The Security Council’s 15 members have become increasingly mobile in recent years, traveling regularly to assess, first hand, developments on the issues and in the countries on its agenda. Council members have just completed one such visit, this time to Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau. Below is an account of that trip, compiled in journal form. (Council members are scheduled to report formally on their trip the week of 25 February 2019).
On the evening of 13 February – and, owing to a delayed flight out of New York, over four hours later than originally planned – the Security Council starts its mission to West Africa. It is the Council’s first field visit in 2019, and the first such trip for the new Council members Belgium, Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia and South Africa.
The first stop is Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, to take stock of the situation in the Mano River Region, and to examine the transition processes from United Nations peacekeeping operations in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia to UN peacebuilding support presences. After a long flight, Council members arrive in Abidjan in the evening of 14 February, ready to start their official program early the next day.
Day 2 - Côte d’Ivoire:
At 8.30 am, Council members meet with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and discuss the transition experience in Côte d’Ivoire and lessons learned. The delegation is then received by the Vice-President of Côte d’Ivoire. This is followed by a roundtable discussion with the UN Resident Coordinators in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire as well as with civil society where they reflect on lessons learned in the transition of both countries from peacekeeping to peacebuilding.
The last official point on the program in Abidjan is a press conference, during which the co-leads of the mission – Côte d’Ivoire and Equatorial Guinea – pay tribute to the late Ambassador of Côte d’Ivoire to the United Nations, Bernard Tanoh-Boutchoue, who passed away in New York in April 2018. The delegation makes it through the heavy midday traffic in Abidjan to the airport, to board an incredibly warm UN aircraft for the mission’s second stop, Bissau, capital of Guinea-Bissau. The Council members use the time in the aircraft – that fortunately cooled down a little once in the air - to prepare for the visit, make up for the missed lunch in Abidjan with fruits from the local supermarket, catch up on some much-needed sleep and protect themselves with mosquito spray. The mosquito spray proves very useful as the delegation arrives in Bissau, just before dusk, on 15 February.
Day 2 – Guinea-Bissau:
In Bissau, the mission’s objective is to advocate for political dialogue towards the implementation of the Conakry Agreement, the primary framework for a peaceful resolution of the political crisis in Guinea-Bissau, and the ECOWAS roadmap. The Council is also expected to discuss the preparation and conduct of free and fair elections, namely legislative elections on 10 March and presidential elections later in the year, in line with the legal framework. Constitutional reform, the role of the UN Integrated Peace-Building Mission in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), living conditions on the ground, the reform of the security and justice sectors as well as efforts to combat transnational organized crime are also issues on the minds of Council members.
At the first meeting in Bissau with Prime Minister, Aristides Gomes, the delegation hears an update on the preparations of the upcoming elections. They then discuss the situation in Guinea-Bissau with the group of five international organizations represented in the country, also called the P5 (African Union (AU), Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), European Union (EU) and UN) and the international community over dinner, before being briefed on the work of UNIOGBIS by Deputy Special Representative (DSRSG) David Mclachlan-Karr. This briefing by the DSRSG, requested by resolution 2404 (2018), would normally be delivered in the Council’s Consultations Room in New York. It is past midnight, when Council members head back to the hotel.
Full second day in Bissau: Over an early breakfast, Council members continue the discussion on the situation ahead of the elections with the P5 group, before heading to the National Assembly. There, the Council delegation is received by the Speaker of the National Assembly. Leaders of the political parties represented in Parliament later also join the meeting. Afterwards, in a meeting with the President of the National Election Commission, Council members learn more about the details of the preparations of the 10 March elections. The Vice President of the Supreme Court tells the visiting delegation about the Court’s role in the electoral context and in fighting drug trafficking and organized crime. A meeting with party leaders that are not represented in Parliament, with religious leaders and with civil society is held at UNIOGBIS’ premises in the afternoon before members discuss the UN Country Team’s activities in Bissau. The concluding meeting is with the President of the Republic, José Mário Vaz.
In a press conference before boarding the UN plane back to Abidjan, the co-leads of the Security Council mission and President of the Security Council for the month of February, Ambassador Anatolio Ndong Mba of Equatorial Guinea, noted: “The outcome of the visit is totally positive. All actors, political, authorities, civil society, women and youth of Guinea-Bissau were very receptive. We leave with great optimism. The party of democracy which started today with the beginning of the electoral campaign will certainly end with the celebration of the election on 10 March.”
At the airport of Abidjan, the delegation bonds over the experience of – yet another – delayed flight. Finally, the delegation boards the plane from Abidjan to Paris, and after a long layover in Paris, arrives in New York in the late afternoon of 17 February.
Title picture: Security Council delegation arriving in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau. UN Photo