|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7121st Meeting (AM)
Success of Upcoming Elections Critical to Guinea-Bissau’s Future Economic,
Social Stability, Security Council Told
Special Representative of Secretary-General
Delivers Briefing as Members Also Hear from Peacebuilding, Regional Actors
The success of upcoming legislative elections would be critical to the future economic and social stability of Guinea-Bissau’s, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country told the Security Council today.
Briefing Council members as he presented the Secretary-General’s “Report on the restoration of constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau” (document S/2014/105), Jose Ramos-Horta said the country’s largest party, the Partido Africano da Independencia da Guiné-Bissau e Cabo Verde (PAIGC), had held its National Congress from 2-11 February. Although the contest had been bitterly fought, the defeated candidates had conceded graciously after the election of Domingos Simões Pereira as leader.
Parliamentary elections were scheduled for 13 April, he continued, adding that, with about 42 political parties in the country, it was unclear how many would participate in the legislative polls. However, voter registration had been an undeniable success and the technical conditions for elections were in place, with no further delays expected.
Emphasizing the great importance of political stability, he said each passing day affected the economy and people’s livelihoods, pointing out that the country had enjoyed economic growth of only about 0.3 per cent in 2013, and that civil servants were owed at least three months’ in salary arrears. The humanitarian situation had deteriorated, despite direct support to the population from international partners. The authorities were unable to follow up on investigations into human rights abuses and other serious crimes.
He said that, in addition to the pressing issues already facing Guinea-Bissau, international partners needed to look beyond the elections to the post-electoral transition. It was paramount that they stand ready to be engaged “from day one” following the installation of a new, democratically-elected Government. Providing emergency assistance and support for critical reforms ahead of a planned pledging conference would be a step in the right direction. Fast-tracking defence- and security-sector reform, including the urgent modernization of the armed forces, was paramount for ensuring stability and democratic governance, he said.
Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), Chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, reported on his impressions following a recent four-day visit to Guinea-Bissau, saying he had found the country in economic distress, despite its great potential and wealth of human and material resources. “There is a widespread sense of weariness in the country,” he said. “People want to move on.”
He said the consequences of the 2012 coup d’état had hit the poorest and most vulnerable hardest, with little effect on the perpetrators. Transnational organized crime and drug trafficking remained major concerns, while institutional constraints, political instability and a lack of law-enforcement resources were still significant obstacles. Stressing that impunity was the result of persistent political instability, weak institutions and unresolved hurdles in civil-military relations, he said the impact on the economy was devastating. Public finances were in a very poor condition, while food insecurity in such a fertile country was a “crying contradiction”. He proposed three achievable, modest, medium-term strategic objectives: completion of a full democratic cycle with a constitutional transfer of power to elected officials; a concerted effort to focus on food security and rural development; and putting a platform in place to coordinate international support for modernizing the security sector.
João Soares de Gama (Guinea-Bissau) said that since the April 2012 coup, his country had come to accept that the road to restoring constitutional order would not only be long, it would also require great sacrifice. Guinea-Bissau was driven by the conviction that the upcoming elections would be the last stage of the transition, he said, adding that delay in holding them was due to a number of challenges, including the daunting voter-registration process. However, an unprecedented 95 per cent of eligible voters were now registered, he said.
In addition to the urgent need for reform of the defence and security sectors, Guinea-Bissau needed help from the international community to undertake sweeping reforms in the public administration, he said. The country’s social stability depended on its ability to provide youth and women with opportunities, as they had the greatest potential for rebuilding the economy if offered chances for professional advancement. The issue of drug trafficking also remained a major challenge, but given the country’s fragile security and justice institutions, it would be necessary to strengthen subregional and international cooperation to combat the scourge.
Youssoufou Bamba (Cóte d’Ivoire), speaking on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), emphasized that key internal political issues must be urgently addressed before the elections, including reports that the former Prime Minister would return to Guinea-Bissau, which had fuelled unease among the population, political actors and the military. Given those circumstances, it was evident that more time would be needed for the transitional authorities to conduct truly transparent and credible elections. Nevertheless, ECOWAS would continue to support the electoral process, including by providing assistance in support of defence- and security-sector reform, while also ensuring the integrity of electoral materials and the safety of election observers.
António Gumende ( Mozambique) spoke on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, calling upon the international community to continue supporting the electoral process, as well as the future elected authorities, who would implement the reforms needed to pull Guinea-Bissau out of a vicious cycle of recurring instability.
The meeting began at 10:40 a.m. and ended at 11:36 a.m.
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