Timely, Credible Elections in Guinea-Bissau Critical to Retain Fragile Political Progress, Senior Officials Warn Security Council

Guinea Bissau, having made crucial strides towards overcoming its long standing political impasse, must hold free, fair and inclusive elections as scheduled in November or risk rolling back its fragile progress, senior officials briefing the Security Council emphasized today.

The holding of timely and credible elections is of paramount importance at this juncture, said Jose Viegas Filho, Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea Bissau Bissau (UNIOGBIS). Citing an overall calm situation in the West African nation � which has been experiencing political upheaval for several years � he said the country's authorities and political actors are currently focused on preparations for the legislative elections scheduled for 18 November. While key provisions of the country's 2016 Conakry Agreement have been met, a national dialogue towards the adoption of a stability pact is yet to be held, he said.

Anatolio Ndong Mba (Equatorial Guinea), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2048 (2012) concerning Guinea Bissau, describing his visit to that country in June, said he met with national and regional partners to discuss ways to help Guinea Bissau emerge from gridlock. Underscoring the importance of international support ahead of the country's elections, he listed several important reforms that are still needed � including major changes in Guinea Bissau's security and justice sectors. Stressing that the goal of sanctions imposed against Guinea Bissau by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) earlier this year is not to punish, pressure or change the country's leadership but to support its stability, he also voiced concern over the critical challenges of drug trafficking and transnational crimes.

Mauro Vieira (Brazil), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Guinea Bissau Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, described tangible progress in implementing the Conakry Agreement and returning Guinea Bissau's political life to normal. Recent important developments include the appointment of a consensual Prime Minister, the formation of an inclusive Government, the approval of a Government programme and the national budget, and the reopening of the National Assembly. He also outlined several core challenges still facing the country, including the limited time available to organize the November elections and update voter registration lists, the lack of proper coordination between and among Government entities and other partners, and an urgent need for cash to close the funding gap for voter registration efforts.

Elisa Maria Tavares Pinto of the ECOWAS Women, Peace and Security Network, briefing the Council via videoconference from Bissau, spotlighted women's critical role in Guinea Bissau's civil society. Emphasizing their historic aspirations and recent progress, she nevertheless cited obstacles that have long kept women from fully enjoying their civil, political, economic and other rights. Warning that the situation in the country remains fragile, she said young people face a lack of education and unemployment, while drug trafficking and clandestine migration impact women most. Today, for the first time, women's groups, religious organizations, youth groups and others are working together to discuss solutions to Guinea Bissau's political crisis. She also welcomed the country's recently adopted gender parity bill, which sets a minimum 36 per cent women's representation on candidate lists for legislative and local elections.

CAte d'Ivoire's representative, welcoming positive recent political developments in Guinea Bissau as a glimmer of hope in bringing the country out of its political crisis, called on its authorities to continue to implement the Conakry Agreement and help bolster civil society engagement. Welcoming the recent ECOWAS decision to lift sanctions against certain individuals in Guinea Bissau, which will help ease tensions and reinforce conditions for a constructive dialogue between stakeholders, he warned against any delays in carrying out the upcoming elections. Meanwhile, UNIOGBIS should make any adjustments needed to help the country lay the foundation for peace and turn its attention to development and the fight against drug trafficking and transnational crime.

Ethiopia's delegate, meanwhile, spotlighted the need to tackle the causes of Guinea Bissau's political crisis. Noting that progress remains fragile, she stressed that developments must be followed closely and the holding of timely, credible legislative and presidential elections is crucial for consolidating peace and national reconciliation. She also pressed national, regional and international bodies to tackle the growing challenges of transnational organized crime and drug trafficking.

Echoing those sentiments, the representative of the Netherlands said the full implementation of the Conakry Agreement and the Bissau six point road map is the only way forward. While commending efforts by the newly formed Government to organize legislative elections, she recognized that we aren't there yet. A draft of the stability pact has been circulated among political stakeholders, which will be the foundation of national round table dialogues, and she urged all relevant stakeholders to finalize that document as soon as possible before November elections. Among other things, she also expressed hope that ECOWAS will extend the mandate of its Mission in Guinea Bissau until at least the end of the presidential elections scheduled for 2019.

