Drug Trafficking, Election Funds Deficit Could Derail Guinea-Bissau’s Progress, Top Political Official Warns Security Council, Expressing ‘Guarded Optimism’

SC/13343
16 May 2018
8261st Meeting (PM)

Drug Trafficking, Election Funds Deficit Could Derail Guinea-Bissau’s Progress, Top Political Official Warns Security Council, Expressing ‘Guarded Optimism’

While small forward steps to break a languishing political impasse in Guinea‑Bissau were hopeful ahead of elections and the resumption of National Assembly plenary meetings, threats such as rampant drug trafficking and shortfalls in electoral project financing could hamper further gains, the Security Council heard today.

Providing a snapshot of recent gains, Assistant Secretary‑General for Political Affairs Tayé-Brook Zerihoun said a significant breakthrough had been achieved following an agreement signed by the two main political parties.  Further positive steps included the swearing‑in of both a consensual Prime Minister and a new inclusive Government, as well as the continued robust engagement of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea‑Bissau (UNIOGBIS).

“The latest successful efforts to assist Bissau‑Guinean stakeholders to end the political and institutional impasse and launch the country on the path of sustainable peace and development gives rise to cause for guarded optimism,” he said.  “The period until the legislative elections, and particularly until the next presidential election in 2019, will be critical and fraught with uncertainties, and will require the continued attention and engagement of the international community.”

Much attention was needed to combat rampant drug trafficking and organized crime, said Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), who briefed the Council on recent investigations, prosecutions and narcotics seizures.  While UNODC had tailored a technical assistance package for Guinea‑Bissau, regular funding was needed, as donors seemed reluctant to provide contributions in light of the current situation.  Urging the international community to allow UNODC to continue to provide support, he requested such assistance with a view to helping to re‑establish momentum towards progress.

Mauro Viera (Brazil), Chair of the Guinea‑Bissau Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, highlighted other challenges, including the financing of the election and update of the voter registration list.  Citing a $7.7 million project between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Guinea‑Bissau covering technical preparations for cartography, updating voter registration and administration of the elections, he outlined his intention to visit the country likely in July to consult with stakeholders on how the Configuration could further support peacebuilding there.

Council members shared praise for the progress reported, with many emphasizing a need for adequate funding ahead of the elections.  Peru’s representative also underscored the need for predictable financing for the Peacebuilding Fund to allow people to access education and health services.  Many speakers, including those from France and Kuwait, highlighted the need to include women and young people in various processes to ensure inclusion.

Echoing a common theme heard during the discussion, the representative of the United States urged political leaders to foster unity and implement the Conakry Agreement, signed in 2016 with an aim at overcoming Guinea‑Bissau’s institutional crisis.  Meanwhile, the representative of Equatorial Guinea encouraged the new authorities to work in the context of Guinea‑Bissau’s democratic institutions, noting that he was considering a trip to that country in June for discussions on the sanctions imposed after the 2012 coup d’état.

At the same time, Sweden’s delegate urged the Council to play its part by making decisions based on a comprehensive understanding of the situation on the ground.  “This is all the more important as the situation within the country remains fragile,” he said.  Warning that current fragility could be exacerbated by the economic situation, with the 2018 cashew harvest seeming to be lower than one year ago, he emphasized that a risk assessment or conflict analysis must be carried out.

At the current critical time, the representative of the United Kingdom, recalling the renewal in February of UNIOGBIS, said the Mission’s mandate remained as relevant as ever before in delivering on priority tasks.  The Russian Federation’s delegate stressed that the fate of Guinea‑Bissau should be based on the aspirations of its citizens without impositions of ready‑made solutions from the outside.

The representative of Guinea‑Bissau said that over the past 24 years, his country had experienced five legislative elections, a civil war and two coups d’état, demonstrating that elections alone could not consolidate institutional stability.  Under the Conakry Agreement, Guinea‑Bissau needed the international community’s continued support, including technical assistance to ensure successful elections.  In the new political framework, the Council’s continued solidarity was needed, he said, pledging the Government support to ensuring continued progress.

