Timor-Leste Has Made ‘Remarkable Progress’ Since Violent Events of 2006, but Still Faces Difficult, Long-term Challenges, Security Council Told

23 February 2010
SC/9866

Timor-Leste Has Made ‘Remarkable Progress’ Since Violent Events of 2006, but Still Faces Difficult, Long-term Challenges, Security Council Told

23 February 2010
Security Council
SC/9866
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6276th Meeting* (AM)

Timor-Leste Has Made ‘Remarkable Progress’ Since Violent Events of 2006,

but Still Faces Difficult, Long-Term Challenges, Security Council Told

New Special Representative Ameerah Haq Briefs for First Time;

Secretary-General’s Report Recommends Extension of UN Mission for One Year

Though Timor-Leste had made “remarkable progress” since 2006, when a dispute over discrimination among military forces sparked protests and widespread violence that drove thousands of people from their homes, the top United Nations official there warned the Security Council today that the tiny country was still fragile and faced a raft of socio-economic challenges that could prove even more daunting to tackle.     

Ameerah Haq, head of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), who addressed the Council for the first time in that capacity, said the country had reached “a new stage, where there is an intensified focus on measures needed to sustain stability, deepen democracy and the rule of law, reduce poverty and strengthen institutions”.  But, she also cautioned that the fallout from the 2006 crisis had been considerable, and that the long-term challenges such as poverty, youth unemployment and accountability for past crimes needed to be urgently addressed.  The Security Council is set to consider extending the mission’s mandate this coming Friday.

Briefing the Council alongside José Luís Guterres, Deputy Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, who echoed many of her concerns and recommendations, Ms. Haq highlighted the return of vibrant civic life to the Timorese capital of Dili and other urban centres, low crime rates and rebounding national institutions as signs of the “remarkable progress” achieved since 2006.  Yet, she stressed that the Government’s work to consolidate such gains and to ensure a smooth transition to the recovery and development phase required continued efforts on the part of the Timorese, as well as the continued support of the international community.

“Perhaps the greatest long-term challenges for Timor-Leste will be socio-economic,” she said, citing the need to fight poverty, hunger, maternal and infant mortality, and improve access to health care and education.  It was essential that the Government redouble its effort to ensure that development benefits were felt equally in rural and urban areas, and she was pleased to note that the Government had demonstrated its renewed commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and coherent, transparent, coordinated and truly Timorese-owned planning processes.

At the same time, Ms. Haq noted that more than 60 per cent of the population was under the age of 25.  While that could be a potential asset for the future, with Timor-Leste’s unemployment rate at 18.4 per cent among youth nationwide, the lack of employment opportunities was proving to be another serious challenge.

On the political front, she stressed that democratic processes were maturing with leaders showing a willingness to work across party lines on issues of national importance such as moving to set up an anti-corruption committee.  Moreover, while political parties had their differences, they were demonstrating renewed commitment to expressing those views in a manner that did not undermine interactive dialogue. 

“Long-term security and stability will depend on development of a national police force that is professional and impartial and operates with due respect for the rule of law and human rights,” she said.  The jointly-owned process of resumption of primary policing responsibilities by the Timorese national police (PNTL) would require continued concentrated efforts to ensure that it provided the necessary foundation for longer-term institution-building. 

Sustaining that momentum, with both UNMIT and the Government continuing their efforts to meet the mutually-agreed criteria and to ensure the integrity of the certification process, there was a strong possibility that the resumption process could be completed by the end of 2010.  She was determined to advance the resumption process in close cooperation with the Government, including in the context of the team that would be planning UNMIT’s downsizing during the period through 2012. 

For his part, Mr. Guterres said that despite the current global economic downturn, Timor-Leste had logged a non-oil gross domestic product growth rate of 12.8 per cent in 2008, and was estimating that figure would be around 12 per cent for 2009.  Timor-Leste’s stability and peaceful environment had been the result of the collective efforts of the Timorese people and Government, the United Nations and the wider international community.  Indeed, by working together with the world body on the issue of internally displaced persons, the Timorese Government had been able to solve one of the country’s most “difficult and complex challenges”.

He said that Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao was finalizing the country’s overall strategic plan, which would guide development and prepare the people to better face current and future challenges.  The budget for 2010 had been set at $637 million and the national priorities had been identified as roads; water supply; food security; human resource training; access to justice; social services and administrative decentralization; good governance; and public security.  The Timorese Government aimed to make its public finance management mechanism one of the most transparent in the world, he added.

To deal with high unemployment, a challenge that would require broad assistance to tackle effectively, he said the Timorese Government had reached an agreement with the Republic of Korea to export its labour force and hundreds of Timorese were now working in that country, and he hoped that other nations would follow the Republic of Korea’s example.  He also said that while the Timorese justice sector “is in its infancy,” the Government had taken steps, with the help of Portugal, to make it better, including by bolstering its support for training of judges, prosecutors and public defenders.  Still, many challenges remained that would require ongoing international cooperation, he said.

When Council members and other Government delegations took the floor, speakers agreed with the observations in Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s recent report on the situation (document S/2010/85), which recommended, among other things, that UNMIT’s mandate be extended for 12 more months.  The Secretary-General also noted the “broad desire of the Timorese leadership and other national stakeholders for the United Nations to maintain the integrated support provided through UNMIT in all major areas of the mandate”, while also planning “the downsizing of UNMIT during the period through 2012 and the transition of functions, where appropriate, to the Government, the United Nations country team and bilateral partners”.

While welcoming the assumption of responsibilities by the Timorese national police in four districts and three units last year, Japan’s representative was among the Council members who cautioned that the process should not be rushed by the setting of rigid timelines, before the national police had acquired the necessary capacity for successful takeover of responsibilities.  He was also among those who said that, at this critical juncture, the way should be paved for Timor-Leste’s self-sufficiency and sustainable development.  Success in that regard corresponded with socio-economic development. 

The representative of the United Kingdom echoed the Secretary-General’s report on the need for clearly delineated roles and responsibilities between the national police and the military.  Ongoing uncertainty in that situation could be destabilizing.  For that reason, legislation should also be enhanced.  While he also supported the proposed extension of UNMIT for another year, it remained his aim to see Timor-Leste remain “less and less” on international support.  A longer-term drawdown strategy, therefore, was crucial.  The Mission would remain until 2012, but preparing a follow-up would be key. 