Aristides Gomes, Prime Minister of Guinea Bissau, recalled that six months ago the Council was considering the many challenges and seemingly insurmountable political impasse in his country. Today, however, there is new hope in Guinea Bissau, thanks largely to constant support from ECOWAS and other regional partners. Outlining some of the root causes of the recurrent political crises in his country, he cited the collapse of State institutions following independence as well as long standing fragilities and malaise, which are exacerbated today by the impacts of drug trafficking and transnational organized crime. Guinea Bissau requires an urgent return to regulation, which will help stimulate more growth and result in fewer political parties attempting to prey on State institutions.

Noting that important structural reforms will be possible following the November elections, he said it will also be necessary to reconsider the presence and configuration of UNIOGBIS at that time, leading to a more effective and efficient Office. Meanwhile, the signing of an inclusive stability pact will bring stakeholders together and allow them to join forces in a spirit of action. Asking Member States and other partners to support Guinea Bissau in developing a reliable and transparent electoral census � and to help it bridge broader financial gaps � he said that while Guinea Bissau's remaining challenges are numerous, they are not insurmountable and the crisis is not inevitable.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Russian Federation, United States, Sweden, Poland, Kazakhstan, Peru, Kuwait, Bolivia, China and the United Kingdom.

The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 12:42 p.m.

Briefings

JOSA� VIEGAS FILHO, Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea Bissau (UNIOGBIS), introducing the Secretary General's latest report on the Office's activities (document S/2018/771), said the country's political and security situation has been calm since his arrival in Bissau. Authorities and political actors are focused on preparations for the legislative elections scheduled for 18 November, and he actively uses his good offices with national and international partners to support the full implementation of the 2016 Conakry Agreement on the Implementation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Road Map for the Resolution of the Political Crisis in Guinea-Bissau. Outlining his priorities, including the engagement of national stakeholders in the electoral process, he said he has been meeting regularly with the President and the Prime Minister to underscore the importance of respecting existing legal frameworks as well as the electoral calendar.

He also described his June meeting in Togo, where he met with the President of that country and of Guinea in their capacities as ECOWAS mediators for Guinea Bissau to exchange views. On 17 and 18 July, he attended the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Community of Portuguese speaking Countries in Cabo Verde to discuss Guinea Bissau's electoral process and to appeal for technical and financial support from partners. While key provisions of the Conakry Agreement have been implemented, a national dialogue round table for the adoption of a stability pact is yet to be held. The Government of Guinea Bissau has launched related consultations with various political parties and intends to broaden those talks to include civil society and others, with the aim of adopting the pact in early October.

The holding of timely and credible elections is of paramount importance at this juncture, he said. Outlining several roadblocks that continue to pose challenges to that goal, he described disagreements voiced by some political parties regarding the 30 day time frame for voter registration. In a positive development, the funding gap in the budget for elections may have been closed following pledges by several international partners. Steps are also being taken to ensure that elections are conducted peacefully, with support from ECOWAS to help maintain security. UNIOGBIS continues to work closely with the ad hoc commission of the National Assembly on the review of the Constitution, and has made efforts towards enhancing civil society participation in upcoming consultations.

Concerning the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime, he said his Office, in coordination with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), is reinforcing its support to national authorities and helping them to seize illegal drugs transiting through Bissau's international airport. Another significant development took place on 2 August, when a gender parity quota law setting a minimum 36 per cent women's representation on candidate lists for legislative and local elections � as well as appointments to key decision making positions � was adopted. That draft is expected to be promulgated into law prior to the November elections, he said. Expressing optimism that such favourable new developments will enable the holding of timely elections on 18 November, he urged all international partners to maintain and increase their political, technical and financial support to assist Guinea Bissau's electoral and reform processes.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2048 (2012) concerning Guinea Bissau, described his visit to that country and Conakry from 25 to 29 June, the second such visit following one in mid June 2017. Its purpose was to receive information on the effects of sanctions imposed under resolution 2048 (2012). Representatives from the Secretariat, as well as of China, CAte d'Ivoire, Russian Federation and the United Kingdom accompanied him on the trip and participated in meetings. During the discussions, he focused on the importance of dialogue and commitment with national interested parties and international parties alike, in efforts to emerge from the gridlock and find a lasting solution.

