|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6085th Meeting (AM)
TIMOR-LESTE AT PEACE, PRESIDENT TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL A YEAR
AFTER SURVIVING ATTEMPTS ON HIS, PRIME MINISTER’S LIVES
Secretary-General Highlights Post-Crisis Elections, Smooth Transfer of Power
With Timor-Leste at peace, the International Crisis Group’s most recent report concluded that security in the country had “strikingly improved”, President José Ramos-Horta told the Security Council today, slightly more than a year after an attempt on his life and that of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão.
As the Council considered Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), President Ramos-Horta said the economy was doing very well, having enjoyed over 10 per cent real growth at the end of 2008. With the 2009 budget of $680 million and $200 million in donor programmes, the country would be able to maintain double-digit growth in spite of the international financial crisis.
“We have turned the corner” after the events of 11 February 2008, he said, adding that the visible calm and feeling of security had enabled the ongoing success of the Government’s national recovery strategy. Out of 60 camps for internally displaced persons, 58 had been closed and the Government had made a priority of healing the wounds within the police and defence forces, and between them and the people. Key legislation on defence and internal security had been drafted. The decision to transfer policing responsibilities from UNMIT to the national police would be based on the latter’s ability to respond appropriately; on final certification of at least 80 per cent of eligible police officers; on the availability of initial operational requirements; and on institutional stability.
There had also been significant accomplishments in the justice sector, he said, pointing to the completion of the drafting and review of important legislation. Efforts had been made to enhance cooperation between the prosecution and police, and a strategy had been formulated to further reform the corrections service. With the assistance of the United Nations and other friends, the country had begun the painful process of healing the heart and soul, building bridges of reconciliation among the fractured communities, building infrastructure and institutions, creating an economy and building bridges with neighbours.
He went on to recall that, in mid-2006, his country had been sucked into the most serious challenge since 2002, with the result that its vulnerable economy had contracted to below-zero growth after having shown signs of recovery in 2005. As the crisis had eased by the end of 2006, however, the following year had seen robust recovery with non-oil gross domestic product (GDP) estimated to have grown 8 per cent in real terms.
Echoing the President’s optimism as he introduced his report, Secretary-General Ban said: “I have the rare pleasure of being able to say to the Council that more progress has been achieved than had been anticipated.” Following the 2006 crisis, order had been re-established in 2007, the security situation had been stabilized, peaceful elections had been held and a smooth transfer of power had taken place. In 2008, the country had taken in stride a small but serious challenge to its stability and had stuck to its immediate priorities.
The current year had begun with Timor-Leste finally able to devote its undivided attention to the essential task of building the strong and durable foundations that would be crucial for long-term stability and prosperity, he said. With 2009 marking the tenth anniversary of the full-time United Nations presence in the country, the partnership had become strong and close, and the Council would, no doubt, renew its collective commitment to Timor-Leste. “For my part, I pledge the full support of the United Nations system in helping the Timorese people realize their hopes for security, stability and well-being.”
During the ensuing debate, some 30 speakers expressed support for the Secretary-General’s recommendation for a 12-month extension of UNMIT’s mandate and for a needs assessment mission to the country. Some delegates expressed concern about reports of sexual violence, but others were encouraged by the decrease in allegations of human rights violations during arrests. They all stressed the need to end impunity for crimes committed in 2006 and human rights violations. Speakers also urged the Timorese Parliament to take up the recommendations of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, and stressed the crucial need for a review of security-sector reform in order to achieve long-term stability.
Some delegates voiced concern about the recent rise in poverty levels, emphasizing the necessity to pursue poverty reduction, job creation and economic opportunity, in particular among the youth, in order to ensure a smooth transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding. Others noted that real stability would not be realized until there was meaningful progress in the law-and-order sector, with the Government and people of Timor-Leste taking full responsibility for law enforcement.
To that end, every effort should be made to speed up capacity development and the empowerment of the Timorese police, as well as its institutional ability to undertake policing responsibility, speakers said. There was a general consensus that the gradual handover from UNMIT to the national police should not be bound by artificial timetables, or the need to define a meaningful role for the national army in a peacetime setting. There was, however, a need for a clear delineation of responsibilities between the defence forces and the national police, and for the strengthening of civilian oversight of police and military forces.
Other speakers today were the representatives of Austria, Croatia, France, China, Viet Nam, Mexico, Libya, Uganda, United States, Burkina Faso, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Turkey, Costa Rica, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia, Philippines, Australia, Czech Republic (on behalf of the European Union), Ireland, Norway, New Zealand, Italy, Portugal, Cuba, South Africa, Thailand (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and Malaysia.
Also addressing the Council was Atul Khare, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste and Head of UNMIT.
The meeting started at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 1:35 p.m.
Council members had before them this morning the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) covering the period 9 July 2008 to 20 January 2009 (document S/2009/72), which outlines major developments in the country and implementation of the Mission’s mandate since the Secretary-General’s last report, dated 28 July 2008 (document S/2008/501).
Recommending a 12-month extension of the mandate at the Mission’s current composition and strength, the Secretary-General says it is essential in order to ensure the sustainability of international support for Timor-Leste’s efforts towards security and prosperity. Given its continuing responsibility for law enforcement and facilitating the resumption of responsibilities by the national police, a continued robust UNMIT police presence will be of the utmost importance.
According to the report, a medium-term strategy, including benchmarks, has been developed to cover UNMIT’s four mandated priority areas: security-sector reform; strengthening of the rule of law; economic and social development; and the promotion of a culture of democratic governance and dialogue. The priority benchmarks include adequate capacity, systems processes and resources within security-sector institutions; completion of all outstanding investigations and establishment of effective mechanisms to enhance the functioning and integrity of the judiciary; adherence to the rule of law; and improved quality of life with more employment opportunities.
The present reporting period marked an important stage in Timor-Leste’s recovery from the 2006 crisis and a return to normalcy following the 11 February 2008 attacks against the President and Prime Minister, the Secretary-General says. The rapid stabilization of the security situation created space for renewed attention to security-sector reform, strengthening of the rule of law, democratic governance and socio-economic development. The Government and UNMIT have reached broad agreement on the resumption of policing responsibilities by the national police, to start on 27 March. The Government made progress in drafting key legislation on national security. Following the end of the states of exception, there was a decrease in allegations of ill-treatment, excessive use of force and intimidation during arrests.
