Progress slow in country’s efforts on SSR, anti-drug trafficking measures, mission reports
8 February 2010 - Despite an encouraging commitment to peacebuilding priorities on the part of the Guinea-Bissau authorities, there had been only slow progress in security-sector reform, economic development and combating drug trafficking, the Chairperson of the Peacebuilding Commission's relevant country-specific configuration said today.
"It is a long path still, but we know what the priorities are and we need to act," said Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti (Brazil), reporting on a mission to Guinea-Bissau from 16 to 21 January to assess implementation of the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding and confirm the priorities for the coming months.
She said that among the encouraging signs the mission had found were a commitment to a national reconciliation conference in June, normalization of payments to civil servants, recognition of the need for fiscal stability and an environment conducive to private-sector investment, and recognition of the importance of launching a pension fund for the military.
Among challenges was a delay in legislative approval of security-sector reform regulations, she said, pointing out, however, that the Speaker of Parliament had expressed an intention to hold an extraordinary legislative session to complete the process. There was also a need to coordinate security-sector reform among international partners and to make judicial reform more effective.
In the economic area, she said the need for an enabling environment for private investment, microcredit schemes and infrastructure were seen as fundamental. In addition, there was a need for investment in education and sanitation, and to intensify the fight against trafficking in children and drugs. In light of those findings, the National Steering Committee would prepare a revised priority plan for the allocation of a second tranche of assistance from the Peacebuilding Fund, she said. In addition, the Peacebuilding Commission should contribute to the fight against drug trafficking and help the country prepare for a donors' round table.
Joseph Mutaboba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, said via video link from Bissau that now was the time to go beyond reports; it was time for commitments for bilateral engagement and assistance to the United Nations system on the ground, in collaboration with the Guinea-Bissau authorities. The new year represented a window for the country to change for the better. However, it required commitment and the ability of all stakeholders to work as one. He pledged to keep knocking on the doors of delegations to ensure the international community was not only producing reports, but also taking action.
Also speaking via video link, Adelino Mano Queta, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guinea-Bissau, said the country was completely different from what it had been a few years ago. While there was peace and stability, security-sector reform was crucial due to the precariousness of the peace. Economic development also required assistance, he said, expressing hope for a timely release of the next contribution of the Peacebuilding Fund as a result of the latest report.
In a discussion following those presentations, representatives of the United Kingdom, Uruguay, Canada, Peru, Nigeria, Benin, Spain, Portugal, Cape Verde, Egypt, South Africa, Ghana, Angola and Mexico underlined the priorities of security-sector reform, national reconciliation, an investment-friendly environment, economic assistance and an international response to drug trafficking. Some delegates requested clarification of efforts in those areas.
Cape Verde's representative praised the perseverance of the people of Guinea-Bissau in the face of severe crises, including the assassination of their President, and called on the Commission urgently to release the second tranche of Peacebuilding Fund assistance. Guinea-Bissau needed friends who could "help it save itself", he stressed.
The representative of the European Union said the bloc would continue to help the Government with funding and projects in all priority areas, and asked that information on the new United Nations integrated office, its coordination with actors in the field and preparations for the donors' round table be made more accessible.
Mexico's representative offered to share his country's expertise in fighting drug trafficking.
In response to those interventions, Mr. Mutaboba cited ongoing progress in all priority areas, not only nationally, but also in forums involving the African Union and other regional and international actors. The fight against drug trafficking must be carried out in a coordinated international manner, he emphasized.
On reconciliation, he said the Government was aware that it must work intensively with civil society throughout the country for that goal, he added, stressing also that donor round tables must result in follow-through on commitments made.
Government representatives then outlined progress on a census to help pension disbursal, a bill to create a national guard within police institutions and other legislative measures. They agreed that there was an urgent need to release the second tranche of Peacebuilding Fund assistance, particularly for the education and energy sectors.
Civil society representatives described arrangements under way for the national reconciliation conference, which aimed to involve all actors -- political, economic and societal -- in creating a common vision for Guinea-Bissau and ending the cycle of instability and violence. They presented an estimated budget totalling CFA 500 million for the conference, as well as a proposal for a more permanent institution to continue its work.
Government representatives also appealed to the international community to share any experience or resources that could help ensure the success of the reconciliation process, noting that South Africa, Mali and other African countries had strong experiences they could share.
Following the discussion, the Commission adopted the conclusions and recommendations of the review of the strategic framework for Peacebuilding in Guinea-Bissau, which acknowledged the progress achieved thus far and the focus for the near future, as described by the Chairperson.
With regard to disbursals by the Peacebuilding Fund, a representative of the Peacebuilding Support Office said 47 per cent of the first tranche had been disbursed, but delays in prison and barracks projects had prevented the full disbursal. A staff member of the Peacebuilding Support Office was being dispatched to Guinea-Bissau next week to discuss the second tranche and begin the next part of the process for its release, he said, stressing that the Office was eager to move quickly on the matter.
The Guinea-Bissau Country-Specific Configuration will meet again at a date and time to be announced.