UN News Centre New York 28 April 2009 1:00PM - The leaders of Timor-Leste thanked the United Nations for its support in restoring security, but cautioned that the situation in the small nation remains fragile since it was rocked by violent clashes three years ago.
In April 2006, fighting attributed to differences between eastern and western regions erupted in the capital, Dili, when 600 striking soldiers, or one-third of the armed forces, were fired. The ensuing violence claimed 40 lives and drove more than 100,000 people, at least 10 per cent of the total population, from their homes.
“It's easy to forget how far we have come in a short time,” President Jose Ramos-Horta said in the capital, Dili, at an event at the headquarters of the UN Integrated Mission marking the three-year anniversary of an enhanced UN presence in the country.
“For that we must give significant credit to the United Nations Police working together with their PNTL [Timor-Leste National Police] colleagues,” he added.
Regarding those who are still living in makeshift shelters three years after the riots, Mr. Ramos-Horta said he aims to “resolve all outstanding issues of those remaining the in last camps in the coming months.”
The political, humanitarian and security breakdown in the wake of the 2006 unrest led the UN Security Council to establish a peacekeeping presence, whose mandate was recently renewed to focus on the four critical areas of security sector reform, strengthening of rule of law, justice and human rights, democratic governance and social and economic development.
“In only three years since the crisis, people have regained trust and confidence in each other and in State institutions, consolidated peace and stability through national dialogue and reconciliation initiatives,” stressed Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão.
Calling for the continued support of the UN, the Prime Minister underscored the need “to work harder to bring economic development to consolidate stability, to create jobs and to improve the lives of the Timorese people.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative to Timor-Leste, Atul Khare, highlighted the need to recognize “the progress made by the people of Timor-Leste in overcoming the dark days of 2006.”
The third anniversary of the crisis can be an occasion for optimism, he added, noting that “it becomes a statement about the strong partnership and unique relationship between Timor-Leste and the United Nations.”
In a related development, the UN Development Programme (<"http://www.undp.org/">UNDP) has launched a campaign working closely with a mix of Government agencies, civil society groups and academia to create public awareness of the adverse effects of climate change in Timor-Leste.
The centerpiece of the initiative is the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), a $200,000 two-year project funded by the Global Environment Facility with additional contribution of $ 20,000 from the Government.
As the issue of climate change gains prominence in the country, NAPA will advance understanding on how changes in temperature, rainfall and extreme events are affecting people’s lives, and what can be done to help.
UNDP Country Director Akbar Usmani applauded the Government for taking the lead in dealing with the issue of climate change in the country in a “rapid and efficient” way, fulfilling its responsibilities since acceding to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“UNDP recognizes the seriousness of global climate change and the threats that it poses to human development. We are calling for a new development paradigm one which integrates climate change risks into development planning at all levels and, at the same time, helps countries to move towards less carbon intensive economies,” he said.
Experts say that Timor-Leste is highly vulnerable to natural disasters and other weather anomalies associated with droughts. The country is also prone to floods, landslides and soil erosion resulting from the combination of heavy monsoon rain, steep topography and widespread deforestation. (see also An analysis of the social problem of Forest Preservation in East Timor)