Similarly, the representative of the United States supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations to gradually decrease the international police presence and to continue high-quality and specialized training of the national police, including of civilian experts.  She also favoured continued strengthening of the security sector.  On the justice and rule of law and human rights priority, she commended adoption of key legislation, including of the criminal code, but remained concerned about the need to address impunity.  Those responsible for the 2006 crisis should be held accountable, and she encouraged Timor-Leste to support the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The representative of New Zealand said that, given Timor-Leste’s challenges, his Government supported a 12-month extension on UNMIT’s mandate at the current levels.  At the same time, it would be important to make sure the mission evolved to meet Timor-Leste’s needs, and the time was fast approaching where the efforts of international actors must give way to the understandable desire of the Timorese Government to increasingly run its own affairs.  As that necessary transition gained momentum, beyond the gradual downsizing of the International Stabilisation Force (ISF), UNMIT personnel must be equipped with the skills and experience required for the difficult and specialized task of institutional capacity-building, he said.

Also speaking were the representatives of Gabon, Austria, Russian Federation, Lebanon, Uganda, Mexico, Turkey, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Nigeria, France, Australia, Malaysia, South Africa, Ireland and Portugal.

The Acting Head of the European Union delegation to the United Nations also addressed the meeting.

The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 12:45 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Timor-Leste.

Briefings

Presenting the latest report of the Secretary-General on the situation, AMEERAH HAQ, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), addressing the Council for the first time in that capacity, said it was evident that remarkable progress had been made since 2006.  There was a vibrant civic life and active commercial areas in Dili and other urban centres.  Crime rates remained low and had shown a decreasing trend over the past year, with an average of 87 security incidents reported weekly to police during the period from 24 September 2009 to 20 January 2010, down from an average of 118 incidents reported weekly in the period from 9 July 2008 to 20 January 2009. 

She said that Timor-Lest had reached a new stage, where there was an intensified focus on measures needed to sustain stability, deepen democracy and the rule of law, reduce poverty and strengthen institutions.  Timor-Leste, under the stewardship of its national leaders, was now working to consolidate the gains of the past and to ensure a smooth transition to the recovery and development phase.  That would require continued efforts on the part of the Timorese, as well as the continued support of the international community.  The problems arising from the 2006 crisis were considerable, but the long-term challenges ahead might prove to be even more difficult to address.

Many State institutions had demonstrated increasing capacity, she said, adding that those had been bolstered by better security and stability, the assistance of the United Nations and other members of the international community, and most importantly, the commitment of the staff of those institutions.  Democratic processes were also maturing.  Needless to say, political parties had their differences.  However, events over the reporting period had demonstrated a renewed commitment to expressing those views in a manner that did not undermine interactive dialogue.  Political leaders had shown a real willingness to work across party lines to address issues of national importance.  For example, the leadership now had shown the political commitment necessary to allow the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission, following a stalemate of several months in Parliament in the selection of a chairman.  At the same time, President José Ramos-Horta had continued to facilitate mutual engagement among leaders on national issues.

She said that long-term security and stability depended on the development of a national police force that was professional and impartial, and operated with due respect for the rule of law and human rights.  The jointly-owned process of resumption of primary policing responsibilities by the Timorese national police would require continued concentrated efforts, to ensure that it provided the necessary foundation for longer-term institution-building.  All districts had been assessed, meanwhile, and the national police had resumed primary policing responsibilities in four districts and three units, with resumption in two additional districts scheduled for March.  She had just received assessment reports, concluding that Dili and the special police unit had not yet met the criteria for resumption and required further measures to strengthen capacities, while one area had had met the crucial criteria.

Sustaining that momentum, with both UNMIT and the Government continuing their efforts to meet the mutually-agreed criteria and to ensure the integrity of the certification process, there was a strong possibility that the resumption process could be completed by the end of 2010.  She was determined to advance the resumption process in close cooperation with the Government, including in the context of the team that would be planning UNMIT’s downsizing during the period through 2012.  Reconfiguring and reorienting the UNMIT police component towards post-resumption challenges would be one of her main priorities.  As the resumption process progressed and UNMIT police increasingly focused on the national police force’s institutional development, the difficulties springing from the lack of sufficient numbers of police trainers and advisers would likely become even more acute. 

She said that, as recommended by the Technical Assessment Mission and stressed by the Secretary-General, where specialized police personnel could not be provided by police-contributing countries or where continuing in functions was particularly important, consideration should be given to seeking additional civilian personnel with the required expertise to assist.  Regarding the overall security sector, clear definition and delineation of roles and responsibilities of the police and armed forces and the strengthening of civilian oversight and management capacities were particularly critical outstanding issues.  It was important, therefore, for the package of national security legislation under consideration by Parliament and the related subsidiary legislation to be adopted ‑‑ as well as the National Security Policy under preparation -- to adequately address those issues.

Perhaps the greatest long-term challenges for Timor-Leste would be socio-economic, she said.  She was pleased to note that the Government had demonstrated its renewed commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and coherent, transparent, coordinated and truly Timorese-owned planning processes.  In her visits outside the capital, local community members had expressed their desire that development efforts should more effectively reach rural areas.  Timorese leaders themselves had expressed similar concerns, and it was essential that the Government redouble its effort to ensure that development benefits were felt equally in rural and urban areas.  That would entail appropriate budgetary allocations to the social services sectors and strengthening and decentralizing of line ministries.  She noted that more than 60 per cent of the population was under the age of 25.  That was a potential asset for the country’s future.  However, with the unemployment rate at 18.4 per cent among youth nationwide, the lack of employment opportunities was another serious challenge.

