November 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 October 2008
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Guinea-Bissau

Expected Council Action
Security Council members will be keeping a watchful eye on Guinea-Bissau in the lead up to the legislative elections scheduled for 16 November. Depending on developments, a press statement is possible. The mandate of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS) expires on 31 December.

Key Recent Developments
On 15 October the Council adopted a presidential statement welcoming the commitment of Guinea-Bissau’s government to hold legislative elections on 16 November and called on the government and all national actors to ensure an environment conducive to transparent, free and fair elections, and to respect the results of the polls. The statement also:

  • welcomed technical and financial support provided by the international community for the elections and called on donors to continue to provide financial resources to support the electoral process;
  • noted with satisfaction the adoption of the strategic framework for peacebuilding in Guinea-Bissau by the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) on 1 October 2008, the importance of rapid and effective implementation of quick impact projects financed by the UN Peacebuilding Fund and anticipated the establishment of the monitoring and tracking mechanism for the strategic framework;
  • reiterated the importance of security sector reform and emphasised the need for the international community to provide further coordinated assistance for its implementation;
  • expressed serious concern about the persistent growth in drug trafficking, as well as organised crime, which posed a threat to peace and security in Guinea-Bissau and in the West African subregion, and stressed the responsibility of the government for tackling this issue and called upon the international community to cooperate actively with Guinea-Bissau in that regard (the Council also requested the Secretary-General to provide in his next report further details of what measures are required to deal with these challenges);
  • welcomed the initiative of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to convene a regional conference on combating drug trafficking on 28 to 29 October 2008 in Cape Verde; and
  • looked forward to receiving recommendations from the Secretary-General on how the UN presence in Guinea-Bissau should be reconfigured to support peacebuilding more effectively.

On 7 October the Council convened a public debate during which it was briefed by B. Lynn Pascoe, UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, on preparations towards the 16 November legislative elections which he said were on track. Pascoe told the Council that while the country had made progress since the civil war of the late 1990s, gains could be jeopardised if drug trafficking was not curbed through a regional approach. He called for adequate international assistance to strengthen Guinea-Bissau’s national capacity, especially in the judicial sector, to combat the drug trade. He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation for an expert panel to study the drug problem, ahead of the ECOWAS conference. (In his latest report to the Council, the Secretary-General recommended that the Council should ”take strong action and … consider establishing a panel of experts to investigate the identity and activities of those involved in drug trafficking and organised crime Guinea-Bissau” with the possibility of taking measure, including punitive, targeted sanctions that would help reverse the current disturbing growth in the drug trafficking crisis in the country.” On peacebuilding efforts, he reported an uneasy calm as the elections approached. Reports of a coup plot by elements within the military in August had highlighted the state’s fragile situation and constituted a setback to progress made since 2005 to promote a culture of democratic, civilian-military relations, where the military is “subordinate and accountable to civilian authorities.” The latest report warned of an “increasingly dark shadow over the country” cast by drug trafficking and organised crime which could potentially set back gains made in the area of governance and impede positive steps towards peacebuilding.)

The chair of the PBC country-specific configuration on Guinea-Bissau, Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil, briefed the Council on the formal adoption of an integrated strategic framework for peacebuilding in Guinea-Bissau. Also, Ambassador Alfredo Cabral of Guinea-Bissau affirmed his government’s primary responsibility for the country’s progress and stated that it would do its best to ensure that the legislative elections would be transparent and credible. He also agreed with the need for a regional approach to the challenge posed by drug trafficking and welcomed the upcoming ECOWAS conference.

Since mid-May there has been an especially virulent outbreak of cholera in Guinea-Bissau, resulting in thousands of people being hospitalised and at least 133 people dead. UN agencies, particularly the UN World Health Organization and UNICEF, have been helping local authorities to control the outbreak.

Developments in the PBC

Following a change of government in early August, the chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration undertook a further visit to the country from 10 to 12 September to discuss developments, the prospects for the Commission’s continued engagement and the timing for the final adoption of the strategic framework for peacebuilding. On 23 September the Commission adopted conclusions and recommendations arising from the visit (PBC/3/GNB/1). These included the conclusion that the political situation in the country had stabilised following the establishment of a new government on 5 August, the government supported continued engagement with the PBC and was comfortable with the formal adoption of the country’s integrated peacebuilding framework.

On 1 October the Commission adopted the strategic framework for peacebuilding in Guinea-Bissau (this took into account final input from the Government of Guinea-Bissau). The framework highlighted peacebuilding priorities such as strengthening law enforcement, reforming the security sector, wealth generation and modernising the country’s public administration system. The Guinea-Bissau configuration has since been working towards the eventual adoption of a monitoring and tracking mechanism for the strategic framework.

