What's In Blue

Posted Mon 17 Nov 2014

Briefing and Consultations on Guinea-Bissau

Tomorrow afternoon (18 November), the Security Council will be briefed on Guinea-Bissau by Miguel Trovoada, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS). (This will be Trovoada’s first briefing since assuming his position on 26 August.) The chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) and of the PBC Guinea-Bissau country-specific configuration, Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), will also address the Council, as will Guinea-Bissau’s Prime Minister, Domingos Simões Pereira.

The briefing and consultations that will follow come ahead of the Council’s renewal of UNIOGBIS’s mandate, which expires on 30 November. In response to the Council’s request for a written update on the situation in Guinea-Bissau prior to the mandate’s expiration, the Secretary-General circulated a letter on 11 November (S/2014/805) describing developments in the country since his 18 August report on the restoration of constitutional order (S/2014/603). In his letter, the Secretary-General recommends a technical rollover of the mandate of UNIOGBIS through 28 February 2015, in order to take into account the recommendations of a UN strategic assessment mission that he deployed to Guinea-Bissau from 3 to 14 November. These recommendations will be included in the Secretary-General’s report on the comprehensive review of UNIOGBIS that is due by 30 January. (This review was requested in resolution 2157 to ensure the UN’s activities are aligned to the priorities of Guinea-Bissau’s new government.)

Council members seem to support the idea of a rollover. Nigeria, as penholder, is expected to circulate a draft resolution later this week that will likely be based on the last UNIOGBIS resolution, with any changes limited to reflecting recent developments in the country that would renew the mandate for three months.

Members may be looking for more information from Trovoada, on some of the recent developments highlighted in the Secretary-General’s letter. The letter noted a number of encouraging developments in Guinea-Bissau, including the government’s 15 September dismissal of the Armed Forces chief of general staff and leader of the 12 April 2012 coup, Antonio Indjai, and the resumption of the activities of the Steering Committee on Security Sector Reform (SSR) after a two year lull. The government has also adopted a four-year programme addressing immediate short-term needs and longer-term development priorities, along with a plan to review natural resource contracts. Members are likely to welcome the positive developments and efforts by the government, and may ask about any potential spoilers or pitfalls.

Members will likely be interested in hearing from Patriota who visited Guinea-Bissau on 29 and 30 October. He attended a ministerial meeting of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) in Bissau, and met with various government officials, including Simões Pereira, as well as with representatives of the international community based in the country. On 13 November, Patriota informally briefed Council experts at the Australian mission on his visit. He gave a positive assessment of the first 100 days of the new government and its commitment to reforms, and noted that civil-military relations appear on the right track. However, according to Patriota, strong support from the international community remains very important. Members are likely to highlight the need for the international community to continue to provide support, and may focus on the donor conference for Guinea-Bissau that is expected to take place in Brussels in February 2015.

A major concern that speakers are likely to raise is the risk of Ebola spreading to Guinea-Bissau. An outbreak could severely undermine recent positive developments because—despite preparations being undertaken in case the epidemic spreads to Guinea-Bissau—the country’s health infrastructure is very weak. At a General Assembly meeting on 13 November on Ebola, Patriota appealed for the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response to redouble its efforts to prevent the epidemic’s spread from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and to support the neighbouring countries preparedness to combat the disease.

On SSR, the government of Guinea-Bissau, the UN and the PBC appear to agree on the important role of the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB) and the need to maintain an international force. However, both Nigeria and Simões Pereira, may urge for greater sharing of the burden of the mission, which is being primarily borne by Nigeria. There has been discussion about possibly enlarging ECOMIB under an ECOWAS and CPLP partnership and coordinating its mandate with that of UNIOGBIS. This issue and discussion of the mission’s future, whose mandate from ECOWAS expires on 31 December, could come up at the Council meeting.

Over the next two days, Guinea-Bissau will be the focus of several other meetings in New York. Prior to the Council meeting, the International Contact Group for Guinea-Bissau (ICG-GB) will hold a ministerial meeting tomorrow morning co-chaired by the foreign ministers of Ghana and Timor-Leste. The ICG-GB—whose members are Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Spain, France, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Portugal, Senegal, as well as the UN, AU, EU, CPLP, ECOWAS, the West African Economic and Monetary Union, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund—will be meeting for the first time since 7 June 2012. Divisions between the CPLP and ECOWAS, as a result of the 2012 coup, led to a halt in the group’s activities. The ICG-GB meeting is expected to consider the renewal and review of UNIOGBIS’s mandate, the ECOMIB mission and a future international presence, as well as prepare for the upcoming donor conference. Simões Pereira and Guinea-Bissau’s Defense Minister, Cadi Seidi, will address the group. Trovoada and Patriota will make introductory remarks and around 60 countries and organisations have been invited, including all the current and incoming Council members. A communiqué is expected to be issued following the meeting.

The day after the Council’s meeting, on 19 November, there will be a meeting of the PBC country configuration with Simões Pereira and Trovoada attending. As Patriota has already briefed configuration members on 12 November on his visit, Wednesday’s meeting is expected to be an opportunity to get feedback from Simões Pereira and Trovoada on Patriota’s ideas for PBC engagement with Guinea-Bissau. The report of his visit suggests the configuration ought to focus its support on political dialogue around the SSR process, revenue generation, preparations for the upcoming donors’ conference, and improved resilience of the country’s health system and preparedness against Ebola.