Economic momentum was sustained in 2008, with growth projected at 10 per cent, the report states. At the same time, however, Timor-Leste continued to struggle with factors affecting poverty alleviation and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Poverty increased in 2007 to include 50 per cent of the population, up from 36 per cent in 2006, and the real, non-oil gross domestic product (GDP) declined by 12 per cent during those years. Some 54 out of 63 camps for internally displaced persons have been closed and there were no major outbreaks of violence during the return process.
As of 20 January, the report says, UNMIT comprised 340 international staff (122 women), 874 national staff (158 women), 1,510 police officers (74 women) and 31 military liaison and staff officers (2 women). The Mission has continued its “one United Nations system approach”, making significant progress in achieving integration across all relevant areas of its mandate. The joint efforts of UNMIT and the United Nations country team have been instrumental in providing coordinated policy, political, technical and financial support to Timor-Leste.
BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said his report had come at a watershed moment for Timor-Leste. In 2007, order had been re-established, the security situation had been stabilized, peaceful elections had been held and a smooth transfer of power had taken place. In 2008, the country had taken in stride a small but serious challenge to its stability and had stuck to its immediate priorities. The Petitioners [group of former resistance fighters] had reached a settlement with the Government, and the vast majority of internally displaced persons had returned to their communities without incident. “I have the rare pleasure of being able to say to the Council that more progress has been achieved than had been anticipated in my last report.”
He said 2009 had begun with a clear horizon, with Timor-Leste finally able to devote its undivided attention to the essential task of building the strong and durable foundations that would be crucial for long-term stability and prosperity. One of the main priorities must be development of the security sector, a major step towards which would be the gradual resumption of executive policing authority by the national police. While UNMIT was working closely with the Government to plan a series of handovers, a number of fundamental issues would require sustained, long-term attention well beyond the Mission’s lifespan.
Government transfers to individuals had injected much-needed cash into the economy, he said, adding that a budget had been passed which projected considerable investment in infrastructure for the coming year. However, infrastructure was not just a matter of roads, schools and power grids, but equally a question of strengthening democratic governance and the rule of law. In that regard, it was pleasing to note the productive tone and content of recent debates in Parliament. With 2009 marking the tenth anniversary of the full-time United Nations presence in Timor-Leste, the partnership had become strong and close, and the Council would, no doubt, renew its collective commitment to the country. “For my part, I pledge the full support of the United Nations system in helping the Timorese people realize their hopes for security, stability and well-being.”
JOSÉ RAMOS-HORTA, President of Timor-Leste, recalled that slightly more than a year ago, on 11 February 2008, he had been “in that dark frontier between life and death”, following an attempt on his life and that of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão. “The Almighty God decided to defer my departure from this Earth and guided the hands of the doctors and nurses who operated on me.”
He went on to describe his efforts to bring about dialogue, end the tensions and prevent “the worst from happening” since his last appearance before the Council in May 2006, and to recount the history of the establishment of UNMIT in August 2006 with a robust police component, but no peacekeeping force equipped with airborne and extraction capability. As Malaysian and Portuguese formed police units had integrated into the new United Nations police (UNPOL), a unique trilateral arrangement negotiated with Australia, New Zealand and the United Nations remained in force today and had proven extremely effective. Timor-Leste appreciated the Council’s decision to renew UNMIT’s mandate until February 2010 and felt the international stabilization force comprising Australia and New Zealand should continue in tandem with that mandate.
In mid-2006, Timor-Leste had been sucked into the most serious challenge since 2002, he continued. As a result, its vulnerable economy, which had shown signs of recovery in 2005, had contracted to below-zero growth. But, as the crisis had eased by the end of 2006, the following year had seen robust recovery with non-oil GDP estimated to have grown 8 per cent in real terms. Today, Timor-Leste was at peace and the International Crisis Group’s most recent report concluded that security in the country had “strikingly improved”. Armed groups were no longer at large and the atmosphere in the streets of Dili was far less tense. Incidents ranging from assault to homicide had declined significantly since 2007, and the economy was doing very well with over 10 per cent real growth at the end of 2008. With the 2009 budget of $680 million and $200 million in donor programmes, Timor-Leste would be able to maintain double-digit growth in spite of the international financial crisis.
Explaining that optimistic prognosis, he said the country was an importing nation, bringing in basic goods like rice and cement. While its petroleum revenues would be reduced significantly, so would its import bill as commodity prices dropped. Timor-Leste had strong liquidity in its Petroleum Fund of over $4 billion, from which it could draw to continue investing in strategic sectors of the economy and thus fuel economic growth and relative wealth. Apart from continuing a firm commitment to invest in education and health, the 2009 budget showed some $34 million allocated to agriculture and $130 million to infrastructure.
Describing the 2007/08 food crisis as “a wake-up call for all of us”, he said that in the case of Timor-Leste, it had prompted the Government to refocus its attention on the agriculture sector, with greater investment in high-yield seeds and tractors, enabling farmers to learn new techniques and expanding food production. As an incentive, the Government had purchased locally produced non-perishable products like rice, corn and beans above international prices. The purchased items were then redistributed to hospitals, schools and vulnerable groups. As a result of timely and proactive Government intervention, Timor-Leste had been able to avoid social unrest, instability and further deterioration in the livelihoods of the poor.
He said $205 million had been allocated for major capital development projects in 2009, including a heavy-fuel-based power plant with new transmission lines that could be switched to gas and wind power. However, even if able to operate with gas and wind energy, the country would continue to need supplemental support from heavy-fuel-based energy. There would be strict monitoring to ensure the project was in full compliance with World Bank environmental standards and the Kyoto Protocol. An international tender for an independent consultant to oversee implementation of the project would be announced shortly.