He said he also raised the importance of international support for the country ahead of its legislative elections, drawing attention to related technical and financial issues towards creating a stable political environment. Stressing that the goal of sanctions is not to punish, pressure or change leadership, but to support stability in the country and positive change in the subregion, he said that while the situation in Guinea Bissau has been stable, political uncertainty threatens to undermine the calm. The constitutional order has not yet been threatened, but he drew attention to the ambiguity between the Prime Minister and President on the scope of their roles and authority.

Emphasizing that major reforms must be taken in the security and justice sectors, he said that while international efforts to find solutions have been effective, the Council must continue to follow the situation closely, bearing in mind that some key elements for the road map contained in the Conakry Agreement still must be implemented. The army has not interfered in politics, and in general, human rights are being respected. However, there are concerns over transnational crime and trafficking. Many actors continue to request that sanctions be imposed against politicians they hold accountable for the political crisis, he said, stressing: This is still seen as an issue that has not yet been fully resolved. He also saw that political actors and civil society were keen to express their views to the 2048 Committee. He recalled that on 16 July, he made recommendations to the Council focusing on the need to revise the sanctions list, when appropriate, bearing in mind current circumstances and opinions expressed by relevant stakeholders he had met during his visit.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Guinea Bissau Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said that his trip to that country in July was undertaken to see first hand how the Conakry Agreement is being implemented, particularly the organization of the legislative elections slated for 18 November. Since his July 2016 visit, there has been tangible progress in implementing the Agreement and in returning to normal political life. There is a renewed sense of optimism regarding a definitive solution to the protracted crisis and that the upcoming elections are seen as a window of opportunity to this end, he said. Recent important developments include the appointment of a consensual Prime Minister, the formation of an inclusive Government, the approval of a Government programme and the national budget, and the reopening of the National Assembly. All the national authorities he met showed support for respecting the 18 November election date and he heard no support for deferring it in favour of joint presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019. During the visit, President Jose Mario Vaz outlined three priorities: the holding of legislative elections on 18 November, security sector reform � including the creation of a pension fund for the military � and combating drug trafficking and organized crime, which is now included in UNIOGBIS' mandate.

Mr. VIEIRA cited four key challenges: managing the limited time available to organize the November elections in line with the Constitution, updating voter registration lists within a compressed timeline, the lack of proper coordination between and among Government entities and with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on preparation of election logistics � notably in procuring and sourcing sufficient voter registration kits - and the urgent need for cash to close the funding gap for voter registration operations so that the process may start now. On 23 August, the Prime Minister held a ceremony to start updating voter registration lists, however the country has so far not received all the requisite equipment to do so.

Mr. Vieira said Prime Minister Aristides Gomes expressed his strong commitment to facilitate a stability pact to avoid the recurring situation in Guinea Bissau of normally peaceful elections followed by political problems. He met with representatives of the Women's Council � formed by the Group of Women Facilitators � which advocated for a gender quota law. On 2 August, the National Assembly passed the draft gender parity law mandating a minimum of 36 per cent women candidates in the legislative and local government elections. The military continues to maintain its distance from the political crisis and to respect the constitutional order; the police force continues efforts to maintain order and to respect human rights. These are commitments that we should encourage to be maintained, he said. UNIOGBIS and the United Nations country team are implementing $7 million in peacebuilding projects. The Peacebuilding Commission's Guinea Bissau Configuration will continue to work with all international partners on implementation of the Conakry Agreement and preparations for the 18 November elections.

ELISA MARIA TAVARES PINTO, ECOWAS Women, Peace and Security Network, briefing the Council via videoconference from Bissau, spotlighted women's critical role in Guinea Bissau's civil society. Emphasizing that their historic aspirations and progress over recent years deserve recognition, she said women in her country have long demonstrated their determination and ability to help build peace. However, various obstacles have long kept women from fully enjoying their civil, political, economic and other rights. Warning that the situation in the country remains fragile, she said young people in particular face a lack of education and unemployment. There are also risks of drug trafficking and clandestine migration, threats which impact women most.

