|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6485th Meeting (AM)
Upcoming Elections among Critical Tests of Timor-Leste’s Resiliency,
Top United Nations Official Says in Briefing to Security Council
Special Representative Paints Calm Security Picture,
Outlines Preparations for National Police to Assume Greater Responsibility
With Timor-Leste’s broad transition strategy showing solid progress on security- and judicial-sector reforms, the top United Nations official in the country told the Security Council today that upcoming elections and the transformation of the world body’s mission there would be important political tests for the resiliency of the Timorese Government and the durability of the institutions built since the military crisis of 2006.
“All institutions and leaders will need to show that progress to date results from measures, processes and commitments that can be sustained in the long term,” said Ameerah Haq, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), in a cautiously optimistic briefing to the Council. She highlighted, among other things, the calm security and political situation, reinvigorated national development initiatives, preparations for presidential and parliamentary elections to be held in 2012 and the eventual drawdown of UNMIT following those polls.
Much of her assessment focused on the gradually increasing responsibilities of Timor-Leste’s national police forces, and she expressed confidence that the process could be finalized in the coming months, with the Policiá Nacional de Timor-Leste taking over all districts. During the initial period, overall crime rates had remained low and there had been no indication of any politics-related violence, reflecting a general desire for peace, stability and unity at all levels of society. While the Government coalition and opposition parties still had their differences, they continued to channel them through established democratic institutions and processes. “Timorese leaders at the national, district and community levels and across the political spectrum, while recognizing that there are still challenges ahead, including presidential and parliamentary elections planned for 2012, are optimistic that the current peaceful situation can be maintained through the end of 2010 and beyond,” she said.
Ms. Haq shared the optimism that such progress could hold if all political leaders and the wider public continued to act in a responsible manner and the security situation remained stable. “Investment in human capital, particularly for the youth, will improve the lives of the population and provide increased economic dividends down the road,” she said, emphasizing also the importance of investing in rural areas — home to some 80 per cent of the Timorese population — and of providing more employment opportunities for young people.
The Government was aware of such expanding challenges, and hopefully, ongoing initiatives and programmes focused on district-level development would further efforts to guarantee responsible spending, she said. An increased focus on social and rural initiatives would help facilitate the realization of the Millennium Development Goals, she said, noting Timor-Leste’s significant progress in that regard. The country had already met the Goals for reducing infant mortality and ensuring antenatal coverage, she said.
In his address to the Council, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, Prime Minister and Minister for Defence and Security of Timor-Leste, outlined the achievements made in various sectors by the five-party Coalition Government since its entry into office in August 2007. He described the restoration of peace and stability following the crisis of 2006 as primarily a result of the reforms started in the national police and defence forces, which had finally overcome their “petty differences” by 2008.
He said he was attending today’s meeting in order to correct some reports about Timor-Leste that “tend to sound more like verdicts”, without underestimating the difficulties and challenges ahead. In becoming gradually stronger, Timor-Leste was taking its due place in the region, he said, pointing out that the Government was currently formalizing its application for membership in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), while also cooperating with other friends in Asia and the Pacific region, as well as the Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) community.
He went on to note that the transfer of executive responsibility from the United Nations police to the national force should be completed by 27 March and from that point on the latter would be responsible for conducting, leading and controlling all police operations. He underlined the Government’s commitment to strengthening command-and-control and to applying disciplinary procedures in a serious manner, so as to ensure the integrity of the police force.
Expressing confidence that the upcoming elections would take place in tranquillity, as in 2007 and despite challenges, the Prime Minister noted, however, that the national police force would continue to require advisory and capacity-building assistance from the United Nations police. It would be ideal if advisers to the national force had technical and professional skills in legislation, training, administration, discipline and operations, he said, adding that, if possible, he would like to see advisers already cooperating in those areas remain there until the end of their mandates.
The post-UNMIT period following the elections, when the Mission might start to withdraw, would remain under consideration by the Government, in consultation with all partners, he said. The United Nations had been present from the moment that Timor-Leste had started to be built, he recalled. “As such, I urge you to remain with us in solidarity so we may fulfil the dreams of our people,” he said. “Today, those dreams are about peace and development.”
