Preliminary observations and recommendations by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. Magdalena Sepulveda, Visit to Guinea-Bissau from 23 February to 1 March 2014
Members of the press, ladies and gentlemen,
I am addressing you today in relation to my official visit to Guinea-Bissau from 23 February to 1 March 2014, which I am undertaking at the invitation of the Government. My objective during this visit is to evaluate the situation of those living in poverty in the country, and the following statement contains my preliminary findings and recommendations. I would like to emphasize that today’s statement covers above all urgent issues which I hope will be addressed by the State as a matter of priority. I will present my final report to the 25th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2014. The final report will include my more detailed recommendations to assist the Government in improving the lives of persons living in poverty.
Given the immediacy of some of the issues raised with me by various stakeholders, I feel compelled to address them here today, and not to wait for consideration of the issues in my final country mission report for June 2014. While I recognize that much more could be said on a range of issues, including encouraging Government policies and programmes, this is a deliberate choice. As such, the following comments are – and should be reported as – a work in progress.
During my stay, I met with various Government authorities, including the Transitional President, Serifo Nhamadjo; the Transitional Prime Minister, Rui Duarte de Barros; the Minister of Justice, Mamadú Saido Baldé; the Minister of Economy and Regional Integration, Soares Sambú; the Minister of Agriculture, Nicolau dos Santos; the Minister for Women, Family and Social Solidarity, Gabriela, Alfredo Fenandes; the Minister of Education, Youth, Culture and Sports, Alfredo Gomes Júnior; the Secretary of State for Food Security, Bilony Nhama Nantamba Nhasse; the President of the Human Rights Commission, Injai Fernandes; and the Commission for Strategic Planning. I also met with representatives of international organizations, the donor community, international financial institutions and a range of civil society organizations.
In addition, I met with communities living in poverty in the Biombo, Quinhamel, Mansoa, Bissorã, Mansaba and Nhacra regions. I visited several health care facilities such as Mansoa Hospital and the Bandium Health Project in Quinhamel region (Bucumul village).
I would like to thank the Government of Guinea-Bissau for its excellent cooperation during my visit. I very much appreciate the spirit of openness in which I was able to engage in dialogue with the authorities.
I met with the Special Representative of the Secretary General Jose Manuel Ramos Horta, the deputy SRSG and Resident coordinator, Gana Fofang and other representatives of the United Nations Country team. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the Human Rights Section of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) for their excellent collaboration and assistance with the mission.
I am indebted to everyone who took the time to meet with me as their contributions have been invaluable to the success of my visit. I was particularly struck by the vibrant and active engagement by civil society working on human rights and poverty issues during the mission. I am especially grateful to all those who shared their personal, and sometimes very troubling, experiences of struggling with extreme poverty and social exclusion.