24 October 2009

‘Stable, Steady Approach’ Vital To Long-term Peace In Timor-leste, Head Of United Nations Integrated Mission Tells Security Council

23 October 2009 Security Council SC/9774 Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York Security Council 6205th Meeting (AM) - Timorese Prime Minister Outlines Broad Institutional Progress,

But Says That Scaling-up Investment in Development Key to Cementing Gains

A stable and steady approach on the part of the international community was required to ensure the long-term stability of Timor-Leste, Atul Khare, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, told the Security Council this morning.

“The dictum that there should be not strategy without an exit is well known”, he said, but added that: “However, the reverse that there should be no exit without a strategy is equally true”.

Mr. Khare, who is also head of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), introduced the Secretary-General’s latest report on the Mission’s work, which, among other observations, warns that the root causes of the 2006 violence remained despite the recent peaceful celebration of the tenth Anniversary of the vote for independence (see background).

Continuing, Mr. Khare said that even given such stability, along with the successful holding of recent local elections, the long-term sustainability of Timor-Leste depended on the ability of its institutions to operate in a democratic, responsible and effective manner, and for that, it required deliberate United Nations assistance, followed by long-term multilateral and bilateral aid.

The touchstone for success was not whether crises occurred, but how future crises would be met and resolved, he maintained. In that context, he stressed that the future presence and role of international security forces needed to be carefully taken into account in planning any modification of the composition and strength of UNMIT, which must be done in concert with the country.

Jose Luis Guterres, Deputy Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, elaborated on the some of the institutional progress made recently in the country, saying: “With all these systems and institutions in place and operational we might say to the world that we as a people are expressing our final goodbye to conflict and with an open smile, we are welcoming development.”

Outlining accomplishments in areas from legislation to tourism -- in promotion of which an international bicycle race had recently been successfully held in the country -- he maintained, however, that to ensure sustainable peace and stability, there was a need to invest in development.

So far, he said, petroleum and gas revenues had been the main source of income, with the petroleum fund reaching $5 billion, and next year, the National Oil Company would invest in the basic infrastructures needed to develop those industries further. Economic growth in 2008 had been estimated at 12.8 per cent and 2009 growth was expected to be between 8 and 9 per cent.

The 2010 national budget, he said, had identified seven priority areas: roads and water; food security focused on production; human resources development; access to justice; social services; good governance; and public safety.

In the discussion that followed those statements, Security Council members and other speakers welcomed the progress made by Timor-Leste in holding peaceful elections and generally consolidating political stability. They particularly welcomed the gradual resumption of security responsibility by the national police in conjunction with UNMIL, and the closing of the camps that had been housing those displaced by the outburst of violence in 2006.

Most agreed with the Secretary-General that stability remained fragile in the country, however, and for that reason, they supported his recommendation that the strength and configuration of UNMIT be maintained at current levels. With the country now entering a new phase, focused on long-term institutional and developmental needs, New Zealand’s representative warned that “UNMIT must not be allowed to become static. It is vital that the mission remains responsive to the changing environment in which it operates.”

For that purpose, he urged the greatest attention be paid to the upcoming United Nations Technical Assessment Mission. He added that the linkages between UNMIT and the International Security Force (ISF) of New Zealand and Australia must be respected in determining the future of both.

Noting that this was probably the last time that Mr. Khare would address the Council as head of UNMIT, speakers commended his performance in that position over the past three years.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Japan, United Kingdom, Costa Rica, Burkina Faso, China, Turkey, Uganda, Russian Federation, Croatia, Mexico, Austria, Libya, France, United States, Viet Nam, Thailand (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations), Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), Portugal, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, Philippines and South Africa.

The meeting, which began at 10:10 a.m., ended at 1:05 p.m.


The Security Council had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (S/2009/504), which covers the period from 21 January to 23 September 2009, and warns that the root causes of community tensions behind the 2006 violence in the country remain, despite the recent peaceful celebration of the tenth anniversary of the vote for independence.