Describing the work of the Women, Peace and Security Network, she said it promotes the rights of women and girls across the region with an aim to build lasting and sustainable peace. Spotlighting some of its work, she said the Network actively contributes to Guinea Bissau's electoral process, focusing on the resolution of conflicts. Some 200 women, girls and boys serve across the country as monitors, with mediation efforts simultaneously under way to ensure a climate of calm during the elections. The Network also helps to ensure that all candidates have equal access to State media and that civil society groups are actively engaged, leading to a climate of calm, and elections deemed fair and transparent.

Today, she continued, women's groups, religious organizations, youth organizations and traditional powers are working together for the first time to discuss solutions to the country's political crisis. An alliance of civil society organizations was established leading to the ongoing process aimed at signing a stability pact in the coming months. We women are committed to engaging in dialogue with other partners, she said, welcoming the recently adopted gender parity bill that will lead to considerable change in Guinea Bissau. In order to ensure a more effective partnership between the country and the United Nations, she said the latter should prioritize political stability by promoting and overseeing an inclusive national dialogue. The United Nations should also be more present and be at the front line to mobilize partners, ensuring better access to international assistance.

Statements

HOUADJA LA�ON ADOM (CAte d'Ivoire), welcoming positive recent political developments in Guinea Bissau, described them as a glimmer of hope in bringing the country out of its political crisis. Recalling the Council's adoption of resolution 2404 (2014) in February � which mandated UNIOGBIS with several priority tasks related to the country's constitutional review and support for its upcoming elections � he called on national authorities to continue to implement the Conakry Agreement and help bolster civil society engagement. Welcoming the recent ECOWAS decision to lift sanctions against certain individuals in Guinea Bissau, which will help ease tensions and reinforce conditions for a constructive dialogue between stakeholders, he warned against any delays in carrying out the upcoming elections. He also hailed financial contributions made by ECOWAS and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and asked other partners to fulfil all similar pledges. Meanwhile, UNIOGBIS should make any adjustments needed to help the country lay the foundation for peace and turn its attention to issues related to development and the fight against drug trafficking and transnational organized crime.

ANNE GUEGUEN (France), echoing support for Guinea Bissau's recent political progress, hailed the central role played by regional actors and other partners in achieving those results. While the progress made is positive, more work is still needed and all stakeholders should fully commit to technical preparations for the upcoming vote. The international community must also play a role in supporting the electoral process, including through the provision of technical support by such partners as UNDP and the European Union. Welcoming the non intervention in political affairs by the Guinea Bissau military, she called for more progress in the country's constitutional review � which will help stave off future crises � and a resolute commitment by all parties to combat the country's serious drug trafficking and organized crime challenges. France provides support for the ongoing process to review UNIOGBIS, which must be conducted in a free and independent manner and reflect the needs and realities on the ground.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) noted significant progress towards ending the political crisis in Guinea-Bissau following the appointment of a Prime Minister and formation of a consensus Government. He encouraged all political forces to work with the Cabinet of Ministers to achieve a sustainable settlement. He welcomed leaders' plans for elections in November, noting that UNIOGBIS is supporting their preparation and, recalling the Office's aim to facilitate constitutional reform, said dialogue on that reform should begin as soon as possible. He also welcomed as a timely step the lifting of sanctions imposed by ECOWAS on certain political actors in February, emphasizing that the future of the country must be built by national actors, free from outside influence.

LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) said the full implementation of the Conakry Agreement and the Bissau six point road map is the only way forward. While commending efforts by the newly formed Government to organize legislative elections, she recognized that we aren't there yet. A draft of the stability pact has been circulated among political stakeholders, which will be the foundation of national round table dialogues, and she urged all relevant stakeholders to finalize that document as soon as possible before November elections. Stressing that women play an extremely important role in breaking the political impasse, she reiterated the importance of their engagement in the upcoming elections and political life, as well as expressing hope that ECOWAS extends the mandate of its Mission in Guinea Bissau to at least the end of the presidential elections.

JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States), welcoming political progress in Guinea Bissau and encouraging leaders to pursue critical reforms, said his delegation looks forward to successful voter registration ahead of legislative elections in November. He encouraged regional partners to help the Government prepare for and execute those elections. At the same time, the Council must remain vigilant, as consensus agreements remain fragile, and both drug trafficking and transnational organized crime pose continued threats. He saluted work by civil society to encourage transparency in governance and a culture of human rights in Guinea Bissau, stressing that the United States would continue to work with the Government as it strives to achieve security and opportunity for all its citizens.

