuation of the sanctions regime, but some expressed concern about the interpretation of criteria.

Regarding the Secretary-General’s recommendation for a working group, he said, some members believed that might help the Committee’s work, for instance by providing useful data.  Inhabitants of Guinea-Bissau understood the continuation of sanctions as an indication of the Council’s ongoing interest in their situation.  A group of experts could provide helpful, timely and useful information while raising awareness of Guinea-Bissau’s problems.  There was an increased risk of terrorist activity, but for the moment there were insufficient elements to get a clear picture.  Regarding mediation efforts by, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General had decided to meet with all interested parties to examine the situation and facilitate a visit by the Committee Chair.

Statements

MARIA ANTONIETA P. D’ALVA (Guinea-Bissau) said the latest developments had demonstrated that the two major parties were prepared to engage in dialogue with a view towards reaching consensus to ensure the normal functioning of the national Parliament.  Citizens were aware that the major work for peace and stability remained their primary responsibility.  Nevertheless, the political crisis had persisted and the socioeconomic situation could no longer be sustained.  Concerned that the ECOWAS Security Mission in Guinea-Bissau would be leaving the country, she expressed hope that a way would be found to secure peace, with the military, which at the moment was absent from the political scene, following suit.  The international community’s financial support to help alleviate the immediate socioeconomic difficulties on the population was very important and much needed, she said.

JULIO DA COSTA FREITAS (Timor-Leste), speaking on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries, expressed concern about the continuing political impasse.  Drawing attention to its impacts on the provision of basic services and the suspension of crucial reforms, he said the situation could escalate into social tensions.  Calling on parties to engage in constructive dialogue and to create conditions towards long-term development, he said such steps would lead to the much-needed lifting of the suspension of international cooperation aid.  While commending the efforts of the international community, he welcomed the decision by the ECOWAS Summit to renew the mandate of its mission in Guinea-Bissau.  “Statesmanship is required to resolve the political impasse and move towards greater political stability and socioeconomic development and for the protection and promotion of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of all Bissau-Guineans,” he concluded.

For information media. Not an official record.