The events of 11 February 2008 had resulted in a kind of “watershed”, he said, adding: “We have turned the corner.” The visible calm and feeling of security had enabled the Government’s ongoing success with the National Recovery Strategy. Out of 60 camps for internally displaced persons, 58 had been closed, leaving a few small ones in Dili, which the Ministry of Social Solidarity was working to close in the first months of 2009. With United Nations assistance, the Ministry was continuing to address the needs of internally displaced persons and receiving communities. In one year, the Government had managed to resolve many outstanding problems inherited from the 2006 crisis, including those related to internally displaced persons, petitioners, pensions for the elderly, the vulnerable and former national liberation combatants.
Turning to security-sector reform, he said he had made a priority of healing the wounds within the police and defence forces, between the two institutions and between them and the people. Today, much of the divisions had been resolved, though the country still had a long way to go towards professionalizing and modernizing the security forces. In line with the Government’s view that the rebuilding of the national police was a long-term undertaking, requiring national ownership and continued international assistance, security-sector reform focused on greater consultation and participation. In September 2008, a broad spectrum of Timorese society, police and military personnel, parliamentarians and Government officials had met in Hawaii to develop the national security policy.
A nationwide survey was being conducted on perceptions of security threats and the security sector in general, he continued, adding that, in December 2008, he and the Prime Minister, with full support from UNMIT, had co-hosted a security-sector reform and development seminar. Key legislation on defence and internal security law had been drafted and the need for the national police to resume policing responsibilities had sparked calls for greater training and logistical support from national police officers. The establishment of assessment teams, the handover of districts and the terms of references for a joint technical team to monitor the transition process were being finalized. The decision to hand over in the districts would be based on the ability of the national police to respond appropriately; final certification of at least 80 per cent of eligible police officers in a given district to be handed over; the availability of initial operational requirements; and institutional stability.
There were also significant accomplishments in the justice sector, he said, pointing to the completion of the drafting and review of important legislation. Draft laws on witness protection, juveniles, the establishment of an anti-corruption commission, domestic violence and the Criminal Code were now ready for review and adoption by the Council of Ministers. Efforts had been made to enhance cooperation between the prosecution and police, and a strategy had been formulated to further reform the corrections service.
On efforts to reduce poverty, he said that, with increased Government expenditure since the last quarter of 2007, non-oil GDP had increased dramatically, which would reverse the decline in per capita GDP and hence should begin to reduce poverty levels. While those levels seemed to have increased in the years between 2001 and 2006, Timor-Leste remained on target to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 if the Government and its development partners continued to work hand in hand to enhance support for rural development, job creation, public health and education. The 2009 budget included vital social programmes to reduce poverty via $96 million in transfers for pensions to support veterans, the elderly and the disabled.
“What you have heard from me are the natural and inevitable challenges facing most developing countries and in particular post-conflict communities,” he said. Nation-building and peace consolidation were lengthy processes requiring patience and steady commitment by all. In August 2009, Timor-Leste would mark the tenth anniversary of the “popular consultation” that had brought about its freedom, but also its complete devastation with its staggering human toll.
In the last 10 years, with the assistance of the United Nations and other friends, the country had begun the painful process of healing the heart and soul, building bridges of reconciliation among the fractured communities, building infrastructure and institutions, creating an economy and building bridges with neighbours. The overwhelming challenges might discourage the weak and impatient. Only the few who dared to dream and act on their dreams of an ideal abode for all human beings would see the fruits of their dream. Given that UNMIT’s approval rating stood at 75 per cent and the Government’s at 66 per cent, for those in the media and pseudo-academics with a penchant for using clichés like “failing State” regarding Timor-Leste, “I can only say […] we are doing very well, thank you,” he concluded.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING ( Austria) welcomed the significant progress made in addressing the consequences of the 2006 crisis, particularly the returns of internally displaced persons, and that made towards transferring policing functions back to national structures. Adherence to human rights standards would be one of the criteria in resuming police functions, and the effective strengthening of the rule of law was also a key priority.
He said his country supported the Government’s reform efforts and the Secretary-General’s recommendation for a needs assessment mission. While concerned about reports of sexual violence, Austria was encouraged by the decrease in allegations of human rights violations during arrests, and those responsible for violations during the 2006 crisis should be held accountable. To achieve long-term stability, a review of security-sector reform remained crucial, and Austria welcomed the fact that UNMIT was integrating peacebuilding aspects into its mandate. Timor-Leste should start cooperating with the Peacebuilding Fund. The country was a success story from which lessons could be drawn.
NEVEN JURICA (Croatia), aligning himself with the European Union, said last year’s assassination attempts were a stark reminder of the importance of addressing the unresolved root causes of the 2006 crisis and the remaining multifaceted challenges, including the need to strengthen political dialogue and reconciliation; consolidate peace, democracy and rule of law; and achieve durable social and economic development. UNMIT provided a valuable conduit for fostering a more inclusive and participatory consultative process at all levels of society. The ongoing good offices efforts by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to promote enhance dialogue were welcome, and President Ramos-Horta’s efforts to consult the opposition could only help build trust and allow the opposition a constructive role, as called for in the accord of 25 May 2007.
With the ongoing review and reform of the security sector a paramount concern, a clear distinction between the roles of the defence forces and the national police was needed, he said. That should be coupled with a strong legal framework and shored up by civil oversight, the rule of law, transparency and capacity mechanisms for both security institutions. The ability of such national institutions to carry out their mandates in ways that garnered the people’s trust was important, and the resumption of policing duties by the national police force would be a litmus test in that respect. However, close monitoring would be necessary to identify any unanticipated capacity gaps. Also needed for the long-term consolidation of peace was a viable environment for a credible and functioning judiciary and penal system, where the rule of law prevailed and impunity was tackled fully. On that front, tackling serious resource and operational constraints on the justice sector would demand sustained international support.
JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT ( France), voicing support for the European Union position, said the difference between the events of 2006 and those of 2008 was that the latter had not endangered national recovery efforts. Progress had been made in security-sector reform and the people’s cohesion had been demonstrated by the President’s statement today.
He said that, while Timor-Leste’s success could be credited, above all, to its people and leadership, it would not have been possible without the international community, particularly neighbouring countries that had played a positive role in supporting the authorities in the maintenance of stability. France would continue to support Timor-Leste’s efforts for development and stability, and was participating in the training of police -- a high Government priority.