In the report, the Secretary-General cites the rising level of poverty, persistent unemployment, the lack of an effective land and property regime, and the weak justice and security sectors as some of the causes of the 2006 crisis, which began as a dispute among military elements and eventually spread throughout the country, leaving dozens of people dead and driving some 155,000 from their homes.

He says that the return and resettlement of persons displaced internally by the crisis has been by all measures successful, but tensions in some communities remain and could lead to future local-level conflicts.

He writes that he is encouraged by the fact that the National Police Force has begun to assume primary law enforcement responsibilities, but cautions that much more needs to be done in that area. In addition, he says more time is required to ensure that political, institutional and socio-economic improvements can “take root in democratic institutions and processes”.

Weaknesses in the judiciary, in particular, continue to affect public confidence in the entire legal system, he said, pointing to the lack of a specialized prosecutorial capacity and the lack of an overall functioning administrative system, among other problems.

Praising President Jose Ramos-Horta for promoting dialogue across the country’s political spectrum to address priority issues, the Secretary-General warns against allowing such an exchange of opinions to be exploited to heighten tensions in society.

He says renewed political dialogue on reparations to victims of criminal acts committed from 1974 to 1999, the period under Indonesian rule, is promising, but cautions that the “prolonged delay in delivering justice and providing reparations” may further adversely affect public confidence in the rule of law.

He encourages the Government to make every effort to ensure broad-based discussion and follow-up on the recommendations of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation and the Commission of Truth and Friendship.

Briefing by Special Representative of the Secretary-General

ATUL KHARE, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste and head of the United Nations Integrated Mission in that country, known as UNMIT, introduced the Secretary-General’s latest report on that Mission’s work (see background). Updating the Council first on developments after the reporting period, which ended 23 September, he noted that a draft law on the 2010 State budget had been approved by the Timorese Council of Ministers, which totalled about $637 million, and aimed to diversify engines for economic growth and job creation while retaining a focus on extreme poverty, unemployment, infrastructure and rural development. President Jose Ramos-Horta had also focused recently on the tourism section, he added, describing several events to promote that sector.

On 9 October, successful elections for community authorities were held in a generally peaceful atmosphere, he said, with the United Nations police (UNPOL) and the Timorese National Police (PNTL) eproviding country-wide security. There was about 68 per cent turnout of registered voters in a poll that was more complex than the 2007 elections, but which required less UNMIT support in such areas as helicopter transport, and there were few incidents of violence. Communal peace, water, electricity, infrastructure and education were the primary concerns of the electorate, and the United Nations Electoral Support Team consisting of staff of UNMIT and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), provided well-coordinated advice, he commented.

In relation to justice issues, he welcomed a 13 October day-long debate in the National Parliament, on a motion of no confidence tabled by the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN) because of opposition to the release of Maternus Bere, as a positive step in ensuring that critical issues of national interest were channelled through the legislature with meaningful participation of the opposition. In addition, he said, the Human Rights and Transitional Justice Sector of UNMIT had organized a workshop on international criminal law as it related to the country, and important cases stemming from the violence of 2006 took place on 9 October. He expressed hope that fair trials would take place in the remaining cases upon conclusion of the investigations. He reiterated that there could be no amnesty or impunity for serious crimes and agreed that continuing investigations into the serious crimes committed in 1999 should lead to further capacity-building of the Timorese investigators.

Strengthening rule of law would require sustained efforts by the Timorese with continuous assistance from international partners, he said, commending the four-person team led by Judge Philip Rapoza in producing an independent, comprehensive needs-assessment of the justice sector, which should be used by all stakeholders. While the resumption of primary responsibility by the PNTL continued in districts in the country, UNMIT also continued to support the Falintil-Forças de Defesa de Timor-Leste (F-FDTL), he pointed out.

“The dictum that there should be not strategy without an exit is well known”, he said, but added that: “However, the reverse that there should be no exit without a strategy is equally true”. The long-term sustainability of Timor-Leste depended on the ability of its institutions to operate in a democratic, responsible and effective manner. What was required to achieve that was a stable and steady approach.