When Council members took the floor, most speakers generally praised UNMIT, describing its work in assisting Timor-Leste’s transition towards lasting stability and democracy as a major United Nations success story. However, they cautioned against resting on such achievements, with the representative of France among those who stressed that long-term stability could only hold if more progress was made in the fight against impunity. On that subject, Colombia’s representative emphasized the results of the concluding conference of the National Dialogue on Truth and Reconciliation, especially regarding reparations for victims of human rights violations committed between 1974 and 1999.
Among Timor-Leste’s main bilateral partners attending the meeting, Australia’s representative said significant challenges remained for the Timorese Government and people, pointing out that, while there had been some progress in reducing poverty, increasing school enrolment and improving immunization programmes, the country was off track to meeting more than half of the Millennium Development Goals. Poverty levels remained high, especially in rural areas, while health and education sectors remained underdeveloped. “None of this is easy — for any Government,” he said. “Acknowledging the problems is not to criticize but really to state the enormity of what needs to be done. And this is a task where the international community continues to have a critical role to play,” he said.
The representative of New Zealand, another key bilateral partner, cautioned that the next 18 months would test the extent to which the current political and security climate could withstand the heat of competitive democratic elections. They would also test the readiness of core State institutions to sustain themselves with reduced international support. “This period also represents a window of opportunity for consolidating and extending recent achievements, and for preparing for significant changes to the international presence post-2012,” he said. It was also necessary to consider Timor-Leste’s needs beyond 2012, he said, adding that the international community must consider its role in helping the country address its longer-term socio-economic challenges, including the 41 per cent of the population still living below the poverty line.
Other speakers today included representatives of India, United States, Russian Federation, Bosnia and Herzegovina, South Africa, Nigeria, United Kingdom, Portugal, Gabon, China, Colombia, Lebanon, Germany, Brazil, Japan and the Philippines.
Also delivering a statement was the Acting Head of the European Union Delegation to the United Nations.
The meeting began at 10:30 a.m. and ended at 1:30 p.m.
The Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (for the period from 21 September 2010 to 7 January 2011, which recommends a 12-month mandate extension for the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).
According to the report, (document S/2011/32) the Polícia Nacional de Timor-Leste are resuming primary policing responsibility in more districts of the country, but there is a continuing need for a United Nations police presence to support the fledgling institution. To date, the national police have resumed responsibility in a total of 10 districts and six units, including Viqueque, the largest district, in addition to the Immigration Department, Border Patrol Unit and International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) Office. The handover of responsibility from UNMIT to the national police is part of an ongoing process that began in May 2009 to help establish a professional and credible police force in the country, which the world body shepherded to independence in 2002.
The Secretary-General finds it encouraging that the resumption of primary policing responsibility by the national police has continued to progress and that completion in all districts and units is likely in the coming months. He notes, however, that even after the Mission has handed over responsibility for the conduct and command-and-control of all police operations, there will be a continuing need for a United Nations police presence to support the further institutional development and capacity-building of the national police. An adequate United Nations police presence will also be required to support the national police in the event of “extreme circumstances”, if requested, including during the critical period of presidential and parliamentary elections in 2012.
While the overall situation in Timor-Leste was calm during the reporting period, with general trends showing further progress towards long-term peace, stability and development, the report notes, there were a number of violent incidents between youth groups. Those incidents, while a source of concern, were the result of local disputes and did not have any significant impact on the overall security environment, the Secretary-General says.
UNMIT was established in 2006 to replace several earlier missions in the South-East Asian country. The Mission currently has some 1,517 uniformed personnel on the ground, including 1,482 police, in addition to more than 1,200 civilian staff and volunteers.
AMEERAH HAQ, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, introduced the Secretary-General’s report, saying that the security and political situation in the country remained stable. With the responsibilities of the national police gradually increasing, overall crime rates had remained low and there was no indication of any politics-related violence, all of which reflected a general desire for peace, stability and unity at all levels of society.
She said that, while the Government coalition and opposition parties still had their differences – “as is common in any multi-party democracy” – they continued to channel those differences through established democratic institutions and processes. “Timorese leaders at the national, district and community levels and across the political spectrum, while recognizing that there are still challenges ahead, including presidential and parliamentary elections planned for 2010, are optimistic that the current peaceful situation can be maintained through the end of 2010 and beyond.”