Also delivering statements today were representatives of Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Netherlands, China, Kazakhstan, Bolivia and Poland.

The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 4:45 p.m.

Briefings

TAYÉ-BROOK ZERIHOUN, Assistant Secretary‑General for Political Affairs, relaying developments since the adoption of resolution 2404 (2018), said efforts to break a persistent political and institutional deadlock in Guinea‑Bissau had included commitments made and met by President José Marío Vaz.  They included swearing in Aristides Gomes as consensual Prime Minister, passing a decree confirming the 18 November elections and holding the first National Assembly plenary session since 2016.  Citing further progress, a new inclusive Government had been sworn in and a significant breakthrough had been achieved following an agreement between the two main political parties, he said, noting the continuous pressure by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on stakeholders and the role the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea‑Bissau (UNIOGBIS) was playing in helping to launch the political process.

However, he said, several key provisions of the 2016 Conakry Agreement remained unimplemented.  Seeking progress, political stakeholders had initiated discussions on a national round‑table dialogue and both the Government programme and a stability pact were expected to be endorsed.  In addition, UNIOGBIS would continue its efforts to encourage the Government to take further forward steps.  Meanwhile, efforts were needed to ensure successful elections in November.  While Guinea‑Bissau and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had contributed to the electoral fund, more than $5 million was needed to cover voter registration and related costs.  Voter registration was expected to begin 1 June, he said, calling on the international community to provide the requisite support to ensure successful elections.

Turning to other concerns, he highlighted drug trafficking and other organized crime as serious problems, with the five recent narcotics seizures being referred to by authorities as the “tip of an iceberg”.  He expressed hope that UNIOGBIS and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) would work together to address those issues.  A recent Department of Political Affairs‑led visit to Guinea‑Bissau had resulted in decisions to temporarily redeploy resources from the former rule of law and security institutions to support efforts centred on the elections and on fighting drug trafficking.

“The latest successful efforts to assist Bissau‑Guinean stakeholders to end the political and institutional impasse and launch the country on the path of sustainable peace and development gives rise to cause for guarded optimism,” he said.  “The period until the legislative elections, and particularly until the next presidential election in 2019, will be critical and fraught with uncertainties, and will require the continued attention and engagement of the international community.”

YURY FEDOTOV, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), speaking via videoconference from Vienna, provided a report card of recent activities, including 70 investigations, the prosecution of 113 persons and the seizure of 71 kilograms of cocaine and 1.35 kilograms of marijuana.  Having developed a technical assistance package for Guinea‑Bissau, UNDOC must now do more to build capacities and continue supporting the judicial police and the nationally owned inter‑service elite units, including the joint airport interdiction task force, with efforts on intelligence gathering and analysis, profiling techniques and information‑sharing at national, regional and international levels.

In addition, projects must target illicit financial flows, he said, noting that UNODC stood ready to respond to the Government’s request for technical assistance to fight money‑laundering and prevent and tackle illegal financing.  Attention was also needed to strengthen responses to maritime crime, he said, highlighting several of the major threats facing Guinea‑Bissau, including transnational organized crime, a challenging political and security environment, law enforcement capacity gaps and resource constraints.  As combating drug trafficking and dismantling criminal networks required specialized assistance and resources, he regretted to note that UNODC project funding had been drastically reduced in 2017, with donors expressing reluctance amid the current situation in Guinea‑Bissau.  Urging the international community to allow UNODC to continue to provide support, he requested such assistance with a view to helping to re‑establish momentum towards progress.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil), Chair of the Guinea‑Bissau Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said following the President’s appointment of the Prime Minister and confirmation that legislative elections would be held on 18 November, members of the new Government were sworn in on 26 April.  Parliament also had convened an extraordinary plenary session on 19 April, with the National People’s Assembly electing a new leader of the National Electoral Commission and extending its ninth legislature until November.  The appointment of a new Commission president was an important step, he said, as it had been a factor blocking election preparations.

