28 April 2010

Justice Minister at the United Nations Security Council on Post-Conflict Peacebuilding

From United Nations S/PV.6299 Security Council Sixty-fifth year 6299th meeting Friday, 16 April 2010, 10 a.m. New York Provisional Agenda Post-conflict peacebuilding


The President: I now give the floor to Ms. Lucia Lobato, Minister of Justice of Timor-Leste.

Ms. Lobato (Timor-Leste): It is indeed an honour for me to represent my Government and my beloved country in this important debate and to present our Timorese experience in recovering from conflict over the past 10 years. I will keep my statement within the time limit, but I have circulated a more detailed text to representatives for the record.

As Minister of Justice, I am able to present a perspective on the development of peace through the legal institutions and the rule of law in my country. But I also wish to discuss some broader aspects of reconciliation, economic development, security and political stability, which are essential. I intend to focus more on the solutions we are providing to our problems than on the problems themselves. Let me share our experience.

This debate is particularly timely for us, as we have just hosted the Dili International Dialogue conference, which served as an opportunity to exchange experiences and find common ground among the so-called g7 Plus — the “small g seven plus” of fragile States. There was strong consensus among fragile countries and development partners to move from fragility to agility and seek greater and more focused engagement with development partners.

We have found that Timor-Leste has much to offer and to gain in the discussions about peacebuilding strategies. While eight years is but a short time since our national independence, we have made many achievements. We addressed some burning issues in the short term that were indeed critical to our recovery. Important social security measures were introduced, including recognition for the heroes of our nation who made sacrifices so that we could be free. Our relationship with Indonesia has been strengthened through initiatives such as the Truth and Friendship Commission and the ongoing dialogue between our leaders. Camps for internally displaced person were gradually and sensitively decommissioned and people were assisted in relocation and rebuilding. The Government intervened to ensure food security when rising rice prices threatened to limit supply.

The police and defence forces began to define their peacetime mandates and work together on joint operations when the internal security of the nation was threatened. The success of this was evident following the 2008 attacks on the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic. Thanks to sound leadership, this crisis inspired our security forces and provided a platform to pursue further security sector reform, greater professionalism and independence from political interference. The police are now adopting a community policing ethos, an approach by which the police serve and work together with the community to identify potential conflicts and to solve problems before they escalate to violence.

Timor-Leste is fortunate to be blessed with income from natural resources managed by the Petroleum Fund, a success story in transparency and good governance. Our Government believes that we need to invest the income we make back into our own country to improve the lives of our citizens. It is hard to explain the sense of keeping money in the bank while our people suffer. We need to create a dividend for peace and stability.

Yes, we have come a long way, but we have also learned many lessons, including some painful ones. We have learned that, without exception, countries can recover from conflict only if they can create a window of time in which they are free from further conflict. In Timor-Leste, we at last have that window, but we are not taking peace for granted. As our Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmão, has recently said,

It can be easy to breathe a sigh of relief when you begin to show signs of progress, when you achieve a level of apparent stability, because in times of peace we can forget the hardships of conflict”.

We were not only emerging from a violent conflict; we were also, for the first time in our history, creating a new, independent State. In this spirit, I would like to share three observations on peacebuilding from our perspective, grounded in the recent history of Timor-Leste and enriched by pertinent themes from the Dili International Dialogue Conference.

In regard to the need for an inclusive political dialogue, in Timor-Leste we are aiming for a new maturity in political relations. Following independence, the Government set about addressing the roots of conflict. The world will remember that, at the birth of our new nation, our country lay in ruins. We were building our new country on a destroyed infrastructure, a limited economic sector and problematic social cohesion between ourselves and our neighbours. Our people had independence, but its benefits of it were as yet unfelt by many in their daily lives.

Not surprisingly, we faced conflict again in 2006. This conflict set back our development, but also presented valuable lessons. Our political actors learned that the way to our future was not through violence but through positive and active leadership, professionalism and commitment to development. From the 2006 conflict, we arose stronger as a nation, less afraid of expressing political differences, in a process enriching our political maturity without the need to revert to violent conflict. We confront each other every day, but we do so in our national Parliament. In addition, the parliamentary opposition is regularly included in public debates to forge a truly national consensus about issues of common interest to all Timorese, such as the package of major security laws that was approved last month.

As to setting the right national priorities within a flexible and long-term vision, in 2006 Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão and the fourth constitutional Government set about changing the course of Timor- Leste’s future. Continued stability depends on our success not only in managing crises but also in forming respected State institutions that address all the needs of our society, from ensuring basic services to reducing poverty. In 2008, we realized that the only way to achieve sustainable development was to coordinate all our efforts. That same year, we presented a set of national priorities for the country.

Those priorities are consistent with the five areas identified as recurrent peacebuilding objectives in the Secretary-General’s 2009 report on peacebuilding in the immediate aftermath of conflict (S/2009/304). In addition, we include a specific national priority area dedicated to access to justice and another to good governance and accountability, as well as one that deals with human resource development. A focus on youth and gender is mainstreamed into all our priority areas because we have a rapidly growing population which we want to be productive members of society, not alienated or frustrated over a lack of jobs.

