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Guinea-Bissau: Briefing

Tomorrow (16 May), the Security Council will meet on 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, are expected to brief. While consultations are scheduled to follow the briefing, Council members are likely to deliver their remarks in public.

Rare progress has emerged in overcoming Guinea-Bissau’s 2.5-year political crisis since the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed sanctions this past February on 18 individuals associated with President José Mario Vaz. On 16 April, after an ECOWAS summit on Guinea-Bissau, Vaz issued a decree appointing a consensus prime minister, agreed by the major political parties in accordance with the Conakry Agreement, which ECOWAS had brokered in October 2016 to resolve the crisis. An additional presidential decree set the date of 18 November for legislative elections. The plenary of the National Assembly then met on 19 April for the first time since January 2016 in a special session, appointing four members of the National Electoral Commission (CNE), and adopting a draft bill that Vaz subsequently signed extending the legislature’s mandate, which was expiring on 23 April, until the November legislative elections.

Members were briefed on this recent progress in consultations under “any other business” on 19 April by then Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Guinea-Bissau Modibo Touré, who was succeeded this month by Brazilian diplomat Jose Viegas Fielho. Following the briefing, Council members issued press elements expressing full support for ECOWAS’s sustained efforts. The Council underscored the importance of swiftly forming an inclusive government and taking other steps for conducting timely and credible elections and implementing the Conakry agreement.

Days later, on 25 April, an inclusive government was formed, another significant step towards advancing implementation of the Conakry Agreement. Vaz had wanted to retain his finance, interior and defense ministers, but agreed to appoint other individuals following an ECOWAS mission to Bissau.

Tomorrow’s briefing was requested in resolution 2404, which renewed the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS). Besides learning more about recent progress, members are likely to be interested in discussing continuing challenges. These include organizing elections and implementing other critical provisions of the Conakry Agreement—the adoption of a stability pact, the constitutional review, and electoral, justice and security sector reforms—issues that will remain difficult, as the Secretary-General highlighted in his 3 May letter to the Council on the appointment of Viegas Fielho.

Preparations for the legislative elections appear to be the government’s current priority, which Zerihoun is likely to cover during his briefing. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the government have agreed on a plan to organise elections with an estimated $7.7 million budget. Guinea-Bissau has made a $1.8 million contribution, in addition to UNDP and EU funding, but there remains a gap of approximately $5 million. Updating voter registration rolls, which should occur every year but was last undertaken in 2014, is planned to start on 1 June. Among other anticipated developments, the National Assembly is expected to reopen on 25 May, and is expected to adopt a government programme and budget, which the country has lacked since 2015. Members may stress that international actors should not become complacent amidst the recent progress. They are likely to express continued support for ECOWAS’ efforts and the Secretary-General’s new special representative Viegas Fielho. Zerihoun and Council members may further address progress in adjusting the work of UNIOGBIS following the Council’s reprioritising and streamlining of its tasks when renewing the mission’s mandate in February.

Fedotov’s briefing will be the first time UNODC has addressed the Council on Guinea-Bissau since 2009. UNIOGBIS is mandated to cooperate with UNODC and international partners to combat drug trafficking with the Bissau-Guinea authorities. Drug trafficking and organised crime in Guinea-Bissau have remained of concern to the Council, including the possibility that the political impasse could enable a rise in drug trafficking, and that a number of high-level political and military officials are believed to be involved in such activities. Fedotov may elaborate on these issues, and may speak about activities that UNODC supports, such as Guinea-Bissau’s transnational crime unit (part of the West Africa Coast Initiative), and an Airport Communication Programme project that has contributed to several drug seizures this year at Bissau airport.

Yesterday, members held a meeting, organised by Côte d’Ivoire and the Netherlands, with representatives of the Department of Political Affairs, to discuss how UNIOGBIS is adjusting its work following the February mandate renewal, and the plans by UNODC to expand its presence in the country. Fedotov may address the challenge of UNODC’s dependence on voluntary contributions.

Viera is expected to call on Bissau-Guinean authorities to further implement the Conakry Agreement and stress the importance of international support for the electoral process. Viera may further note his plans to visit Guinea-Bissau in July. His briefing comes after a meeting yesterday of the PBC’s Guinea-Bissau configuration, which included briefings from David McLachlan-Karr, the Deputy-Special Representative of UNIOGBIS and Resident Coordinator, and Tanou Koné, the ECOWAS Permanent Observer. During the meeting, Ambassador Anatolio Ndong Mba (Equatorial Guinea) also addressed the configuration on his intention as the chair of the 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee to undertake a mission to Guinea-Bissau and Guinea-Conakry in June.

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