She stressed that rule of law with due respect for human rights required commitment to accountability and judicial independence.  On 15 February, two additional defendants charged in relation to violence that had occurred during the 2006 crisis had been found guilty of violence against persons and property and illegal use of firearms, ammunition and explosives.  In her meetings with Timorese authorities, she continued to reiterate the United Nations position that “there can be no amnesty or impunity for serious crimes such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity”.  Although the President had acted within his constitutional prerogatives, she had discussed with him concerns that pardons issued on 25 December 2009 could exacerbate perceptions of impunity.  She reiterated that the four members of the Armed Forces of Timor-Leste (F-FDTL) convicted of manslaughter in the shooting deaths of eight members of the National Police Force (PNTL) of Timor-Leste in 2006, one of whom was pardoned and three of whom received sentence reductions, had yet to pay the court-ordered compensation to the victims’ widows.

She recalled that the report of the Secretary-General and Technical Assessment Mission had highlighted the broad desire of the Timorese leaders and other national stakeholders across the board for a continued UNMIT presence, concentrating on the four mandated priority areas, through the crucial period up to 2012.  Keeping in mind those priorities, adjustments and refinements to the United Nations approach would inevitably need to be made, in order to take account of changing and evolving conditions on the ground.  In the coming weeks, she would work closely with the Government and other relevant stakeholders, the country team and international partners to develop proposals for the reconfiguration of the Mission through 2012, subjected, of course, to the Council’s agreement that such a presence was necessary.  That would include a general drawdown of UNMIT police, which, as the report noted, should be approached cautiously and subjected to an assessment late this year.

JOSÉ LUÍS GUTERRES, Deputy Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, said the Secretary-General’s report confirmed that stability and a peaceful security environment in his country were a reality; a demonstration that the Council’s decisions had been correct.  And, despite the crisis in 2006, the United Nations intervention in Timor-Leste had been very successful.  By working together with the world body on the issue of internally displaced persons, the Timorese Government had been able to solve one of the country’s most difficult and complex challenges.  The international community had blessed the Timorese people and Government, he said, and in turn, Timor-Leste was providing some $500,000 to the people of Haiti as they struggled to cope with the aftermath of the massive 12 January earthquake that had struck their country.

As for the situation in Timor-Leste, he said that, despite the current global economic downturn, the country had registered a non-oil gross domestic product growth rate of 12.8 per cent in 2008, and was estimating that the figure would be around 12 per cent for 2009.  In addition, annual inflation was less than 2 per cent.  He said the agricultural sector had substantially increased it productivity by introducing high-yield and hybrid variety crops, as well as by improving irrigation systems.  Further, on socio-economic matters, he noted that the Finance Ministry had improved the system of public finance management, while keeping to its path of fiscal prudence and discipline.

To deal with high unemployment, the Timorese Government had reached an agreement with the Republic of Korea to export its labour force and hundreds of Timorese were now working in that country, and he hoped that other nations would follow the Republic of Korea’s example.  He said that Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao was finalizing the country’s overall strategic plan, which would guide development and prepare the people to better face current and future challenges.  The budget for 2010 had been set at $637 million and the national priorities had been identified as roads;  water supply; food security; human resource training; access to justice; social services and administrative decentralization; good governance; and public security.  The Timorese Government aimed to make its public finance management mechanism one of the most transparent in the world, he added.

He went on to say that the Government was working towards compliance with 18 requirements of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.  The aim was to protect and prudently manage that sector to the benefit of the Timorese people, as well as to ensure those resources and revenues were properly accounted for and that global good governance standards, transparency and accountability were met.  He added that a petroleum fund would be managed according to current laws and any changes would be debated in Parliament.

On other matters, he said the Council of Coordination of Justice, composed of the courts, general prosecutors and the Ministry of Justice, had met on 12 February and had agreed on a strategic plan for the justice sector.  That plan addressed, among other areas, institutional development, telecommunications infrastructure, legal framework reform, forensic services and human resources development.  Also, on 19 February, a bilingual version of the Penal Code in Portuguese and Tetum had been published.  Domestic violence had been criminalized and a draft law on protecting women and children from such violence had been submitted to the Parliament and was now under consideration.  He said the National Commission of the Child was now fully operational and it would have a positive impact as an oversight and consultative body in relevant matters, including assisting the Government in disseminating information about children’s rights.

Highlighting other new legislation and policies, he said that traditional or customary law was currently being drafted.  That law would aim to regulate the cases that could be solved by customary justice and also ensure protection of human rights, especially for where women and children were concerned.  He said that while the Timorese justice sector “is in its infancy”, the Government had taken steps, with the help of Portugal, to make it better, including by bolstering its support for training of judges, prosecutors and public defenders.  Still, many challenges remained.  “Justice and reconciliation are part of our system of values.  We are strongly against impunity and we believe in the rule of law and human rights,” he said, adding that his Government welcomed UNMIT’s support of its efforts to improve the justice sector.

Finally, he said that stability and a peaceful environment in Timor-Leste had been the result of the collective efforts of the Timorese people and Government, the United Nations and the wider international community.  He praised all those that were currently serving in Timor-Leste from other nations, and he hoped that, by 2012, they would be able to return to their families.  Timor-Leste was now and observer member of the Pacific Island Forum and there was a strong national will that, a few years from now, the country would become a full member of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).  He concurred with the Secretary-General’s assessment that there was consensus that UMIT should remain in Timor-Leste until 2012.

Statements

YUKIO TAKASU (Japan) said he was very pleased with the positive developments of the past year.  The situation had remained generally calm, elections had been successful, and there had been improvement in capacity-building.  The issue of internally displaced persons persisted, however, from the 2006 crisis, and he hoped for its satisfactory resolution. He was grateful for the indispensable role played by UNMIT and the countries concerned, applauding their efforts to underpin the still-fragile nation.  It was essential to ensure security for the conduct of municipal elections later this year.  In that regard, support must be provided for the national police.  He welcomed its assumption of responsibilities in four districts and three units last year, and hoped such steady progress would continue. 

However, he warned, that process should not be rushed by the setting of rigid timelines, before the national police had acquired the necessary capacity for successful takeover of responsibilities.  Completion of that process should depend on objective criteria, and he therefore supported the Secretary-General’s prudent approach to reconfiguring UNMIT’s police component, which should occur on a district-by-district basis.  The focus would naturally shift to training, as the national police was expected to carry the primary responsibility for public security.  The future vision and orientation of the force was very important.  At this critical juncture, the way should be paved for the country’s self-sufficiency and sustainable development.  Success in that regard corresponded with socio-economic development. 