Continuing, he said the touchstone for success was not whether crises occurred, but how future crises were met and resolved. In that context, he stressed that the future presence and role of international security forces needed to be carefully taken into account in planning any modification of the composition and strength of UNMIT, which must be done in concert with the country. At the same time, he said, cooperation with long-term providers of bilateral and multilateral assistance to Timor-Leste must continue to be promoted. He described ongoing models of such assistance.

Finally, he pointed out that the country also must grapple with the challenges of environmental protection, and urged the footprint of international assistance to be as light as possible. Accordingly, UNMIT had been making continuous efforts to reduce energy consumption and protect the environment, he said.


JOSÉ LUIS GUTERRES, Deputy Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, said that on 12 October, democracy and accountability had been tested in the Parliament during the debate on a motion of no confidence tabled by FRETILIN, the opposition, regarding the “illegality of the Government’s decision to grant ‘freedom’ to a former Militia”. After a “lively” day-long debate, covered on national television, the motion had been rejected by an absolute majority, based on the Constitution. The former militia was transferred to the Indonesian Embassy, awaiting further legal procedures. The Independent Comprehensive Needs Assessment team had published its report on 13 October, noting that there was a need for continued advice and assistance from the international community for a justice system run by Timorese.

He said that one of the major challenges that the Timorese had faced as a people was the 2006 crisis, which had driven some 150,000 people from their homes and resulted in the establishment of 65 tented camps for internally displaced persons in and around Dili. The Government had allocated $36 million to provide support for their reintegration and, with the help of the United Nations, the European Commission and others, all the camps had been closed this year. He added that many of the homes that had been destroyed had been rebuilt, and that by the end of this year, the Government would provide recovery assistance for other destroyed possessions and assets.

The Government had also developed a social housing programme for the elderly, disabled, widows and chronically ill and was providing assistance to the poor households. He said a Social Security programme would benefit almost 70,000 elderly persons and disabled citizens. Some 3,300 veterans and families of the martyrs had received their pensions. Social harmony and stability and the values of democracy and respect for the law had been demonstrated during the successful Suku elections held this month.

The security sector had been a priority of the current Government, he continued. The national security law and national defence law were now before Parliament. The new Ministry of Defence and Security structure, the Military Police law, a military service law and amendments to military service law had been approved. The United Nations and the Government had agreed on a mechanism to progressively hand over responsibilities to the National Police.

He said that to achieve sustainable peace and stability, there was a need to invest in development. Natural resources would be used to finance the national budget. Petroleum and gas revenues had been the main source of income, and the petroleum fund had reached $5 billion. Next year, the National Oil Company will be established that would invest in the basic infrastructures needed to develop the petroleum and gas industry. Economic growth in 2008 had been estimated at 12.8 per cent. 2009 growth was expected to be between 8 and 9 per cent. The 2010 budget had identified seven priority areas: roads and water; food security focused on production; human resources development; access to justice; social services; good governance; and public safety. And independent civil service commission will also be created, as well as a National Anti-Corruption Commission.

“With all these systems and institutions in place and operational we might say to the world that we as a people are expressing our final goodbye to conflict and with an open smile we are welcoming development,” he said. In August, a Timor-Leste cycling tour had been organized by President Ramos Horta. The international cycling event took participants to the villages, mountains and valleys, welcomed and applauded by thousands of Timorese. Next year, an international fishing competition would be organized. Those initiatives should create a new and better image of the country: that of a peaceful and caring people. The country would, however, still need the presence and support of the United Nations up to 2012.

YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan) said he was encouraged with the steady build up of democratic governance in Timor-Leste, and he expressed the hope that democratic culture would continue to take root not only at the national level but also at the municipal level. He also appreciated the valuable support of the United Nations Mission in Timor-Leste in that regard. The country was a sound democracy in which political leaders exchanged views and set forth their arguments openly in Parliament, he noted.

