At Security Council Top Officials express ‘guarded optimism’ over Guinea-Bissau

Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, Executive Director of the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Yury Fedotov and Ambassador Mauro Viera (Brazil), as the chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Guinea-Bissau configuration briefed the Security Council today over the situation in Guinea-Bissau and challenges ahead of upcoming elections.

16 May 2018

At Security Council Top Officials express ‘guarded optimism’ over Guinea-Bissau

Today’s briefing was requested in resolution 2404, which renewed the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) last February. While small forward steps to break a languishing political impasse in the country 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 was told.

Providing a snapshot of recent gains, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun recalled that 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 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.”

Briefing on the recent investigations, prosecutions and narcotics seizures in the country, Yury Fedotov said much attention was needed to combat rampant drug trafficking and organized crime.  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, he explained. 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.

For his part, 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.

In his statement, the representative of Guinea-Bissau, Fernando Delfim da Silva, 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.

Security Council members also delivered their statements. Generally speaking, they 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.

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