He said that, as UNMIT continued to carry out its tasks, the peacebuilding effort should be accelerated and, in that connection, he commended the leadership for advancing its socio-economic plan.  Vocational training and job creation, especially for youth, should be given the highest priority in the development strategy, as should improving infrastructure, such as roads and water resources, among other lagging aspects of national development.  All resources, public and private, international and bilateral, and so forth, should be mobilized to support those priority activities.  He supported the extension of UNMIT’s mandate for a further 12 months.  Discussion should begin on the United Nations future role in Timor-Leste.  He suggested the organization of a Security Council mission to the young country sometime this year.  Japan remained committed to standing by Timor-Leste in its national peacebuilding effort.

EMMANUEL ISSOZE-NGONDET (Gabon) said his delegation had been pleased with the effective contributions of UNMIT in several key political areas, including the restoration of the rule of law, conduct of several electoral processes, and its assistance to preserve political stability.  He encouraged UNMIT and the wider international community to help the Timorese Government consolidate those successes and to provide assistance to the police force.  He was also encouraged by the Government’s response to the independent needs assessment report.   Gabon supported the Secretary-General’s assessment that UNMIT’s mandate should be extended for another 12 months.

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING ( Austria) commended the Government and people of Timor-Leste on their recent achievements.  He welcomed the successful resumption of primary policing responsibilities in a number of districts and units, and he looked forward to the continuation of that process.  It was Austria’s understanding that the transfer of policing responsibilities must be in line with agreed criteria and would require completion of the certification process.  Continued monitoring from human rights and gender perspectives, as well as effective accountability mechanisms for the security forces, would be important. Austria supported adjustments in the number of UNMIT police personnel, as suggested by the Secretary-General for 2010, and agreed that further drawdowns would require additional assessment.

He went on to say that, while important progress had been made regarding internally displaced persons, Timor-Leste continue to face important challenges in reducing poverty and creating employment opportunities, especially among the youth population.  There was an increasing need to move from conflict prevention to a comprehensive development agenda in Timor-Leste, and the national development strategy that was being currently prepared would allow for more effective international support and increased national ownership in that area.  Overall, the effort should focus on the country’s young people.  He welcomed the progress made in strengthening the rule of law, including holding accountable those responsible for criminal acts and human rights violations in 2006.  Austria remained concerned, however, that further delay in delivering justice would adversely affect public confidence in the judiciary and, more broadly, in the Government.  On security sector reform, he welcomed the Government’s effort to develop a national security policy, as well as progress made in establishing civilian oversight of the security sector.

IGOR N. SHCHERBAK (Russian Federation) said Timor-Leste had managed to overcome the consequences of the 2006 outbreak and had achieved promising improvements, including in security.  The internally displaced were returning to normal life, for example, but problems remained, requiring a prompt response.  Still, local elections held in October 2009 had affirmed the growing capacity of the national political system.  All parties favoured a resolution of their differences by democratic means.  However, progress remained fragile; the institutions of the State were not yet consolidated.  Dili faced socio-economic problems, evident in the very high levels of unemployment and poverty.  Strengthening the national security forces was also critical to the nation’s overall recovery, security and self-sufficiency. 

Noting the transfer of responsibility for maintaining law and order from UNMIT to the police in a few districts, he welcomed the Government’s approach to fully handing over that responsibility to the national police as early as the end of 2010.  That required that both Dili and UNMIT step up their efforts and that a timeline for the transfer be carried out on the basis of criteria jointly developed with the Government, and not based on artificial deadlines.  It was important to study UNMIT’s possible future reconfiguration.  He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation to extend the mandate for another 12 months, with a subsequent drawdown by mid-2011, with 328 police officers, and a drawdown of mission personnel before 2012.  He awaited further recommendations on reconfiguring the United Nations presence, bearing in mind developments in Dili and throughout the country.  Russian police officers were serving in UNMIT, and his country would continue to support their noble mission.

PHILIP JOHN PARHAM (United Kingdom), aligning his statement with the one to be made by the European Union, said he was encouraged by the continuing stable security situation in Timor-Leste, especially the fact that there had been no return to the earlier unrest.  Much progress had been demonstrated in the elections of October 2009 and the effective resumption of national police authority in some districts.  He looked forward to a handover of responsibility to additional districts by the end of March, noting that there had been no increase in crime or disorder following the transfers, thus far.  He supported UNMIT’s emphasis on strengthening the national police by providing training and advice, but he did not underestimate the challenges. 

He echoed the Secretary-General’s report on the need for clearly delineated roles and responsibilities between the national police and the military.  Ongoing uncertainty in the situation could be destabilizing.  For that reason, legislation should also be enhanced.  The four medium-term benchmarks -- security and stability; rule of law, justice and human rights; democratic governance and dialogue; and socio-economic reform -- remained critical.  He stressed the importance of tackling impunity, asserting the vital need to bring to justice the perpetrators of war crimes, and crimes against humanity and genocide.  UNMIT had an important role to play, by concluding its outstanding investigations.  Turning to corruption, he applauded the recent appointment of the first anti-corruption commissioner as an important first step. 

He said he supported the proposed extension of UNMIT for another year, but it remained his aim to see Timor-Leste remain “less and less” on international support.  A longer-term drawdown strategy, therefore, was crucial.  The Mission would remain until 2012, but preparing a follow-up would be key.  Included in that goal was the increasing shift to a United Nations civilian peacebuilding presence.

NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon) said his delegation appreciated the cooperation between UNMIT and political actors in Timor-Leste.  That cooperation had led to many improvements in the country, despite the ongoing fragility, including the successful holding of recent elections.  Such improvements sent a signal that Timor-Leste was pressing ahead with its efforts to achieve broader democracy and to strengthen the rule of law.  At the same time, he was concerned that the spiralling population of unemployed youths was a “ticking social time bomb”, especially since armed youth gangs had played a role in the outbreak of violence in 2006.  It was important that the Government had chosen to focus on a host of social development issues during the coming year.  Finally, Lebanon supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation that the Council extend UNMIT’s mandate for 12 months.