He went on to observe that the security situation was moving in the direction of greater stability, thanks to the assistance of UNMIT. He was particularly pleased with several positive developments, such as the closure of all internally displaced persons camps without major incident, the judicial proceedings for the suspects in the assaults in 2008 on the President, and the Prime Minister and the reintegration of “Petitioners”, had been accomplished without major incident. Again, he attributed the stable security situation to the presence of UNMIT, which had been conducting interim law enforcement and helping to rebuild the National Police since its establishment in 2006.

He said it was Japan’s view that United Nations support for Timor-Leste was beginning to bear fruit as the country was moving out of the emergency phase and into the transitional period towards achieving self-sustainable stability, rule of law and socio-economic development. Naturally there were still elements that bore monitoring, and the international community must be prudent to avoid hast action and thereby undermining the success achieved thus far. To that end, it would be helpful if the Secretary-General’s next report included a review of UNMIT’s role in view of mid-to-long-term peace and nation-building perspective. The country was also enjoying sound economic growth. As a staunch supporter of Timor-Leste, Japan would spare no effort to ensure a successful nation-building process, he added.

PHILIP PARHAM ( United Kingdom) said there had been signs of continued progress, including the successful and peaceful holding of local elections. He welcomed progress made regarding the medium-term benchmarks, including the resumption of local police authority in three districts with no increase in crime and disorder. Progress in that area was a tribute to UNMIT’s police component. As for security sector reform, greater clarity was required on the role and responsibility of the national defence forces. He was also encouraged by progress in justice and the rule of law, democratic governance and economic and social development.

He stressed the importance of doing more to address the issue of impunity for those involved in crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. Outstanding cases should be addressed quicker. He was concerned by reports of human rights violations committed by security forces, as the protection of human rights was of central importance to the development of sustainable democracy. The visit of the Technical Assessment Mission would be an important opportunity to assess how best UNMIT could allocate resources, he said, but warned that any adjustment to the police component should be gradual. The goal should be to enable Timor-Leste to stand on its own feet, which would require the continued engagement of the international community.

JORGE URBINA ( Costa Rica) said that over the past ten years, there had been many achievements regarding peace and state building. The security institutions were being consolidated and the National Police was taking over responsibilities. He welcomed the success of local elections and efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals regarding primary education and health. There were, however, two areas of major concern: the slow pace for consolidation of the rule of law, and the development of an army for which there was no purpose. As for the rule of law, he noted two worrisome developments: criticism at the judicial system that undermined the legitimacy of democratic institutions and the procedures to hand over a refugee to Indonesian authorities.

It was important to examine the role of the army in the context of security sector reform, he said, and he urged the Timorese authorities to attribute clear tasks to an army that did not serve a great purpose towards defence. The army must become an agent for change and play a constructive role in the process of nation building. To the tasks of border control and monitoring of trafficking in persons, support for national disaster response could be added, for instance. With that and other tasks, the army could pay society back for the sacrifices it was making with meagre resources.

He said the United Nations action in Timor-Leste had demonstrated the importance of making an early start with peacebuilding. UNMIT had contributed to the sustainability of peace and the future successful exit of the Mission. The case of Timor-Leste showed the importance of a strong and symbiotic association between the international community and local actors. The Council should draw on the important lessons learned in Timor-Leste.

MICHEL KAFANDO ( Burkina Faso) welcomed the building of a stable and prosperous nation by the people of Timor-Leste through a spirit of dialogue that put national interests above factional considerations. He also welcomed recent steps in police reform and the assumption of responsibility by the National Police Force. It was important to further define the area of responsibility of all forces, and to adequately coordinate and fund their strengthening, he said.

Promotion of human rights deserved greater support, he said, and obstacles must be removed from trials of criminal violators, including through traditional justice methods. In addition, all areas of social and economic development must be supported, particularly in areas of agricultural production, and displaced persons must be rehabilitated and reintegrated. In all areas, efforts must be made to consolidate the achievements in Timor-Leste, he stressed.

LIU ZHENMIN ( China) welcomed the deepening of calm and ongoing dialogue, along with growing security, in Timor-Leste. He appealed to leaders of factions to seize the present opportunity to lead their people in nation-building. As poverty might threaten the current stability, he urged priority be given to the building of infrastructure and human resources to combat unemployment.