The consolidation of progress in justice-sector reform and combating impunity, a precondition for lasting reconciliation, would require time, he stressed, adding that the continued presence of UNMIT and international forces would be a vital element. For that reason, France supported the extension of the Mission’s mandate for 12 months. However, it must be part of the peacebuilding strategy so as to ensure gradual ownership by the people. It was important to develop more effective and targeted operations. Timor-Leste could become a laboratory of ideas and demonstrate how the United Nations worked effectively in crisis situations.
ZHANG YESUI ( China) said the settlement of the Petitioners’ problems and the returns of internally displaced persons had led to national dialogue. China hailed the President’s efforts for national reconciliation and called on all parties to take the interests of all people into consideration while avoiding useless controversy. Peace and lasting stability required efforts to improve living conditions. In that regard, China supported the priorities set by the Government, including those in the areas of infrastructure and job creation.
The international community should continue help Timor-Leste step up the peace process, he said, expressing hope that the framework of assistance for development signed between the Government and the United Nations would be implemented. UNMIT should help the Government strengthen its capacity for independent governance and its police component must redouble its efforts to assist the national police force by giving priority to training and the transfer of experience. There was also a need to restructure the Mission’s staffing.
LE LUONG MINH (Viet Nam), while noting that increased poverty was a long-term challenge, expressed appreciation for Government efforts to address post-conflict issues, particularly regarding the return of internally displaced persons, the closure of 54 out of 63 camps for internally displaced persons, strengthening national reconciliation, and working with United Nations partners and the public to enhance its capacities and implement development programmes. Viet Nam welcomed the agreement reached between the Government and UNMIT on the resumption of policing responsibilities by the national police force.
He expressed hope that the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) would help measure and track progress in key areas such as improving the quality of life and increasing employment opportunities for youth in rural areas. Viet Nam supported the mandate extension and encouraged UNMIT to make full use of it to continue working closely with the Government and other United Nations bodies in efficiently implementing security and development programmes. Long-term security and stability depended on the determination and efforts of the Government and all strata of the population to move the current process forward. All parties should participate actively in the ongoing dialogue and help meet national challenges, first and foremost ensuring the success of the 2009 local elections.
CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) said that, although the Government had made progress in strengthening stability, UNMIT played a crucial role in Timor-Leste and must continue to support national efforts. Mexico supported the Mission’s work in security-sector reform, ensuring respect for human rights, promoting greater transparency in the Government sector, strengthening the rule of law, promoting good governance and the resettlement of internally displaced persons. However, Mexico was concerned about trafficking in persons and, while acknowledging the progress made in protecting minors, appealed to the authorities to ratify the relevant Protocol to the Convention on Organized Crime.
He urged the Government to cooperate with the commission of inquiry to ensure an end to impunity for crimes committed in 2006. Mexico welcomed efforts to facilitate the return of internally displaced persons and hoped the Government would find mechanisms to promote their reintegration into their communities in an atmosphere of calm and reconciliation. Also welcome was the establishment of a support team to strengthen the capacity of the National Electoral Commission. Mexico’s federal electoral institutions would participate in that programme by training municipal officers and electoral workers while also providing training in awareness-raising campaigns and electoral registration.
IBRAHIM O. A. DABBASHI ( Libya) welcomed the stabilization of Timor-Leste, particularly the improvement in the security situation and the progress made in dealing with the issues of internally displaced persons and petitioners. It was to be hoped that those efforts would continue with the goal of achieving permanent peace. The agreement to transfer policing responsibilities to the national police would contribute to improving the ability of the national police in the long run. There was a need to agree on a detailed and binding document specifying the role of UNMIT and the extent of national police participation in implementing the rule of law. That document should be issued before the transfer of authority to the national police. Libya welcomed the Government’s agreement to the medium-term strategy in that regard, and backed the proposal to maintain the size of the police mission at its present level.
The use of radical rhetoric would destabilize society, he warned, calling on all parties to pursue positive political dialogue in the national interest. Libya welcomed efforts to achieve consensus on priority matters and commended the President’s efforts to maintain good relations with all local actors. It was also important to continue fostering institutions and improving them, fighting impunity and strengthening the rule of law. There was also a need to enhance legal frameworks and civilian oversight through constructive political dialogue and respect for State institutions. Libya supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations relating to the extension of logistical assistance for the 2009 local elections and the extension of UNMIT’s mandate until February 2010.
RUHAKANA RUGUNDA ( Uganda) expressed satisfaction with the progress made in areas critical to speeding up self-governance and administration in Timor-Leste, especially the continued stabilization of the security situation, pointing out that the completion of security-sector reform would be an important springboard for the country’s long-term stability and socio-economic development.
Welcoming in particular the progress made towards achieving national dialogue and reconciliation, he said he was encouraged to note that the question of internal displacement had been addressed with the priority it deserved. Uganda, itself in the process of resettling internally displaced persons and reconstruction in the north owing to the insurgency by the Lord’s Resistance Army, hoped all remaining camps for internally displaced persons would be closed “sooner rather than later”.
He said real stability would not be realized until there was meaningful progress in the law and order sector, with both the Government and people of Timor-Leste taking full responsibility for law enforcement. To that end, every effort should be made to speed up capacity development and empowerment of the Timorese police, as well as its institutional ability to undertake policing responsibility. Uganda supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation for the extension of UNMIT’s mandate for a further 12 months at the current composition and strength.
SUSAN RICE ( United States) said she was heartened by the progress made last year. “The people of Timor-Leste and their leaders have shown great courage as they strive to bring peace and stability to the country.” The United States supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation for a one-year extension of UNMIT’s mandate with the current composition and strength.
Emphasizing that development and security went hand in hand, she expressed concern that the Secretary-General’s report noted a rise in poverty, but commended the Government on the returns of internally displaced persons and on resolving the issue of the Petitioners. The Government must work hard to lower unemployment, among other things. While welcoming UNMIT’s careful planning process to enable the national police to gradually resume policing responsibilities, the Mission must be diligent in delineating responsibilities between its own police component and the national police.
