UN Security Council discusses situation in Guinea-Bissau and UNIOGBIS exit by 2020
The Special report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau-UNIOGBIS- was released on 6 December, recommending the drawdown of the political mission in three phases: keeping current configuration until the end of the presidential elections (June 2019); preparation of a transition plan (until December 2019); and implementation of transition, transferring tasks to the UN country team, UNOWAS and international partners and exit of the Mission “no later than 31 December 2020”.
“Since the end of the civil war in 1999, there has been no widespread violence in Guinea-Bissau, nor have there been any humanitarian emergencies or systematic gross violations of human rights. Nevertheless, the country has been in a state of chronic political instability that tends to become even more volatile during elections,” the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said in the Special Report, recalling the recent political crisis that began in 2015 with the dismissal of the then Prime Minister.
According to SG Guterres, the triggers of this “chronic political instability” are well known: a profoundly divided political class, driven by narrowly defined and antagonistic group interests; the growing political influence of a parallel economy based on narcotics trafficking; the absence of the State, especially in rural areas, and the fact that, where present, it is largely ineffective; the generalized lack of respect for the rule of law; violations of human rights and widespread impunity therefor; a general atmosphere of resignation with regard to poverty; and lack of access to basic services.
Besides these triggers of instability, new trends and threats have emerged, including increasingly worrisome signs of the presence of operatives of extremist networks from the Sahel and elsewhere in Guinea-Bissau.
Before this situation, SG Guterres acknowledges that “UNIOGBIS had played a critical preventive role and that without it, the situation in Guinea-Bissau could have been much worse,” stressing that “its presence is unanimously valued by the Government, civil society and international partners on the ground.”
But after 19 years through UNOGBIS (1999) and UNIOGBIS (since 1 January 2010), the Security Council through its last February Resolution 2404, requested the Secretary-General to submit, by the end of November 2018, an assessment of UNIOGBIS, including options for a possible reconfiguration of the United Nations presence in the country and reprioritization of tasks.
In his Special Report, Antonio Guterres underscores that, “assuming that legislative elections, although delayed, do take place and political tensions do not reach crisis proportions, a reconfiguration of UNIOGBIS and a reprioritization of its tasks should be considered, to reflect a more coherent, nimble and effective peace and security pillar aligned more closely with the development and human rights pillars.” Three phases are envisaged:
- I: Electoral phase (until June 2019)
During phase I, UNIOGBIS would remain as currently configured and prioritize support for the holding of legislative and presidential elections. Its activities would entail increased good offices with national actors and political support to and coordination with ECOWAS and the other members of the Guinea-Bissau P5 group. Other components of UNIOGBIS would be geared towards providing support to the overall good offices function of the mission. They would also help to support technical-level coordination with the Guinea-Bissau P5 group.
- II: Immediate post-electoral phase (June–December 2019)
The United Nations presence should be focused on the establishment of conditions conducive for the implementation of the reform agenda. That approach should include preparations for the UNIOGBIS transition plan, which would be linked to the development of the new Partnership Framework, in coordination with national authorities and international partners. The other components of the United Nations presence would promote a “good offices for good governance” approach and provide strategic advice and support to the Government for the strengthening of democratic institutions.
- III: Transition and exit (no later than 31 December 2020)
Phase III would entail the implementation of the transition plan defined during phase II and the gradual transfer of tasks from UNIOGBIS to the United Nations country team, UNOWAS and international partners. More broadly, investments in strengthening the capacity of citizens to engage with public institutions and the Government on peacebuilding, reconciliation, governance and economic development issues should continue. Consideration should also be given to increasing the capacities of the United Nations presence to design and implement peacebuilding programmes focused on civil society and grass-roots organizations.
The reconfiguration of UNIOGBIS should take place after the completion of the electoral cycle, namely, as of phase II.
The SG recommends establishing a streamlined good offices special political mission in Bissau, focused on facilitating the political process. To facilitate the implementation of this recommendation, an integrated component could be established to help to incrementally build up the capacity of the United Nations country team, while gradually drawing down the mission until its final exit no later than 31 December 2020.
An independent senior expert, João Honwana, conducted a strategic assessment mission in Guinea-Bissau from 28 September to 4 October 2018. He was supported by a senior representative from the Department of Political Affairs and representatives from the Department of Field Support, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (representing the United Nations Sustainable Development Group), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS).
The strategic assessment mission met with many national, regional and international stakeholders in Bissau and Dakar, held discussions with UNIOGBIS staff members and the United Nations country team and visited the UNIOGBIS regional office in Bafatá. The senior expert also undertook separate consultations with high-level officials from the African Union, the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the European Union.