8438th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Guinea-Bissau

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21-Dec-2018 01:40:09
Guinea-Bissau political actors must show political will to hold credible polls without further delay, Assistant Secretary-General tells Security Council at 8438th meeting.

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The international community should send a strong message that the authorities and other political actors in Guinea-Bissau must demonstrate the requisite political will to hold credible legislative elections without further delay, a senior United Nations political affairs official told the Security Council today.

“The period leading to legislative and presidential elections will be critical,” Taye-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, emphasized during a briefing on recent developments in the West African country. In the wake of an 11-month civil war, the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) and its predecessor mission, the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS), have been present in the country since 1999.

“There is still hope for the country to move forward, and its political leadership can show good faith and meet its national obligations by holding legislative elections on 10 March 2019,” said Mr. Zerihoun, referring to the change of date from 18 November, when voters were initially scheduled to vote. About 800,000 citizens, or about 95 per cent of the country’s total estimated voting-eligible population, were reported to have been registered as of 12 December, he added. Regarding the possible reconfiguration of UNIOGBIS, he said that its eventual exit could take place by the end of 2020.

Also briefing the 15-member Council was Mauro Vieira (Brazil), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Guinea-Bissau Configuration, who noted that political parties in the country continue to disagree over technical aspects of voter registration, trading accusations of attempted fraud and deliberately delaying the process, while creating an unhealthy pre-electoral atmosphere. Stability is also affected by the view that some would be interested in further postponing the legislative vote in order to combine it with the presidential election in 2019, he added.

He went on to state that economic growth is projected to decline to 3.8 per cent from 5.9 per cent in 2017, adding that total spending on education remains low at 2.2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). A series of strikes affected public sector activities, he said, noting that State-owned schools have been closed for months and that teachers have organized demonstrations to demand their salaries.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members exchanged views on the new election timetable, with Sweden’s delegate expressing regret over the postponement of the elections and the inadequate preparations. Considering that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) set January as a deadline, he called upon the Government urgently to ensure the conditions for free and fair democratic elections and that there is no further delay.

Equatorial Guinea’s delegate said it is sensible to rethink the United Nations presence but emphasized the need for firm political will to face a wide range of changes on the part of the Guinea-Bissau authorities. Support is needed for reforming institutions, after which more partners will be needed to help advance sustainable development, he added.

The United States joined other delegations in urging all stakeholders to foster unity and to implement the 2016 Conakry Agreement in full in order to ensure that elections are carried out without delay. “It is critical that there be no further delays or slippage in the election calendar,” that country’s representative emphasized.

Peru’s delegate stressed, however, that elections are just one step to peace and stability. Building a safe and stable country requires fighting drug trafficking and organized crime, preventing violent extremism, growing the economy, reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development, he said.

As for the proposed drawdown of UNIOGBIS, the United Kingdom’s representative said his delegation is committed to a phased approach, with a transition of responsibility to national authorities and the United Nations country team. He urged the development of a clear plan for that purpose, affirming that a new partnership with the United Nations will be needed as reform will take time and the authorities must be supported in the process.

The representative of the Netherlands called for setting benchmarks not linked to time but, rather, based on achieving qualitative benchmarks, including completion of the electoral cycle and the subsequent formation of a Guinea-Bissau Government.

Guinea-Bissau’s delegate, describing the Conakry Agreement as a road map for his country’s emergence from crisis, explained that the legislative elections were postponed due to delays in mobilizing funds and delivering election kits, as well as the arrival of the rainy season.

Also speaking today were representatives of Bolivia, France, Russian Federation, China, Poland, Kuwait, Kazakhstan and Côte d’Ivoire.

The meeting began at 10:17 a.m. and ended at 11:57 a.m.

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