Calling for the strengthening of civilian oversight of police and military forces, she said future progress in that regard required an independent justice sector. In that regard, the United States stressed the critical need to reduce the backlog in cases. It also encouraged the international community to help the people of Timor-Leste hold local elections. While the people of Timor-Leste had a great deal to be proud of, they still had much to do, “but they must know that they do not stand alone”.
PAUL ROBERT TIENDRÉBÉOGO ( Burkina Faso) said that, although the situation in Timor-Leste might still be fragile, it was to be hoped that the climate of stability would be put to good use in consolidating dialogue and national reconciliation. That would require full and complete support from the entire population and the political players. All parties should exercise moderation and constraint, especially during the local elections. The young State still faced challenges, including security-related ones. Burkina Faso welcomed measures to strengthen institutions in the security sector and hoped UNMIT could provide support in that regard.
Noting that the rule of law and the administration of justice were of crucial importance, he welcomed progress on the question of the Petitioners and internally displaced persons. Beyond the difficulties reported, there was a need to encourage efforts to combat impunity. It was encouraging that the Government had initiated decisive policies to alleviate problems in the socio-economic sphere. Unfortunately, however, poverty had risen and it was to be hoped that the international community would provide the necessary support, in particular by financing the United Nations Development Assistance Framework.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said he had listened with great interest to President Ramos–Horta’s statement, which was a testament to the significant progress made in dealing with the consequences of the 2006 crisis. The Petitioners were going back to peaceful life and internally displaced persons were returning to their homes. Now the time had come to address other priorities, including strengthening national institutions, establishing legality and the rule of law, strengthening the judicial sector, development, eliminating poverty and creating employment. The achievement of those goals was only possible through unity among all political forces and civil society.
He also emphasized the great importance of holding local elections later this year and of strengthening the security forces, which was a significant indicator of the self-sufficiency of the State. UNMIT played an important role in training a professional national police force, which would be able gradually to take over in ensuring the rule of law across the country. In light of the country’s continuing need for assistance, the Russian Federation supported the extension of UNMIT’s mandate for 12 months, and was in solidarity with the people of Timor-Leste in building a flourishing and democratic State.
JOHN SAWERS ( United Kingdom) said it was a great credit to the international community, the Government of Timor-Leste and UNMIT that the country had enjoyed security since the February attacks. Significant progress had been achieved, but many challenges remained. Long-term security and stability would depend on building the national security and police forces to take over from the international forces. The United Kingdom welcomed the medium-term strategy described in the Secretary-General’s report and the Government’s acceptance of the related benchmarks. That was consistent with the principle that the international community should help the Timorese people stand on their own feet.
Saying he looked forward to Timor-Leste continuing those positive trends, he said that meant developing a vision shared by the Government and opposition on what kind of country Timor-Leste should be; and a determined effort by institutions to build capacity and deliver reform, particularly in the security and justice sectors. In that connection, the United Kingdom noted the formation of a commission on comprehensive needs assessment in the judicial sector. Today, the Council had heard a consistent message that the Timorese Government and people wanted UNMIT to stay and support their progress. The United Kingdom supported the mandate extension for a further 12 months, in recognition of the challenges the country faced.
BAKI İLKIN ( Turkey) said the security situation had improved since last February, providing an opportunity to focus more on security-sector reform, rule of law, democratic governance and socio-economic development. However, much work remained to be done in ensuring that those achievements were sustained. It included tackling poverty, unemployment, uncontrolled migration and the lack of an effective land and property regime, and supporting the weak judicial system and evolving security institutions. Upcoming local elections would also be an important test.
To overcome those challenges and achieve self-sufficiency, there was a need for continued national dialogue, unity and the articulation of clear strategies and plans, he said. Transparency and accountability in policy- and decision-making would be central to success, and the United Nations continued to have a valuable role to play in that regard. Undoubtedly, the joint efforts of UNMIT and the United Nations country team were instrumental in providing policy coordination as well as political, technical and financial support.
He said he was pleased to see a general consensus that the gradual handover from UNMIT to the national police of policing responsibilities should not be bound by artificial timetables, and on the need to emphasize achievement of the necessary criteria instead. There was also a need to define a meaningful role for the Timorese army in a peacetime setting. If the 1,300-strong army could be reoriented and trained for peacekeeping operations, it might be used in future peacekeeping missions. Since a continued, robust UNMIT police presence was needed across the country, Turkey also endorsed the recommended extension of its mandate at the current composition and strength.
JORGE URBINA (Costa Rica) said the Secretary-General’s report offered a view of progress made, but also noted some obstacles, including the fact that some political players still did not act according to the basic principles of democracy. The work of electoral agencies and the media was very important in that regard. Costa Rica was pleased with the progress made on human rights and encouraged by actions taken to reduce sexual and gender-based violence.
As for socio-economic development, the growth of the economy was encouraging but that news was overshadowed by reports of poverty and unemployment, he said, expressing hope that actions adopted to address those issues would reverse the increase in poverty. Costa Rica welcomed the optimism expressed in the Secretary-General’s report and hoped that, with the assistance of UNMIT, Timor-Leste would manage to strengthen the foundations of peace and stability that would make development possible.
Council President YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan), speaking in his national capacity, said his country had been one of Timor-Leste’s strongest supporters from the outset. Japan applauded the strides made by the Timorese Government and people towards stability and democracy, and commended the country’s leaders for continuing their efforts to bridge differences through an inclusive political dialogue. There was a need to ensure the success of the forthcoming local elections, although the situation, while calm, remained fragile. The orderly resumption of policing responsibilities by the national police was a key task for UNMIT, and Japan endorsed the strict criteria that bound the transfer process.
He said the consolidation of peace required painstaking, sustained efforts and must proceed in an integrated manner. Together with enhancing security sector and judicial institutions, it was necessary to pursue poverty reduction, job creation and economic opportunity most vigorously. It was not too early to start focusing a peacebuilding perspective on how to achieve economic growth and development. In particular, there was an urgent need for effective measures for rural development and agriculture, and for the creation of employment opportunities for youth. Japan supported the recommended mandate extension.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil), noting the strong bonds between her country and Timor-Leste, said they reflected a deep sense of friendship, solidarity and shared heritage. It should not be overlooked that the visit to Timor-Leste by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in July 2008 had been the first by a foreign Head of State after the attack on President Ramos-Horta on 11 February last year. The bilateral cooperation between the two countries encompassed judiciary training and legal development, education, agriculture, health, capacity-building, military cooperation, combating hunger and poverty, training of diplomats and sports. The extension of cooperation to projects on renewable energy, the environment, culture and budget planning was also under consideration.
