Guinea-Bissau

Action without conditionalities needed to address situation in Guinea-Bissau, Economic and Social Council told

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ECOSOC/6037
Economic and Social Council
2003 Organizational Session
3rd Meeting (AM)

Council's Organizational Matters Also Considered

Simultaneous action without conditionalities was called for by both the Government of Guinea-Bissau and donors, the representative of South Africa, speaking as Chairman of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on African Countries Emerging from Conflict: Guinea-Bissau, told the Economic and Social Council this morning as it took up that Group's report.

During a visit of the Advisory Group to Guinea-Bissau, the Ministers for Finance and Foreign Affairs had endorsed the report and its recommendations and had made clear that the country's Government was committed towards its implementation. Emphasizing the need for partnership between the Government, donors and the Bretton Woods institutions, he said the Advisory Group could not solidify that partnership; that was up to the Government, which hoped for assistance for the upcoming parliamentary elections in April.

In concluding remarks after the debate on the matter, he said the international community had to rethink instruments in assisting countries emerging from conflict. Good instruments were available to be used during conflict and for development. Unfortunately, Guinea-Bissau was between those two stages and could not sustain any conditionalities.

Many speakers supported the implementation of the report's recommendations and stressed the need for partnership between the Government and the international community to ensure stability in the country's fragile political and socio-economic environment. They underlined that it was up to the country's Government to build confidence with donors through implementing good governance and the rule of law.

The representative of Guinea-Bissau said her country had always sought to solve its own problems. Some 13 years of colonial war had been followed by civil war. After that war, the help Guinea-Bissau needed had not arrived. The 1999 elections had taken place under critical circumstances. Guinea-Bissau would fully agree with the report's recommendations, she said, but stressed that each country had its own problems, which must be analysed in a way that did not interfere with the country's sovereignty. Guinea-Bissau was trying to do its part in order to receive the help it needed.

On organizational matters, the Council elected Switzerland to complete Sweden's term of office on the Programme Coordination Board of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

The Council also took note of a revised memorandum on the general parameters for the 2003 spring meeting between the Council, the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization, and of the proposed theme for the meeting: "Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus at all levels, a year after Monterrey".

The Council postponed a decision on its operational activities segment for its substantial session in July. It also postponed decision on a proposal for the ECOSOC Millennium Award for good practices, which was introduced by Sarbuland Khan, Director, Division for Economic Support and Coordination, Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Regarding issues pertaining to the International Narcotics Control Board, the Council decided to ask for the opinion of the Legal Counsel.

The representatives of Morocco (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China), Greece (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Croatia, Japan, Russian Federation, Egypt, Ethiopia, United States, Senegal and Switzerland spoke as well.

The Council will meet again tomorrow, Friday, at 3 p.m.

Background

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) met this morning to consider adopting its agenda and other organizational matters, including its operational activities segment; a request for additional meetings of the Commission on Human Rights; enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; the ECOSOC Millennium Award for good practices; the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB); the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on African Countries emerging from conflict: Guinea Bissau; elections concerning the Programme Coordination Board of Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); and general parameters for the 2003 spring meeting with the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The Council had before it a report of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau (document E/2003/8), which had been introduced on 15 January (see Press Release ECOSOC/6035).

At its substantive 2002 session, ECOSOC decided to create a framework for advisory groups on African countries emerging from conflict to examine the humanitarian and economic needs of countries concerned, review relevant programmes of support, and prepare recommendations for long-term programmes of support. The Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau was established on 25 October 2002. The Advisory Group visited Guinea-Bissau from 9 to 16 November, participated in the tripartite consultations between the Government, the United Nations system and the donor community, and had consultations with high-level government officials.

Guinea-Bissau, a country in West Africa with a population of around 1.2 million, gained independence in 1974 after a protracted war of liberation. After a period of political and economic instability, an internal armed conflict broke out in 1998, which lasted for 11 months, resulting in destruction of human, social, public, and private capital and a deepening of the country's endemic poverty. It is estimated that 88 per cent of the population lives on less than one dollar a day. Also, according to the report, the country has a fundamental problem related to the absence of an effective separation of the executive, legislative and judiciary powers.