He supported keeping UNMIT at its current strength for the time being, but urged a renewed focus on police training and hand-over of responsibilities in order to allow the mission to eventually pull out of the country, in consultation with the Government. China had recently pledged $30 million in assistance to Timor-Leste and was willing to help the country to the best of its ability.

FAZLI ÇORMAN (Turkey) said that thanks to UNMIT and the resilience and commitment of the Timorese people, the country had peacefully celebrated its tenth anniversary of the Popular Consultation. Stabilization in the country had enabled the Timorese to address key issues such as strengthening democratic governance and enacting legislation to fight corruption. The successful local elections had proved that the Timorese were committed to democracy. The security situation was steadily improving, with progress in addressing the situation of internally displaced persons. He hoped that the handover process of police responsibilities would continue to be as smooth as it had been. Further progress to enhance security sector reform, as well as the adoption of a national security strategy, were of the utmost importance.

He said that despite those achievements, the main issues contributing to the 2006 crisis, such as poverty, unemployment and a weak judicial system, continued to pose considerable challenges. He was confident that Timor-Leste would eventually overcome those challenges, but added that success would require national dialogue and unity. As Timor-Leste required continued support from the international community in its quest for peace, stability and prosperity, UNMIT’s strength and composition should be maintained.

RUHAKANA RUGUNDA ( Uganda) said that despite progress there was a need for continued focus on key strategic areas. The security sector reform process was progressing well, including the transfer of responsibilities to Timorese police. Efforts should be made in supporting the Timorese police to support key areas of operational and logistical requirements. Not much progress had been made in the development of the military, however. Defining a meaningful role for the military as well as clarifying the relationship with the police remained key challenges for the Government.

He said that although the improved security situation had contributed to progress in the situation of the internally displaced persons, there was still a need to address issues such as housing conditions and land and property issues. Addressing the administration of justice, he said potential repercussions were arising from the release of a militia, which had led to a vote of no confidence in parliament. It was critical that efforts be made to ensure that impunity was not condoned. The Timorese Government must take primary responsibility for security and development of the country with support of the international community and the international community should ensure that there was a local capacity to play a leadership role in all aspects of development.

KONSTANTIN DOLGOV (Russian Federation), welcoming political progress and other advances in Timor-Leste, said the time had come to tackle priority tasks in security, rule of law, eradicating poverty, finding jobs for the population and other areas. Efforts towards those priorities should be pooled and well-coordinated. Agreeing that much of the progress in Timor-Leste was fragile in nature because of the weaknesses in institutions and the economy, he supported keeping the deployment of UNMIT at current levels. He pledged that his country, which contributed police officers to the mission, would continue to provide such assistance.

RANKO VILOVI (Croatia), aligning himself with the European Union, said the tenth anniversary of Timor-Leste’s historic vote for independence on 30 August was a significant benchmark of how far the Timorese people had come in a short time. He reaffirmed his full support to them and urged that they not waiver from their endeavours in the face of political, institutional and socio-economic challenges. Long-term stability was contingent on national security institutions functioning in an accountable manner, and he welcomed efforts to strengthen security bodies, enhance security-sector legal frameworks and establish a national security policy.

Authorities should continue to take full advantage of UNMIT’s expertise in that process, as such reforms, if designed correctly, would allow for a comprehensive overhaul of the security sector. On the transfer of primary police duties to the PNTL, he said the process ensured public confidence in the security situation. Croatia fully supported regular reviews of the size configurations of UNMIT’s police component, and looked forward to the Technical Assessment Mission’s upcoming visit to Timor-Leste. UNMIT’s police component had to be retained for the time being and could ensure the national police force’s resumption of duties continued smoothly.