CARL ORRENIUS SKAU (Sweden) said the sense of optimism cited by the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission's Guinea Bissau configuration is encouraging. Pending challenges must be immediately addressed for the 18 November elections to be credible, he said, stressing the importance of equal participation of women and men as voters and candidates. The six point road map and the Conakry Agreement must be fully implemented in full and international support given to the electoral process. Full use must be made of the Special Representative's good offices, he said, encouraging ECOWAS to remain engaged. Going forward, he said root causes of the political deadlock must be addressed through constitutional reform, reconciliation and dialogue, strengthening the rule of law, equal access to economic opportunities and respect for human rights.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), welcoming Guinea Bissau's appointment of an inclusive Government, the opening of the National Assembly, the election of the President and the National Electoral Commission and the announcement of legislative elections for November 2018. All those developments spark optimism for a new resolve and a normalization perspective, she said. However, against that positive backdrop, reported delays and lack of concrete measures to prepare for the upcoming elections raise deep concern, as do challenges in conducting a substantial constitutional and electoral law review. We are however hopeful for progress with the recent announcement of the stability pact consultation, focusing on the security forms and the judiciary, she said. Calling on Bissau authorities to provide a firm political direction and undertake leadership in the electoral process, she said they should also step up necessary technical preparations and empower electoral management bodies to implement solutions for timely and credible elections. Avoiding a new impasse over post electoral power sharing is also necessary to ensure long term stability, she said, also voicing concern over the continued threat posed by drug trafficking and organized crime.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said that it is now time for expeditious preparations for the upcoming legislative and presidential elections. Calling on all parties to promptly take the necessary steps to implement provisions of the Conakry Agreement, he said that political stability in the country will be achieved only through the constant implementation of political reforms. There is a need for an open and inclusive dialogue to develop guiding principles of the reforms, he added. The most effective measures must be sought to ensure Guinea Bissau's stability and resilience by increased support for the existing development plans and the United Nations peacebuilding plan, with a special focus on education and health care. Ensuring the participation of women and youth in the political process is also critical. He further expressed concern for the perils of drug trafficking and transnational organized crime.

FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru), also hailing encouraging political developments that will help ensure the implementation of the Conakry Agreement and the six point road map, said the successful holding of a free, fair and inclusive electoral process in November will pave the way for presidential elections of a similar nature in the future. We must continue to combat organized crime, as pointed out by the Special Representative of the Secretary General and others, he said. Warning that the increase in such activities as the illicit trafficking of drugs risks eroding Guinea Bissau's social fabric, he welcomed the reinstatement of the country's Transnational Organized Crime Unit and called for stepped up international and regional support to help Guinea Bissau strengthen the rule of law, promote peace and reconciliation and ensure sustainable development.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia), while welcoming progress made in resolving the political and institutional crisis in Guinea Bissau, and commending political stakeholders for both implementing the 2016 Conakry Agreement and demonstrating commitment to respect the Constitution, nevertheless recognized the need to tackle the causes of the situation, which itself remains fragile. Developments must be followed closely and she took note of the Secretary General's recommendations. The holding of timely, credible legislative and presidential elections is crucial for consolidating peace and national reconciliation, she said, underscoring the need for support to enhance the capacity and independence of key institutions. She also pressed national, regional and international bodies to tackle the growing challenges of transnational organized crime and drug trafficking.

TAREQ M. A. M. ALBANAI (Kuwait), also welcoming effective steps taken by the parties to implement the first three demands of the Conakry Agreement, nevertheless said there is room for improvement in undertaking other necessary reforms. Expressing support for efforts by Guinea Bissau's partners � especially ECOWAS � to accelerate those efforts, he nevertheless voiced concern about delays in preparing for the country's upcoming elections. That vote must be held in a free, fair and timely manner in line with Council resolution 2404 (2018). Welcoming increased efforts by UNODC to help prevent drug trafficking and organized crime � which threaten peace and stability not only in Guinea Bissau but across the region � he asked the country's partners to continue to help build local capacity to combat those phenomena.