We have reviewed our national priorities on an annual basis to ensure that we are adaptable to the changing situation. With the improvement in the security situation since 2008, we have been able to shift our priorities for 2010 to infrastructure and rural development. To provide an umbrella for this and prepare us for the long term, the Prime Minister is finalizing a strategic development plan for 2011-2030 that will ensure the coordination of all development activities in the country for the next 20 years.

Concerning justice and the rule of law, we know that one of the foundations of a stable and secure society operating within the rule of law is a respected justice system, whereby the rights and obligations of the State and its citizens are understood by citizens and are enforceable. We aim to give particular attention to the voices of vulnerable groups, especially women and children. Timor-Leste has also consistently prioritized the building of strong institutions of justice that complement the work done in policing and security sector reform. Justice cannot be neglected in our progress towards long-term security, peace and economic development.

A fortnight ago, the Council of Ministers endorsed a strategic plan for the justice sector, following a highly participatory process. This process informed and subsequently took account of the recommendations of the 2009 independent comprehensive needs assessment, facilitated by the United Nations. The justice sector strategic plan can be explained by its motto, “Bringing justice to the people”, and in order to achieve that we have addressed five thematic areas, which are covered in more detail in the written version of this statement: institutional development; the completion of Timor-Leste’s legal framework; the development of human resources; creating an infrastructure and applying information and communication technology; and providing access to justice.

We see justice as a fundamental part of this debate on peacebuilding and the prevention of conflict. Let me quote Pope John Paul II, in his address for the 2002 World Day of Peace, when he said that there is no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness”. Forgiveness is not the opposite of justice. In fact, true peace is the work of justice. We are working on a justice system that safeguards the rights of all citizens, including by providing legal remedies where their rights have been violated. We also acknowledge that there is no justice without forgiveness. While our country ensures the rule of law, we want to tell the Council that we suffered for many years, and in some cases the wounds are still fresh. We need to help heal these wounds, and we need to do so in our own way and in our own time.

As there is no peace without justice, there is also no peace without development. To conclude, I would like to share some important points.

Concerning the question of quality over expedience in capacity-building, in Timor-Leste we were criticized many years ago for choosing quality over expedience in preparing judicial actors, but we can now show results, and we encourage this principle to be applied as the only way of achieving confidence in State institutions.

On the alignment of all foreign development support to our development plans, in order to reach a lasting peace we still need support. Initiatives such as the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund could help us enormously. We highly appreciate the assistance of our development partners, including the United Nations Development Programme, all of which are now working with us as close associates rather than as faraway donors. We know that we are not alone. In order to achieve development, we cannot allow the existence of uncoordinated or competing implementation mechanisms. The only way to create confidence among our people and sustainable progress is to ensure that the development agenda is led by the Timorese leadership, taking the national dialogue to all parts of the country. Peacebuilding must be a genuinely national process if it is to be a productive element for stability and reconciliation. A process of national consultation led by the Prime Minister will begin in rural areas next month.

Concerning the adoption of modern, user-friendly technology, we need to automate Government services and make them more accessible to the public, more transparent and more accountable. Developing countries may at times be offered clumsy, outdated solutions, as we were in Timor-Leste, because people think we are not ready for modern technology. We do not agree with that thinking. We need to jump into the future. Recent advances in technology have resulted in systems that are more intuitive and easy to use, and we need to go straight to these solutions. Many of our people are already comfortable with technology, and we are working with our partners to ensure that they are trained to develop, support and adapt systems owned by Timor-Leste. In addition, we need to use environmentally friendly technology. Here, we can learn from the mistakes of our development partners. We can keep the beauty and the resources of our countries while advancing towards peace and stability.

With regard to strengthening the partnership between Government and civil society, the growth and progressive impact of our civil society organizations have demonstrated the engagement of the people of Timor-Leste. Timorese civil society has evolved from providing humanitarian support to representing the voices of the most vulnerable. It is inspiring to see more and more young people volunteer to serve their communities and join the fight for peace and justice.

To achieve peace, we must fight not conflict, but the causes that might lead us to conflict. While some States have taken centuries to build their State institutions and achieve social and economic development, we must do it in decades. As our Prime Minister has stated,

To unite an entire people who have been scarred from conflict in the struggle for peace is more difficult than to achieve unity in times of conflict. As we know, there are so many legitimate expectations from people who have fought for so many years for the ideals of freedom, equality and development that we can say that achieving true peace also means freeing people from poverty.”

In Timor-Leste we believe that peacebuilding and development are not abstract words or theories, but as tangible and real as a hand to hold. My friends and colleagues in the Security Council took my country’s hand when we reached out to them at the start of our journey and helped pull us out of war. Our famous Timorese spirit survives and grows, and I now offer our hand again and ask for theirs as true partners in development, so that we can walk together along the road to a lasting peace and a brighter future in Timor- Leste.

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