21 February 2009

United Nations Secretary-General pledges full support for East Timor

19 February 2009 Secretary-General SG/SM/12109 SC/9599 Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks today to the Security Council’s open debate on the situation in Timor-Leste:

It gives me great pleasure to attend this Council meeting and to present my report on the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste [UNMIT].

I am particularly pleased that President [José] Ramos-Horta is with us this morning. At this time last year, we were all anxiously following the news of his medical condition in the wake of the tragic attacks of 11 February. His presence today, clearly in fine health and spirits, symbolizes the resilience of his young nation, which responded so maturely to that terrible event.

My report on UNMIT comes at a watershed moment for Timor-Leste.

In 2007, order was re-established. The security situation was stabilized, peaceful elections were held and a smooth transfer of power took place.

In 2008, the country took in its stride a small but serious challenge to its stability. It stuck to its immediate priorities. And by the end of the year, remarkable progress had been made in addressing the residual problems of the 2006 crisis. The Petitioners reached a settlement with the Government. The vast majority of internally displaced persons have 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.

We begin 2009 with a clear horizon. The country can finally devote its undivided attention to the essential task of building the strong and durable foundations that are crucial for long-term stability and prosperity. This work will require the concerted efforts of all Timorese. I commend President Ramos-Horta for engaging all political actors and working to forge a unified effort on issues of important national interest.

One of the main priorities in the year ahead must be the development of the security sector. A major step will be the gradual resumption of executive policing authority by the National Police. UNMIT is working closely with the Government to plan a series of handovers based on agreed criteria. As the Timorese police begin this new phase of its development, UNPOL [United Nations police] will remain fully in place to support, advise and intervene as necessary as a guarantor of security.

My report to the Council includes a set of benchmarks for measuring UNMIT’s progress in achieving its mandate. I am keenly aware that a number of fundamental issues will require sustained, long-term attention well beyond the Mission’s lifespan.

In his last appearance before the Council, as Prime Minister in 2007, President Ramos-Horta argued that a UN peacekeeping presence would be required until at least 2012, a date which now seems less distant than it did. Whatever the ultimate length of UNMIT’s mandate proves to be, it is clear that bilateral partners, with the ongoing cooperation of the UN family, will have to ensure this long-term support. I urge them to do so, not least because in areas such as police training and the development of military doctrine, bilateral expertise may be more effective than traditional UN means.

I am heartened to know that the mood of the country has become very positive.

Government transfers to individuals have injected much-needed cash into the economy.

Parliament has passed the budget, which projects considerable investment in infrastructure for the coming year. Indeed, the Government has designated 2009 as the Year of Infrastructure, to lay the foundations for Timor-Leste’s future. Investing in infrastructure is crucial. But as we all know, infrastructure is not just a matter of roads, schools and power grids. It is equally a question of strengthening democratic governance and the rule of law. Without accountability, not only of the Government to its people but of the people to each other, there is no hope for a viable democratic State.

In that regard, I am pleased to note the productive tone and content of recent debates in Parliament, including the active and constructive role of the opposition and of women in general. Prime Minister [Kay Rala Xanana] Gusmão, for his part, has shown laudable respect for the democratic process by personally presenting and defending his budget in front of Parliament every day for three full weeks.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Organization’s full-time presence in Timor-Leste. Our partnership has become strong and close. President Ramos-Horta’s presence here today exemplifies the ties that inseparably bind the United Nations and Timor-Leste.

Just over a year ago, the members of this Council and I had the pleasure of visiting this brave new country and seeing Timor-Leste’s progress for ourselves. With what we saw very much in mind, I have no doubt that this Council will take this opportunity to 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.

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