He said Croatia was encouraged by the strengthening of the judicial system and enactment of important legislation. The independent needs assessment should open the way for a coordinated approach to justice sector reform. However, long-term peace would not take hold in the absence of a credible and functioning judiciary and penal system. The 9 October local elections represented another benchmark towards a culture of political dialogue and he welcomed that the Government had closed camps for internally displaced persons in Dili and Baucau. He urged the Government to alleviate potential post-displacement destabilizing situations.

CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) said that after the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the referendum for independence, there was now an atmosphere of stability and good governance was being stabilized. The support of the United Nations to the Government had made it possible for the country to shape its own future. Timor-Leste should continue to enjoy the support of UNMIT to make progress in such areas as justice, human rights and development. As it was important to strengthen control and transparency mechanisms, he welcomed the fact that Parliament had established an Anti-corruption Commission and had started procedures to join the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

He praised the continued support of UNMIT in transferring command to the National Police. Complete transfer must occur once all the criteria had been met, with emphasis on the certification by the United Nations of national officials and acceptance by the local communities of the national police. The road to the consolidation of the rule of law and human rights still held many challenges. In that regard, he said there should be no amnesty or impunity for those who had committed war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. He welcomed the closing of the 65 camps for internally displaced persons and supported the Government’s efforts to meet the needs of 3,000 displaced persons still in temporary shelters. He hoped that democratization would continue and that the major challenge of unemployment would be addressed.

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING (Austria), welcoming the efforts to promote inclusive dialogue and national reconciliation in Timor-Leste, said that for such endeavours to be successful, some of the root causes of the 2006 crisis still needed to be addressed. Timor-Leste still faced important challenges in its efforts to reduce poverty and create new employment opportunities for its people. It was right that the Government had stressed the increasing need to move from conflict prevention to a comprehensive development agenda, he said, adding that UNMIT could play a key role in that evolution.

He said Austria also supported Timor-Leste authorities in their efforts to build strong institutions that could fight impunity for grave violations of human rights, and in that regard, welcomed UNMITs’ recommendations, in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, to strengthen accountability for human rights violations, and hoped for their rapid implementation. It was important that the National Police of Timor-Leste was making progress in resuming its primary policing responsibilities, including through the Police Training Academy.

Continuing, he pointed out that the successful re-establishment of a functioning rule of law system in the country was vital for achieving long-term stability. That called for the continued review and reform of the security sector at all levels, as well as the strengthening of the police and the judiciary, the adoption of relevant legislation and a clear division of responsibilities and competencies between the police and the military.

IBRAHIM DABBASHI (Libya) welcomed the progress that had been achieved in Timor-Leste and said it was important to devote heightened attention to the post-reintegration phase of internally displaced persons, and to living conditions of vulnerable persons. In meeting the challenges of continuing poverty, land-ownership and institutional weaknesses, the responsibility lay with the Timorese in cooperation with UNMIT and the United Nations country team. In the political area, he welcomed strengthening of national dialogue and he voiced hope that such a cooperative spirit would prevail. He agreed that a great deal remained to be done in Timor-Leste and supported maintenance of UNMIT at current levels.

NICOLAS DE RIVERE (France), supporting the statement to be made by Sweden on behalf of the European Union, welcomed progress in Timor-Leste and said that a hasty withdrawal must be avoided and UNMIT’s assistance must be maintained until Timorese institutions were strong enough to stand on their own in all areas. Maintaining that it was crucial to avoid impunity for crimes committed in upsurges of violence, he reiterated support for UNMIT’s support for mechanisms for the prosecution of serious crimes in the country.

ROSEMARY DICARLO ( United States) said Timor-Leste had made significant progress since the crisis of 2006, particularly in the area of security. She welcomed the increasing professionalism of the National Police as well as the recent transfer of policing responsibilities from UNMIT to the National Police in three districts, as a step forward. The role of the police and the military should be clearly delineated, however. Her country, committed to the development of the security sector, was conducting training exercises in Timor-Leste and Indonesia. Timor-Leste had also made progress in governance and the rule of law.