The report concludes that there must be a sense of urgency in finding creative ways to help the country, as the combination of social, economic, political and security crises pose a risk of relapse into conflict. There is a vital link between national stability and economic and social development. The latter can only be provided by the return to political stability. The Advisory Group is willing to act as a bridge between the donor community, the Bretton Woods institutions and the Government, but political commitment on the part of the national leadership is indispensable to the process.

The Group also underscores the importance of a comprehensive and coordinated approach by the international community to all countries emerging from conflict. There is a clear need for greater coordination of priorities, programmes and related financial and technical support from the United Nations system, bilateral and other multilateral partners for broad-based recovery and reconstruction and prevention of the re-emergence of conflict.

According to the Group, a new development paradigm is needed for the country, one based on a partnership between the Government and the international community. The Group recommends to ECOSOC that that partnership be in the form of a compact, which can only be implemented if there is simultaneous movement on all tracks: government commitments; donor support; and economic, social and political issues. The partnership should include measures that need to be undertaken by the country's relevant authorities as a matter of urgency, including promoting the rule of law and political stability, specifically by promulgating the Constitution.

A positive response from the international development partners could include: emergency financial support; technical assistance; capacity building; and assistance for the preparations of the 2003 and 2004 elections. The compact could have a temporary trust fund to address urgent short-term needs in the amount of $12 to $15 million. The trust fund could: finance essential recurrent expenditures required for the minimum functioning of the Government; provide transparency and accountability in the use of emergency assistance; provide a neutral entity to manage its resources; and reduce the burden on government capacity while building capacity. The demobilization, reinsertion and reintegration programme should be funded as a matter of priority.

The Group further recommends that ECOSOC encourage the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to finalize and put in place its Emergency Economic Management Fund and invite the UNDP to continue its efforts towards finalization of preparations for the round table on Guinea-Bissau, including mobilizing the support of actors. The Council should encourage the Bretton Wood institutions to explore the possibility of delinking peace-building activities from macroeconomic programmes and place an International Monetary Fund (IMF) resident representative in the country.

For the long term, the Group recommends to the Council, among other things, that it urge donors to give carefully targeted support to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of critical infrastructure, including health, education, water, energy and transport. The donor community should also provide financial and technical assistance to the elaboration and implementation of a diversification programme with a view to supporting the country's efforts to find new sources of growth.

The Group further recommend that the Council request the Secretary-General to strengthen United Nations staff with the requisite training and expertise in early warning and preventive measures, and urge the United Nations organizations to strengthen their activities in the country and consider resident representation. The United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) and all agencies should devote more efforts and resources to gender mainstreaming. The Council should call on the United Nations country team to revisit the common country assessment to more adequately reflect the root causes of conflict and provide a risk assessment related to that analysis.

In concluding remarks, the Group stressed that Guinea-Bissau is part of a subregion that is currently in turmoil. The relapse of the country into conflict would have spillover effects. The Group is deeply concerned about the potential negative effects for the subregion and is strongly in favour of the view that an integrated subregional approach should be taken in addressing the problems of Guinea-Bissau. The parliamentary elections of 20 April can help to consolidate democratic governance and could have important repercussions on how the donor community responds to the short-term crisis in the country. Guinea-Bissau, the report concludes, is clearly at an important crossroad.

Ad Hoc Working Group on African Countries Emerging from Conflict: Guinea-Bissau

SHADRACK KUMALO (South Africa), Chairman of the Group, said he was pleased that the Ministers for Finance and Foreign Affairs had endorsed the report and had made clear they were committed towards its implementation. There needed to be a partnership between the Government, donors and Bretton Woods institutions. On Tuesday, the Group had met with the World Bank, IMF and donors to find ways to assist Guinea-Bissau. The Group also had met with a government delegation on the issue.

