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Session of the UN Security Council on the Situation in Guinea-Bissau and Peacebuilding

As simulations are especially important to prepare for NMUN in order to get acquainted with the rules of procedure and resolution writing, another Session of the Security Council was conducted at Henry-Ford-Bau of Freie Universität Berlin on 3 March 2009.

This time, ‘Peacebuilding’ was on the agenda. Peacebuilding should be differentiated from Peacekeeping. Peacekeeping is focused on keeping parties to a conflict apart or to establish a protected area for the civilian population. In contrast to this, peacebuilding mission are more focused on post-conflict situations. The attention lies here on topics like demobilising soldiers, helping victims of war, re-establishing infrastructure and fostering democratic structures, all in all building a sustainable peace. As a preventive measure, it is also applied to pre-war situations to stop instable states to fall into chaos. The Peacebuilding Commission was established by the General Assembly and the Security Council in their respective Resolutions A/60/180 and S/RES/1645 (2005) to organise peacebuilding operations.

As some delegates were ill, the seats of Japan, Turkey and Viet Nam remained empty, our job at the Council table got a little harder because you need nine votes in favour of your resolution, even when three delegations are missing. Thanks to a visiting delegation of Universität Potsdam, at least Viet Nam could join our session. Before we could make any opening speeches, we had to decide on the agenda. At the outset of our conference, we had received a fictitious letter by the Secretary-General drawing attention on the situation in Guinea-Bissau: Just the day before our session, the President of Guinea-Bissau, João Bernardo Vieira, was assassinated, which was seen as act of revenge for the death of General Batista Tagme Na Waie, the head of the joint chiefs of staff, on the Sunday before. Both men were known to be bitter enemies. Guinea-Bissau was and is a country, which is in the focus of the international community for its political instability. Guinea-Bissau has a long history of internal armed conflict since becoming independent from Portugal in the 1970s. The Security Council therefore decided to handle this issue prior to peacebuilding in general. In our two minute opening speeches, each country underlined its position towards this topic. Important positions were the co-operation with the African Union, mentioning the drug trafficking and the stabilisation of Guinea-Bissau. Two fractions of the Security Council submitted a draft resolution. Both were similar in intention, but different in usage of words. As even a single word can lead to a veto by a Permanent Member, and thus block a resolution, we had to further negotiate. Our declared aim was not only to achieve a majority on a resolution, but to achieve a big majority. A big majority would be seen as a clear signal to the people of Guinea-Bissau, that the international community takes an interest in their case. Mostly in informal caucus the Security Council prepared a third resolution, on which everyone could agree on. After the first and the second draft resolutions were withdrawn, all present Members voted in favour of the third draft resolution. The clear signal of hope we had aimed for.

On the second agenda topic – Peacebuilding – we did not see big differences, either. Similar to the first topic, the inclusion of regional actors was important to some Members. The efficiency of the Peacebuilding Commission was discussed. The opinions on the creation of standby-forces were diverse, but we could bridge the gap in informal caucus. As before, the two opposing groups agreed on a third draft resolution. The present Members of Security Council voted unanimously in favour of the draft resolution. This resolution establishes for example a Working Group on Procedural Methods of the UN Peacebuilding Commission to improve its effectiveness.

Of course we decided to remain actively seized of the matter and were quite happy to have reached agreement on these topics.

Christoph Berkemeier