RUHAKANA RUGUNDA (Uganda) said his delegation was encouraged by the progress underway in Timor-Leste, despite the structural, economic and administrative challenges it faced.  He urged Timorese authorities to address all challenges, especially in the political arena, through dialogue.  The efforts of the Government still required the support of the wider international community and the United Nations in particular, especially in the area of institution-building, which would be critical to carrying out long-term socio-economic development plans.

As institution building continued, under the leadership of the Timorese people, clear delineation of authorities and responsibilities would need to be addressed, especially in the security sector.  He was concerned by the lack of UNMIT technical police teams, which were critical to helping the Timorese Government address outstanding issues within the national police force.  He noted the Government’s assertion that the deployment of national police throughout the country needed to be expedited through the end of the year.  On the resettlement of internally displaced persons, he said that, while recent efforts had been a good start, their long-term sustainability could only be ensured if issues such as education, rural development and youth employment were urgently addressed.  To that end, UNMIT’s support of medium-term benchmarks would be essential.  He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation for a 12-month extension of UNMIT’s mandate.

CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico) said the continued security and stability in Timor-Leste augured well for tackling the remaining medium- and long-term challenges.  He welcomed the work done by the Technical Assessment Mission to review UNMIT’s future role.  He agreed with the conclusion to maintain the Mission in the country until 2012, and hoped that, by then, progress in peacebuilding and strengthening the nation’s institutions would allow the Security Council to analyze a possible termination of the Mission’s work there.  He also welcomed the progress achieved by the Timorese authorities in strengthening their electoral institutions and holding elections in a generally peaceful environment.  He trusted that those efforts would continue during the presidential and parliamentary elections, to be held in 2012. 

Like previous speakers, he noted that a main security challenge was the current transfer of authority to the national police.  For that purpose, the cooperation of the authorities with the Mission should be enhanced to better enable the national police to benefit from its guidance for its institutional development.  Training was crucial, if the Timorese police were expected to take over the police functions in all districts by 2012.  Also important was a clear definition and demarcation of responsibility between the police and the defence forces.  Additionally, the effectiveness and professionalism of both bodies should be strengthened.  He also supported efforts by the Government to generate jobs, fight poverty in towns and the countryside, and provide access to basic social services. 

Justice and accountability was a crucial component of national reconciliation and for a durable peace, and he said the still-unresolved crimes committed during the crises of 1999 and 2006 must be addressed, in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions.  There must be no impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. 

ROSEMARY A. DICARLO (United States) applauded the Government and people of Timor-Leste for their progress and deep commitment to establishing a strong democracy.  It was encouraging, but as the Secretary-General’s report made clear, Government institutions remained fragile.  Turning to each of the four priority areas outlined in that report, she took up security and stability issues, saying that successful local elections in October 2009 had been a positive sign that the security situation remained stable.  The upcoming municipal and national elections would be a further test.  The continued transfer of primary police responsibility from UNMIT to the national police was another positive development, and she commended the efforts of all concerned, including those of bilateral donors.  She supported the desire to accelerate the timeline, but noted the importance of adequate training and capacity before completing the transfers.  Also vital was delineating the responsibility between the police and the military.

She supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations to gradually decrease the international police presence and to continue high-quality and specialized training of the national police, including of civilian experts.  She also favoured continued strengthening of the security sector through workshops hosted by the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies, in Honolulu.  On the justice and rule of law and human rights priority, she commended adoption of key legislation, including of the criminal code, but remained concerned about the need to address impunity.  She welcomed comments made this morning by the country’s Deputy Prime Minister in that regard.  Those responsible for the 2006 crisis should be held accountable.  She encouraged Timor-Leste to support the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

More effective parliamentary oversight of Government activities was also needed, she said.  Combating corruption was a priority, for which the Million Challenge Corporation could assist in that regard.  She recognized the link between security and development, and remained concerned about the poor and displaced in Timor-Lese.  She acknowledged Government efforts to assist the most vulnerable, and said the United Nations would continue to provide technical support.  Her own country, through its $24 million programme of annual assistance, had developed a greenhouse project as a best practice, which the Timor-Leste Government was now using to make its own model.  The Timorese people had made great strides, but they needed and deserved the continued support of the United Nations and their international partners.  For that reasons, she supported extension of UNMIT’s mandate, as proposed by the Secretary-General. 

ERTUĞRUL APAKAN (Turkey) praised the Timorese people, Government and security authorities, as the security situation in the country had remained stable.  That stability had allowed the Government to focus on other areas and had led to the successful holding of local elections, strengthening of some institutions and the promotion of political dialogue.  That success had sent the signal that the Timorese people, with the help of the international community, were prepared to continue on the road to democracy.  He noted the wish of the Timorese authorities to see the transfer of authority to the PNTL expedited towards completion by the end of this year.  That was an understandable and legitimate request that stemmed from a democratic Government, he added, as he also welcomed further progress in registration and screening of the PNTL.

Despite such successes, however, Turkey was concerned that the main challenges that had contributed to the 2006 crisis -- poverty, unemployment, a weak judicial system, and unresolved land issues -- needed to be addressed in order to anchor sustained development and social progress in the country.  Specifically, it would be important to urgently tackle youth unemployment and gender-based violence.  Still, he was encouraged by continued national dialogue and efforts to achieve unity among political parties on some important issues, and he urged all political actors to continue to work in that spirit.  Turkey accepted the independent assessment mission’s recommendation that the current strength of UNMIT remain the same for the next 12 months.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) said her Government had done its best to cooperate with the Timorese people, even before the formal creation of the country.  Currently, Brazil had ongoing projects underway in Timor-Leste in such areas as food security, education, health and security.   Brazil was also cooperating on efforts to strengthen the judiciary, as well as on legal and diplomatic training.  She went on to highlight the positive developments in Timor-Leste, including the recent successful holding of elections in 442 villages, as a sign of growing democratic maturity.  The closure of all camps for internally displaced persons had also been an important development, and the challenge ahead was to ensure that measures were implemented to ensure that all those that had returned to their original homes were able to make a living in a safe environment.