He said the Group could not solidify the partnership; that was up to the Government, which hoped for assistance for the upcoming parliamentary elections in April. The Economic and Social Council could give guidance on further steps to take and feedback on the report's recommendations.

MOHAMED BENNOUNA (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said the report drew a clear picture of the situation in Guinea-Bissau. Today, Guinea-Bissau relied on international support to meet the urgent needs of its people. The Economic and Social Council was seized with an urgent case of a country in need of financial and economic assistance in order to avoid the return to a situation of war. The consolidation of peace called for urgent action on the part of donors and the international community.

The Council should send a clear political message to the international community to provide its assistance to the country and contribute to regional stability, he said. The Group welcomed the recommendations contained in the report and believed that their implementation was the only way to improve the country's socio-economic situation. The Group subscribed to the concept of "partnership", which implied that all concerned parties had obligations to ensure the consolidation of the peace and promotion of Guinea-Bissau's socio-economic development. Guinea-Bissau needed financial resources and expertise for the achievement of political and economic objectives.

Regarding the recommendation for action on the part of the United Nations system, he said the Group supported the idea of the establishment by UNDP of a new assistance programme in favour of Guinea-Bissau, in consultation with donors and international financial institutions. The programme should be multisecotral and emphasize basic infrastructures. The social dimension should focus on employment, reintegration of soldiers into normal life and poverty reduction. The Group also called for immediate implementation of the short-term recommendations contained in the report to help the national authorities prepare for the organization of the legislative elections to be held in April 2003. The elections were of crucial importance, and the Group hoped they would contribute to national reconciliation and confidence building.

The Group supported the establishment of a special allocation fund to respond to the immediate and short-term needs of the country, and reiterated its rejection of conditional assistance. Humanitarian and economic assistance should be provided in accordance with the principles of neutrality and impartiality. The establishment of the special fund was urgent to meet the country's financial needs. The recommendations contained in the report related to the situation in Guinea-Bissau and should have no implications of a systematic nature. Each African country emerging from conflict had its own specificities and particular needs and must, therefore, be examined on a case-by-case basis.

ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece), speaking on behalf of the European Union and Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, said African countries emerging from conflict should be among the highest priorities of the United Nations system. The international financial institutions also had an essential role to play in consolidating peace in those countries and in supporting efforts towards long-term growth and development.

He said the creation of the Group responded to the need of the international community to find instruments of assistance for countries that no longer needed peacekeeping support, yet were not ready to receive regular donor assistance with all the requirements linked with it. The European Union supported the idea of a genuine partnership between the Government and the international community, based on common objectives and a long-term development strategy.

It was critical that the upcoming elections were free and fair and that no obstacles were placed in the way of participation and free expression of political parties and groups in all stages of the electo4ral process. The international community should support those elections, he said. He also favoured extension of the Group's mandate. Any effort of the international community must be met by clear and tangible commitments by Guinea-Bissau concerning good governance and the rule of law.

IRENA ZUBCEVIC (Croatia) said it had been proven that the United Nations, with the Security Council in the lead, had developed effective peacekeeping measures, which, in many cases, had prevented further conflicts. Peace-building, however, required measures beyond peacekeeping. It required a comprehensive approach that encompassed a wide range of political, developmental, humanitarian and human rights programmes and mechanisms. Most countries emerging from conflict did not have a tradition of democracy, rule of law or strong institutions, which bilateral and multilateral donors required. It was often a vicious circle.

Strengthening the role of the Economic and Social Council in peace-building was of utmost importance in order to help countries emerging from conflict achieve durable peace and sustainable development and to bridge the gap from humanitarian to development aid. In that process, the responsibility rested both on the international community and countries in question. The international community should find innovative ways to create the environment conducive to peace-building by providing enough resources. Countries emerging from conflict had to do everything they could to ensure development of democracy, rule of law and institution-building, as well as sustainable development.