Key Issues
The key issue at this stage is the holding of successful legislative elections, which are seen as a key milestone in the process of consolidating peace. Other concerns include:

  • the security environment before and after the elections;
  • the future of the UN presence after the elections; and
  • effective consolidation of peace and stability, now largely in the hands of the PBC by tackling the root causes of the past conflict, enhancing good governance, supporting economic recovery as well as requisite security sector reforms, and promoting access to justice and human rights.

A major concern is that the destabilising effect of drug trafficking and organised crime on the country, and the West African subregion as a whole. A related issue, therefore, is whether the Council will take up the Secretary-General’s recommendation to establish a panel of experts.

Options
The Council’s main option appears to be a press statement after the elections indicating its support for the peace consolidation process, including good governance.

Council Dynamics
Council members recently appear to be more engaged on developments in Guinea-Bissau, perhaps because of growing recognition that sustained stabilisation may be threatened by the implications of the illicit drug trade and the potential for a relapse into arbitrary military rule. The country’s ongoing security priorities have been underlined by the work of the PBC. However, they failed to endorse the Secretary-General’s recommendation for an expert panel to study the drug problem. Apparently, some members (Russia and South Africa) fear that this will lead to targeted sanctions which they oppose on national sovereignty grounds. They expressed a preference for building the country’s capacity to curb the drug trade itself and strengthen state authority. Conversely, other Council members (Croatia, Belgium, France and UK) argued that Council action to address the issue of drug trafficking could be complementary to other efforts (including those coordinated by the PBC) to enhance the capacity of the Guinea-Bissau government and also necessary since the Secretary-General had indicated that the issue of drug trafficking could undermine peace and security in the subregion. As a compromise, a decision on how best to proceed on the issue was deferred with a request in the presidential statement that the Secretary-General, in his next report, provide further details of what measures would be required to deal with those challenges.

It seems Council members will await the outcome of the elections and recommendations by the Secretary-General on how the UN presence in Guinea-Bissau should be reconfigured to support peacebuilding more effectively to inform its next steps.

Underlying Problems
Guinea-Bissau is particularly susceptible to organised crime, social unrest, the narcotics trade and, perhaps also, possible terrorist activity because of its limited capacity to effectively police its national territory, weak capacity in government ministries and serious socio-economic challenges. Paying public sector salaries in a timely manner has heightened social, political and security tensions which have not been helped by the current rise of commodity prices.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolution

  • S/RES/1233 (6 April 1999) supported the Secretary-General’s decision to establish UNOGBIS.

Selected Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2008/37 (15 October 2008) welcomed the commitment of Guinea-Bissau’s Government to hold legislative elections on 16 November and conveyed the Council’s concern about pertinent challenges facing Guinea-Bissau.
  • S/PRST/2007/38 (19 October 2007) called on the government and the UN system to take further action on drug trafficking and organised crime.

Selected Reports and Letters

  • S/2008/628 (29 September 2008) contained the latest report on UNOGBIS.
  • A/62/768-S/2008/208 (25 March 2008) was the letter from chairperson of the PBC to the president of the Security Council providing advice on the peacebuilding priorities for Guinea Bissau.
  • S/2007/744 (11 December 2007) was the letter in which the Council requested information from the PBC on the situation in Guinea-Bissau.
  • S/2007/700 (28 November 2007) and S/2007/701 (3 December 2007) was the exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the president of the Security Council that revised and extended the mandate of UNOGBIS until 31 December 2008.

PBC Documents

  • PBC/3/GNB/1 (23 September 2008) was the PBC’s conclusions and recommendations on the situation in Guinea-Bissau.
  • PBC/2/GNB/5 (19 March 2008) was the Peacebuilding Support Office background note on the situation in Guinea-Bissau.
  • PBC/2/INF/1 (13 February 2008) indicated the membership of the PBC Organisational Committee and membership of the country-specific configurations.
  • PBC/2/OC/9 (1 February 2008) was the letter from the chair of the PBC listing the UN member states, organisations and entities constituting the Guinea-Bissau country-specific configuration of the PBC.

Other

  • S/PV.5988 (7 October 2008), S/PV.5925 (25 June 2008) and S/PV.5860 (26 March 2008) were briefings to the Council on developments in Guinea-Bissau and PBC activities relating to the country.
  • SC/9286 (27 March 2008) was the latest press statement by the Security Council on Guinea-Bissau.
  • S/2008/87 (28 December 2007) was the letter from the chair of the PBC informing the president of the Council about the placement of Guinea-Bissau on the PBC’s agenda and taking note of the Council’s request for advice on the situation in the country.

Other Relevant Facts

Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNOGBIS

Shola Omoregie (Nigeria)

Size of UNOGBIS Staff

About thirty, including international civilians, military advisers, a police adviser and local civilians

Duration

6 April 1999 to present; mandate expires on 31 December 2008

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