Ms. Haq said she shared the optimism that such progress could be maintained if all political leaders and the wider public continued to act in a responsible manner and the security situation remained stable. That was the same sentiment expressed throughout the country, she noted, adding that, though the people had some concerns, particularly about high and widespread unemployment and poverty, there was hope that ongoing socio-economic development efforts would help tackle those conditions. Meanwhile, Dili, the capital, had become a city of bustling commercial activity, in stark contrast to just two or three years ago.
Turning to policing, she said the resumption of primary policing responsibilities by the national force was “on the horizon” and she was confident that it could be finalized in the coming months, given the continuing commitment of the Government and police force. Since the report’s closing date, the joint Government-UNMIT team charged with reviewing readiness had recommended the Bonaro and Covalima districts, as well as three additional units, for resumption. Only Dili District, which continued to face challenges in meeting the mutually agreed criteria, and three other units were pending further assessment. Once the national police had resumed primary responsibility in all districts and units, responsibility for the conduct, as well as command-and-control of all policing operations, would move from the UNMIT Police Commissioner to the General Commander national police.
That would signal a new phase in the development of the national police and the beginning of the reconstitution phase, she said. During that phase, UNMIT police would focus primarily on further institutional strengthening and capacity-building. That phase would be critical to ensuring the readiness and ability of the national police to guarantee public security throughout the country ahead of the Mission’s eventual withdrawal. One of the critical tasks during the reconstitution phase would be to help ensure that the national police established itself as a professional and impartial service that enjoyed the trust of the people and was capable of guaranteeing public security with due respect for human rights and the rule of law.
She went on to say that the Falantil-Forcas de Defesa de Timor-Leste (F-FDTL) also continued to make progress in developing their human resources and institutional capacities, as reflected in the draft force development plan for 2011-2015 and the new F-FDTL force structure, which envisaged the recruitment of an additional 600 members and was currently ongoing. As for the wider security sector, Timor-Leste continued to make advances in further developing an overarching legislative and policy framework, as well as various regulations.
Subject to further discussions with the Government, and with the Security Council’s concurrence, she proposed that UNMIT concentrate on supporting and further strengthening and developing security institutions over the next two years, particularly with regard to human rights and gender training, technical and legislative drafting, strengthening disciplinary mechanisms and facilitating the sharing of best practices. “I propose that continued assistance be provided to support civilian oversight institutions, which are responsible for ensuring that the sector meets the needs of the people of Timor-Leste,” she said, citing such institutions as the National Parliament, the Ministry of Defence and Security and others.
She recalled that Parliament had approved the 2011 budget on 28 January, noting that it amounted to some $1.3 billion. Representing a near 10-fold increase over the 2005-2006 budget, the increasing revenues available to the State from petroleum resources were among the most striking changes that Timor-Leste had experienced over the years, she said, describing them as “huge” and stressing that they could be made available for investment in the future of the Timorese people. State responsibilities also grew with budgets, she pointed out, emphasizing the need to ensure effective implementation and planning, and the allocation of adequate resources to critical social sectors such as health and education. Efforts would have to be taken to address the challenges of vulnerable groups, including women and children.
“Investment in human capital, particularly for the youth, will improve the lives of the population and provide increased economic dividends down the road,” she continued, stressing also the importance of investing in rural areas — home to some 80 per cent of the Timorese population — and of providing more employment opportunities for young people. The Government was aware of such expanding challenges, and hopefully ongoing initiatives and programmes focused on district-level development would further Government efforts to guarantee responsible spending. An increased focus on social and rural initiatives would help facilitate the realization of the Millennium Development Goals, she said, noting Timor-Leste’s significant progress in that regard, having already met the Goals for reducing infant mortality and ensuring antenatal coverage. The country was also on track to achieve the Goals relating to primary school enrolment and access to safe drinking water.
She said Timor-Leste was now entering a period that would be an important indicator of the durability of the advances the country had made since 2006, particularly in the security sector, as the national police became responsible for its own command-and-control arrangements. However, there would be other tests during the run-up to the 2012 elections, she cautioned, adding that the leaders of political parties would need to continue to express and deal with their differences responsibly through democratic and institutional processes. Access to the justice system must improve so that all segments of the population would benefit, especially women and those living in rural areas, she emphasized, adding that the Government must continue its efforts to ensure effective and transparent use of the increased budgetary resources available to it. “All institutions and leaders will need to show that progress to date results from measures, processes and commitments that can be sustained in the long term,” she said.