On 3 May, he continued, the president of the organizing committee of the National Conference for Guinea‑Bissau Peace Consolidation and Development delivered to the President a report titled, “In the Name of Peace”, drafted after national consultations involving more than 3,000 people in the Guinean diaspora and around the country.  The paper examined peacebuilding issues and sought to contribute to national reconciliation.

Noting that the Peacebuilding Fund’s six projects, totalling $7.3 million, sought to foster bottom‑up peacebuilding between January 2018 and June 2019, he went on to stress the importance of moving forward on the Conakry Agreement, including the adoption of a stability pact.  The political impasse in Guinea‑Bissau had been resolved due to an exemplary case of international coordination involving the “P5 of Guinea Bissau”:  ECOWAS, the African Union, European Union, United Nations and the Community of Portuguese Language‑speaking Countries.

Nonetheless, there were challenges ahead, he said, among them, the financing of the election and update of the voter registration list.  Citing a $7.7 million project between UNDP and Guinea‑Bissau covering technical preparations for cartography, updating voter registration and administration of the elections, he outlined his intention to visit the country likely in July to consult with stakeholders on how the Configuration could further support peacebuilding there.

Statements

ALCIDE DJEDJE (Côte d’Ivoire) said since the adoption of resolution 2404 (2018), there had been encouraging events in Guinea‑Bissau, which marked a breakthrough in the political stalemate.  On the basis of frank dialogue, stakeholders appeared committed to working together towards lasting peace.  He congratulated them all, including civil society and religious leaders, and encouraged them to continue such efforts.  The appointment of a consensual Prime Minister, setting the date for elections, reopening of Parliament and formation of an inclusive Government attested to a new impetus.  Calling the Conakry Agreement the only framework for achieving peace in Guinea‑Bissau, he called for a national dialogue round table, a stability pact and legislative elections, urging donors to put in place technical conditions for the latter.  Meeting security challenges would require updating legislation and strengthening national bodies to tackle drug trafficking and money‑laundering.  It was also vital to provide UNODC the resources it required in that context.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said after three years of institutional crisis, there was reason to feel optimistic, noting that the President on 16 April had appointed a consensual Prime Minister, resulting from arduous negotiations between ECOWAS and the African Union.  While the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde and the Party of the Social Renovation held most portfolios, the real surprise in the composition of the new Government was involvement of the Union for Change, Democratic Convergence Party and the New Democracy Party.  Recalling the $7.7 million projects to update the electoral role and create a new cartographic division, which would allow the new Government and National Electoral Commission to hold the polls in peaceful conditions, he said the Conakry Agreement required the signing of a revised Constitution and stability pact, as well as reforms to the electoral law, to political parties, and to the security and justice sectors, among other things.  He encouraged the new authorities to work in the context of Guinea‑Bissau’s democratic institutions, noting that he was considering a trip to that country in June for discussions on the sanctions imposed after the 2012 coup d’état.

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom), while welcoming the considerable progress made in Guinea‑Bissau, nonetheless pressed leaders to stick to their political agreement, which must not be held hostage to personal disputes.  He also encouraged unity ahead of elections, stressing that civil society had acted in the long‑term interests of the country and leaders should make space for them in the political processes.  He also urged ECOWAS to continue its engagement, to “see the political crisis through”, calling on the Council to remain united on ECOWAS support in Guinea‑Bissau.  Recalling that the UNIOGBIS mandate was renewed in February, he said that mandate remained as relevant as ever.  Short‑term priorities must focus on consolidating political settlement and delivering elections.  He welcomed the focus on transnational organized crime and illicit drugs, noting that the appointment of a new Special Representative was timely, as there was momentum to refocus UNIOGBIS, per the February mandate, and deliver on priority tasks.

AMY NOEL TACHCO (United States), expressing hope that positive events would continue, said caution was needed moving forward at the current critical time.  Urging political leaders to foster unity and implement the Conakry Agreement, she called on all stakeholders to play a constructive role, including in ensuring the inclusion of women and girls in relevant processes, and supported the Government’s efforts in preparing for successful elections.  Turning to drug trafficking concerns, she applauded local efforts and encouraged further action to trigger more gains.  Highlighting ECOWAS and its significant role in promoting progress, she expected UNIOGBIS to continue its work, in cooperation with the regional commission.  But, many challenges remained and she hoped all political actors would do their part in overcoming them.

