18 February 2009

The United Nations' lame security review for Timor-Leste

In February 2008, the UN Secretary-General said, in releasing a key report, that security sector reform in any country will not succeed unless there is commitment, leadership and capacity from key figures and institutions in that state. I recalled these words this week when reading his latest semi-annual report on the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), which showed that the UN’s efforts t0 assist with a 'comprehensive review of the security sector' in Timor-Leste are moving at a very pedestrian pace.

After a June 2006 assessment mission, the previous Secretary-General noted that problems in the Timorese army and police which brought on the crisis that year were interconnected. He wrote that a holistic approach was needed, recommending a comprehensive review, involving all relevant parts of government and civil society, of the future role and needs of the security sector. The UNMIT mandate was carefully calibrated to task the UN mission only the limited role of assisting a review, leaving the most difficult task of conducting reform to the government.

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