KAY RALA XANANA GUSMÃO, Prime Minister and Minister for Defence and Security of Timor-Leste, thanked the Council for the generosity it had shown towards his country and outlined achievements made in various sectors by the five-party Coalition Government since its entry into office in August 2007. The restoration of peace and stability following the crisis of 2006 was primarily a result of the reforms started in the national police and defence forces, which had finally overcome their “petty differences” by 2008, he said. Since the Joint Operation in 2008, both institutions had been activated in various localities to continue efforts to restore normality and other governmental institutions had also been working in a coordinated manner, he said, adding that civil society had also played an extremely important role.
He said he was attending today’s meeting in order to correct some reports on Timor-Leste that “tend to sound more like verdicts”, while not underestimating the difficulties and challenges ahead. In becoming gradually stronger, Timor-Leste was taking its due place in the region and was currently formalizing its application for membership in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), he said, noting that the country was also cooperating with other friends in Asia and the Pacific region, as well as the Lusophone community. Timor-Leste also enjoyed strong support and assistance from the European Union, as well as cooperation with Cuba and Brazil, he said, adding that it had received much from the international community and hoped to be able to reciprocate. In that vein, he outlined Timor-Leste’s activities as Chair of the Group of Least Developed Countries and as a member of the Bali Democracy Forum.
Expressing concern about the indecision of the large economies over the drafting of a new economic order, he pointed out that countries such as his own faced uncertainty due to climate change, the world financial crisis and the lack of coherence in terms of measures to save humankind from hunger, disease, misery and other ills. However, Timor-Leste was determined to focus on its own development, and for that reason hoped to launch its Strategic Development Plan at the next meeting of its development partners, currently scheduled for July in Dili. The Plan focused on increasing production, boosting production capabilities and productive employment opportunities for the purpose of eradicating poverty. For that, “the Timorese State will have to invest boldly in core infrastructure and human capital development,” he said.
Returning to the reasons that had brought him to New York, he noted that the transfer of executive responsibility from the United Nations police to the national force should be completed by 27 March and from that point on the latter would be responsible for conducting, leading and controlling all police operations. He underlined the Government’s commitment to strengthening command-and-control and to applying disciplinary procedures in a serious manner, so as to ensure the integrity of the police force. He also noted that 2012 would be a very important year in consolidating the building of “our very young State”, given the planned presidential and parliamentary elections, the third democratic elections held in the country.
Expressing confidence that the elections would take place in tranquillity, as they had done in 2007, despite the challenges, the Prime Minister noted, however, that the national police force would continue to require advisory and capacity-building assistance from the United Nations police. It would be ideal if advisers to the national force had technical and professional skills in legislation, training, administration, discipline and operations, he said, adding that, if possible, he would like to see advisers already cooperating in those areas remain there until the end of their mandates. The post-UNMIT period after the elections, when the Mission might start to withdraw, would remain under the consideration by the Government, in consultation with all partners, he said.
He said that in the election periods — March and April for the presidential elections and June for the parliamentary polls — he would seek to draft a special agreement with UNMIT so as to enable the United Nations police to participate in the maintenance of public order alongside the national force. UNMIT would also be requested to provide logistical support to the elections as it had always done, he said, adding that he was counting on the presence of sufficient international observers to cover 700 polling booths in order to anticipate and prevent any irregularities.
The United Nations had been present from the moment that Timor-Leste had started to be built, he recalled. “As such, I urge you to remain with us in solidarity so we may fulfil the dreams of our people,” he said. “Today, those dreams are about peace and development.” He concluded by congratulating the Governments and peoples of Sudan for their “intelligent adoption of non-violence during the recent referendum process”, expressing hope that all parties would continue to engage in dialogue and a peaceful solution to all remaining issues. He said 2012 would mark the tenth anniversary of the restoration of Timor-Leste’s independence, and invited all partners to take part in the celebrations, as all had done on 20 May 2002.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) said his delegation was encouraged to hear that the overall situation in Timor-Leste was largely stable and that the country was on its way towards broader stability and development. For the country to continue on that path, the Government and opposition would need to continue working together to promote democratic institutions and processes. The transition to national responsibility for policing responsibilities must continue apace, he said, stressing that it was critical to establish a clear delineation of authority between the military and police forces so as to ensure effective and efficient security under a civilian Government. The United Nations must provide support for the 2010 elections, in line with the Government’s request, he said, urging the international community to continue and scale up its support for reconstruction and development. As UNMIT’s transition continued, United Nations agencies in the field must continue to work in a coordinated manner, in line with the priorities set out by the Government.