The economic, social and political situation in Guinea-Bissau suggested that the country might be sliding back towards conflict, she said. There were no easy answers, but it was important that the Council deal urgently with the matter on the basis of the report. Bearing in mind the situation in the region, as well as parliamentary elections in April 2003, it was necessary to prevent a relapse into conflict and to help consolidate democratic governance. Adopting a resolution endorsing the recommendations would be of utmost importance.

MASASHI MIZUKAMI (Japan) said a comprehensive approach towards conflict resolution was crucial. Japan had hosted conferences to support countries such as East Timor and Cambodia, and his Government had also contributed towards demobilization, disarmament and reintegration programmes in several countries. Part of his country's official development assistance (ODA) would be used for assistance in conflict resolution.

He welcomed the active contributions of the United Nations system on the ground and of the Bretton Woods institution, and he urged that after recommendations were implemented, the Group should look at them again. He emphasized the importance of focusing on short-term measures, and urged the Government to demonstrate its commitment to the recommendations in such a way as to be convincing to the international community.

YURIY N. ISAKOV (Russian Federation) said he shared the concern of others in connection with the political instability, problems with separation of powers and the promulgation of the Constitution. There was an urgent need for a prompt settlement of the issues in view of the upcoming elections. The social tension caused by unemployment, growing famine and the general economic situation made financial and technical assistance from the international community necessary. Such assistance would help to strengthen the stability of a fragile situation in the country and might help to prevent recurrence of the conflict.

The report's recommendations were useful, he said, and the proposed overall approach on the basis of partnership was promising. Such partnership should be carried out on the basis of concurrent realization of commitments undertaken by the Government and the international community. Some recommendations should be clarified. The Group should continue to encourage practical steps for providing assistance to the country, and he, therefore, favoured extending the Group's mandate and composition. He believed the Group was a useful instrument in the Council's activities on conflict prevention and peace-building.

AMR MOHAMED ROSHDY (Egypt) welcomed the report, which reflected deep knowledge of the situation in Guinea-Bissau. Given the extremely fragile situation in the country, conditionalities were not suitable. Humanitarian and economic assistance should be provided in accordance with the principles of impartiality and neutrality. The report should not be used to reshape the political and socio-economic situation of the country.

He asked for clarity on several points of the report, including the mainstreaming of human rights in the activities of the United Nations agencies. While human rights activities were crucial, not all United Nations agencies had human rights mandates. He also wanted clarification on Guinea-Bissau's major source of income. When linking the country's main source of income to regional cooperation, one had to caution against what might be perceived as putting a country's resources under regional supervision. He wished the report had elaborated more on that point.

ABDUL MEJID HUSSEIN (Ethiopia), aligning himself with Morocco's statement on behalf of the Group of 77, said he supported both short-term and long-term recommendations. Immediate support and action on the short-term recommendations were essential for stability in the country and laying the groundwork for long-term development. The Secretary-General had recommended that budgetary support would be essential if the fragile stability was to be consolidated. The success in carrying out the recommendations also depended on the full commitment of Guinea-Bissau.

JANINE GUSTAFSON (United States) said her country supported many of the report's recommendation. However, Guinea-Bissau needed to take the necessary steps to enhance donor confidence. Although the report recommended that the Bretton Woods institutions have flexibility, she said the improved performance of the Government could lead donors to flexibility. She did not endorse the recommendations in that regard.

MAME BABA CISSÉ (Senegal) said Guinea-Bissau was caught in a vicious circle. The inherent weakness of its status as a least developed country was preventing it from carrying through on the reforms requested by donors. It was the international community's responsibility to help the country. Guinea-Bissau must be freed from political and socio-economic decline, and ECOSOC's role was vitally important in that regard. The Council must rapidly adopt a resolution, which clearly endorsed the Ad Hoc Committee's recommendations.

The IMF also had a crucial role to play, he said. The Council should welcome the Fund's desire to delink funding. The ECOSOC should find the ways and means to help the Fund find greater flexibility, as it was difficult for a country that had gone through three transitions. Senegal would spare no effort to honour its duty of active solidarity.