She said her country was encouraged by Timor-Leste’s progress in normalizing the political and security situation and celebrated the lifting of the “state of exception” introduced after the February 2008 attacks. The fact that the Constitution had been upheld since the adoption of those exceptional measures deserved recognition and active support. Brazil also commended the Timorese Government’s steps to ensure the return of internally displaced persons and hoped the remaining camps would close soon. Continued efforts would also be needed to ensure the full social integration of the Petitioners.
Concerned that substantial challenges remained nevertheless, she said the persistence of deep poverty called for renewed international efforts to support Timor-Leste, guided by the Government’s plan to focus on infrastructure, rural development and capacity-building in 2009. In the security sector, the phased approach to transferring policing duties from UNMIT to the national police were was an adequate means of achieving the shared goal of full institutional normalization. The Council could assess its effectiveness as the transfer materialized over time. Meanwhile, early downsizings that might later prove unsustainable could not be afforded. Brazil also supported efforts to address the functioning of the security forces, particularly the separation of internal and external security roles, and the strengthening of civilian oversight and accountability mechanisms. Brazil was also touched by Parliament’s establishment of a Sergio Vieira de Mello Human Rights award. Timor-Leste was on the right track and its partnership with the international community should be strengthened to consolidate those gains.
MARTY NATALEGAWA (Indonesia), associating himself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said his country, as Timor-Leste’s closest neighbour, was following developments there closely and was heartened by a number of positive developments. The security situation remained calm and there had been remarkable progress in overcoming the most visible reminders of the 2006 crisis. The Government’s five-pillar National Recovery Strategy had proven effective and there was growing confidence in State institutions. Progress had been achieved in reconciliation and democracy, and all political parties continued to work constructively with Parliament as dialogue continued among stakeholders. President Ramos-Horta had made laudable efforts to create opportunities for the opposition to make contributions to issues of national interest.
Those positive developments reflected progress in the implementation of UNMIT’s mandate, he continued, encouraging the Mission to maintain that conducive environment and to support the Government in tackling the challenges it faced. Indonesia particularly encouraged UNMIT to devote more attention to mobilizing support among development partners in addressing poverty and unemployment in Timor-Leste. Those two issues had contributed to the 2006 crisis, and addressing them would help the country’s long-term stability. Indonesia appreciated UNMIT’s continued efforts to assist the Government in the promotion of security-sector reform.
He said it was crucial that the Mission continue to assist Timor-Leste in institution-building. It should support the Government’s endeavours to increase opportunities for the people to take on judicial line functions. Indonesia also supported Government efforts to achieve clear and effective “Timorization” of the justice system. Indonesia took note with interest the proposed medium-term strategy developed by the Secretary-General, which should be developed on the basis of Timorese national priorities with the emphasis on Government ownership and leadership in their implementation. The strategy should lead to the gradual ownership by Timor-Leste of tasks currently performed by UNMIT. Indonesia continued to support UNMIT in the implementation of its mandate and recognized the need to ensure the sustainability of international support for Timor-Leste’s efforts on the path towards security and prosperity.
LESLIE B. GATAN ( Philippines), associating himself with ASEAN, said the United Nations and the international community, particularly donors and regional partners, must continue to help Timor-Leste stay on the painful path of nation-building. Priority areas for support were security, socio-economic development and judicial reform. The international community should support UNMIT’s efforts to facilitate the gradual resumption of policing responsibilities by the national police, as well as other activities such as training and institutional development, interim law enforcement and public security, until the force was fully reconstituted. The Philippines supported a mandate extension at the current composition and strength. It was also important to continue supporting socio-economic development. The Philippines provided training for Timorese students as well as other assistance while supporting judicial reform, especially in terms of building capacity and strengthening the judicial system.
ROBERT HILL ( Australia) said it was UNMIT’s ongoing support that had provided the enabling environment and stability to enable the Government to move forward. Although Timor-Leste had made good progress, there was no room for complacency. Much needed to be done in terms of stability and economic development. There was a need for strong support from the United Nations and bilateral partners, particularly in the security sector. Australia supported the 12-month mandate extension and welcomed the negotiation of clearly defined criteria for gauging the readiness of the national police to resume its responsibilities. Until the police force had been significantly strengthened, it would be vital to retain a strong United Nations police presence.
Describing his country as a steadfast friend of Timor-Leste, he said it would remain at the forefront of international efforts to help it become a stable and prosperous nation. Through its leadership of the international stabilization force, Australia had helped stabilize the security environment in Timor-Leste and would continue to take a long-term approach to the many challenges facing the country, including youth unemployment and the delivery of basic Government services. Assistance to the police and defence forces was a particular focus for Australia’s enhanced engagement. Australia was also a key supporter of Timor-Leste’s justice system.
MARTIN PALOUŠ (Czech Republic), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that, since 1999, the bloc had provided about €327 million in development and humanitarian assistance to Timor-Leste. For the period 2008-2013, it had provided about €81 million in such areas as institutional capacity-building, rural development and food security. The European Union was also providing support for security-sector reform, the social reintegration of internally displaced persons and employment generation. It welcomed recent positive development in the security situation as well as the progress achieved with respect to the Petitioners and internally displaced persons.
The European Union hoped to receive a document defining the specific roles of the UNMIT police and their engagement with the national police before handing over policing responsibility, he said. There was a need to intensify training activities, including in the areas of human rights. Although the efforts of the security-sector reform team within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations regarding Timor-Leste were very welcome, it could not be overemphasized that security-sector reform would not make sense unless it was truly nationally owned.
Concerned about the situation of the judiciary, particularly with regard to the backlog of judicial cases, he said the European Union would continue to help Timor-Leste promote its justice sector and reinforce the rule of law, he said. The bloc was also concerned about the socio-economic situation, specifically the increase in poverty and high unemployment. The European Union aimed, therefore, to support labour-intensive work programmes, mainly through the implementation of rural development programmes. It also encouraged Timor-Leste to make use of the Petroleum Fund for future investment projects, and to stimulate the non-oil economy by creating new job opportunities and developing basic infrastructure. The European Union supported the mandate extension at the current composition and strength.