DAVID DUNN ( United States) said his delegation was pleased that the security situation had remained largely stable during the reporting period, and that the international community would maintain its commitment to helping Timor-Leste as it prepared for the 2012 elections. As for UNMIT, he said the Mission’s remaining civilian police posts must be filled as soon as possible. The development of competent and credible security institutions, both police and military, was critical to the country’s ongoing success, he stressed. He appealed to the Government to press ahead with its actions to outline a national security policy, and expressed appreciation of ongoing measures in the area of truth, justice and reconciliation, which were critical to ongoing stability. The United States supported a gradual and phased drawdown of UNMIT, which would encourage the Government to define the role of the United Nations after its departure. However, the 2012 elections should not be the final say on the Mission’s work, he stressed, adding that its departure should be determined by events on the ground.
KONSTANTIN DOLGOV ( Russian Federation) said his delegation was satisfied with the progress made in key areas, and commended all those who had contributed to it. Trusting that the resumption of responsibility by the national police would be completed shortly, the Russian Federation also supported the recommendation to extend the mandate of UNMIT, as well as its anticipated assistance with elections and other areas that would help consolidate the gains made thus far.
IVAN BARBALIĆ ( Bosnia and Herzegovina) concurred on the important role that UNMIT continued to play, and for that reason supported the extension of its mandate for another 12 months. Strengthening security-sector reform was crucial, he said, welcoming the resumption of primary responsibility by the national police and strongly encouraging the early finalization of that process, as well as further capacity-building in all necessary areas. He welcomed, in addition, the expected approval of proposed amendments to the laws on presidential and parliamentary elections, and the anticipated United Nations role in technical and logistical support. Additional efforts were needed to sustain economic growth through rural development, infrastructure development and private-sector efforts, he said, reiterating his country’s full support for the efforts of the people and Government of Timor-Leste to achieve sustainable peace, stability and prosperity.
MARTIN BRIENS ( France) described the cooperation among the Government, opposition parties and civil society as a testament to the sustainability of Timor-Leste’s democratic institutions. “What we see happening here is a success for the United Nations and its ability to help usher a country towards peace and stability,” he said. However, the international community should not rest on its laurels, he stressed. Indeed, long-term peace and stability would only come about if Timor-Leste continued and intensified its fight against impunity. It was, therefore, very important that the Timorese people be able to confirm the integrity of their police force as it prepared to take over greater responsibilities, he said, expressing hope that parliamentary efforts for reparations, and those of the truth and reconciliation commission, would continue apace. Meanwhile, it was important that the United Nations ensure that UNMIT’s size and profile corresponded to the new situation on the ground, he emphasized, adding that the Mission should help contribute to the success of the 2012 elections and prepare for withdrawal under the best conditions possible.
BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) said the relative peace and stability in Timor-Leste had enabled the creation of an environment in which to build democratic institutions and foster dialogue. The continuing peace and stability also signalled a remarkable improvement in the socio-economic sector, he said, noting also that the Government continued to make progress in elaborating an overarching legislative and regulator security framework. Notwithstanding that progress, the Government would continue to rely on international support, he said, since it continued to face challenges including the ongoing transition of policing duties and widespread youth unemployment, which could lead to some instability.
RAFF BUKUN-OLU WOLE ONEMOLA ( Nigeria) welcomed the calm and stability prevailing in Timor-Leste, as well as the Government’s plans to strengthen that stability in the coming year. He also welcomed the resumption of policing responsibility by the national force, which should be completed by the agreed timeline. It was crucial to establish an effective disciplinary system in the police sector, he said, stressing also the need for further steps to combat impunity and ensure respect for an independent judiciary. Welcoming the Government’s prudent use of resources, and corresponding advances in the socio-economic sphere, he said the Government should communicate its priorities to the population. Given the critical role to be played by UNMIT in the upcoming elections, Nigeria supported the proposed extension of its mandate, he said.
