21 January 2008


21 January 2008
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Peacebuilding Commission

Guinea-Bissau configuration

1st Meeting (AM)





Addressing for the first time its upcoming work in Guinea-Bissau, the Peacebuilding Commission today approved additional members to take part in the country-specific configuration, and discussed ideas for the scope of its involvement in the West African nation.

In confirming the new members, the Commission acted on a 14 January note from the Chair of the Organizational Committee that contained a proposed list of States, subregional, regional and international organizations and United Nations entities that wished to join.   Burkina Faso, which also had sent a request to the Committee, would be invited to join at the Commission’s next meeting.

The Chairperson of the Guinea-Bissau configuration, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti ( Brazil), said she would launch the Commission’s work with a trip to the country tomorrow, a “first step” in assessing the situation on the ground.  During her visit, she planned to meet with the ministers of justice, interior, defence and finance, as well as the speaker of the Parliament, and representatives of international organizations and civil society.  Her delegation would share its findings at a meeting set for 5 February.

She said that, while the Commission should combine efforts in the political arena, security, institutional capacity-building and economic development, it should first and foremost be guided by the principle of national ownership.  She suggested a two-track programme of work which would see peacebuilding efforts coupled with the development of quick impact projects, as previously recommended by Guinea-Bissau’s Minister of Defence, Marciano Silva Barbeiro.  (Please see Press Release PBC/26 of 19 December.)

In that process, the Commission would need to prove its value, she said.  “We do not want to be seen as one more actor making things complicated on the ground; we want to prompt new partners into action.”  To that end, the Peacebuilding Support Office was already engaged in a mapping exercise to help determine major gaps.

Between January and March, she would prepare the Commission’s advice to the Security Council, in observance of a 90-day deadline to do so.  By the end of May, the Commission would develop and finish an integrated peacebuilding strategy, so that, by June, it could concentrate on developing an instrument for assessing progress.  Throughout such work, mobilizing resources would be essential, and she encouraged members to work with Bretton Woods institutions and to find new donors.

Addressing that call, Japan’s representative said that, while his country had not been a traditional supporter in Guinea-Bissau, it would “take a new look” at becoming one.  However, the expectation for the Commission was extremely high, and he urged the body to listen to the Government, encourage national ownership, identify focal points for work and organize a better United Nations presence in the country.  Further, it should engage other interested partners, such as the African Development Bank, the European Commission and the United Nations programme for drug control.

The representative of Ghana urged the Commission to consider missions that would strengthen stability in the country, and communicate the start of its work to the African Union Peace and Security Council, as the African Union had adopted a framework for post-conflict reconstruction in Africa that sought to address the root causes of conflict.

Similarly, the representative of El Salvador asked whether the Organization of American States (OAS) could learn of the Commission’s work, as her country was a member of the association.

For its part, the African Union fully supported the Chair’s visit to Guinea-Bissau, the group’s representative said, and was ready to take part in the peacebuilding process.  Peace in Africa was a “shared responsibility”.  The policy framework for post-conflict reconstruction, adopted in 2005, would serve as a guide for individual countries and subregions in their efforts to create security and economic growth.

The representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said IMF had reached an agreement with the country on an economic and financial programme for 2008, which it hoped to discuss with the Fund’s executive board in the coming weeks.  Such work signalled a move beyond the current conflict situation.

The representative of Egypt noted that Guinea-Bissau’s permanent representative in New York was integral to any visit to the field, as he was the main coordinator for the country.  Also, the budget did not provide for the travel of the Chairperson, which was an issue to be raised in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).

The representative of Guinea-Bissau, thanking all delegations for their “tireless” support for his country, noted that national ownership entailed responsibility.  His country was doing its utmost to shoulder its duties, which he hoped would lead to improved living conditions and restored political stability.

With the Chairperson’s visit, inventory could be taken of work done to date.  Through national reconciliation and an inclusive spirit, the country could build a pluralistic democracy.  He cautioned against trying new ideas, simply for the sake of trying them.  “We should not try to reinvent the wheel,” he said.

At the same time, he encouraged countries such as Japan to “have a new look” at his country, as there was not yet a broad enough range of international partners to encourage progress.  He urged the Chair to ensure that current interest sparked wider support among countries.  In turn, Guinea-Bissau would demonstrate its support for human rights, its tireless commitment to the principles of democracy and remain committed to its people, including civil society actors such as political parties and children.  In that regard, the gender dimension was particularly important.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Jamaica, Luxembourg, Guinea, Angola, the European Community, Portugal, Spain, Niger, Gambia and Senegal.  The Peacebuilding Commission will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.

* *** *

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