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UN Peacebuilding Commission to begin assisting Guinea-Bissau

12 December 2007 Guinea-Bissau will become the third country on the agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), the United Nations advisory body set up to help countries emerging from conflict avoid sliding back into war or chaos, after the Security Council backed a request from the Government of the West African country.

Guinea-Bissau is expected to formally join Sierra Leone and Burundi on the Commission’s country-specific workload once the PBC holds consultations next Monday on the Security Council’s referral of the situation.

The referral comes as the Council heard briefings today from Shola Omoregie, the head of the UN Peacebuilding Support in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS), and from Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Mr. Costa highlighted the threat that cocaine trafficking is posing to the country and its neighbours in the region, and urged the international community to make sure that Guinea-Bissau receives enough short-term assistance so that it does not collapse.

Since 2005, some 33 tons of cocaine have been seized across West Africa, but Mr. Costa said this may be “only the tip of an iceberg,” adding that in Guinea-Bissau the value of the drug trade is greater than the entire national income.

“Drug money is perverting the economy and rotting society,” he told Council members. “Using threats and bribes, drug traffickers are infiltrating State structures and operating with impunity.”

UNODC said the country’s authorities, particularly its police and justice system, are overwhelmed by the problem and by the alliance between foreign criminal groups and powerful local figures.

Meanwhile, the Commission and the Sierra Leonean Government today adopted a cooperation framework that will guide the PBC’s work in the impoverished nation over the next three years.

The framework outlines some of the key challenges and threats to Sierra Leone, which endured a brutal civil war through much of the 1990s and early this decade. They include good governance, security and justice sector reform, youth employment, energy sector development and capacity-building.

Set up last year, the PBC is backed by the Peacebuilding Fund, a multi-year standing trust fund that has so far collected deposits worth almost $144 million from donor countries. Its target is $250 million.

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