JOAKIM VAVERKA (Sweden), noting positive developments including the appointment of a new Prime Minister and the formation of an inclusive Government, called on all stakeholders to work towards conducting timely and credible elections in November.  The funding gap for voter registration and the organization of the elections must be adequately addressed.  Underscoring the role of the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General, José Viegas Filho, he urged the Council to play its part by making decisions based on a comprehensive understanding of the situation on the ground.  “This is all the more important as the situation within the country remains fragile,” he added, warning that current fragility could be exacerbated by the economic situation.  This year’s cashew harvest seemed to be lower than last year.  For those reasons, a risk assessment or conflict analysis must be carried out.  The Peacebuilding Commission had a vital role to play in convening actors, he continued, adding that the six‑point road map and the Conakry Agreement represented the only way forward.  He also expressed support for women’s active participation in the peace process.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) welcomed the appointment of the new Prime Minister and looked forward to the 18 November legislative elections, noting that the National Assembly had met for the first time since 2016.  Those events should foster implementation of the Conakry Agreement.  It was important to provide adequate funding for the electoral process, he said, welcoming UNIOGBIS support to mediate and conduct the polls.  He expressed concern about Guinea‑Bissau’s vulnerability to drug trafficking and transnational organized crime, calling for efforts to strengthen security and justice institutions and promote greater cooperation with UNODC.  He underscored the need for predictable funding for the Peacebuilding Fund that would allow people to access education and health services.  Its projects should focus on sustainable development and the empowerment of women and young people, and be coordinated with UNIOGBIS and civil society.

ANNE GUEGUEN (France) voiced support for the appointment of the consensual Prime Minister, which pointed to the parties’ determination to resolve the crisis.  Such progress also highlighted the coordination between the international community and the region — notably through ECOWAS — to resolve the crisis.  The “P5 format” offered a unique platform for coordination which should be maintained, as should efforts by the Council and the Peacebuilding Commission.  Stressing the importance of sending the right message of vigilance and engagement, she said resolution 2405 (2018) should make it possible for parties to focus on implementing the Conakry Agreement, organizing polls and revising the Constitution.  Women mediators would promote dialogue among the parties, she said, stressing:  “We need an inclusive process.”

DAWIT YIRGA WOLDEGERIMA (Ethiopia) stressed that after years of institutional paralysis, the appointment of a new Prime Minister was a step in right direction, as was the swearing‑in of a new Cabinet, among other positive developments which had kindled a sense of hope.  The role of ECOWAS in resolving the institutional paralysis was significant, he said, noting the centrality of Conakry Agreement and expressing hope that all would comply with it in addressing the challenges ahead.  International support would be important going forward, as would support from UNIOGBIS and the Peacebuilding Fund.

BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) welcomed the appointment of a new consensual Prime Minister and formation of an inclusive Government, urging all parties to build on that constructive approach by implementing the remaining provisions of the Conakry Agreement.  UNIOGBIS should provide support for organizing the polls and ensuring the involvement of all segments of society.  He welcomed the Commission’s efforts to mobilize funding for the elections.  Commending efforts by regional and international organizations to facilitate implementation of the Agreement, he went on to welcome the Commission’s projects supporting the role of women and civil society.  He also welcomed the upcoming National Conference for Constitutional Reform, as outlined in the Agreement.

LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) welcomed the recent developments on the ground, including the appointment of a consensus Prime Minister, the formation of the inclusive Government and the setting of a concrete date for legislative elections.  She highlighted the critical role played by women’s organizations in breaking through the political impasse in Guinea‑Bissau and called attention to five key organizations — UNIOGBIS, Community of Portuguese Language‑speaking Countries, European Union, African Union and particularly ECOWAS — stressing the important role they played in Guinea-Bissau.  While the recent developments were positive, the international community must not lose sight of the importance of the full implementation of the Bissau six‑point road map and the Conakry Agreement.

