The following information reports U.S. government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Guinea-Bissau to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Guinea-Bissau's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
and the International Religious Freedom Report
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The U.S. Government's priorities in the country are to support democratic and good governance in the three branches of government; encourage political dialogue, cooperation, and reconciliation; and address drug-related corruption. Strengthening civil society is also an important area of focus. In addition, supporting efforts to eliminate trafficking in persons is a priority.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
The U.S. Embassy in Bissau closed at the start of the 1998 civil war. Therefore, U.S. diplomatic and programmatic efforts are managed primarily by the U.S. Embassy in Senegal. The United States works with the government, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), political parties, civil society, international institutions, and the private sector to encourage national reconciliation and democracy building. Specific challenges in the National Assembly include internal conflicts, poor leadership, lack of organization, lack of resources, no experience with budgetary oversight, insufficient research material, and poor communication with constituents and civil society. A democracy-building program provided training on research, organizational techniques, and foundations of democracy. In the coming years, the U.S. Government will continue to train select members of the armed forces and civil servants in the Ministry of Defense on civilian control of the military, respect for human rights, and professionalism. The U.S. Government has joined also with other donors to seek ways to support the government's comprehensive security sector reform plan, although the status of reform efforts will need to be championed more strongly by the country's donors and neighbors in the wake of the April 1 illegal arrests and detentions of the prime minister and the chief of defense by the military. The U.S. Government works with the government, NGOs, political parties, civil society, international institutions, and the private sector to encourage national reconciliation. Through diplomatic efforts and technical and material support, the U.S. Government encourages government efforts to address drug-related corruption. Embassy Dakar, in concert with European donors, has formed a working relationship with the most reliable host government partners in this fight and to formalize a set of programs that will deny drug traffickers easy access to the country's territory and facilities. The embassy is building antitrafficking technical capacity among the most credible Guinea-Bissau individuals and institutions. The U.S. Embassy in Dakar continues to work in concert with other U.S. embassies in West Africa, the UN Office for Drugs and Crime, and with Economic Community of West African States to develop a coordinated approach to thwart drug traffickers' attempts to shift operations among countries in response to counter-narcotics efforts.
The United States funded a program to restore books, periodicals, and Internet access to the country's premier research institute, which was heavily damaged during the country's civil war. The United States also supports efforts to raise awareness of human rights issues with journalists and promote free and open media coverage. Embassy Dakar significantly increased its public diplomacy activities in the country in 2009. The Embassy has opened an American Information Center with American library resource materials and Internet service at the country’s research center. The Embassy provided journalism training and International Visitor Leadership Program opportunities to key future leaders. At a radio station that transmits Voice of America news shows, an embassy officer broadcasts to a wide audience a radio program that addresses democracy, human rights and counternarcotics; the broadcasts feature the occasional inclusion of songs that also address these themes. The U.S. Government will continue such activities, and increase our outreach.
The U.S. Government is investing in the Bissau-Guinean people. The United States encourages the government to pass antitrafficking legislation and improve efforts at fighting child trafficking. U.S. officials have spoken on national and regional radio programs to raise awareness of the problem of child trafficking. The United States also supports a school feeding program and the creation of parent-teacher associations that increase parents' participation in the education system.
A number of antipersonnel mines still litter the countryside. The United States has trained local NGOs in the removal and destruction of landmines and unexploded ordnance. The U.S. Government has made important investments to train and build capacity for demining, and removing and destroying unexploded ordnance. Now, after years of building local capacity, the country is poised to become impact-free of Explosive Remnants of War within four years. The U.S. also provides small community development projects and limited assistance to support training to media professionals on human rights issues and restoring the library that houses the country’s only research institute and national archives, which were heavily damaged during the 1998-1999 civil war.