Guinea-Bissau’s democracy and economy need strengthening, UN says

Guinea-Bissau’s democracy and economy need strengthening, UN says

Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Guinea-Bissau’s democratization process is fragile and, with government revenues falling below projections, unpaid salary arrears are still a critical problem for the West African country, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a new report to the UN Security Council.

A special Emergency Economic Management Fund, administered by the UN Development Fund (UNDP), has collected just over $4 million out of $18.3 million needed to pay salary arrears to government employees and provide current social services, according to the report.

Previously, when ex-President Kumba Yala’s Government lacked the funds to pay salaries, civil servants staged strikes which briefly brought a military junta to power last September, but, with UN aid, elections for all senior positions but the President were held last March.

The UNDP-administered fund for post-conflict Guinea-Bissau received $4 million in donations from the Netherlands, Sweden and France, as well as Portugal and Brazil, which contributed to it through the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, the report says.

In the first four months of 2004, Guinea-Bissau also received other donations totalling $7 million from Portugal, Ghana, Angola and the West African Economic and Monetary Union.

The Secretary-General cautions that peace cannot be built by outsiders, and stresses the need for the Government to remain in the lead. “If the elected leaders are unable or unwilling to shoulder their sovereign responsibilities, especially in the absence of viable and accountable State structures, neither peace nor development can emerge or endure.”

At the same time, he says he his “encouraged” by signs of greater participation of women in the country’s political life.

The UN Peace-Building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS) will continue its efforts to support gender equality, including by boosting the participation of women from various political parties in peace-building and conflict resolution, the report says.