5 March 2010 - Introduction of the SG's report on Guinea-Bissau and on the activites of UNIOGBIS
By Mr. Joseph Mutaboba Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Guinea-Bissau
Distinguished Members of the Security Council,
1. On 1 January 2010, UNOGBIS transitioned into the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS). It is a great privilege for me to present to you the first report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the Integrated Mission.
2. UNIOGBIS is in its third month of operations. The Secretary-General's report before you outlines the progress made in the establishment of UNIOGBIS and the remaining challenges to peace, stability and development in Guinea-Bissau. Allow me therefore take this opportunity to update members of the Council on developments in the country since the report was prepared and in conclusion make three general observations.
In terms of the latest developments:
- On the Political front: on 11 February, President Sanha appointed former President Yalá and the leader of the opposition PRS party to the Council of State. This is a positive step that will contribute to the much needed collaboration among the main political parties. The National Assembly, at the request of the opposition PRS party, set-up two parliamentary commissions on the Revision of the Constitution and Local Government legislation. Finally, the Technical Committee established by the National Assembly to organize a national dialogue process, has begun its work.
- On Regional Cooperation: The Ministers of Defense of Guinea-Bissau and Senegal met in Dakar on 12 February. They agreed to review and update the bilateral Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement signed in 1975. With regard to tensions over border markers in October 2009, both sides agreed that the joint commission set up to manage border issues would meet in March.
- With respect to the Commission of inquiry: The Judiciary Police submitted to the Office of Public Prosecutor two reports into the assassinations of President Vieira and the Chief of General Staff in February. Both reports have been referred to magistrates in the Prosecutors Office for further investigation.
- In terms of socio-economic developments: State schools were disrupted by a wave of strikes by the two teaching unions at the end of February over the alleged failure of the Government to meet its side of an agreement signed with the unions over pay and conditions of service in December 2009.
- And finally on the Integrated Peacebuilding Office: As a follow-up to the Joint Strategic Planning Retreat held between UNIOGBIS and UNCT in early February, the UN system is finalizing a Joint Framework for Peace and Development in Guinea-Bissau. This Joint Framework will contain specific benchmarks to measure progress in peace consolidation in the country.
I would like to now turn to more general observations.
- First: 2010 could be a turning point for Guinea-Bissau. The country is experiencing a relatively stable political environment and growing international attention. This unprecedented window of opportunity for Guinea-Bissau should not be missed. There is a lot to be done and the Government has continued to make progress in re-engaging the country's international partners and pursuing its reform agenda. The pace of fiscal reforms has improved and there has been progress in preparation for public administration reforms. Furthermore, the Government is up to date with current salaries for the first time since 2004. It has also increased revenue-gathering and improved fiscal management. Guinea-Bissau is getting closer to the HIPC completion point which would result in debt relief of 700 million dollars - slightly more than half of its total debt burden. In short, with an overall PIAGC majority in the National Assembly, governance improvements and the prospect of debt relief, the conditions are in place for political stability and tangible improvements in the lives of the people in the short to medium term.
- Second: Security sector reform remains at the center of the country's stabilization and development agenda. In the last few months, the Government, with the support of its international partners, has made some progress. The legal frameworks for SSR are now before the National Assembly as are the plans for the SSR Pension Scheme. The Security Council has given UNIOGBIS the mandate of coordinating international efforts in SSR. I am happy to report that the majority of UN SSR team is now in place and the recruitment of the remaining personnel will most likely be finalized by the end of March. In addition to implementing its overall coordination mandate, UNIOGBIS will also take a lead role in providing support to national authorities in the reform of internal security institutions, focusing on the police. UNIOGBIS is committed to collaborating closely with the country's international partners in a flexible manner to ensure that our collective contributions are responsive to the needs of Guinea-Bissau. The mission will also assist national authorities and international partners in developing integrated strategies to implement holistic security sector reform programs and mobilize resources. In this regard, I hope that the Peacebuilding Commission, under the able leadership of Ambassador Maria Luiza Viotti, will also support resource mobilization efforts and strategic coherence for SSR efforts.
- Third: Guinea-Bissau's journey towards peace, democracy and prosperity takes place in a difficult regional environment. The political and security situation in West Africa remains highly precarious and we see worrying signs of military coups, of ethnic and inter-religious conflicts and of political intolerance. And we also see increasing threats from international crime, illicit drug trafficking, smuggling, the unfair exploration of natural resources and illegal fishing taking hold in West Africa. Given the inter-dependence of most countries in the sub-region, this could further threaten Guinea-Bissau's stability. On the other hand, a successful and peaceful Guinea-Bissau could have a positive influence on the developments in the region.
Peace consolidation in Guinea-Bissau continues to require collective and timely action. In this regard, I would welcome continued support from the Security Council in ensuring constructive and coordinated engagement of all stakeholders. I thank you Mr. President and the members of this Council for your attention.