PHILIP JOHN PARHAM ( United Kingdom), emphasizing that the 2012 elections would be a critical milestone, congratulated UNMIT on its work and welcomed is handover of policing responsibility to the national force. If progress continued on the current track, UNMIT might not be needed after 2013, he said, recommending, therefore, that the drawdown begin soon. It was important to provide the national police with all the necessary equipment and to ensure its integrity, he emphasized, expressing concern that officers with outstanding charges against them were about to be certified. He also underscored the importance of reconciliation mechanisms. A durable exit strategy for UNMIT must be determined soon, he said, adding that the wider United Nations family should intensify its planning for the maintenance and strengthening of the accomplishments made thus far. Timor-Leste should become a model for such transition strategies, he said.
JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL ( Portugal) welcomed Prime Minister Gusmão and acknowledged his long-standing efforts to guide Timor-Leste on the path towards stability and democracy. He said today’s meeting was taking place at a very important juncture, as the country began preparations for the upcoming elections and the transformation of the United Nations presence after the expiry of UNMIT’s mandate. There was still much to be done to ensure that State institutions were able to discharge their duties effectively, he said, emphasizing that longer-term stability and security depended on the ability of security institutions to function in a transparent and effective manner. The people of Timor-Leste had continually expressed their desire to create and sustain a democratic and secure society, he noted, stressing that they would need the continuing support of the United Nations and the wider international community to do so.
ALFRED MOUNGARA MOUSSOTSI ( Gabon) said he was pleased to note that the coordination and cooperation between international and national security forces had been stepped up, and welcomed efforts to strengthen the operational capacity of the national police force. He welcomed the support provided by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to help build the capacity of Timorese judicial mechanisms. Great strides had also been made towards the realization of the Millennium Development Goals, and the Timorese economy had made a solid rebound over the past few years, he said, emphasizing also that resources generated by the increase in oil revenues must by invested in the country’s broader socio-economic development. Truth and reconciliation efforts must continue, he said, adding that the 2012 elections would be a test for the entire country and its institutions.
LI BAODONG ( China), welcoming Timor-Leste’s continuing stability, as well as its current progress and opportunities, also commended the country’s people and UNMIT for their efforts. In overcoming remaining challenges, the international community should focus its support on reconciliation and the upcoming elections, as well as on developing capacities to improve the socio-economic situation, he said, adding that there was a need for a greater focus on improving people’s lives. Expressing his delegation’s support for the strengthening of the security and judicial sectors so that they could take all necessary responsibility at an early date, he said China also supported the extension of UNMIT’s mandate for 12 months. Any downsizing plan should take the elections and the need for a smooth transition into account. The international community should continue to provide support for economic development and stability, he said, adding that his country was willing to continue to provide such support within its abilities.
ISAURA DUARTE-RODRIGUEZ ( Colombia) recalled that, as a non-member of the Council in 2002, her delegation had been pleased to participate in the early discussions on the creation of Timor-Leste as a new State and to receive it as a Member of the United Nations. Colombia, therefore, noted with satisfaction its progress towards peace, development and stability. It was important to continue to promote national unity and dialogue through cooperation with different national and regional political entities, as well as civil society, the Catholic Church and the United Nations, among other actors. Emphasizing the results of the concluding conference of the national dialogue on truth and reconciliation, especially regarding reparations for victims of human rights violations committed between 1974 and 1999, she stressed the need to strike a balance between punitive and restorative elements. She went on to endorse the work of the High-level Committee on Transition, stressing that it would be necessary throughout the transition process to consult regularly with and duly inform all stakeholders, political parties, civil society and donors.
CAROLINE ZIADE ( Lebanon) welcomed the security and stability that had taken hold in Timor-Leste, saying she looked forward to the steps that would be taken to ensure national security and dialogue. She acknowledged the Government’s efforts to combat corruption and reform the judicial sector, as well as efforts to address crimes committed between 1974 and 1999. It was notable that the Government had outlined a broad development plan, she said, emphasizing the need for it to address the needs of all levels and sectors of society.
