Governance and Political Process

SRSG, José Viegas Filho and José Mario Vaz, Guinea-Bissau President 

The SRSG has been making full use of his good offices to help build confidence among actors and contribute to preventing an escalation of tensions. He continues to engage key national stakeholders, in particular the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament. 

He also consults regularly with political parties and civil society, including women and youth organizations, as well as religious leaders, trade unions and private sector representatives in close coordination with international and regional actors, notably ECOWAS. In most of those meetings, the political component has been present and produced the related documentation ranging from background, situation analysis to action-oriented follow-up notes. 

Depending on the needs at hand, the analysis is deepened to include, for instance, a mapping of actors who can influence different processes, possible conflict “triggers”, a consideration of deeper underlying issues and interests, as well as scenario-building to help increase the UN’s options to respond to fast-moving situations. 

The SRSG has convened formal and informal meetings with international partners and key regional groupings (Heads of State, Prime-Ministers of the region and beyond, AU, CPLP, ECOWAS and EU) to forge a common understanding of the crisis and sustain international support for the country. He chairs monthly meetings of the international partners to coordinate support to Guinea-Bissau. The political component (PAS), in close coordination with the lule of law and security institutions (ROLSI), human rights  (HRS) and public information (PIU) as well as the UNCT, is in charge of preparing such meetings in the form of reports, speeches and press releases on the outcomes of the meetings (such as the joint statement of international partners following the dismissal of the Government on 12 August 2015). 

Another stream deals with constitutional reform. The political component is supporting the Ad Hoc Parliamentary Commission set up to review the current constitution, whose “gray zones” on the respective competences of State Institutions continue to be appropriated and exploites by conflicting parties. With inputs from DPA PMD, the political component is responding to the ANP’s request for the provision of a panel of legal experts to prepare an annotated reading of the current (1996) Constitution, in response to questions posed by the Ad Hoc Commission. 

That reading will produce non-binding legal opinions which will feed the work of the Commission and the public debate around it. DPA and PBF extra-budgetary funding may materialize in support of the constitutional reform in 2016. This funding may provide additional strength to the work already undertaken by staff from the rule of law, human rights and public information components, in their respective areas of expertise. 

Constitutional review in the area of rule of law would touch civilian oversight of armed forces and security institutions and the harmonization of military and common justice, inter alia. In the human rights domain, many call for greater independence of the judiciary (including a mandate for the Prosecutor-General) and national human rights bodies. Debates on the Constitution will require civic awareness campaigns, in which the public information component will be instrumental.

 

POLITICAL DIALOGUE AND NATIONAL RECONCILIATION

 

An effective political strategy must include the human rights and security dimensions particular to Guinea-Bissau, and make the best use of public information tools to amplify messages and shape perceptions. Cohesion in the action of all mission components is even more critical to two ongoing areas of intervention: the above mentioned constitutional review process, and the assistance to the Organizing Commission for the National Conference on Reconciliation and Dialogue (Commission). The Commission, re-launched late 2014, is to organize an inclusive political dialogue and national reconciliation process. The national dialogue conference is scheduled for November 2016.

PAS assists in the ground work with government officials, political parties, civil society organizations or State Institutions, in their engagement with this platform to find mechanisms to settle their disputes peacefully. Such assistance includes technical support to formulate the communication strategy for the Commission (message, audience, channels); proposing agenda items that advance the Human Rights Up Front policy, particularly on the issues of impunity and civil-military relations; and ensuring the political involvement of  women and youth at the local and national levels.

Addressing impunity and a dysfunctional civil-military relation in this dialogue brings along the human rights, security and justice dimensions. Absent true reconciliation, amnesty has thus far proved to be counterproductive, removing a deterrent to crime and human rights violations in Guinea-Bissau.

This multi-disciplinary approach is to ensure a highly participatory process, including active agents for positive change with a strong outreach across all the regions of Guinea-Bissau. In this effort, the mission’s Regional Offices play a key role as its antennas outside the capital. Concrete results include organizing a first meeting between the Commission and the directors of national media and, in cooperation with HRS, workshops for journalists on prevention of hate speech (media, human rights and ethics). These actions resulted in increased visibility for the Commission, on national television and radio. In addition, several UN radio programs were dedicated to the issue of reconciliation, giving voice to all actors in past episodes of political instability.

In addition to its own human resources dedicated to the task, UNIOGBIS has funded additional support (consultants, logistics) through its regular budget. In 2016, the political component put forth a proposal for a USD 1 million through the PBF, to expand population perception surveys, promote behavioural changes through civic education, build the capacity of the Commission’s members, promote the exchange of experiences with countries that opted for similar mechanism and gather the population views, focusing on women and youth groups, and their demands and expectations on the dialogue process at the National Conference.

 

Work with the Peacebuilding Commission in support of Guinea-Bissau’s peacebuilding priorities 

Defense, security and justice reforms, alongside national reconciliation have been recognized as priorities for peacebuilding by the Chair of the Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the PBC. A significant part of the PPP 2015-2017 and respective outcomes and projects to be financed by the PBF target those issues, which are also prioritized by State Institutions.

 

STRENGTHENING DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS

 

The SRSG, supported by all mission components, provides high-level advice to the country’s leadership on best practices of governance, including the comparative experience of other nations in the application of constitutional provisions and powers. In addition, mission components provide capacity-building, help develop legal frameworks and policies, strengthen coordination, information exchange and monitor the function of democratic institutions at the national and regional levels.

Regional Offices serve the purpose of assisting the State to strengthen its presence beyond the capital. Those multi-dimensional offices also serve to bring the concerns of the population in the regions to the attention of relevant state institutions. In the capital, ROLSI co-locates in national coordination structures within the Ministries of Defence, Interior and Justice. The political component provides continued monitoring of Parliamentary work and debate, and assists MPs to reach out to their constituencies. 

Similarly, PIU strengthens the capacity of the media and CSOs to also monitor the functioning of state institutions. The monitoring and reporting function of HRS extends throughout the State Institutions.

 

Workshop on institutional reforms in Guinea-Bissau
May 16th-17th 2018, Bissau


Shortcomings and ambiguities in the legal and constitutional framework, compounded by structural challenges in State institutions, lie at the heart of recurrent political and institutional instability in Guinea-Bissau. The country's longstanding crisis, which deepened after mid-2015, is symptomatic of these inadequacies and the tendency to undermine the rule of law.

The following policy briefs will inform the discussions during the event:

Provide Guinea-Bissau with a new constitution to strengthen the rule of law and stability
Review of the electoral laws
Review the Framework Law on Political Parties
Pursue the construction of an independent justice system that is of use to the population
Relaunching defence and security sector reforms in Guinea-Bissau
Which institutional reforms for Guinea-Bissau? (summary of recommendations)


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