LUZÉRIA DOS SANTOS JALÓ (Guinea-Bissau) thanked the delegations for their support and for their desire to better understand the difficult situation facing the country. Guinea-Bissau was a small country that had always sought to solve its own problems. Some 13 years of colonial war had been followed by civil war. After that war, the help Guinea-Bissau needed had not arrived. The 1999 elections had taken place under critical circumstances. How could a newly elected Government work under such difficult conditions?

Guinea-Bissau was trying to solve its problems, she said. The people of Guinea-Bissau wanted help. If conditions were needed in order for it to receive the help that it needed, then it did not have a choice. Guinea-Bissau would fully agree with the recommendations. Each country, however, had its own problems. Those problems must be analysed in a way that did not interfere with the country's sovereignty. Elections had been carried out twice in the country, and they had been considered fair elections.

Guinea-Bissau did have a constitution, she said. That constitution needed correction, however. With the dissolution of the Parliament, correcting the situation before the April election would be impossible. Guinea-Bissau was trying to do its part in order to receive the help it needed.

In concluding remarks, the Group's Chairman, SHADRACK KUMALO (South Africa), said the international community had to rethink instruments in assisting countries emerging from conflict. Good instruments were available to be used during conflict and for development. Unfortunately, Guinea-Bissau was between those two stages and could not sustain any conditionalities, and no institution had suggested them. Simultaneous action without conditionalities was called for by both the Government and donors. He advised against conditionalities.

He said the country had asked for support in the upcoming parliamentary election, which was a simple thing. Other matters could not be addressed unless there was a parliament. The UNDP had gone out of its way to bring the people that had put Afghanistan back on its feet to Guinea-Bissau. The country was so fragile that it also needed the assistance of the regional group in rebuilding institutions. He had been assured by the country's Chief of the Army that there was no interest in coups d'état.

Adoption of Agenda, Other Organizational Matters

The Council then turned to organizational matters.

The President of the Council, GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala), informed members that in connection with the general parameters for the 2003 spring meeting with the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization, a revised memorandum had been circulated to Council members.

The Council took note of the memorandum and of the theme for the meeting - "Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus at all levels, a year after Monterrey" -- as proposed by the representative of Morocco, on behalf of the Group of 77, and expanded by the representative of Greece, on behalf of the European Union and associated States.

The Council postponed consideration of the item on its operational activities segment.

Regarding the request from the Commission on Human Rights for additional meetings, the PRESIDENT informed members that consultations were taking place with the Commission regarding that matter.

The President also informed the Council that in connection with the enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the interested delegation would submit a draft proposal for consideration at a later stage.

Turning to the subject of the ECOSOC Millennium Award for good practices, the President said the Council's bureau had endorsed the idea and wished to carry it out as an experiment. In answer to a question from the representative of the United States, he said funding would come from voluntary resources and the proposal would have no financial implications.

The Director, Division for Economic Support and Coordination, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, SARBULAND KHAN, introducing the proposal as contained in a circulated memorandum, said the proposal was meant to strengthen the Council's outreach capacity and to undertake, with the help of other stakeholders, including the private sector and civil societies, activities which could lead to implementation of the outcomes of the major international conferences and summits. The idea was to see if, with the help of United Nations agencies and resident coordinators, ideas and good practices could be selected and awarded. The idea could be carried out as an experiment this year in the area of rural development. Funding needed was nominal. If the Council agreed in principle, a proposal could be developed.

As the representative of Morocco, on behalf of the Group of 77, asked for more time to study the memorandum, the Council decided to postpone a decision on the matter.

Regarding issues pertaining to the International Narcotics Control Board, the Council decided to ask for the opinion of the Legal Counsel.

The Council then elected Switzerland to complete Sweden's term of office on the Programme Coordination Board of UNAIDS, starting today and ending 31 December.

Switzerland's representative drew the Council's attention to the fact that there was a rotation plan between Sweden, Switzerland and Austria for participation on the Board, and asked the Council's consent to the rotation.

The Council then elected Switzerland to occupy the vacancy on the Board starting today and ending in December 2003.