New York, 15 February 2017
I thank you for the timely convening of today’s meeting of the Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission. I congratulate you on assuming the position as Chair of the Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission. Portugal stands ready to cooperate closely with you and fully supports your intention of visiting the Guinea-Bissau. I also thank all the briefers for the very comprehensive briefings here today. In particular, I want to welcome ideas presented here by the ECOWAS representative and the Permanent Representative of Liberia and thank ECOWAS and in particular the Presidents of Guinea and Liberia for their commitment and tireless efforts on Guinea-Bissau.
For almost two years now Guinea-Bissau is living in political instability and the impasse continues. The negative effects of this protracted situation on the very impoverished population of Guinea-Bissau are deplorable.
This long standing instability further hinders the country’s international image and contributes to increase the feeling of fatigue already felt by various partners of Guinea-Bissau. We must however, rise to our collective commitments to peace and security and to prevention, bearing in mind that the efforts towards sustaining peace do not necessarily produce immediate results and require long term vision and engagement. The international community, in particular the P5 – AU, ECOWAS, CPLP, EU and UN -, must continue well coordinated in this regard. I fully endorse the statement previous delivered by the European Union.
The constitutional deadline for the adoption of the Government’s programme and budget in Parliament has passed. This bleak scenario reminds us of still recent events in the country, when it has been without a national budget for over a year; Guinea- Bissau is experiencing its 5th Government in the last two years.
As we understand it is up to national political actors and, particularly, those with constitutional responsibility to find a viable and long lasting political solution within the democratic and constitutional framework, through dialogue and in a spirit of true compromise. This is what the international community has been appealing for and this is, we believe, what the people of Guinea-Bissau is expecting from their political leadership. This is also what would honor the country´s collective best interest.
Guinea-Bissau holds the primary responsibility to create the necessary conditions for the international community to materialize the pledges made at the 2015 roundtable, linked to the implementation of the Terra Ranka national development strategy, including the pursuance of the consensual reforms regarding the security sector, justice and public administration.
Portugal welcomed and encouraged the mediation launched by ECOWAS last September, which led to the Bissau six-point roadmap, and to the consensual Conakry agreement on 14 October. We cannot but continue to strongly encourage its implementation, fully and without ambiguities, as we believe it is the only framework to consensually overcome the political impasse in Guinea-Bissau.
As part of the efforts to keep international support to Guinea-Bissau, Portugal continues to support the convening of a meeting of the International Contact Group on Guinea-Bissau, as endorsed by ECOWAS’ in its 49th Summit, last June in Dakar, and as contained in the communiqués issued by previous Peacebuilding Commission meetings on Guinea-Bissau.
We also highly value the role of UNIOGBIS and consider that there is a great need for a UN Political Mission on the ground in Guinea-Bissau. It is our understanding the Mission’s mandate should ensure the long term stabilization and development of the country.
Portugal welcomes measures aimed at reinforcing and improving the Mission’s ability to implement its mandate as per Security Council Resolution 2267. Any changes in the Mission’s structure should safeguard its internal coherence, especially between the political and programmatic components. A “One UN approach”, with UNIOGBIS in the lead, would be, in our view, a recommendable way to improve coordination, common action and messaging amongst regional and international partners.
A premature downsizing, downgrading or withdrawal of UNIOGBIS would send the wrong political message regarding the UN´s and the international community’s commitment to Guinea-Bissau and could entail great risks for the future stabilization of the country and of the region beyond. We should prospect the future, building also on lessons learned from the past and we believe that a strong political UN presence and engagement on the ground will remain crucial for sustaining peace in the country.
This concept - currently at the core of the UN’s agenda - would also suggest the need for a comprehensive and long term UN approach and political commitment to Guinea-Bissau, including as regards the future of UNIOGBIS.
As acknowledged by the Strategic Revision Mission, although ECOWAS remains the crucial facilitator for the political process, UNIOGBIS has provided invaluable political, logistical and technical assistance. Moreover, both ECOWAS and the African Union advocate the need for the UN´s overarching convening power and its direct political facilitation on specific issues.
Both the international sanctions regime and the ECOWAS stabilization mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB) have been crucial to ensure the political crisis will not spur the intervention of the armed forces. It is therefore of the utmost importance not to change what has proven to have a positive impact and I would recall again the Conakry agreement as regards the withdrawal of ECOMIB as it grants its stay in the country up to six months after a national force capable enough to replace is established.
To conclude, we reiterate our appeal to all political actors in Guinea-Bissau to swiftly and peacefully overcome the existing differences within the constitutional framework, focusing on the accomplishments reached in Bissau and in Conakry.
The deterioration of the political environment is cause for serious concern, in particular some allegations that may indicate a temptation to resort to other means rather than dialogue as shortcuts to overcome the political stalemate, as the one contained in the latest report by the Secretary-General regarding Nuno Nabiam. We fully support the Secretary-General recommendations, namely the one that states that “Political stakeholders in Guinea-Bissau must move away from their intransigent positions that only serve to perpetuate divisions”.
The Peacebuilding Commission, and this specific configuration in particular, have an important and unique role to play in supporting the international community’s efforts in Guinea-Bissau, as well as those of the Security Council, including through regular exchanges between the PBC and the Council.
I thank you.