PAUL KAVANAGH (Ireland), associating himself with the European Union, said that, having also struggled with the challenges facing a small newly independent nation, his country recognized the magnitude of Timor-Leste’s accomplishments and commended its many achievements. Ireland had actively supported the people of Timor-Leste during their struggle and the transition to independence. It continued to be actively engaged, with Irish troops deployed as members of three successive United Nations missions, and through its participation in United Nations and European Unionobserver missions to the 1999 referendum and the elections of 2001 and 2002.
He said his country’s multi-year priority development programme in Timor-Leste focused on promoting post-conflict reconstruction through good governance, strengthening democracy and the justice sector, promoting human rights and gender equality, and supporting the development of a strong civil society. Ireland had also introduced a new conflict-resolution initiative to assist Timor-Leste in its transition from conflict to peace. That engagement in Timor-Leste was designed to address key issues directly relating to sources of fragility. Its initiatives so far included support for structured high-level dialogue among Timorese leaders, a programme on peace, remembrance and reconciliation, and advice on security-sector reform.
Ireland’s special envoy had held many constructive discussions with the leaders of Timor-Leste, he continued. Its conflict-resolution initiative had a specific focus on sharing lessons from experiences garnered from the Northern Ireland peace process. Ireland had also launched a lesson-sharing process between organizations working on gender issues in Northern Ireland, Liberia and Timor-Leste. It was committed to continuing its engagement in Timor-Leste in support of the positive efforts by the Timorese people to build that young State in a way that would enable it to realize its full potential.
MONA JUUL ( Norway), pointing out that the challenges underlying the recent crises remained to be solved, said they included growing poverty, unstable security institutions and a weak judicial system. Economic development would contribute to national stability. Norway recognized progress made in including women and youth in the nation-building process, and urged the Government to pay continuing attention to those groups.
Noting that durable peace and stability required reforming the security forces, she stressed the need for a clear separation of internal and external security responsibilities between the national police and the military. Norway supported UNMIT’s efforts to strengthen discipline and enhance civilian control. The Government must ensure cooperation between its defence forces and their Indonesia counterparts in securing their common border.
Expressing concern that Parliament had again postponed the debate on the recommendations of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation on the Indonesia occupation, she said a criminal justice approach must be complemented by a non-formal system of truth and reconciliation, as had been seen in other countries, otherwise there was a risk of impunity undermining public trust in the rule of law.
ROSEMARY BANKS ( New Zealand) underscored the vital importance of strengthening democratic governance, and strongly encouraging the political parties and people of Timor-Leste to continue to consolidate their democratic institutions. UNMIT and other partners should support the 2009 local elections. Transferring policing responsibilities to the national police was an immediate challenge, and New Zealand strongly supported phased implementation of that process. A single policing model must be agreed in the coming months.
Acknowledging the broader efforts undertaken in the security sector, she called for a clear definition of the respective roles of the military and police, and for strengthening civilian oversight mechanisms to ensure long-term stability. Accountability issues, particularly countering perceptions of impunity, affected the credibility and strength of the justice sector. New Zealand acknowledged the serious constraints in the justice sector and the need for international support to accelerate the development of national capacity. Dialogue and reconciliation efforts were also relevant. New Zealand supported the recommended extension of UNMIT’s mandate at its current authorized level.
GIULIO TERZI ( Italy) said his country, together with its European Union partners, had supported the national reconciliation process and consolidation of the young Timorese democracy through bilateral initiatives and contributions to multilateral institutions. Italy had participated in the multinational force and had put forward initiatives to support the local population and consolidate democracy focusing on key sectors such as civil-servant training, justice and support for the Parliament in Dili. He expressed satisfaction over the country’s progress, particularly in the area of security and in dealing with the closure of internally displaced persons camps and reintegration of the Petitioners into civilian life.
While the performance and organization of the Timorese police had improved, he believed that the process of strengthening security would take several years. UNMIT retained an essential role in that context, and Italy fully supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation to extend the Mission’s mandate for another 12 months at its current composition and strength. Nevertheless, appropriate adjustments to that mandate would be required to gradually reflect increasing Timorese ownership of the process and to strengthen national institutions.
Continuing, he said local elections represented a crucial moment in the consolidation of the fledging democratic institutions and evaluating the success of the international strategy in Timor-Leste. He supported the recommendation that UNMIT meet the Government’s request for assistance. While expressing appreciation for the efforts of the Government in Dili to strengthen the judiciary sector, he went on to express concern over the country’s economic situation. Also, greater resources from the international community should be directed towards the country’s infrastructure, which was needed to launch any future development strategy in the areas of industry and agriculture, he added.
JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL (Portugal) said that, while encouraging progress had been achieved during the last year, he recognized the underlying challenges that still had to be settled, including poverty and unemployment, urban centres struggling with migration, the lack of an effective land and property regime and a judicial system that needed to be strengthened and security institutions that required further capacity and training. Dialogue was central in addressing those issues, as well as ensuring a broad consensus in matters of national concern.
He said long-term security and stability would depend on the capacity of the Timorese security institutions to function in an effective, responsible and accountable way, with due respect for the rule of law and benefiting from public confidence and support. A clear vision of the relationship between the defence forces and the national police was crucial. Additional steps should be taken to facilitate the coordination of the international community’s support. He agreed with recommendations on the need for a continued robust UNMIT police presence. While resumption of responsibilities by the national police was only one step, it marked the beginning of a new phase for which the commitment of the Government and the support of the international community would prove essential.
ABELARDO MORENO FERNÁNDEZ ( Cuba) said that, although much remained to be done, Cuba welcomed the progress made in Timor-Leste since the 2006 crisis. Likewise, the country had shown a great capacity to recover after the state of shock caused by the attacks on 11 February 2008. UNMIT had also played an important role in assisting Timor-Leste. The Government had stressed the need for UNMIT to continue maintaining a strong presence in the country, and Cuba considered that the wishes and interests expressed by the Timorese Government and people should be duly taken into account by the Council.