She said that, while livelihood and employment opportunities had increased in the country, it must be noted that surmounting poverty and unemployment remained a formidable challenge.  The international community should continue to cooperate with the authorities to win that battle.  As Brazil welcomed progress made in the security situation, it commended the efforts undertaken by the PNTL to carry out its duties and welcomed the positive results achieved so far in the districts and units already handed over to the Timorese police.  It was very important to clearly delineate the roles and responsibilities of security sector institutions, in particular the PNTL and the F-FDTL, and to establish an appropriate civilian oversight mechanism.  Finally, she said the progress Timor-Leste had made should not be a reason for the international community to decrease its support.  On the contrary, such success should lead to even more cooperation, as Timor-Leste still needed the firm commitment of multilateral and bilateral partners.

IVAN BARBALIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina), aligning himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, said that the positive political undertakings in 2007 and 2009 by the Timorese people should serve as a springboard for the upcoming municipal and national elections.  He commended the domestic authorities for the completion of the elections in 2009, and President Ramos-Horta’s recent pledge to engage with national and local leaders on issues of national interest was a constructive prelude to foster political dialogue.  The recent “Road to Peace and National Unity” dialogues, as well as the campaign “Dili, City of Peace”, were also noteworthy.  Such efforts were encouraging indications of strengthened security and justice sectors.  Security sector reform was crucial for the nation’s sustainable peace and security.  There must be a clear definition of responsibility between the military and police, and the comprehensive reform process of both should be carefully and thoroughly developed and completed. 

He commended the resumption of national police responsibility in several districts, and hoped the rest of the districts would follow through by the end of the year.  Appropriate completion of the certification process was essential, as was further capacity building of the police force at national and district levels.  Bearing those commitments in mind, he agreed with the need for a carefully-mapped approach to the drawdown of UNMIT’S police, taking into account all lessons learned from the 2006 and 2008 events.  He looked forward to hearing more about the UNMIT team’s plans.  He, meanwhile, was deeply convinced that only truth and justice would lead the country to full reconciliation and prosperity.  The more successful was the fight against impunity, the better the prospect for true reconciliation and national unity. 

Socio-economic problems must also be addressed, with all stakeholders on board, including the private sector, civil society and foreign donors, he said.  Infrastructure projects and foreign investment, and improvement in youth employment, would contribute to poverty reduction and sustainable economic growth.  He was pleased to note significant improvements in dealing with the internally displaced persons.  However, the slow progress on the gender and human rights fronts was a matter of concern. 

LIU ZHENMIN (China) said he was pleased that, recently, the overall situation had remained stable.  The momentum towards political dialogue had been maintained and the resolution of differences through consultation had been respected.  The Government had attached importance to education, and the provision of health and basic services to the population, which had improved people’s lives.  The police had improved its law enforcement capacity and was gradually taking over responsibility. However, the country still faced formidable challenges in economic development, insufficient livelihoods and underemployment, as well as a lack of resources, hampering reconstruction and overall development.  China continued to support the country, and called on the international community to step up its assistance to the Timorese in relevant fields. 

As for the Secretary-General’s recommendations, UNMIT fulfilled an important mission, with the police playing a particularly important role.  He hoped that the Secretariat would keep in mind the process needed for the police and the reconstruction of Timor-Leste when considering its approach to drawing down the Mission, while maintaining the country’s stability.  China supported the extension of the mandate for another year and hoped for the Mission’s active role in helping the Government to increase its capacities.

RAFF BUKUN-OLU WOLE ONEMOLA (Nigeria) noted recent progress in Timor-Leste and welcomed the ongoing stability, growing respect for constitutional order and the desire to build consensus on development issues by the Timorese Government and political opposition.  He also welcomed progress made in the return of internally displaced persons.  To consolidate such progress it would be vital to, among other things, tackle poverty, reduce unemployment, integrate displaced persons into society, and settle land disputes.

Looking ahead, he said continued effort to bolster and expand national policing responsibility was also crucial, and that exercise would require the support of UNMIT in such areas as rigorous training and mentoring.  He also welcomed efforts to address past criminal acts and human right issues.  He supported the broad desire of the Timorese leadership and other national stakeholders to maintain UNMIT’s current troop strength in the country.  Although Timor-Leste had made significant progress, it still faced many challenges, as it sought to establish long-term development.  To that end, he supported the medium-term strategy outlined by UNMIT.

Council President GÉRARD ARAUD (France), speaking in his national capacity, said during the past year the general situation in Timor-Leste had continued to improve, highlighted by political stability, the strengthening of public institutions, strong economic growth, and burgeoning dialogue among political parties.  France supported renewal of UNMIT’s mandate for 12 months, and supported the medium-term strategy, particularly to ensure Timorese ownership of responsibilities now handled by the United Nations.  Finally, he also supported the gradual drawdown of UNMIT’s police component, even as efforts continued to strengthen national police forces and expand their area of authority.

GARY QUINLAN (Australia) welcomed the ongoing positive developments, but noted that there was still a significant amount of work to be done by Timor-Leste’s Government and people before it could confidently be said “the country will remain stable and secure over the long term”.  He announced that the Australia-Timor Leste Country Strategy 2009-14 had been agreed by the two countries in 2009.  That strategy set out how Australian development assistance would assist the Government and people of Timor-Leste in working towards the Millennium Development Goals.  It had a sharp focus on achieving results in the priority areas of health, education, employment, government accountability and police capacity.  Those priorities strongly aligned with Timor-Leste’s own national priorities.  Australia had worked jointly with UNMIT and the World Bank to assist the Government in that work.  The United Nations could play a valuable leadership role in that and other contexts to improve alignment of donor engagement. 

He said that one area needing serious attention -- and fast -- was the critical issue of youth unemployment.  Disaffected young men remained a potential threat, and finding a place for youth in the country’s economic life, civic institutions and democratic processes was vital to stability.  Touching on several recent noteworthy developments, he called attention to the recent appointment of an anti-corruption commissioner.  His country had also been pleased to support the Government in its efforts to establish a new civil service commission.  He noted the further progress in the resumption of policing responsibility, but said much work remained to be done if the process was to be completed by year’s end. 