She applauded the initiative by President Horta to open a broad dialogue with the Timorese people on priority areas. An independent judiciary was critical, however, and a justice sector should be established that put an end to impunity for human rights violations. As social cohesion and economic development were key to stability, she welcomed the reintegration of internally displaced persons, which was an important step towards reconciliation. National priorities had been outlined and measures were taken for child protection, to guarantee access to education and to address unemployment. The United States would continue to support the Timorese people and had provided $24 million this year.

Council President LE LUONG MINH (Viet Nam), speaking in his national capacity, said he was encouraged by the efforts of the Government and the people in attaining a security situation conducive to economic and social development, noting that over 60 per cent of the targets set for this year had been met. Dialogue and reconciliation should be continued. The results of the local elections were proof of the strong commitment of the people to move the peace process forward. He welcomed in that regard the commitment of President Horta to undertake efforts to establish unity.

Efforts in governance and measures to combat corruption would enable State institutions to move forward with broad public support, he said. He welcomed UNMIT’s efforts to provide assistance to Timor-Leste in attaining security and police capacity as well as the smooth handover of policing responsibilities in three districts to the national police. That initial step would produce lessons on how to proceed to full ownership by Timor-Leste of the police. The challenges to development were poverty, unemployment and immaturity of security institutions. The international community must therefore continue to be committed to the cause of peace and development in Timor-Leste, especially in poverty areas.

NORACHIT SINHASENI (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said his delegation welcomed progress achieved in UNMIT’s four mandated areas: review and reform of the security sector; strengthening of the rule of law; promoting a culture of democratic governance and dialogue; and economic and social development. ASEAN also welcomed the fact that the National Police had started to gradually resume primary policing responsibilities in some districts, and supported international efforts to help strengthen police capacity. Social and economic development had resulted in steady progress in areas of national priority. The global financial crisis should not adversely affect international assistance and partnership for Timor-Leste.

He said that ASEAN supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations that the present strength and composition of UNMIT should be maintained while Timor-Leste was undergoing a delicate process of security sector reform. Continued peace and stability was essential for development and efforts to lay a strong foundation for democratic governance. A smooth transition from peacekeeping to sustainable peacebuilding should be ensured. He stressed that national ownership should not only be the principle that guided every facet of UNMIT’s work, but also the ultimate goal of the international community in Timor-Leste. All should strive for a nation-building process that was a process of, by and for the people of Timor-Leste.

ANDERS LIDÉN (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said despite the challenges, groundbreaking efforts to rebuild Timor-Leste since a referendum ten years ago were praiseworthy. He warned, however, that efforts to address the country’s security situation and its long-term stability could not be taken for granted. Local elections on 9 October were a milestone and showed that capacity-building and democratic governance had improved. The European Union praised Government efforts to close internally displaced camps in the capital, Dili, and elsewhere, amid relative calm in the past months. It agreed with the Secretary-General that UNMIT should maintain the scale of its current presence with a view to handing over power to the National Police Force.

Given the link between security sector reform and the eventual scaling down of the Mission in Timor-Leste, the European Union urged the Timorese Government to roll out a coherent concept for that sector, outlining accountability and civilian oversight mechanisms, as well as the scope of national defence units. Since building a long lasting socio-economic system would remain a challenge, he urged the country to rely on the Petroleum Fund to boost the non-oil sector and to create jobs and infrastructure. He welcomed structured efforts to support State-building in Timor-Leste. He specified that solid benchmarks would allow the international community to assist priority areas and help the Mission downsize over time. The European Union also looked forward to the revised national development plan, which would signal Government ownership of the process.

JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL (Portugal) said that, as representative of a country that shared 500 years of history with Timor-Leste, he wished to underline a few points. Recalling the tenth anniversary of the 1999 Popular Consultation, he said that despite all difficulties, Timor-Leste had pursued its path towards consolidating peace and democratic stability. Portugal commended the Government for its achievements in addressing security and economic challenges, and surmounting grievances of the 2006 crisis. He emphasized that the National Police’s resumption of operational responsibilities should be achieved in the near future, and he encouraged Timorese authorities to that end. He added that the early October elections had been another milestone in the democratic process.