ZHANG DIANBIN (China) commended political progress and the start of implementation of the Conakry Agreement by various parties, calling on international donors and partners to continue to support Guinea‑Bissau in strengthening State capacities and improving people’s well‑being.  He expressed hope that the United Nations country team, Peacebuilding Commission, UNIOGBIS, UNDP and UNODC would provide targeted assistance, noting that China supported “African solutions to African problems”, along with international efforts and those by the new Special Representative.

DIDAR TEMENOV (Kazakhstan) welcomed the latest encouraging steps taken by all parties to end the protracted political stalemate in Guinea-Bissau, including the decision to extend the ECOWAS Mission for Guinea‑Bissau’s mandate until 30 June 2018.  The focus now must be on election preparation, he said, calling on international partners to come together to provide the necessary technical, logistical and financial support for the electoral process.  The Conakry Agreement must be implemented fully and urgent attention paid to combating drug trafficking and transnational organized crime.  He called on Guinea‑Bissau’s national authorities to strengthen cooperation with UNIOGBIS, UNODC and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL).  Ensuring the country’s resilience included increasing support for existing development plans and the United Nations peacebuilding strategy with a special focus on education and health care.  The participation of women and youth in the political process at every stage and at all levels was equally important.

PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) applauded the appointment of a consensual prime Minister following a compromise agreement, which was the cornerstone for creating sustainable peace.  He also welcomed the new Government programme, urging that such agreements be consolidated, which would help all to achieve consensus in peoples’ interests and full respect for their sovereignty.  Noting that Guinea‑Bissau faced a number of challenges, he said the Government and Parliament required technical and financial assistance to begin work on the electoral roles.  Cooperation among regional and subregional organizations would be essential in that regard, he said, welcoming efforts by the African Union, ECOWAS, the ECOSWAS Mission for Guinea‑Bissau, European Union, and the Community of Portuguese Language‑speaking Countries in promoting dialogue.  Bolivia awaited the results of the UNIOGBIS strategic review and ideas for its reconfiguration, voicing support for the “Women’s Forum for Peace” initiative, stressing that women’s participation in mediation was crucial.  Guinea‑Bissau required assistance to strengthen control over its borders and airspace.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) described significant progress in Guinea‑Bissau marked by the appointment of new Prime Minister and formation of new Government that had satisfied all political forces in the country.  He expected UNIOGBIS to provide support to the electoral process, pursuant to its mandate outlined in resolution 2404 (2018), underscoring the importance of plans to hold a National Assembly meeting on a constitutional revision.  He applauded UNIOGBIS efforts to foster that meeting, noting ECOWAS efforts to resolve the crisis and stressing that the fate of the country should be based on the aspirations of its citizens without imposition of ready‑made solutions from the outside.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), Council President for the month, welcomed the recent positive developments in Guinea‑Bissau, including the appointment of an inclusive Government, the reopening of the National Assembly, the election of the President of the National Electoral Commission and the announcement that legislative elections would take place in November 2018.  Nevertheless, drug trafficking and organized crime still represented serious threats to peace and stability in the country, and in that connection, Poland called on the political leaders and State institutions of Guinea‑Bissau to combat those crimes in cooperation with UNODC, ECOWAS and UNIOGBIS.

FERNANDO DELFIM DA SILVA (Guinea-Bissau), thanking the Council and ECOWAS for its solidarity and support, outlined tasks ahead, including preparations for the November elections and the implementation of institutional reforms to consolidate stability.  Over the past 24 years, Guinea‑Bissau had had five legislative elections, a civil war and two coups d’état, demonstrating that elections alone could not consolidate institutional stability.  Under the Conakry Agreement, his country needed the international community’s support, including technical assistance to ensure successful elections by, among other things, updating voter registration rolls.  In the new political framework, the Council’s continued solidarity was needed, he said, pledging the Government’s support for ensuring continued progress.

For information media. Not an official record.