Other major developments included the commencement of the force-wide promotions process for police officers, ongoing consideration by Parliament of the set of draft laws on the national security framework, and additional consultations on the draft national security policy.  However, he noted with concern several security incidents involving police officers, and he encouraged the relevant authorities to deal with those appropriately and swiftly to ensure community goodwill and trust in the force.  The Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF) had continued its shift in focus from security support to capacity-building of Timor-Leste’s military, and the last few months had seen a reduction in ISF numbers to approximately 540 Australian and New Zealand Defence Force personnel.  Australia acknowledged the significant cooperation of UNMIT and other international partners with ISF.  His country supported UNMIT’s renewal for a further 12 months, with some modest reductions in staff numbers and some reconfiguration based on the recommendations of the Technical Assessment Mission. 

HAMIDON ALI (Malaysia) said his country had followed with avid interest the progress of its newest neighbour.  The 9 October 2009 local elections had been yet another milestone in Timor-Leste’s path towards nation-building.  The encouraging security situation also augured well for the ongoing resumption of police responsibilities by the national force, through a phased approach.  There was a need to ensure the police force’s ability to meet the criteria mutually agreed between the Government and UNMIT.  UNMIT, in turn, must remain committed to the principle of national ownership, particularly with regard to the comprehensive review of the security sector, and an agreement between the two parties must be finalized in due course.

He said that adherence to the rule of law was crucial in ensuring the respect of the Timorese towards their own security forces.  Accountability for crimes was not only paramount, but was the cornerstone of trust in the system.  Malaysia “takes heart” at the Government’s commitment to ensure the accountability of its security forces through the new mechanisms.  Stability and prosperity were “two sides of the same coin”. Poverty, if left unchecked, would erode the foundations of stability, which was why he welcomed the Government’s push to address the high unemployment and poverty rates, and particularly efforts to finalize the national strategic development plan.  While the resettlement of internally displaced persons was welcome, that must be accompanied by a means to sustain livelihoods in their home areas. 

In an effort to assist the Timorese in economically-challenging times, he urged the international community to explore ways to invest in Timor-Leste, with a view to creating employment opportunities.  Malaysia encouraged its own businessmen to consider Timor-Leste as a viable business partner.  It reaffirmed its support of its neighbour, both through UNMIT and its involvement in United Nations Police (UNPOL), as well as bilaterally through the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme.  Malaysia, the fourth largest contributor of police personnel in Timor-Leste, was proud to be part of its neighbour’s nation-building process.  Given the Secretary-General’s finding that Timor-Leste’s security and justice institutions might not be able to withstand another major crisis, Malaysia felt that the country still required UNMIT’s robust presence.  Malaysia would continue to provide training to Timorese security personnel.  And, together with Australia, it was organizing a peacekeeping training workshop late this year for Timorese security personnel.

BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) saluted the efforts of the Timorese Government, political parties and citizens towards enhancing stability and making a sustainable peace.  Among other examples of progress, he welcomed the successful holding of village elections, and said the high voter turnout had been indicative of the Timorese peoples’ commitment towards restoring normalcy and building democracy.  He also welcomed improvements in the security situation and supported the extension of UNMIT’s mandate for another 12 months, as well as the gradual drawdown and reconfiguring of that mission.  The resumption of primary policing duties of the PNTL was “the next crucial step” in strengthening the security institutions.

Yet, he noted the caution expressed by the Secretary-General and the technical assessment mission regarding security sector reform and the national police, saying it was important that those officers were accepted at the community level as the country’s primary law enforcement personnel.  To that end, it was important that the PNTL’s capacity to implement legislation be addressed through training, capacity-building and through the provision of logistical support.  He went on to highlight progress in the justice sector and cautioned that none of Timor-Leste’s achievements would yield lasting benefits unless the international community and the Timorese Government made sustainable socio-economic development a priority.  Indeed, many factors that fuelled the 2006 crisis still needed to be addressed, including poverty, high rates of unemployment and slow progress towards gender equality.  South Africa, therefore, called on the international community to support the Government’s soon-to-be-released national strategic development plan.  

JIM MCLAY (New Zealand) said that, while assessing Timor-Leste’s solid progress, it was important to not only recognize how far the tiny country had come, but to also acknowledge the significant challenges that lay ahead.  Elections scheduled for this year and in 2012 would test the capacity and resilience of Timor-Leste’s electoral and security institutions.  Those consecutive polls would also test the progress that had been made in inculcating a stable and democratic culture.  Meanwhile, the young nation faced profound socio-economic challenges, as it sought to lift its citizens out of poverty, build an economy that extended beyond oil, and make sure that its young people had the skills, training and opportunities they needed to take charge of their futures.

“ New Zealand is currently reshaping its $9 million aid [package] to better reflect these key concerns,” he continued, and added that his Government also remained committed to playing its part as a bilateral donor and in the international security presence, where it maintained a 150-man infantry unit.  Given Timor-Leste’s challenges, New Zealand supported a 12-month extension on UNMIT’s mandate at the current levels. At the same time, it would be important to make sure the mission evolved to meet Timor-Leste’s needs, he said, stressing that the time was fast approaching where the efforts of international actors must give way to the understandable desire of the Timorese Government to increasingly run its own affairs.  As that necessary transition gained momentum, beyond the gradual downsizing of the ISF, UNMIT personnel must be equipped with the skills and experience required for the difficult and specialized task of institutional capacity-building, he said.

PEDRO SERRANO, Acting Head of Delegation of the European Union, said the group firmly supported the United Nations central and coordinating role in Timor-Leste and the overall recommendations of the latest Secretary-General’s report.  He commended the Government and people for their efforts to achieve long-term stability and ensure sustainable development in all spheres of public life.  The Union was a major contributor to Timor-Leste, with a focus on peace and security, rule of law and democratic governance, as well as long-term economic and social development.  It welcomed recent security improvements, noting also that good progress had been made in addressing the situation of the internally displaced persons.  The Union had contributed to that through its support of the closure of the Metinaro camp and the reintegration of internally displaced persons.  Yet, it shared the Secretary-General’s assessment that “some fragility” remained.  It, therefore, encouraged the Special Representative to foster the promotion of a political culture that favoured cooperation and reconciliation.