Continuing, he said UNMIT played a central role in that process, notably by contributing to the four areas of its mandate. He agreed on the need for renewed dialogue across the political spectrum and in all segments of society. Further, long-term stability would depend on security institutions functioning in an accountable and effective manner. The Timorese had repeatedly worked to build a democratic society, a goal that required continued international support. UNMIT should maintain its current strength, including the police capacity to assume interim functions, while the handing over of duties to the National Police should continue with a view to laying the ground for UNMIT’s drawdown.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) welcomed progress in Timor-Leste, and supported the gradual approach in returning responsibilities to the National Police, PNTL, based on mutually-agreed criteria between the Timorese Government and UNMIT. In addition, in order to firmly turn the sad page of displacements caused by violence and avoid destabilization, attention should be given to all considerations in the return of internally displaced persons, including housing, land, property rights and income generation.

Commending the Government on the holding of peaceful local elections earlier in the month, she encouraged political leaders to continue to participate in the democratic process as the only way to address the challenges facing the country. Economic and social development was essential to consolidate those achievements, requiring significant investments in the productive non-oil sectors and social services. Her country had contributed to such endeavours in diverse sectors and would continue to assist the country in building much-needed capacity.

JIM MCLAY (New Zealand) said that his country had been pleased to work with Timor-Leste and successive international missions for the past ten years, and he welcomed the considerable progress that there had been recently in the country. Australia and New Zealand’s International Stability Force (ISF) was increasingly focused on capacity-building and development assistance, but recognized that its mere presence, as with that of UNPOL, provided a disincentive to those who might otherwise seek to foment unrest. He was therefore watching with interest the resumption of policing by the PNTL, which his country continued to assist in the area of community policing.

While the support of the international community was still required in Timor-Leste, the nature and direction of that support may need to evolve and change. He said it also meant that contributions would be increasingly needed from a wide range of international players, with different areas of skill and expertise. The United Nations still had a central role to play, but it was vital that the mission remained responsive to the changing environment in which it operated. In that respect, he urged great attention be paid to the upcoming United Nations Technical Assessment Mission. He also urged that any decisions made about UNMIT’s future continue to recognize the close link between the United Nations and ISF operations, and continue to ensure close coordination between the two.

GARY QUINLAN ( Australia) said that as a steadfast friend and neighbour of Timor-Leste, his country would continue to contribute what it could to international efforts to assist it to become a stable and prosperous nation. He welcomed the 9 October local elections and the closure of the last camps for internally displaced persons. The return of significant numbers of people into communities with limited infrastructure and other support services, however, presented new risks.

He said the Australian-led International Security Forces had started to shift focus from a security support role to one of defence cooperation with Timor-Leste’s military. In addition, Australia’s bilateral Police Development Program was working closely with the Government to develop the capacity of the PNTL. Transfer of policing responsibility from UNMIT to the PNTL should take place gradually, with each district and unit required to meet a set of objective criteria. While progress in the development of the justice sector had been achieved, the clear principle of separation of powers must be kept in mind at all times to ensure strong and independent judiciary.

In support of capacity building, Australia was finalizing a new strategy for development assistance, focusing on priorities identified by the Timorese Government, he said, and continued to describe programmes in support of capacity building and institutional reform. Concluding, he said it was important that the international community, led by the United Nations, continued to support Timor-Leste as it moved towards more effective and sustainable governance arrangements.

HILARIO G. DAVIDE, Jr. (Philippines), describing past support for Timor-Leste since 1999, said his country remained committed to Timor-Leste’s nation-building efforts through bilateral arrangements for assistance in capacity-building and as a member of the Core Group on Timor-Leste. Welcoming positive developments in all areas of building Timor-Leste’s nationhood, including the resumption of primary policing responsibilities by the PNTL, establishment of anti-corruption and civil service commissions, and meeting targets for national priorities in the international compact for Timor-Leste, he acknowledged the comprehensive role the UNMIT and United Nations country team had played and would continue to play in promoting peace and development. He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation that UNMIT’s present strength and composition be maintained.

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