Praising Guinea-Bissau for having restored constitutional order, making its public institutions more legitimate and forming an inclusive Government, top United Nations officials and other partners briefing the Security Council today also cautioned that the West African nation had reached a critical stage in its path towards stability and required sustained international support.
“The country cannot afford to continue the status quo,” Miguel Trovoada, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) said in his first briefing on the country. “Otherwise, it risks reversing all democratic gains.”
Joining Mr. Trovoada were Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission and the body’s Guinea-Bissau configuration; Domingos Simões Pereira, Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau; José Luís Guterres, Minister of State and Foreign Affairs of Timor-Leste, on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries; and Hanna Serwaah Tetteh, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of Ghana, in her capacity as Chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Council of Ministers.
Outlining challenges, Mr. Trovoada said that despite the formation of an inclusive Government 100 days ago, political parties remained divided and a climate of suspicion persisted between the civilian and military branches. Some institutions functioned poorly and it was “absolutely necessary” to bring about change. The Government, political class and Guinea-Bissauans alike had agreed on the need to reform the defence, security, justice and public administration sectors — all of which required national commitment and coordinated actions.
On security, he said, the change of the armed forces Chief of General Staff was a first step. Other reforms must be inclusive, pragmatic and integrated, aimed at finding politically viable solutions. More broadly, inequality persisted. The infrastructure needed to develop agriculture and to exploit natural resources was virtually non-existent. The same could be said for the health, education, water, electricity, transport and communication sectors.
As such, authorities were working to regularly pay salaries and arrears, he said, as well as set up measures to prevent Ebola and provide basic services. In September the Government had outlined its short- medium- and long-term strategies: stability, consolidation of the rule of law, strengthening public institutions, good governance, and justice and development.
Noting that resources were limited and not always predictable, he urged international support for Guinea-Bissau in its efforts to achieve a better future. Corruption or the use of the country as a drug transit point must not be allowed, and the judicial system must ensure that public order was not breached.
Noting that a retreat had recently been held to organize a donor roundtable, he said participants had identified a vision for an “economic relaunch” of Guinea-Bissau, based on the food industry, as well as investment in energy, infrastructure and biodiversity exploitation. The Secretary‑General’s strategic evaluation mission in September had recommend ways to align UNIOGBIS activities at the national level. Its conclusions would be included in the Secretary‑General’s January 2015 report.
Mr. Patriota said that in today’s meeting of the International Contact Group on Guinea-Bissau, there was broad agreement that authorities were “moving in the right direction” and that partners were ready to fully re-engage. Success had come about, in part, thanks to the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau, which had played an essential role in security sector reform. The Group’s communiqué had outlined the need to maintain its presence and, as such, it should be invited to set out a mandate and timeframe for its activities.
On the socioeconomic front, he said he had been impressed by the improved access to water and electricity — both dividends of a re-established constitutional order. Food security had worsened and progress could be threatened by the potentially devastating impacts of an Ebola outbreak, as the health system was fragile. He pressed the Council to engage with the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) to bolster preparedness.
He said the best way to describe the situation was “fragile stability”, with room for cautious optimism. Progress would be sustained only with due attention to the political context. For its part, the Commission was ready to foster inter-institutional dialogue to ensure relevant political actors shared a long-term commitment to prosperity. Progress would depend on the Government’s ability to maintain momentum for reform, garner support for established priorities and prevent spoilers from eroding gains.
Speaking next, Prime Minister Pereira said his country, after having been subject to multiple international conditions and sanctions, had “returned to the Security Council in the midst of a full renewal, with new political authorities, new commitment and hope for the building of a State and a society increasingly mobilized for the pursuit of great national aspirations”. The return was a sign that the framework for dialogue and cooperation with the rest of the world was being restored. On behalf of his country’s President and his people, he thanked the Council and the entire United Nations system for their support over more than a decade to his country’s stabilization process.
The understanding between the two majority parties in Guinea-Bissau’s parliament, he said, was an example of the good governance that could consolidate stability and build the economy. For that purpose, the country needed “robust” aid that would allow it to develop key social sectors, such as education and health, that had suffered greatly from the previous instability. He stressed the important continuing role of the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau and called for international support to that force. The mission of UNIOGBIS should be continued based on cooperation with the Peacebuilding Commission and preparation for the 2015 donor conference.
Mr. Guterres praised what he called the “significant progress” made by the new Government of Guinea-Bissau in its first 100 days, saying that it had shown the strong commitment and steady leadership of the newly elected authorities. He encouraged the Government to continue reforms, stressing the importance of international technical and financial support, as well as assistance in ensuring stability, to allow national authorities to implement reforms. International support was also needed for Government efforts to review key legislation, manage national resources and prevent the spread of Ebola to the country.
In a 29 October meeting, he said, the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries had reaffirmed the role it could play in providing technical assistance, drawing on the common language, administrative models and experience of its member States. He assured Guinea-Bissau of the Community’s support to the donor conference.
Rounding out the briefings, Ms. Tetteh said the International Contact Group had explored ways to harmonize international interventions to ensure political stability and economic recovery. In that context, the Council should support the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau and maintain UNIOGBIS so as to shore up progress, especially in the area of defence and security sector reform.
For its part, ECOWAS would help sustain peace, security and development in Guinea-Bissau, she said, urging the United Nations to help it prepare against a potential outbreak of Ebola. The Council should continue its work to consolidate peace, ensure credible democracy and foster economic development in the West African nation.
The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 3:55 p.m.