PETER WITTIG (Germany), associating himself with the statement to be made by the delegation of the European Union, pledged to continue providing bilateral support to Timor-Leste through the regional body and UNMIT. Expressing support for the extension of the Mission’s mandate for another 12 months, he agreed that its deployment should remain as it was at present, with a continuing decrease in the police contingent while stressing the importance of building capacity in Timorese institutions so they could take control in all areas. Strategies for transition following the completion of UNMIT’s mandate must be intensively discussed now, he said, adding that it was crucial to ensure that the preconditions for an adequate civil society and strong rule of law were in place. Regarding the latter, he expressed that some police officers were up for certification despite facing outstanding charges.
Council President MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil), speaking in her national capacity, noted that the commonalities between her own country and Timor-Leste had given rise to intense bilateral cooperation over the years. They encompassed a broad range of issues, including security-sector reform, education and justice. This year, in fact, Brazil had had the special honour of being the “lead country” on Timor-Leste, she said, thanking Japan for having fulfilled that role for the past two years. She congratulated the Timorese authorities and people for their accomplishments of the past few years and described the country as an outstanding example of post-conflict peacebuilding.
A peaceful and credible electoral process would be an important milestone on Timor-Leste’s path to long-term stability and recovery, she said. Both the Government and UNMIT should strengthen their efforts to ensure that the national police were ready to resume primary responsibility in Dili. Socio-economic development was another key component in maintaining stability, she said, noting that Timor-Leste stood out in that respect, but emphasizing that the international community should stand ready to help the country tackle remaining challenges. UNMIT, which had made an outstanding contribution, should now adapt to the task of providing assistance in the most challenging areas, she said, stressing that any decision on a gradual decrease in the number of its police officers should reflect realities on the ground rather than follow artificial deadlines. It should also be thoroughly discussed with the Timorese authorities, she added.
TSUNEO NISHIDA ( Japan) said that, in order for the 2010 elections to be credible, adequate logistical, administrative and security capacity would be crucial, he stressed, noting that Japan stood ready to work with UNMIT in providing such support. He commended the resumption of policing responsibility by the national force, but noted that more substantial capacities were needed in community policing. The Government should deepen its commitment in that area. Japan trusted, in addition, that the Government would find no reason to exempt the 52 police officers facing disciplinary and criminal charges, he said, urging judicial authorities to take all measures to ensure the integrity of the police. Turning to the budget, he said its rapid expansion gave the young country great potential but also posed challenges. He encouraged the Government to place more emphasis on job creation and rural development. Given such challenges, as well as the upcoming elections, Japan strongly supported the extension of UNMIT’s mandate for 12 months, as well as discussion of the kind of international support most needed in the coming period.
CARLOS SORRETA (Philippines), noting that his country was an active member of the Core Group for Timor-Leste, cautioned that reducing the number of UNMIT police officers would test the ability of the national force to take over their role. An immediate concern was to help the national police strengthen their criminal investigation and forensics capabilities, he said, noting that, in the long term, the challenge was balancing UNMIT’s efforts in building the capacity of the national force and its support for ensuring civilian oversight of the security forces. The Philippine contingent to UNMIT was now preparing to scale down its presence by around 40 per cent in the coming months without sacrificing effectiveness and visibility, he said. The 2012 elections would be a crucial test, he said, cautioning against premature disengagement by the United Nations by pointing to the lessons learned in 2006. On the other hand, the renewal of the mandate must be seen as an opportunity for Timor-Leste to show its readiness to take responsibility for peace and security without outside help, he said.
JIM MCLAY ( New Zealand) thanked Council members who had expressed support and sympathy in the wake of the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that had struck his country yesterday, saying that dawn was just breaking in Christchurch and only then would the Government be able to “get a handle” on what was sure to be a national tragedy.
He said the central lesson of his country’s partnership with Timor-Leste had been the fundamental importance of national leadership in nation-building. As for the Council’s work today, the Secretary-General’s report painted a positive picture, a calm security situation and a Timor-Leste enjoying greater prosperity than at any time since its independence. There was also evidence of an impressive commitment to democratic and constitutional norms across the political spectrum, and of a willingness to put long-term national interests ahead of short-term political gain, he said. That boded well for the coming elections. Steady progress had also been made in strengthening the justice and corrections sectors, as well as institutions responsible for ensuring Government accountability and respect for human rights.