In examining the overall situation, not enough emphasis had been placed on the urgent structural, economic and social problems and the need for greater support and assistance from the international community in that regard, he continued. The Government had adopted important measures to face poverty, unemployment and other pressing problems, but it would continue to need considerable support from the international community, particularly the United Nations. Indeed, along with the current global financial and food crises, the obstacles to be overcome by the Timorese people and Government in the coming years demanded considerable resources, far exceeding the capacities of a State with such limited means.
The international community had the moral obligation to help Timor-Leste to train human resources and create the infrastructure so needed by the country, always respecting its sovereignty. Continuing, he outlined his country’s assistance to Timor-Leste, which included provision of medical doctors and health specialists, as well as training and literacy programmes. As an example of what other countries could do, he said that, if the international community, and particularly some developed countries, responded to the appeal by President Ramos-Horta and the Government of Timor-Leste to contribute $8 million in a period of only 2 years, the country would be able to declare itself free from the scourge of illiteracy.
BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) said he was pleased with the progress made by Timor-Leste since the 2006 crisis, and particularly applauded personal efforts of President Ramos-Horta in leading the nation through the period of uncertainty and enormous challenge. The Secretary-General’s report highlighted many positive developments, and he supported continued efforts to foster dialogue and national reconciliation in Timor-Leste through various mechanisms, among others the high-level coordination committee meetings and the trilateral coordination forum.
He welcomed the approach taken by the Government to address the issues of internally displaced persons and petitioners. South Africa underlined the continued importance of a comprehensive approach to the review and reform of the security sector in Timor-Leste under full national ownership. It was necessary to ensure clear separation of internal and external security roles and responsibilities between the national police and the military. He was confident the Government would enhance its efforts to that end, and urged the continued support of the international community, which remained crucial to attaining that objective.
Significant strides made by the country so far required that its people, in partnership with the international community, focused on socio-economic development and helped to launch the nation on a path to sustainable development, he said. The international community must make a long-term commitment towards assisting the Government and people of Timor-Leste to achieve sustainable peace and prosperity. It was also crucial that bilateral and multilateral partners continued to help the country develop and strengthen its institutions and further build capacities in line with national priorities. The Timorese leadership should continue to seize the opportunity of working with all segments of society in building national unity, reconciliation, promotion of human rights, justice and peace.
CHIRACHAI PUNKRASIN (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said his delegation welcomed the remarkable progress achieved by the Timorese Government and people in overcoming various challenges and welcomed the fact that the overall situation had returned to normal and that the security situation remained calm. A holistic approach was important to ensure that Timor-Leste progressed smoothly from peacekeeping to peacebuilding and to durable peace, security and development.
Thailand therefore supported UNMIT’s approach as reflected in the four mandated priority areas: review and reform of the security sector; strengthening of the rule of law; economic and social development, particularly in the rural areas; and promotion of a culture of democratic governance and dialogue. He said national ownership should not only continue to be the guiding principle of UNMIT, but also be the ultimate goal that the international community should strive to achieve.
While Timor-Leste was moving in the right direction, daunting challenges remained, and therefore a substantial and sustained international partnership would continue to be vital to assist the country in building on past gains. In that regard, ASEAN supported a 12-month extension of UNMIT’s mandate at the current composition and strength. Continuing, he said concerted and sustained international assistance to socio-economic development was equally significant. Investment in human capital and livelihoods of the people, particularly at the community level, was an investment in long-term peace, stability and prosperity.
HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia) welcomed the progress achieved by Timor-Leste, and, referring to the issues of petitioners and internally displaced persons, said: “What was a crisis has turned into an opportunity to solve the two major residual issues from the conflict of 2006.” He congratulated the leaders and people of Timor-Leste, who, with the assistance of UNMIT and other international partners, had been successful in maintaining peace and stability in the country. That had proved again that the Timorese were more than capable of reconciling their differences for the sake of peace and prosperity in their country.
The encouraging security situation augured well for the planned resumption of responsibilities by the national police. The national ownership of such duties would represent a major milestone in the rehabilitation of the security sector and would allow the country to graduate from UNMIT soon. The resumption process should be carefully implemented, however, under a phased approach, emphasizing the need for national police units to meet the criteria mutually agreed to by the Government and UNMIT. That should also be done in accordance with the arrangements that were set out in the Secretary-General’s report.
Continuing, he said UNMIT and the international community should continue providing the necessary support, so that Timor-Leste could take on the policing responsibility based on mutually agreed criteria and without imposing arbitrary deadlines. Security required a holistic approach. Malaysia welcomed UNMIT’s medium-term strategy that was focused on economic and social development and promotion of democratic governance and dialogue, besides security sector reform and strengthening the rule of law. Finally, stability remained fragile, largely owing to root causes such as poverty and unemployment. Consequently, Timor-Leste still required a robust presence of UNMIT, and Malaysia supported the Government’s expressed interest in the extension of the Mission’s mandate.
ATUL KHARE, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste and Head of UNMIT, thanked all speakers for their kind words. He said that President Ramos Horta had made reference to a survey that had demonstrated a 75 per cent approval rating for the Mission. In that regard, he noted that the President himself rated 82 per cent in approval, which was a reflection of his tireless efforts to bring peace and prosperity to his country.
As many speakers had reflected on the need to define a meaningful role for the army in a time of peace, he informed the Council that separating policing responsibilities from those of national defence responsibilities and enhancing civilian oversight of security forces were two issues of foremost concern to the Timorese authorities. The resumption of police responsibilities by the national police would be gradual. At the end of the current year, UNMIT would make an assessment of the process and recommend benchmarks for adjustment in the number of UNMIT police. The current strength of international police should be maintained for a full year. Decisions had been taken to quickly conduct an independent comprehensive needs assessment regarding reform of the justice sector, he added.
As for the need to fight domestic violence and curb trafficking in persons, he said the President had from his hospital bed in March 2008 issued a public message calling for combating those evils. He also drew attention to the efforts of the Prime Minister in that regard, who had appointed gender focal points in all ministries and had submitted a gender sensitive budget.
* *** *
For information media • not an official record