07 January 2011

East Timor leaders scathing about crucial UN report

From The Brisbane Times Lindsay Murdoch January 3, 2011 DARWIN: East Timor's leaders have objected to large sections of a crucial United Nations agency report on the country only weeks before the UN Security Council reconsiders its $200 million a year mission in Dili.

The rejection of the draft Timor-Leste Human Development Report 2010 comes amid growing calls for the UN to end the mission that observers say has failed to achieve its central goal of reforming East Timor's police and security sector.

High-level Timorese and international advisers to the government in Dili made scathing criticisms of the 234-page report compiled by the United Nations Development Program, saying that it is politically biased, cites inaccurate data and most of its conclusions are unsourced.
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A UNDP spokeswoman said an independent team producing the report is reviewing the government's comments. She said it is expected the final report would be released some time this year.

A draft copy of the report obtained by the Herald said that while East Timor has made substantial progress since gaining independence in 2002, pervasive problems include high youth unemployment, falling per capita incomes and increasing poverty rates in rural areas.

The report said significant issues facing the country include areas of energy provision, food security and access to education and health services.

Government advisers who read the draft challenged almost all of the assertions in 837 comments that were attached to the report and returned to the UN Development Program.

''The report is fragmented with multiple objectives that are not met in the conclusion of the report,'' an adviser wrote.

''There is no methodology included in this report to how the strategies were devised and, given the majority of the report is unsourced, this is a major cause for concern.''

East Timor leaders were angry the report criticised their opposition to pursuing the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity, saying the UN Development Program should not have strayed from human development issues.

The report said the return to Indonesia without charge of the militia leader Maternus Bere, accused of orchestrating the 1999 massacre of more than 200 people in a church, fuelled increasing awareness among Timorese that there was no longer accountability for crimes.

A government adviser told the UN that it was ''inappropriate for the United Nations to intervene in a human development report on diplomatic issues between two countries.''

The report also questioned the way East Timor was spending profits from Timor Sea oil and gas, which have been deposited in a Petroleum Fund to be spent by future generations.

Controversy over the report follows a plethora of independent reports criticising the UN mission in East Timor. Edward Rees, a former UN official in New York and Dili, believes it is time for the world to let the Timorese assume total responsibility for their future.

''The Timorese government has elected to largely ignore the UN on matters relating to the reform of the security sector,'' Mr Rees wrote on a blog.

''Where there have been problems, the presence of a large UN mission has only served to confuse matters, obscuring the fact that in reality Timorese authorities are in charge on the ground, if not yet according to the letter of UN-government agreements,'' wrote Mr Rees, who is now a senior adviser to the Peace Dividend Trust and travels frequently to East Timor.

The Security Council is expected next month to decide to continue the UN presence in East Timor until after national elections in 2012. However, observers in Dili said East Timor's leaders will welcome a timetable for the UN's withdrawal.

The Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, told the Timorese media before Christmas it was time for foreign forces to leave, including 400 Australian and 75 New Zealand soldiers serving in the International Stabilisation Force. No timetable for their withdrawal has been set.
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