He called on the Timorese Government to strive to develop the national security policy.  Reforms in the security sector, with strong ownership by the Government, were key to consolidating peace and stability in the country.  The Union commended the recent process of handing over policing responsibilities, begun in May 2009, and it urged the parties to continue to uphold the agreed criteria and to complete the certification process for a proper handover.  The Union also welcomed positive developments regarding democratic governance, rule of law and human rights, notably, the successful conduct of “suco” elections on 9 October 2009, and the establishment of an anti-corruption commission, including the recent nomination of its commissioner.  Also welcome were efforts to adopt enhanced measures to address the needs of women and the high incidence of gender-based violence.  Accountability for past human rights violation was critical to durable peace, and the Union called for the speedy establishment of an institution charged with implementing measures recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  It had also offered support to the Parliament on that matter.

A critical challenge was to ensure sustainable social and economic development, he said, adding that the Union was a committed long-term partner for Timor-Leste in that endeavour.  Between 2007 and 2013, its assistance would total approximately 200 million euros.  Efforts to revise the national development plan were welcome, as it should enable international partners to better align with the country’s development ambitions.  In the Union’s view, priority should be given to long-term rural development; improving social services, notably health and education; and reducing unemployment.  As measures in development and security went hand-in-hand, he looked forward to an upcoming international dialogue on peace and State-building in Timor-Leste, to be conducted under the umbrella of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  A key issue for the country was how to manage the revenue generated by its substantial extractive industries, while also stimulating non-oil-sector growth.  The Union supported the improved governance in the petroleum sector, resulting from Timor-Leste’s strong engagement in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. 

ANNE ANDERSON ( Ireland) said her main focus today was on the gender dimension, since cooperation in relation to Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) was a key area of cooperation between Ireland and Timor-Leste.  But first, on the issue of impunity, she said that addressing the “legacy of conflict” was a highly sensitive and complex process.  Timor-Leste had taken important steps towards tackling its difficult legacy, but considerable and urgent challenges remained.  Civil society organizations had expressed their strong concerns in that regard.  She commended the renewed attention to that issue by the Timorese leadership and members of Parliament, and encouraged efforts to establish a follow-on institution to take forward the recommendations of the two related commissions.  She hoped the current activity would generate a robust and credible institution capable of further contributing to stability and healing, and she reiterated Ireland’s willingness to provide assistance to that process.

She commended the Secretary-General’s report, and the Technical Assistance Mission, for the clarity of its gender focus, as well as the overview of gender issues, and she recalled statistical data concerning the numbers of women in various segments of the country’s security sector.  The section on the rule of law, justice and human rights, she noted, catalogued the serious and widespread violence against women and children, and the gender-specific obstacle that women faced in securing access to justice.  In the section dealing with socio-economic development, the statistical breakdown by gender was enlightening.  It was noteworthy, for example, that access to micro-finance was 70 to 80 per cent female, although women often received little community support for their entrepreneurial activities.  She strongly encouraged the work being done by UNMIT and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), together with the national Office of the Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality, to integrate gender perspectives across the full range of policies. 

Detailing aspects of a “cross-learning initiative” on resolution 1325, which Ireland had launched, together with Liberia and Timor-Leste, she said it was designed to draw upon the experiences of those directly affected by conflict.  The first substantive meeting had been held in Belfast last year, the second in Dili, in December 2009.  She looked forward to the final conference in Liberia in April.  The overarching theme of the Dili meeting had been prevention of violence against women in conflict and post-conflict settings.  There had been useful progress in identifying indicators, which would assist in measuring the impact of their work.  “The clear commitment of the Timorese people to the principles of resolution 1325 is deeply impressive,” she said.  In a country where gender-based violence was one of the most commonly-recorded crimes, the stories of the Timorese were powerful reminders at the Dili conference of the need to operationalize that resolution.

JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL (Portugal) said dialogue was essential to resolving outstanding issues and tackling the remaining challenges in Timor-Leste.  Such dialogue was also necessary to ensure unity of effort, if not broad consensus, on matters of national concern.  To that end, Portugal had been encouraged by the efforts of both the Timorese Government, and the opposition, to engage in discussions on such matters, and urged that such constructive political dialogue continue, as it would be essential to addressing the remaining challenges.  Portugal was among those who believed that long-term security and stability depended on the capacity of Timorese security institutions to function in an effective, accountable and responsible manner, duly respecting the rule of law and benefiting from public confidence and support.

He fully shared the view of the technical assessment mission that clear articulation of responsibilities and strategies within and across state institutions was needed.  In addition, a clear vision of the relationship between the F-FDTL and the PNTL, as well as of their responsibilities and tasks, was also crucial.  Portugal would encourage the Timorese Government to continue working with UNMIT on the resumption of police executive responsibilities, particularly since the challenges facing the national police should not be underestimated.  The resumption of their responsibilities was only one step, but it would mark the beginning of a new phase, for which the full commitment of the Government and support of the international community would be essential.  Turning to the justice sector, he urged, in line with the independent comprehensive assessment, that relevant reforms be undertaken in a manner that increased Timorese ownership and strengthened national institutions.  

Summing up the debate, Ms. HAQ thanked all the speakers for their supportive and encouraging statements, particularly their broad agreement that UNMIT’s mandate should be extended for 12 months.  She also took note that the speakers had expressed general agreement that any major restructuring of the mission would be premature and that the United Nations should maintain support in all areas of UNMIT’s mandate.

She also took note of the support expressed for the four objectives of the 2008 medium-term strategy and related benchmarks, which remained crucial for long-term stability in Timor-Leste.  She said the Mission had, and would continue to, openly and constructively discussed outstanding issues with Timorese authorities on police matters, and she urged the Council to consider the 2010 end date for the transfer of police authority as “not a deadline but a goal”.  The Mission would also continue to work with the Government on matters regarding impunity and accountability for past crimes, and on socio-economic development and tackling youth unemployment.

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*     The 6275th Meeting was closed.

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.