3 November 2011While Guinea-Bissau has made important progress recently, including in police reform, it is vital that it press ahead with other challenges such as the launch of a pension fund for ex-military and security personnel and improving the judicial sector, a senior United Nations official said today. “The national authorities, with the assistance of the international community, have continued to steer the country in the right direction and have consolidated important recent gains, resulting in a better political and security environment,” Joseph Mutaboba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Guinea-Bissau, told the Security Council.“There is, nevertheless, the need to continue to build upon these gains, as we gradually approach critical phases of the reforms process that require strong international support, and as the country embarks on a sensitive electoral process in 2012,” he added. Mr. Mutaboba heads the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), which is supporting the country’s efforts in advancing peace, stability and development. In the years that followed the 1998-1999 civil war, Guinea-Bissau has been plagued by coups, coup attempts and, in 2009, the assassination of then president João Bernardo Vieira.In his latest report on the activities of UNIOGBIS, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes that only by working together will the people of Guinea-Bissau attain long-term stability, which is indispensable for sustainable development and the urgent improvement of living conditions for the population.As national authorities strive to stay the course on their “courageous” reforms, Mr. Ban calls on Guinea-Bissau’s regional and international partners to continue to be supportive by providing the necessary financial and material resources.This is especially true regarding the pension fund scheme designed to ensure a fair pension to all those who should leave active duty in the military and security forces due to age, seniority or disability. “It is essential to guarantee the financial resources necessary to launch the pension fund without further delay, so as to allow for the expeditious rejuvenation of the military leadership and enhancement of civilian oversight over the armed forces,” Mr. Mutaboba said, as he presented the Secretary-General’s report. He added that its quick operationalization will have an impact not only on efforts to advance security sector reform, but also on collective stabilization efforts, especially as the country is preparing for legislative elections next year. Maria Helena Nosoline Embalo, Minister of Economy, Plan and Regional Integration of Guinea-Bissau, told the Council that the launch of the fund will allow her country “to face many of the challenges that we have been confronted with,” such as the gradual renewing of the military command and improving training for new recruits. Mr. Mutaboba also reported that reform of the policing services has seen substantial progress. “As a result of a thorough screening of police officers through the first phase of the vetting and certification process completed with the support of UNIOGBIS, the reformed police services will be free of personnel known to have demonstrated behaviour unfit for a police officer.” He echoed Mr. Ban’s concerns regarding the development of the justice sector, and the fact that the investigations into the 2009 political assassinations remain to be concluded. Drug trafficking and organized crime remain a constant threat to the fragile stability that Guinea-Bissau has enjoyed over the past 18 months, and bears the potential to compromise major reforms, including security sector reform, said the Special Representative.“Increased international assistance and partners’ commitment remain imperative if we wish to see improved results in the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime in the country,” he noted. Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil, who chairs the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, said that she witnessed the progress, both in terms of stability and economic growth, that the country has made during her visit in early September. At the same time, she said that the full implementation of security sector reform continues to be one of the highest priorities, as is the steady support of the international community, particularly through technical expertise and financial resources, to make the pension fund operational. “The international community should rise to the challenge of supporting the maintenance of political stability and economic progress that the country has experienced in the past few years,” she stated.