14 December 2007

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, visiting dili, urges parliamentarians to make


people’s voice heard, reflect preoccupations of all timorese


Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address to the Parliament of Timor-Leste in Dili today, 14 December:

Thank you for your kind and moving words.  It is an honour for me to be here and receive such a warm and wholehearted welcome from all of the political parties.

Above all, let me thank you and the people of Timor-Leste for the warm welcome I have been accorded since my arrival this morning.  I am privileged to have this opportunity to address you, so early in my tenure.

As an Asian Secretary-General, I also feel both moved and proud to visit this country, where, since 1999, we have undertaken one of the most formidable responsibilities ever given to the United Nations.

In the eight years since 1999, and especially with the developments last year, we have learnt the profound importance of working in continued and steadfast partnership with you, as you consolidate the foundations of democratic governance to ensure enduring stability and development.  The Security Council reflected this when it established UNMIT [United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste], the fifth UN operation to be deployed here -- an integrated mission which brings together the entire UN family under the leadership of my Special Representative, Atul Khare.

The crisis that Timor-Leste experienced last year should not be seen as a failure of all that had been undertaken until then.  Perhaps it was a sign that the institutions of this new State had not yet reached the stage where they were strong enough to deal with the serious challenges that emerged.  This is not uncommon in the earliest life of a country.  Timor-Leste was, and remains, a young nation that needs more support.

The true measure of success is not whether all the problems of Timor-Leste are resolved quickly.  Many tasks will require long-term efforts.  As in any country, new challenges will always arise.  Rather, success should be measured by the way challenges are addressed.  If solutions to the country’s problems are reached through constructive and broad discussions and debate, that is a form of success.  If consensual or at least compromise approaches can be agreed upon among all stakeholders, that, too, is a mark of success.

And you have many successes to be proud of since the events of last year’s crisis.  This includes, crucially, the work to stabilize the security environment and maintain overall stability.  By the time the UNMIT Police had reached full strength in March of this year, the number of security incidents had dropped considerably.  The country’s National Police and Armed Forces have played a commendable role.  Improved security conditions paved the way for presidential and parliamentary elections earlier this year -- the first national elections since your independence.

You can also count successes in the work to consolidate democracy.  This year’s milestone elections marked another important step forward.  The elections were largely peaceful and, according to all observers, met broad international standards.  Let me congratulate the people of Timor-Leste for the successful conduct of these elections.

As elected parliamentarians, you now have a crucial role to play.  You are the representatives through whom the people of Timor-Leste will make their voices heard over the next five years.  They have high expectations of you.  They expect you to debate issues that reflect the will and preoccupations of all Timorese.  They expect you to work together to achieve common goals and to build a better society for the benefit of all the men and women of Timor-Leste.  And they expect you to rise above partisan considerations and promote national unity.

I commend the constructive spirit in which all of you have carried out your parliamentary duties in your first few months in office.  I encourage you to sustain this positive spirit and to reach out across all parties and communities in the months and years to come.

As we know, elections are only the beginning of a process, not the end goal.  Differences and disputes that arise can and must be resolved in a peaceful and democratic manner.  Processes and institutions founded on the principle of democratic governance must be carefully nurtured.  This means promoting inclusiveness and broad participation in decision-making.  It means ensuring transparency and accountability in the affairs of government.  And it means responding effectively to the needs of the people.

I, therefore, appeal to you, all the parties in this important chamber, and to the country’s entire leadership, to work together and give primary consideration to the collective interests of the Timorese people.  I also call on you, every citizen -- men and women, young people and elders -- to each play their role in building a democratic society and in fostering reconciliation.

Through the challenges you have faced, you know well that it is much harder to build than to tear down.  Though you may have differences of political opinion, Timor-Leste depends on the whole of Timorese society being united in the efforts to build your nation.

I know the challenges ahead are enormous.  There is a need to review and strengthen the security sector, as well as governance and the rule of law, including the justice system.  Economic and social development must be accelerated.  And measures must be taken to address unemployment, particularly among young people.  For real progress to be made, the underlying causes of the crisis need to be addressed.

I am confident that Timor-Leste will make progress in all these areas.  You have many advantages -- the energy and potential of your youth; the demonstrated commitment of your citizens to democratic processes; the dedication of your leaders to promote the interests of the people; and the resources of the Timor Sea, to name just a few.

You also have the sustained support and partnership of the entire United Nations family.  We will remain at your side as you work to consolidate democracy and good governance.  We will remain at your side as you strive to uphold the rule of law and promote human rights.  We will remain at your side in the efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals -- through reducing poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, gender discrimination and gender-based violence.

In all these efforts, the UN is cooperating with many international and bilateral organizations and donors working in partnership with the Timorese.  Such cooperation is crucial for international support to be effective.

I am heartened that the Government has endorsed the compact between Timor-Leste and the international community.  The compact is designed to assist in coordinating international and national resources and assistance programmes.  It focuses on six areas -- public safety and security; elections; the justice system; the public sector; youth employment and skills development; and social reinsertion.  All of these are interdependent.  They must be addressed together, with the engagement and support of Timorese society as a whole.

The road to Timor-Leste’s nationhood was long.  It required difficult decisions and severe sacrifices, throughout which your people displayed exceptional courage.

The road to building enduring, stable and democratic institutions, underpinned by the rule of law, will be long, too.

Your most powerful tool, as ever, is the exceptional spirit and valiance of the Timorese people.

Throughout our eight years of partnership, the people of Timor-Leste have looked decisively to the future -- a future of which they themselves are the architects.  That is the spirit which I have witnessed today.  And that is the spirit that continues to inspire and inform our partnership.  We will remain your trusted allies as you continue on your journey.

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For information media • not an official record