24 April 2006 Aiming to build on impressive progress made by Timor-Leste since the United Nations helped it to independence in 2002, Secretary-General Kofi Annan is advocating the establishment of a follow-on office after the termination in May of the current UN mission to help strengthen the “fragile democracy” in the world's newest country.
In his final report to the Security Council on the UN Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL), which closes on 20 May, Mr. Annan notes that the country's leaders have requested such a new UN political presence to include four components: an electoral assistance unit; police training advisers; military liaison officers; and civilian advisers in critical areas that require continued assistance.
Furthermore, President Xanana Gusmão has indicated that the Government would welcome the deployment of human rights officers “to monitor and report on the human rights situation” leading up presidential and parliamentary elections to be held in 2007, Mr. Annan says, recommending that the new integrated UN office have a 12-month mandate.
“Given the considerable investment of the United Nations in Timor-Leste over more than six years, it is in the interest of the international community to assist the country in consolidating the achievements thus far,” he writes of the various UN missions that saw the Southeast Asian nation through independence after it voted to break away from Indonesia, which took over the former Portuguese colony in 1975.
“With the provision of assistance through the proposed integrated United Nations office, as has been requested by the Timorese leadership, the Organization can better enable the Government to make further advances in fostering peace, stability and democracy at this critical juncture,” he adds.
UNOTIL itself succeeded the UN Mission of Support in Timor-Leste (UNMISET) last May and the new office would run for one year, beginning on 21 May.
“It is my sincere hope that the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 2007, the first since the country's independence, will be a significant step forward in the process of strengthening this fragile democracy,” Mr. Annan writes.
“The transparency of the process and the conduct of the elections in a credible manner, with maximum participation of the Timorese electorate, will directly affect the legitimacy of the outcome of the elections.”
The new integrated office would be headed by a Special Representative of the Secretary-General and number up to 65 staff members. It would help the Government to ensure that the elections meet international standards; consolidate democratic development and political stability; and aid Timorese national police in preparing electoral-related security arrangements.
In addition, the impartial presence of UN military liaison officers would help the Government in liaising with the Indonesian military for the conduct of border security operations during the electoral period. The office would also help to build the capacity of Government institutions to protect human rights and promote justice and reconciliation.