He went on to note that strong economic growth, together with targeted social programmes had delivered progress in addressing key socio-economic challenges. Yet, while all those achievements were cause for optimism, “we cannot be complacent”, he cautioned, noting that the next 18 months would test the extent to which the current political and security climate “can withstand the heat of competitive democratic elections”. They would also test the readiness of core State institutions to sustain themselves with reduced international support. “This period also represents a window of opportunity for consolidating and extending recent achievements, and for preparing for significant changes to the international presence post-2012,” he said. Decisions and actions would have a major impact on long-term prospects for stability, prosperity and effective governance.
He went on to welcome early engagement between the Government and UNMIT regarding the transition process, which must be nationally owned and led, with careful planning and phased changes to minimize the risk of instability and disruption. It was necessary to consider Timor-Leste’s needs beyond 2012, and though that period was currently hard to visualize, the international community must consider its respective role in helping the country address its longer-term socio-economic challenges, including the 41 per cent of the population still living below the poverty line, as well as ongoing challenges in terms of developing infrastructure and extending basic services.
GARY QUINLAN ( Australia) noted that Timor-Leste today enjoyed a measure of security that would have seemed almost unimaginable during “the dark days of 2006”. The security forces, working with UNMIT’s support, were developing the capacity to provide the security that would underpin the country’s broader development. It was also good to see that the national police had now resumed primary responsibility in 10 of 13 districts, a reflection of the significant progress they had made in recent years. An effective policing capacity was fundamental in any country, just as a mature and mutually understood relationship between the police and military was critical.
He went on to say that the support of the United Nations and the wider international community had been important in helping the Government make progress. That support remained necessary, especially ahead of the 2012 elections. Moreover, significant challenges remained for the Timorese Government and people, and while there had been some progress in reducing poverty, increasing school enrolment and improving immunization programmes, the country was off track to meeting more than half the Millennium Development Goals. Poverty levels remained high, especially in rural areas, and the health and education sectors remained underdeveloped. Timor-Leste also remained heavily reliant on oil revenues, he said, encouraging the Government to continue working to resolve uncertainties over land tenure and simplify business regulations, both measures that would encourage the private-sector growth that was essential for economic development.
“None of this is easy — for any Government,” he stressed. “Acknowledging the problems is not to criticize but really to state the enormity of what needs to be done.” He expressed his country’s support for the United Nations police contingent to conduct a modest drawdown this year and then remain steady until after the 2012 elections. The final drawdown should take into account Timor-Leste’s security environment at the time, he stressed. Australia also supported the decision to conduct an independent assessment of the national police and the United Nations-led police expert assessment mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report. Given that 2012 was not far away, there was an urgent need to plan for the end of UNMIT’s mandate, not only in the police sector, but also in the broad range of support it provided.
PEDRO SERRANO, Acting Head, Delegation for the European Union, stressing the importance of the 2012 elections, noted the assistance that the regional body had already provided through training and capacity-building, saying it stood ready to consider further requests for help. In that light, he supported the continuation of UNMIT, noting that the limited and gradual decrease of its police component would be useful in advancing the transfer of police responsibilities while allowing the Mission to help with other institution-building tasks. He expressed firm support for the United Nations position on the certification of the police officers facing serious charges and urged the Government to take all necessary measures to ensure the credibility of the national police force.
Emphasizing the importance of the early and careful planning of UNMIT’s exit strategy, he said particular attention must be paid during the transition to strengthening institutional and human capacities, activities that were at the heart of the European Union’s assistance programme. Possible additional support for selected Millennium Development Goals had just been announced, he said, welcoming the progress made in building the judiciary and underlining the importance of addressing impunity, as well as encouraging full implementation of the United Nations Special Commission report of 2006. In the interest of reconciliation, he urged the National Parliament to resume the delayed debate on reparations at the earliest possible date, along with other steps to implement the recommendations of the Reconciliation Commission.
Prime Minister GUSMÃO thanked the Council once again for its interest, concern and help, pledging to make all the reforms requested of his country. Timor-Leste was committed to fair and credible elections, which would be important for many other countries in a similar democratization process.
Ms. HAQ thanked all speakers for their expressions of support and their confidence in UNMIT. She pledged her dedication to complete the Mission’s remaining tasks.
* *** *For information media • not an official record