VERA�NICA CORDOVA SORIA (Bolivia) underscored the need to include all stakeholders, including civil society and women's groups, in talks to reach a lasting political solution based on the best interest of all Guinea-Bissau's people. UNIOGBIS should provide timely support for the holding of transparent, inclusive and peaceful elections in November. To ensure stability in Guinea Bissau, the country's international partners must help it reduce its vulnerability to drugs and crime, including by helping authorities build their capacity to control the country's ports and airspace. UNIOGBIS must be strengthened, she said, calling for its mandate to focus on building opportunities for dialogue which will lead to the consolidation of inclusive peace. Also hailing the work of the Peacebuilding Commission's Guinea Bissau Configuration, led by Brazil, she welcomed the establishment of a women's consultation forum. There can be no peace without development in Guinea Bissau and no development without peace, she stressed, calling on all partners to help ensure the well being of the country's population and focus on the most vulnerable.

LIE CHENG (China) said Guinea Bissau had reached consensus, among other measures, with a date set for legislative elections, progress that he welcomed alongside efforts by ECOWAS, African Union, European Union and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, which had fostered such gains. Noting that Guinea Bissau faces challenges to improving economic and social development, combating drug trafficking and fostering the political process, he called on international donors to continue supporting the country and helping build its capacity to improve people's lives. China supports finding African solutions to African problems, and he called on all stakeholders to find consensus and use dialogue to overcome differences. China has worked with ECOWAS to promote communication among the parties and to maintain stability in both Guinea Bissau and throughout West Africa.

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom), Council President for August, spoke in his national capacity to commend Guinea Bissau's preparations for legislative elections, which must be free, fair, transparent and in line with the Constitution and national laws. Stability pact discussions have started a national reflection on longer term security and constitutional reform, among others. An inclusive approach, notably of women, is vital. Welcoming UNIOGBIS support for the elections and political dialogue, he said targeted sanctions are having an impact, limiting the influence of those seeking to disrupt the Conakry Agreement. He supported a review of European Union and United Nations sanctions in mid 2019 after the holding of presidential elections.

ARISTIDES GOMES, Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau, recalled that six months ago the Council was considering the many challenges and seemingly insurmountable political impasse in his country. The implementation of the Conakry Agreement was challenged, immediately upon its signing, by some parties. Today, however, there is new hope in Guinea Bissau, thanks largely to constant support from ECOWAS and other regional partners. Those persistent efforts, and the goodwill of stakeholders in Guinea Bissau, have led to a happy solution � namely, the appointment of a consensus Prime Minister and an inclusive Government. The new authorities were able to quickly catch up after such a long period of crisis, setting a timetable for upcoming elections and working hard to uphold dialogue. We decided we wouldn't take any major decisions without consultation, he said, warning that any unilateral action at this stage will hamper the progress currently under way.

Outlining some of the causes of the recurrent political crises in his country, he cited the collapse of State institutions following independence as well as long standing fragilities and malaise. Those are exacerbated today by the impacts of drug trafficking and transnational organized crime. The resulting climate of every man for himself led to the formation of political entities that only prey on Guinea Bissau's meagre national income. Political battles around State income are especially prominent in the country due to the loss of regulatory mechanisms or oversight rules, the collapse of the principle of State organization and other structural failures. The Constitution has become a set of laws based on political compromises more than 30 years ago, and has remained unchanged in some of its most important aspects related to power sharing. For those reasons, Guinea Bissau requires an urgent return to regulation, which will help stimulate more growth and result in fewer political parties attempting to prey on State institutions.

Noting that such reforms will be possible following the November elections, he said it will also be necessary to reconsider the presence and configuration of UNIOGBIS at that time, leading to a more effective and efficient Office. Reforms of Guinea Bissau's security and defence sectors will also be on the agenda. In light of all those looming concerns, he voiced support for the signing of an inclusive stability pact, which will bring stakeholders together and allow them to join forces in a spirit of action. Free and fair elections can only be held if all are included, without exception. Noting that a reliable and transparent electoral census is a sine qua non in that regard, he described efforts to compel the country's political parties to cooperate in that endeavour, and asked for additional support from international partners. Also calling on those partners to help bridge his country's broader financial gaps, he said that while Guinea Bissau's remaining challenges are numerous, they are not insurmountable and the crisis is not inevitable. The path towards peace, stability, democracy and a future of hope and prosperity will begin with November's elections.

Source: United Nations